The Public Myth
People who do not know karate, have the misconception that karate enables a person to break boards, tiles or stones with one blow. At least that was what I thought as a kid. 10-20 years ago in Malaysia, people believed Japanese martial arts were bad for health. They saw new karate trainees hurt themselves while breaking boards. Today, due to encouragement from the government, many parents allow their kids to learn martial arts, among which, karate stands as a major option.
What is Karate?
"that in daily life, one’s mind and body be trained and developed in a spirit of humility; and that in critical times, one be devoted utterly to the cause of justice."In other words, Karate as a training skill, consists of physical and mental challenges to cultivate the mind and body.
Development of Karate
The birthplace of Karate is in Okinawa, Japan. However, its origin stretches back into the mystical land of Cathay. Karate principles are believed to have modified from early teachings passed down from China. The early gung fu that reached the then Ryukyu Islands was known as Shorin-ji Kempo or Shaolin Quanfa in Mandarin. Which later developed into Okinawa-te, the forerunner of present-day karate.
There are similarities in Shaolin gungfu and Karate. After years of evolution, some Karate experts adopted softer styles, namely the White Crane gungfu. In addition, they weeded out parts of gungfu which fell short. Along with improvements, they combined combinations from other styles to become karate today.
The Chinese Connection
In 1762, an Okinawan tribute ship was blown off course to Oshima beach on Shikoku Island. The officer-in-charge recorded in detail the marvel he witnessed at the hands of a Chinese gungfu master. A man he knew as Kusankun.
In 1922, Gichin Funakoshi published the Ryukyu Kempo Karate-jutsu, describing various Chinese masters who came to Okinawa and taught gungfu. He wrote that a Chinese named Ason taught Shao Lin Liu (Shorei-ryu) to Sakiyama, an early Karate student; Wai Xinxian taught Shao Lin Liu to Higashionna Kanryo; Iwah taught Shaolin Boxing to Matsumura of Shuri. (Kanryo and Matsumura later grew to fame as great masters of their art)Many Japanese masters used rudimentary moves from Chinese gungfu to develop and pass down the Karate art to disciples - right down to the generation of the five mainstream founders. And even then, the Chinese influence did not cease.
Traditional Karate Founders
There are various styles of Karate-do. The most traditional belong to founders who were students of the greatest master of Kempo Toudi-jutsu. Namely Itosu Anko. He was a student of the legendary "Bushi" Matsumura Chikudun Pechin Sokon (1809-1901) who studied gungfu in both Fuzhou and Beijing.
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