History of Karate

The following is a very brief history of karate.  There are a lot of good references out there providing much more detail.

Okinawa is the main island of the Ryukyu Island chain, which is scattered like stepping stones southwest from Kyushu to Taiwan in the East China Sea. From ancient times, Okinawa was in contact with both China and Japan, and kempo probably was imported along with many other elements of Chinese culture. Around 1600, China replaced its civil envoys to Okinawa with military men, and many were noted for their prowess in Chinese kempo. The Okinawans took a keen interest in it and combined it with a native form of hand to hand combat to produce Okinawa-te.

The man most responsible for the systemization of karate as we know it today was Gichin Funakoshi. He was born in Shuri, Okinawa in 1869 and when only a boy of eleven, began to study karate under the two top masters of the art at that time. In time he became a master in his own right. He is credited with being the first to introduce karate to Japan proper when he gave exhibitions in 1917 and again in 1922 at physical education expositions sponsored by the Ministry of Education. In 1948, the Japan Karate Association (JKA) was organized, with Funakoshi as the chief instructor. In April, 1957, Funakoshi, the father of modern karate, passed away at age 88, but tens of thousands of karateka who studied under him remained, insuring that the art which he taught would not die with him.

Although karate made its way to the US via a few different routes, possibly its most influential and widespread introduction happened when the JKA dispatched instructors around the world, including sending Hidetaka Nishiyama and Teruyuki Okazaki to the US in 1961.  Nishiyama setup his school in Los Angeles and founded the All American Karate Federation (later called the American Amateur Karate Federation), and Okazaki headed to Philadelphia, where he later founded the International Shotokan Karate Federation, the organization to which the Uniontown Karate Club belongs.

Master Okazaki, one of the first people to widely introduce karate in the US passed away on April 21, 2020 from complications arising from covid.  He will be greatly missed.