Director & Chief Instructor:
 Sensei Eugene Kitney, Jokyo

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 4301 Kelly Lane, Pflugerville, TX 78660

(512) 953-3656



History of Karate-do

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In 1629, the three major Dojos (Te-Schools) which were located in Shuri, Naha, and Tomari, held a series of secret meetings which resulted in their banding together. Training was conducted at night in secluded places such as caves and cane fields. In order to carve wooden weapons, knives were, of course, needed. In a single night throughout the Island, guards were attacked and killed and all village knives were taken.

Common wooden weapons of the day were the “Bo” (long hard wood staff), the “Nanchaku” (root puller) which was actually a farming tool used to pull dead rice stalks and foreign roots from the mud of the rice paddies. It consisted of two short (approximately a foot and a half long) hard wood sticks or handles which were linked by a short piece of rope or chain (approximately one foot long) at one end. The techniques of the Nunchaku were based on the original Okinawan fighting art known as “Obi-waza” (belt techniques) which usually employed a metal weight, blade or star knife on the end or in the middle of the belt. Still another wooden weapon was the “Tui-Faa” (handle) also a farm tool used as a handle for a grinding wheel and as a husking implement to remove the rice head from the stalk. The Tui-Faa was a hardwood shaft some fifteen to twenty inches long with a round handle projecting at a right angle about six inches from one end. Techniques with the Tui-Faa were also based on Obi-waza and the Okinawan “Sai” (pronged metal shaft). In the hands of a skilled Okinawan, these simple wooden weapons were as deadly as swords and spears, capable of smashing military armor and the men wearing it.

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Tameshi-wari (hardening the weapons of the body) became one of the primary elements of Te training. Parts of the body such as the elbows, inner and outer forearms, knuckles, sides of the hands, knees and feet were toughened, calloused and eventually hardened by systematically pounding or striking the “Makiwara” (punching board or pad) usually consisted of a post wrapped with rice rope. Calluses raised along the bone of the inner and outer forearm were necessary when blocking the wooden and metal weapons of the day. Calluses on the first two knuckles of the fully developed Te fist had density of cattle horn, capable of penetrating the lacquered bamboo armor warn by the Samurai. Fingers were strengthened for ripping and tearing by driving them into sand or rice. Some practitioners are known to have developed the two major or inside toe joints by running on the under-turned toes.

Because of strict secrecy surrounding Okinawa-Te from 1610 to 1800, little factual information on its development is available. However, because the sole objective of the art during this period was to kill, one important fact is known; it was during this period that the world’s deadliest fighting art reached its’ peak.

Possibly the most amazing consideration of the Okinawa-Te history is that the Japanese never discovered who the teachers were or where training was conducted. Perhaps the unique Okinawan security system explains this phenomenon. Anyone suspected of being an informer was kidnapped at night and taken along with a small goat or pig, about a mile off shore. There the animal’s throat was cut and it was thrown overboard, when the sharks arrived, the informer invariably lost his balance and fell into the water.

Though the Okinawan’s succeeded in overthrowing occupation forces on several occasions they were no match for the armed might of the Japanese empire.

During this period many Okinawans traveled to China where they expanded their knowledge of the Chinese martial arts. Many systems of Kung-Fu, including both the northern and southern styles, were introduced.

In 1635, the Okinawan Master Sakugawa of Akata in Shuri went to China to study. He later returned having mastered still another unique form of the art and established the famous Sakugawa Dojo.

By 1700, two distinctive TE styles of “Ryus” had developed on Okinawa; Shuri-Te; and Naha-Te, named for the village in which they originated.

Shuri-Te was based on original Okinawa-Te with northern Kung-Fu influence. It was later to be known as Kobayashi-Ryu (after the famous Master Kobayashi) and finally as Shorin-Ryu, Shorin is the Okinawan pronunciation of the Chinese word Shaolin, which refers to the famous Shaolin Temple. However, this term is misleading since Naha-Te actually resembles the Kung-Fu of the Shaolin Temple more than did Shuri-Te. Shuri-Te stressed agility and quickness of movement but did not adopt the Chinese theory of San-Chin controlled breathing. Pronounced hip-twist punching was not a characteristic of early Shuri-Te but later developed in many Shorin-Ryu related systems.

Naha-Te was also based on original Okinawa-Te but heavily influenced by southern Kung-Fu theory. It was characterized by forceful movements but its’ major characteristic was the practice of San-Chin controlled breathing. The system was later to be modified and re-named Goju-Ryu (Go-hard, Ju-soft, Ryu-way).

Today, practically every major Karate system in the world can trace its’ beginning directly to either the Shuri-Te or Naha-Te school.

