Cornish Karate . info

A brief background to Karate


Over the centuries mankind has engaged in wars, and the staple diet of a war is the soldier. Soldiers were trained in a variety of warlike (martial) skills including the use of weapons. If a weapon was lost in the melee then most soldiers were fairly helpless. The more valuable soldiers/officers were taught how to fight without weapons and a variety of systems of "unarmed combat" developed around the world. Over the centuries unarmed combat was refined and became more and more efficient and practical.

In the far East of Asia, the island of Okinawa was conveniently placed to be a trading point for many of the Asian cultures. Ships from India, Thailand, China, Korea and Japan regularly visited Okinawa from 1372 and it was inevitable that "warriors" from different cultures would swap tales and techniques over a bottle or two at the end of the day.

Okinawa became not just a hub for items of trade but for knowledge as well. The Okinawans took on board all the information from arts such as Kung Fu, Kalaripayat, and Muay Thai and amalgamated them into their own ancient, local system of unarmed combat - Te. Twice in the history of Okinawa weapons were banned from all but the ruling warrior class which made the ability to fight without a weapon even more important. The bans also spurred the local peasants to adapt farming tools and implements into weapons, such as the Nunchaku (rice flail) and Sai (rice seed planter).

In the late 1700s and early 1800s Te became more systematic and records were kept so we have documented evidence about the birth of Karate.

Most Te schools (or Ryu) were small, closed affairs and a group of like minded Te practitioners decided that it would be a good thing to teach Te to a wider audience. However, they could not get their arts into schools or universities as the techniques were brutal and deadly.

At the end of the 1800s a new form of Te was devised under the umbrella term of Kara Te (Empty Hand). This new Karate took a few decades to fully formulate but the resulting art had a set syllabus, formal uniforms, rules and regulations and was promoted primarily as a Sport and Exercise system. Most of the potentially lethal techniques were removed from the daily training regime, but they are still there hidden in the patterns (Kata).

Spreading out from Okinawa to Japan (and then to the USA and the rest of the world after World War II) Karate is now one of the most popular "sports" in the world with over 150,000,000 practitioners in just about every country you can think of.