The True History of Traditional Karate-do

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What Is Traditional Karate-do?

     Traditional Karate-do is the pathway of inner development which grows from the study of the science of Karate-do. Students come to practice Karate-do for many reasons, such as; weight loss, self improvement, health improvement and of course self defense. Many have found deeper meaning than originally sought in the training. Far more than a fighting art, traditional Karate-do is the study of life.

The Literal Meaning - What is it?

     The term "Karate-do" applies to the art of empty hand combat. It is a system of self-defense developed in Okinawa, off the Ryukyu Islands near the coast of Japan and China. Its origins are from the indigenous Okinawan form of Tode and Chinese Kung Fu. The words, "kara" and "te" literally mean “empty hand”, which describes the effectiveness of this art with just the bare hands and feet. Karate-do teaches the use of distance, evasive movement, and blocking to evade an adversary's attack and respond with powerful accurate strikes.

The Science

     The principles of traditional Karate-do are those of physical science. As with any science, there are basic laws that are integral to its application. In training, the primary intention is to mold the body to accord these physical laws. By repetition of movement, it is the goal to master the correct mechanics so that techniques are executed without conscious effort. At this level, the body has been trained into an instrument of offensive and defensive potential.

The Art

     When the aim is directed towards something beyond physical prowess, traditional Karate-do becomes an art. The practical and philosophical aim of training is to unite the mind and the body together as one. We cannot achieve perfection in our body without achieving perfection in our mind. Conditioning our movements to the correct standards of execution requires tremendous physical effort and concentration of will. Individuals will encounter obstacles in Karate-do training which they must overcome; thus, committing to a pathway until success is achieved.

The History of Shito Ryu Karate-do

     Shito Ryu Karate-do is one of the four major styles of Karate in Japan. The other three styles are Shotokan, Wado Ryu and Goju Ryu. Shito Ryu was founded by Kenwa Mabuni, a direct descendant of a samurai clan. Mabuni began his training at the age of 13 under a Karate master in the Shuri area of Okinawa named, Yasutsune (Anko) Itosu. Itosu was not only highly skilled as a martial artist but also an innovator in teaching the Martial Arts. Itosu was credited as the first instructor to introduce Karate into the Okinawan public school system in 1905. Itosu was responsible for the creation of the Pinan (Heian) kata which are still being practiced today as introductory to intermediate forms in many schools. Kenwa Mabuni trained with Itosu for over 13 years until his death in 1915. Mabuni was so saddened by the death of Itosu that he built a shrine in front of his teacher's grave and stayed near by for a full year. From Itosu, Mabuni learned the Shuri form of Karate which is composed of quick, linear techniques.

     Mabuni also trained with another Martial Arts master named, Kanryo Higaonna. He was introduced to Higaoanna by his friend, Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju Ryu Karate-do, in 1909. From Higaonna he learned the Naha form of Karate which is composed of soft, circular techniques.

     After the death of Higaonna in 1916, Mabuni united with his friend Miyagi and several other notables, and formed a research group aimed at practicing and spreading Karate. During this time he also trained in the art of Okinawan weapons or "Ryukyu Kobudo". In 1929 Mabuni left Okinawa and relocated to Osaka, Japan. There he opened a small dojo and called his system "Hanko-Ryu" or half hard style. He later changed the name of his style to "Shito Ryu" in honoring his two Sensei; Itosu and Higaonna. The characters "Shi" and "To" were from the first character of the names of Itosu and Higaonna. Mabuni worked tirelessly to teach Karate throughout Japan until his death on May 23, 1952. His contribution to the Karate world can be traced to so many groups with lineage back to hime. For his contribution to the Japanese society and culture, the Emperor of Japan bestowed upon the Mabuni family with he family crest (mon) of the circle and four bars. This family crest is now recognized world-wide as the symbol for Shito Ryu Karate-do.