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History of Karate



Based on mans' instinct of self-defence, different fighting arts were developed in most cultures, especially in central Asia, Egypt and Turkey. The principles of the Asian martial arts are believed to have spread from Turkey to India, where they were further developed to sophisticated arts ("kalaripayt").

The history of Karate as we know it today can be taken back to India, perhaps two thousand years before the Christian Era. India was the birthplace of a bare-handed martial art called, in Sanskrit, Vajramushtthi. Evidence seems to indicate that it was commonly practiced by the Kshatriya, which was the Warrior Class of that time, and which can be compared to the Japanese Samurai and the medieval Knights of Europe.

It is said that the third child of King Sugandha of southern India was a member of the Kshatriya (Warrior) Caste. However, after a few years he was led by the spirit to a small but dynamic Buddhist province south of Madres. He received his religious training from the Dhyna of Master Prajnatara. Under the master’s guidance, the boy grew into a very wise man and advanced in the way of the Dhyana or Buddhist practice, and was given the name Buddhadharma     .


After his masters death, Buddhadharma travelled to China, where he taught. His life was centered around the Shaolin Temple and monastery located in Hunan Province. Tradition states that upon seeing the emaciated condition of the monks, Buddhadharma instructed them in physical exercise, to condition their bodies as well as their minds. The exercise was called, “Eighteen hands of Lo-Han”. This exercise also included breathing; he knew that this physical activity was a means of cleansing body internally . Eventually the monks began to study the animals and form exercises that resembled their ways of fighting, and later it was known as Chuan-Fa, “The Art of the Fist”. It is important to note that the motives of the practice was art, physical conditioning, and finally, self-defence.

During the Sui Period (589-618), bandits began to raid the monastery for the purpose of food and anything of value.

At this time the monks, in order to protect their lives and their beloved monastery, utilised their Chuan-Fa art and defeated the bandits. The reputation of the Shaolin Fighting monks spread, and many came to study the art along with Buddhism. Today there are hundreds of styles, and of course the philosophy has changed somewhat, depending on the personality of the headmaster of the styles. In 1609 the art was brought to Okinawa where it underwent many changes and became later known as Karate-do.


During the 14th century Kempo (Chaun-Fa) was introduced to Okinawa. It won popularity as an art of self-defence, under the name of 'tote' (Chinese hand). At Okinawa the native fighting art 'te' was practiced long before the introduction of Kempo. It is believed that 'te' was combined with 'Kempo' by the Okinawans and developed into the martial art known today as Karate.

Japan invaded Okinawa in1609. They reinstituted the ban on weapons (first declared by King Sho Shin in 1477). The Japanese also banned the practice of martial arts. Consequently, the Okinawans  continued with martial arts in secrecy.

During the next three centuries the martial art developed its own character and is called 'Okinawa te'. It is split into three main styles:

  •  Shuri-te  influenced by the hard techniques of Kempo and characterised by an offensive attitude.
  • Naha-te influenced by the softer techniques of Kempo including breath control and 'ki'. It was characterised by a more defensive attitude with grappling, throws and locking techniques.
  • Tomari-te  influenced by both the hard and soft techniques of Kempo.

At the end of the 19th century Shuri-te and Tomari-te were subsumed under the name Shorin ryu,  which developed into several slightly different styles. Naha-te was later renamed Goju ryu (the hard and soft style).


miyagichojunGoju Ryu Karate was founded by Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) an Okinawan who lived in China for many years where he studied Chinese Kenpo.He blended the soft Chinese movements with the hard Okinawan movements to form Goju (hard/soft) school of karate.        



gogenyamaguchiIn 1931 Chojun Miyagi introduce Goju Ryu Karate in the Japanese inland Gogen Yamaguchi was one his senior student, At Ritsumeikan University Gogen Yamaguchi train with the other Goju student such as Uchiage, Ujita, Kisaki, Katano and Akamura and all of them were training under the founder of Goju, Chojun Miyagi.
Gogen Yamaguchi was the founder of Goju-Kai Karate.


Shojo_UjitaShozo Ujita was one of Chujun Miyagi student in Japan, together with other Goju student they modernised and organised the Goju system that led to the formation of the JKF GOJU KAI in 1951. Shozo Ujita became the first President of the JKF GOJU KAI, he was also the Mayor of the Wakayama City for 31 years and also the personal trainer of the Japanese Emperor Hirohito and the founder of Kenbukan Goju Ryu.

Jin'an Shinzato was exceptionally talented. Chojun Miyagi had chosen him as his successor to the Goju school in Okinawa. Shinzato was tragically killed during the Second World War. Later, after the war, Chojun Miyagi chose Meitoku Yagi Sensei to succeed him in Okinawa and Gogen Yamaguchi to succeed him in Japan under the Goju-Kai school, to pass on Goju-Ryu to the next generation.

Chojun Miyagi passed away on October 8th , 1953, leaving a great legacy behind. He predicted that during the twentieth century karate would spread throughout the world. Today we can see that this prediction has been realized, karate is not only practiced in Japan, but it can be found throughout the world. Karate can no longer be referred to as a solely Okinawan or Japanese martial art, but it has become an art with no boundaries, an art for all nations and all people of the world.

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Shihan Humphrey Skosana's Kuyu kai Karate South Africa teaches the traditional Goju-ryu karate of the late Osamu Hirano (Saiko Shihan) of Japan.