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A Brief History of Karate

From the east come many types of fighting arts, plus other less known ones from around the world. Some can be traced back well over 2,000 years. For many historical and geographical reasons, the Ryukyu Islands of which Okinawa is but one, halfway between Japan and Formosa, came into contact with many of these fighting arts, especially those of China.

Many techniques from these were added to the traditional Okinawan fighting arts. In 1609 the Japanese invaded Okinawa and banned the use and carrying of weapons, so the warrior-class secretly trained themselves in unarmed self-defence, using and improving the ancient techniques. Since they were preparing to fight armed men, they developed techniques, which could dispose of the opponent with one technique, even if he was wearing samurai armour. The secrecy was imperative since punishment for even practicing a martial art could be extreme. Much of the clandestine training was done at night while their oppressors slept and therefore, the practitioners trained in their sleeping garments.

Hence modern karate is the outcome of centuries of interchange between China, the Ryukyus and Japan. It only recently came to be openly taught to the public, first in Okinawa and later in Japan. Karate only found its way into Europe in the 1950's and by the early 1960's became established in England. Since then, there has been a proliferation not just of karate but also of many other martial art forms all over the globe.

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