martial arts historians would have us all believe that every martial art in existence anywhere in the world at any time in
history can trace its roots directly to the Shaolin Temple. This claim is, of course, absurd.
historical evidence suggests that systematized methods of combat - both armed and unarmed - existed in China well before the
time of the Shaolin temple. In fact, for the first two hundred years or so of the existence of the Shaolin Temple, it
had nothing to do with martial arts at all. The Shaolin Temple was originally built in the 4th century AD but its legendary
involvement in the evolution of the martial arts began in the 6th century with the arrival of Bodhidarma from India.
of what we know of Bodhidarma comes to us from legend, not historical fact. We do know with some certainty that he was the
first patriarch of Chan Buddhism - which later became known as Zen when it arrived in Japan. It is extremely difficult,
however, to confirm with any certainty at all what role he may have played in the history of martial arts. Legend tells us
that he founded the very first Shaolin temple martial arts. We do know that Chan Buddhism teaches that we should strive to
strengthen our bodies as well as our minds. It is likely that Bodhidarma taught, at the very least, some sort of breathing
exercises that involved some type of physical movement - perhaps something similar to yoga or chi kung. But it is impossible
today to know for certain exactly what early Shaolin martial arts looked like.
any event, the Shaolin temple did come to play some role in the evolution of Chinese martial arts, but it most definitely
was not the ultimate birthplace of those arts.
styles of Chinese Kung Fu, or Wushu, would ultimately spread throughout China and indeed throughout the world. Many of these
styles claim to have their roots in Shaolin temple martial arts, but many others do not. Martial arts styles often sprang
up within a village or a family that had nothing at all to do with Shaolin. These families would pass on their art through
the generations, and some of these arts would ultimately grow and spread beyond their native village or family.
do also know that Chinese martial arts would influence the development of martial arts in many other neighboring cultures
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15th through the 18th centuries saw the early formation of many of the modern ryu or schools of Japanese Jujutsu. Up until
that time various systems of unarmed combat using joint locks, throws and submission holds had developed in Japan independent
of other Asian fighting systems.
claim that Japanese Jujutsu descends directly from Chinese Chin-Na. While it is true that in many instances Japan borrowed
elements of Chinese culture and adopted those elements as her own, this does not seem to hold true for Jujutsu. Based on the
available evidence, I believe Jujutsu to be native to Japan. It's development and evolution certainly coincided with the history
of the great Japanese warrior families.
suggests that at some point in the history of Japanese Jujutsu some influence came into play from Chinese boxing. Japanese
Kempo methods first came into existence as combinations of the native Jujutsu with Chinese boxing. Some stories say that Japanese
warriors who knew Jujutsu trained in China for a time, and then returned to Japan, combining the punch and kick methods they
had learned with their native art. Other stories say the opposite - that Chinese Kung Fu experts came to Japan and taught
their art to native Jujutsu practitioners. Either way, these styles continued to evolve in Japan, not China, and continued
to be primarily Jujutsu styles that may have focused somewhat more on striking than most other Jujutsu styles. These styles
represent a very tiny minority of the Japanese Jujutsu systems.
the late 19th and early 20th centuries styles such as Aikido and Judo came into existence (founded by Morihei Ueshiba and
Jigoro Kano respectively) that would attempt to modernize various traditional Jujutsu systems.
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arts also developed on the island of Okinawa. Today, Okinawa is part of Japan. But this was not always the case.
its earliest days, an indigenous method of combat developed on Okinawa. Over the years this method would come under the influence
of Chinese martial arts. Okinawa often served as a stop on major trade routes throughout Southeast Asia which left it exposed
to many other cultures, particularly that of China. The fact that the Chinese martial arts influenced the Okinawan martial
arts, which they clearly did, however, does not in any way mean that the Okinawan arts were a direct copy of the Chinese arts.
