Twenty years after the Satsuma invasion, in 1629, both the
Tode and Kung-fu societies decided to combine their fighting styles, naming the
new blend of styles "TE". "TE" translated means
"Hand". This union was an effort to take the benefits of both
styles and create a stronger more effective style that could be used against
the samurai. The Satsuma Clan lost control of the Okinawan Islands in
1875 when Japan officially made Okinawa part of Japan. In the years to
follow, Okinawan Te would begin to reveal itself to the world. There
became three slightly different styles of "Te". These styles
were named after the cities in which "Te" was practiced. The
three cities were: Shuri, Tomari and Naha. With the fear and
suppression now lifted, Shuri-Te, Tomari-Te and Naha-Te would soon proliferate.
By 1887 the word "Te" was replaced and given a new name, "KARATE". "Kara" at that time meant China, as described earlier. Karate was then translated as "China Hand". By using the term Karate, there was still a reference to it's Chinese origin. The birth of Karate had begun and with it a new era of openness and sharing had begun. Karate soon found great acceptance among the Okinawan people. By the early part of the 1900's, karate was being demonstrated to the people of Okinawa. Soon after, karate would be taught in the public schools. Karate was more widely accepted now by the people of Okinawa as many students began to practice the art. The name "Karate" soon went through another change. In 1905, an Okinawan karate master decided to start referring to "Karate" as "Empty Hand" instead of "China Hand". This change in translation would finally eliminate any reference to karate's Chinese origins and show the world that karate was truly an Okinawan art.
The great interest in karate soon caught the eye of the Japanese people. In 1917 the Japanese government requested a personal demonstration of this unknown Okinawan fighting art. A gathering of Okinawan masters took place and it was decided that Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan, would be the one to demonstrate karate for the Japanese. Gichin Funakoshi was a rather small and weak looking individual, however, he was very skilled in Okinawan karate. A demonstration between the Okinawan master an a Japanese martial artist was arranged. Gichin Funakoshi was able to overpower the Japanese opponent with his superior karate techniques. The Japanese people were very impressed and eventually Funakoshi stayed in Japan and began to teach the Japanese people.
By the 1920's and 30's, many Okinawan masters began to travel to Japan and establish dojos. In 1927 the style of Gojo-Ryu was created. This was the first time a style wasn't named after the city where it was practiced. Many other styles began to emerge, including our own Shito-Ryu. Shito-Ryu's name was created by combining the names of the two masters from which Shito-Ryu evolved. Shito-Ryu will be discussed in more detail later. Karate quickly found it's way from Japan to the Hawaiian Islands. This was mainly due to the fact that there was a large group of Okinawans living on the island at the time. However, it wasn't until World War II, before karate started reaching the United States. After the war, many servicemen were exposed to Japanese Judo and Karate.
During the 1940's and 50's, judo gained greater acceptance than karate, which lead to karate not being widely accepted until the 1960's. Since then, the number of karate styles has increased, as well as the number of students. There are many different styles of karate around the world. Eventually many styles may die out as new ones are created. Evolution of the martial arts is assured, just as styles have changed and grown, new ones are always being formed.
Traditional karate in America
The strength and uniqueness of Goju Ryu Karate lies in its heritage. Each one of us is an extension of the direct line from Higashionna Kanryo to Miyagi and those who followed in their footsteps. Each of these individuals exemplified an important aspect of Karate and that is the development of character. Without character and a strong foundation, nothing of substance can be accomplished.
Winning championships is fun, having excellent technique is desirable, understanding kata and bunkai are important. Nevertheless, as wonderful as these things are, they should never replace a strong, disciplined character. Through my travels and studies I have come to the conclusion that, today, the Gojuryu art form has been split up into many factions and organizations. Unfortunately, not all these factions see eye to eye.
Our goals and objectives in Karate-do are the same as that of the Tao. “You cannot deny some of the differences of life nor of those in Karate-do as there will always be those who do not understand and those who do.” The key is to achieve harmony.
In America, I feel we have come full circle. We began as students, we have gone through the ranks, and we have paid our dues. We have fought difficult battles and have learned hard lessons; but we are not narrow-minded. We are not complacent; we are educated individuals who live in the present. But that has not prevented some of us from going astray.
There are those whom have gone astray in believing that that our art form is something that can be owned. On the contrary, Karate-do is not an object to be owned, but rather an art to be mastered.
Unlike those who have lost their way, we retain our original vision. We seek to produce leaders who share that same vision. We… I dare to ask, “Is there a better way?”
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