In 1784, the Okinawan Master Shinja of Shuri returned from China accompanied by a Chinese friend, the legendary Kushanku, for whom the famous night fighting kata is named. (The movements of the Kushanku Kata are based on responses to sound and touch rather than sight.)

Still another famous Okinawan to journey to China was Matsuma who returned in 1792 after studying at the famous Shaolin Temple.

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One of the most famous Okinawan Masters was Kanryo Higashionna, born in 1845. As a young boy, he was taken to Fukien Province in China where he entered the home of a merchant, Wooluchin, as a student of trade. Wooluchin was a Master tea merchant but he was also a Master of Kung-Fu and taught the art to the young Higashionna. After eleven years, he returned to Okinawa and opened a Dojo (training school) across the street from the island newspaper in Naha. Among others, Nigashionna taught Chojun Miyagi, who later founded the Goju-Ryu system, Kenwa Mabuni, who also studied from Itosu and later founded the Shito-Ryu system, and Kyoka.

The Japanese occupation ended in 1875. The practice of Okinawa-Te retained it strict secrecy for over twenty-five years. The most significant year in later Okinawa-Te history was 1903, which brought the first "public" demonstration or the art in over two hundred years. These famous demonstrations were followed by the introduction of Okinawa-Te through- out the Okinawan public school system and universal acceptance of the term Kara-Te (Kara at that time meant eight China or Empty, and Te meant Hand.)

Though he was a farmer of common birth, the name selected to coordinate the introduction of the art to the school system was Master Yasutsune Itosu, who had been a student of Sokan Matsumura and Okinawan Master Gusukume. Itosu s Master students were Kentsu Yabu, Kenwa Mabuni (who also studied from the Master Higashionna and later founded one of the Shito-Ryu related systems), Choku Motobu, who was Co become one of the island's most fierce fighters and later established the Kosho-Ryu Dojo (Koold Sho-pine tree, Ryu-Way Dojo-school).

In 1917 the Japanese association of martial arts Masters or Butokai was sufficiently interested in Karate to invite the Okinawans to demonstrate the art in Japan. At that time the island's best-known fighter was Choku Matobu. When news reached Matobu, he was enthusiastic. However, being from a proud Okinawan family of royalty chat was famous for having fought the invaders, Motobu was radically anti-Japanese. He refused to bow Co Japanese people under any circumstances. He was crude in manner and speech and did not dress well. Motobu was high in stature for as Okinawan and extremely stronger His strength and size made it almost impossible for another fighter to hurt him. It was obvious to the Okinawan officials that Motobu could not be sent to Japan, chough "ears later he went as a guest of the Japanese.

Among the schools in Okinawa, which caught Japanese reading and writing, there was a certain preparatory school for Okinawans who wanted Co Qualify for Japanese Civil service. The school called "Shoto Gakko", caught customs, manners, social graces, all the things necessary for success in the Japanese milieu.

The professor of this institution was an Okinawan of genius. He was astute in all things Japanese and could emulate the Japanese in every way. His manner and speech were impeccable and he wore fine Japanese clothing. He commanded the utmost respect from the well-educated Japanese gentleman. His name was Gichin Funakoshi was a third Dan (Black Belt grade) of the Shorin-Ryu system. Although Funakoshi was by no means considered a Master of Karate by the Okinawans, it was clear that he would go to Japan. At a meeting of the high-ranking Masters, the little professor was promoted to fifth Dan. Arrangements were made, and Funakoshi was off to Japan. What he did there made history in the Japanese martial arts world for he flabbergasted the Masters of the Butokai. The little professor, so modest and “only a fifth Dan”, defeated every fighter he was matched against, often defeating his opponents with the superior techniques which subsequently were copied by Jigoro Kano (founder of Judo) and became standard Judo forms: the Judo throw commonly called “Uchimata” and the dumping techniques referred to as “Osote-gari”. They were originally Karate forms and were, of course, much more deadly in the original.

Because of his affinity to Japanese culture and the respect he won in Japan, professor Funakoshi felt very much at home during his stay and decided to remain. He attracted quite a few students with his magnificent performance in the exhibitions, and he began teaching Karate in a Kendo-Dojo.

