The founder of the sect, Zen Bodhidharma, brought Indian martial arts techniques to China, combining them with Diaphragmatic breathing techniques used in Zen and Yoga. These breathing techniques had a tremendous influence on "ibuki" and "nagare", widely used in modern karate.




Bodhidharma (aka Daruma Taishi or Bodai Daruma) began preaching Zen Buddhism after settling in Shaolin-su Monastery in Hunan Province (5th century AD). Finding that the physical training of his students and followers was far from the best (they would fall asleep from fatigue at his lectures), Bodhidharma introduced a set of physical exercises, which he believed would help to better assimilate the ideas of Zen. Later, apparently aware of the difficulties that preachers of his ideas would encounter in their wanderings through places teeming with brigands and beasts, he also introduced them to Indian martial techniques. By merging with local techniques, this form of fighting, in turn, gave great variety to new styles, such as pangainun, pakua, taichi, etc. Later, during the reign of the Manchu dynasty that succeeded the Ming dynasty, the Shaolin-su monastery was destroyed because its walls often concealed opponents of the ruling dynasty. Some Shaolin monks fled to the south of China, where they founded the Southern Shaolin. Thus two schools of Shaolin boxing arose: northern and southern. The fighters of the southern school (past or present peasants) preferred the technique of blows with their hands, while the followers of the northern school (horsemen and cattlemen) preferred the technique of kicks.




The island of Okinawa


The island of Okinawa holds a special place in the further development and formation of karate. A place of clash of trading interests of China and Japan, the islands of the Rio Kio Archipelago, to which the island of Okinawa belongs, in the 15-17th centuries became a bone of contention between these countries. The Ri-Que Islands were first invaded by the Chinese, who brought with them the art of Chinese boxing, and then by the Japanese, who by that time flourished such national wrestling as kendo, sumo and derived from sumo jiu-jitsu. Since the invaders forbade the local population to carry arms, the latter used arms, legs, and chains for threshing rice or simply sticks as weapons. Thus Okinawa-TE or TODE, a synthetic style of fighting aimed at defeating any and above all armed opponent, appeared and spread on the islands, as did Nunchaku and Tonfa, which in turn seem to have enriched TODE. By developing these types of self-defense, the Okinawans set the ultimate goal of expelling foreigners from their land. Subsequently, in a series of rebellions, OKINAWA-TE established itself as a formidable type of struggle, used with success by the rebels against armed opponents. The systematic development of OKINAVA-TE became increasingly dangerous, which is why the Japanese, who appreciated TODE, made every effort to keep it secret. The art of TODE remained secret until 1916, when leading sensei of the time, Funakoshi Gichin, Mabuni Kenwa, Miyagi Chojun and others decided to make the art of OKINAWA-TE public.


Funakoshi Gichin, considered by many to be the founder of modern karate, at first, in 1916 in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, and then during a sports festival in Tokyo, introduced the Japanese with a new kind of fighting. Later, in 1930, having learned about a huge success, Funakoshi in Japan, there comes Mabuni Kenva, the founder of style SHITO-RYU and Miyagi Chodjun - the founder of style GODZU-RYU from which, according to some authors, one of especially popular styles - KIOKUSHINKAI (founders - M. Oyama) has appeared.


Having left for a permanent residence in Japan, in 1936 Funakoshi founded his own style Shoto-kan from which many modern styles of karate derived, such as WADOKAI (founder Oitsuka), SHOTOKAI (founder Egami), etc.

The great merit of Funakoshi in the development and formation of karate fighting is that he was the first to systematize the techniques known to him, expressed a number of fundamentally important ideas on how to make karate a sport, changed the inner essence of the concept (character) of karate.


If before him the hieroglyph "karate" meant "HAND OF CHINA" or "HAND OF KARA KINGDOM" (the Kara Kingdom - the leading province of China - during the Ming era was considered a symbol of the flowering of everything that was once in China), now the modified hieroglyph meant much more. In his famous book "Karate-do Kiohan" Funakoshi wrote: "Just as the polished surface of a tree reflects everything in front of it, and in a quiet valley all, even the faintest sounds can be heard, so a karate student must free his mind from egoism and anger to be able to respond to any surprise".


Thus, according to Funakoshi, karate is not so much a set of various techniques, the ability to defeat the enemy, but above all a means of forming the very character of the person. The old master believed that only a truly good man can learn karate, to achieve outstanding success in this struggle.


In 1955 the Japanese Karate Association was established, with the Grand Master as its chief instructor. In 1958, the association held its first all-Japanese karate championship. The contribution of the Japanese Karate Association to the development and dissemination of karate fighting around the world is enormous.