Okinawan martial arts developed in Okinawa as a totally separate entity from any Chinese art.
martial arts of Okinawa would ultimately be called "Okinawa Te," or "Tode," which means "Chinese hand." Two main schools
of Okinawa Te developed: Shorei-ryu and Shorin-ryu. Eventually the name Tode was changed to "Kara Te," or Karate. People sometimes
referred to the Okinawan arts as "Karate Kempo," or "Okinawan Kempo," as well. Kempo simply means "Law of the Fist," and could
be a translation of the Chinese term, "Chuan Fa."
people believe that Karate is originally Japanese. This is not true. The art of Karate definitely developed entirely on Okinawa.
In fact, it would not spread to Japan until the early 20th century, only a short time before it spread to North America. Gichin
Funakoshi performed the first public display of Karate in Japan in 1917. He later founded Shotokan Karate in Tokyo in 1938.
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the early 20th century Hawaii became a real melting pot of East Asian cultures. Hundreds of Japanese, Chinese, Okinawans,
Filipinos, Polynesians, etc. migrated to the Hawaiian Islands at this time. They brought with them countless styles of martial
of the martial arts training would go on in a very informal, sometimes secretive way. There were no actual "schools" at first
- rather people would simply learn from their neighbors. Usually, at least at first, each martial art would stay within its
cultural group, i.e. Okinawans would only teach Karate to other Okinawans, while Filipinos would only teach their arts to
the late 1920s and early 1930s some interesting events transpired that may have been extremely significant to modern day Kempo
in North America.
First, a series of Okinawan Karate experts arrived in Hawaii to teach their art. (Click here for more details.) These included Kentsu Yabu in 1927,
Choki Motobu in 1932 (although he was detained by INS and only trained one person during his short stay), Mizuho Mutsu and
Kamesuke Higaonna in 1933 and finally Chojun Miyagi in 1934.
Miyashiro, born in Hawaii to Okinawan parents, trained in Karate with an Okinawan immigrant by the name of Kuniyoshi. Later,
he trained with Motobu, Mutsu and Higaonna during their visits to Hawaii. He continued teaching for some years after their
Also, in 1929 Henry Okazaki, the founder of Danzan Ryu Jujutsu, began teaching Jujutsu in Honolulu. In
1936 he built his own gym in Honolulu which served as his Jujutsu Dojo. Most of the martial arts training at this time was
still being done very informally, or at the most as part of a club that would run its classes at a local YMCA or other such
establishment. Okazaki's school was one of the first instances of a martial arts school operating in its own space. Okazaki
was also one of the very first to teach Jujutsu to non-Japanese. Other Japanese Jujutsu teachers would condemn him for this.
Naha-Te is the name of the particular type of Okinawan
martial art that developed in the port town of Naha, the modern-day capital of Okinawa. The martial art that indigenously developed in Okinawa
was called Te (”Hands”), and the continuous chinese influences that incorporated Chinese Boxing (Chuan Fa, nowadays
known as Kung Fu) were eventually reflected by nameing the Okinawan martial arts To-De, “Chinese Hands”.
Credited for the early development of Naha-Te is Kanryo
Higaonna (1853-1915). Kanryo Higaonna’s students include Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953), the founder of Goju-Ryu Karate and Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952), the founder of Shito-Ryu Karate.
Early Karate History: Shuri-Te
Shuri-Te is the name of the particular type of Okinawan
martial art that developed in the Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa. One of the early Okinawan masters, To-De Sakugawa (1733-1815) is credited as being one of the initial
importers of Chinese martial arts to Okinawa, in particular to Shuri, where he started the development of the Shuri-Te style
of Okinawan martial arts.
Sakugawa had a student named Sokon Matsumura, who
in turn taught Ankoh Itosu, who was destined to become a great martial artist and teacher in the 19th century, who introduced
the practice of To-De, as the Okinawan martial arts were called, to the Okinawan
school system. Ankoh Itosu’s contribution to To-De was the emphasis of Kata and its practical application,
Many students of Ankoh Itosu became significant figures
in the early development of Karate.
Amongst Itosu’s students are Gichin Funakoshi (1867-1957), who later moved to
Japan and founded Shotokan Karate, and Kenwa Mabuni (1890-1954), combined aspects of Naha-Te and Shuri-Te, also moved to Japan, and founded Shito-Ryu Karate.