Karate is a martial art that many think is older than it actually is. The martial art is relatively younger than most people believe.
Let’s dive into when karate was invented and go over martial art’s evolution. In this article, we’ll go over the history of karate and the rise and fall of its popularity.
How Old Is Karate?
Many believe that karate is older than it is, so when was karate invented, and how old is it really? Believe it or not, the martial art of karate is not that old.
Karate is a little over a hundred years old, and many of its techniques are taken from older Okinawan martial arts.
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The History Of Karate
The art of Karate was developed on the island of Okinawa. This Japanese island has been known for centuries as being a hotbed for the development of martial arts.
There was also influence from different forms of Kung Fu from Chinese fishermen that settled on the island. Many Okinawan residents would learn unarmed self defense during the early occupation of the Japanese empire.
This would lead to many on the island learning Okinawan kobudo, tegumi, and later Karate.
One of the early influencers that would help develop Karate was Itosu Anko. He began his martial arts training under Sokon Matsumura, who was considered by some as one of the original Karate masters.
Anko was also highly educated, which led him to become a secretary of the last king of the Ryukyu kingdom. Later, he became a part-time teacher at Okinawa’s First Junior Prefectural High School.
Itosu Anko made it his mission to include karate in the school’s physical education program. Itosu would develop a systematic method of teaching karate to young people that is still used today.
What he is most known for is creating the 5 Pinan forms and teaching students who would go on to develop modern karate.
Gichin Funakoshi is considered by many as the father of modern karate who helped spread the martial art outside of Okinawa. His main goal was to get mainland Japan to accept karate so that it could spread to the rest of the world.
Funakoshi would begin his pursuit of mainland Japan accepting the martial art by making it more Japanese. The word karate originally meant Chinese hand, but Funakoshi would change it to mean open hand.
Gichin would adopt the Gi from Judo to make the martial art more formal. He would later influence the development of the Karate Gi.
After years of work, Funakoshi would get his chance to share karate with mainland Japan in 1922. The Japanese Ministry of Education would hold the very first Physical Education Exhibit in Tokyo.
Funakoshi was lucky enough to get invited to and put on a Karate demonstration. The demonstration would be held with the Minister of Education in attendance.
This karate demonstration went exceptionally well, which helped it get a foothold in mainland Japan. Even the founder of Judo Jigoro Kano was impressed and invited Funakoshi to do a demonstration at the Kotakan.
Again, this demonstration would go perfectly, and Kano would give karate his approval. Funakoshi would then teach at various universities on the mainland and spread the martial art throughout the country.
Karate Spreads Across The World
Karate began spreading throughout the world after WW2. The US military would establish a base in Okinawa, and soldiers would be exposed to karate.
Many soldiers would begin learning karate while they were stationed on the island. Once their service time was up, they returned to the US and shared what they had learned.
Many Karate instructors would also travel the world and open Karate schools in various countries globally.
When Was Karate The Most Popular?
Karate would reach its peak popularity throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It exploded in the 1980s due to the release of The Karate Kid movie and later cartoons like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Soon, there were Karate schools in every major city leading to millions of Karate students worldwide practicing the martial art.
The Decline Of Karate
Unfortunately, after the boom period, karate would see a massive decline in popularity. This wasn’t due to the techniques not being effective but due to scamming instructors.
Many crooked instructors were quick to try and make money off of karate. They were giving away belts for money and putting black belts on anyone who trained for a few years.
Due to the above, karate slowly faded in popularity.
The Future Of Karate
Karate practitioners in MMA, like Stephen Thompson and Lyoto Machida, have shown the effectiveness of karate and proven that it is a legitimate martial art that deserves respect.
The martial art itself has been evolving and moving in a more positive direction. Unfortunately, there are still scamming instructors out there, but they are getting weeded out thanks to the advancement of the martial arts community.
We may not see Karate rise in popularity like it once was, but it is again becoming respected in the martial arts community.
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