Originally, the martial art Te (“Hand”) developed in Okinawa as a system of self-defense. Due to Okinawa’s frequent contact and exchange with China, it is certain that the Okinawan martial art was influenced by Chinese kempo at some point during its development. However, with only oral tradition and no formal contemporary written records, it is not certain exactly when the art called Kara-Te first emerged in Okinawa. It is believed that it developed roughly 500 years ago, when the dynastic ruler King Shoha unified the region after decades of warfare and issued an edict banning the possession of weapons on the island.
According to conventional accounts, a similar law forbidding the possession or use of weapons was re-issued and enforced by the Satsuma clan, who had invaded Okinawa in the early 1600’s and brought it under the rule of the Japanese Shogunate. It is believed that in this environment karate developed as a form of unarmed combat for protecting oneself and one’s country, and it was taught and practiced in secret.
Then came the birth in 1868 of Okinawan karate master Funakoshi Gichin. He dedicated his whole life to promoting the values of the art, and introduced the way of karate-jutsu to Japan, where it spread across the country. By 1949, his followers had established an association for the promotion of karate; they called it Nihon Karate Kyokai, or Japan Karate Association. It was the beginning of the JKA.