It was extremely difficult in the beginning to make Karate understandable to the Jiu-Jitsu and Kendo conditioned public. There were many excellent would-be Karate students who shied away from it in the early years primarily because it was foreign, and therefore distasteful, according to the mentality of the times. A great Karate professor at one time observed that even the clothes of the Japanese obstructed kicking and punching movements. Their open-toed wooden shoes (geta) and their long sleeved garments with constricting robes hindered long strides, wide stances, and sudden jumping movements. For this reason the Samurai warriors had developed a method of arranging their clothing to accommodate the particular technique they were using. They did this as casually as if they were in front of their own mirror, while actually fighting for their lives in the heat of a battle. The Chinese, on the other hand, had shoes that looked like sneakers and baggy, loose fitting trousers which facilitated all sorts of movements, and kicks. Their dress allowed them to punch and use their hands freely. The Okinawans were too poor for fine constricting clothing and consequently, were also at home with any type of movement.

Through his superior teaching, Gichin Funakoshi did eventually transcend the barriers of misunderstanding and prejudice against Karate. He was treated with the highest possible respect and was soon able to establish his school as a separate Dojo, which he called the “Shoto-Kan” after the name of his polishing school in Okinawa. From Funakoshi’s teaching sprang the Japanese Karate system known as Shotokan. Though other Okinawan Masters also traveled and taught in Japan, including Chojun Miyagi and Choki Motobu, Karate did not reach national prominence in Japan until 1937.

The Chinese character used to write Tode could also be pronounced 'kara' thus the name Te was replaced with kara te - jutsu or 'Chinese hand art' by the Okinawan Masters. This was later changed to karate-do by Gichin Funakoshi who adopted an alternate meaning for the Chinese character for kara, 'empty'. From this point on the term karate came to mean 'empty hand'. The Do in karate-do means 'way' or 'path', and is indicative of the discipline and philosophy of karate with moral and spiritual connotations.


The concept of Do has been prevalent since at least the days of the Okinawan Scholar Teijunsoku born in 1663, as this passage from a poem he wrote suggests:

No matter how you may excel in the art of Te,
And in your scholastic endeavors,
Nothing is more important than your behavior
And your humanity as observed in daily life.

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The first public demonstration of karate in Japan was in 1917 by Gichin Funakoshi, at the Butoku-den in Kyoto (Hassell 1984). This, and subsequent demonstrations, greatly impressed many Japanese, including the Crown-Prince Hirohito, who was very enthusiastic about the Okinawan art. In 1922, Dr. Jigaro Kano, founder of the Japanese art of Judo, invited Funakoshi to demonstrate at the famous Kodokan Dojo and to remain in Japan to teach karate. This sponsorship was instrumental in establishing a base for karate in Japan. As an Okinawan "peasant art," karate would have been scorned by the Japanese without the backing of so formidable a martial arts master (Maliszewski, 1992).

Today there are four main styles of karate-do in Japan: Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan, and Wado-ryu:

Goju-ryu developed out of Naha-te, its popularity primarily due to the success of Kanryo Higaonna (1853-1915). Higaonna opened a dojo in Naha using eight forms brought from China. His best student, Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) later founded Goju-ryu, 'hard soft way' in 1930. In Goju-ryu much emphasis is placed on combining soft circular blocking techniques with quick strong counter attacks delivered in rapid succession.

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Goju-ryu named after a line from Chinese old literature named "Bubishi". Chojun Miyagi improved old training way and established rational program including warming-up exercises, Kihon-kata, and Kaishu-kata, assistant exercises and so on. He thought character building was important so he left many his words.

According to Goju-kai's spirit, all existence consists of Go, or hardness which becomes positive and Ju, or softness which becomes negative. At fight, Go becomes offence and Ju becomes defense for protecting us safety. Mixing Go and Ju leads a tranquil mental state to prevent the fighting.

Shito-ryu was founded by Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952) in 1928 and was influenced directly by both Naha-te and Shuri-te. The name Shito is constructively derived from the combination of the Japanese characters of Mabuni's teachers' names - Ankoh Itosu and Kanryo Higaonna. Shito-ryu schools use a large number of kata, about fifty, and is characterized by an emphasis on power in the execution of techniques.

Shotokan was founded by Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) in Tokyo in 1938. Funakoshi is considered to be the founder of modern karate. Born in Okinawa, he began to study karate with Yasutsune Azato, one of Okinawa's greatest experts in the art. In 1921 Funakoshi first introduced Karate to Tokyo. In 1936, at nearly 70 years of age, he opened his own training hall. The dojo was called Shotokan after the pen name used by Funakoshi to sign poems written in his youth. Shotokan Karate is characterized by powerful linear techniques and deep strong stances.

Wado-ryu, 'way of harmony', founded in 1939 is a system of karate developed from jujitsu and karate by Hienori Otsuka as taught by one of his instructors, Gichin Funakoshi. This style of karate combines basic movements of jujitsu with techniques of evasion, putting a strong emphasis on softness and the way of harmony or spiritual discipline.

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