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Karate (??), meaning Empty Hand, is the one of most practiced martial arts in the world and as such, has one of the most sophisticated philosophy for the human body and its own movements in fights.
The birth place of Karate is Okinawa. This place is now called Okinawa prefecture in Japan, however, less than 200 years ago Okinawa was a Kingdom country called Ryukyu.
The history of Karate is not clear; however the name Karate appeared first as "Karate Sakugawa(??E???)". There are not many documents still in existance about Karate or other martial arts in Okinawa, however, just like any other country's history, Okinawa had weapons and a military force of itfs own.
Shihan Arakaki is collecting all the historical documents he can to write gThe History of Karate" in the near future, but because he is trying to write all about Karate he believes it to be too long to fit into the site.
Shihan Arakaki will however be writing transcripts of what he finds in updates to the site. Because this is a work in progress, check back often!
History of Karate
The Shimazu however, did not want full occupancy of Ryukyu; they wanted to profit from Ryukyu's trading with mainland China. During the history of the Chinese Dynasty, they would not let any surrounding country trade with them as equals. The only way to trade with the Chinese was called a Tribute trade or Kowtow. With a long cultural history, China was always an important producer of goods and also had a large market for Japanese and Ryukyu goods. Since the late Three Mountain Country era Ryukyu made Tribute trades with China. This relationship was recognized when the new king of Ryukyu took the throne, the Emperor of China sent his servants to recognize the king. Those servants brought lots of people and merchandise and stayed a long period of time (some six months long). These trades enriched Ryukyu society and Shimazu wanted the Ryukyu Dynasty to keep this Tribute trade for profit for themselves.
During the Edo period, mainland Japan closed itfs door to surrounding countries. When Satsuma (Shimazu) kept Ryukyu, the trades with China had very little access to foreign goods and information about the happening of the rest of the world.
Keeping Ryukyu as an independent Kingdom also gave Satsuma prestige in the Edo government because there was no Lord to keep an occupying force in the foreign country. This made the Shimazu a protector of the South border of Japan.
This kept the Ryukyufs the way it was before the hermitage of Japan; Ryukyu kept the Tribute trade with China and Satsuma controlled the Ryukyufs. This was a so called "Dual Subordination" to Satsuma (Japan) and China.
There are some misconceptions of how Karate came to be; one of them is that Karate was born after Satsuma invaded Okinawa because Satsuma prohibited native Okinawan people to practice weapons so Okinawans practiced the empty hand techniques in a secret way to protest against Satsuma Samurai. Another misconception is that Okinawa was a very peaceful country, so they did not need any weapons and native Okinawans only taught empty hand fighting techniques for their self-defense techniques in times of crisis.
This latter misconception is probably because people believe that when the Ryukyu dynasty was invaded, there was almost no resistance against an army of Satsuma. Also, when the British Navy came to the Ryukyu Kingdom, the officers discovered the island without weapons and published his log after the voyage. The Emperor Napoleon read these books and was quite surprised at the notion that a weaponless country existed. These two misconceptions became bigger and bigger until finally not only people in the world believed that Okinawa was a peaceful, weaponless country but also that present day Okinawan people believe that the Ryukyu Kingdom was.
When the Ryukyu kingdom was invaded by Satsuma, it was one of the strongest military forces in Japan. Ryukyu kingdom sent an army of 2,000 to the northern border island but was defeated by a force of 2,500 Satsuma. The Satsuma army, carried by ships, then reached the main islandfs Naha harbor but withdrew because of cannon fire from Miegusuku (???) Fort. Satsuma then attacked from behind (north side) of Naha and Ryukyufs defense was forced to withdraw to Shuri. After several battles, Ryukyu finally surrendered to the Satsuma Army.
One of the reasons behind the Ryukyu Kingdomfs defeat was Satsuma had one of the most trained and well known military force in the history of Japan. An example of this was during Japanfs civil war era. Not only were they one of the biggest threats but after the wars ended, the then Japanese leader Hideyoshi Toyotomi sent a military force to the Koran peninsula to invade China. The Satsuma army was one of those military forces and in the battle of Sacheon (?????) 6,000 Satsuma troops were surrounded by a combined force of 38,000 Chinese and Korean troops. According to the Satsuma document, the Chinese forces retreated with 37,000 losses.
It was right after Japanfs wartime era that Satsumafs military force was well trained and their weapons were state of the art. This coupled with the fact that their fighting spirits were high spelled a defeat for the outmatched Ryukyu army.
Before the Satsuma invasion, the Ryukyu army conquered the Yaeyama Islands to settle the Southern border and Amami Islands to set the Northern border.
It was not because Ryukyu did not have their own military force they were conquered; it was because their military force was not as well-equipped or trained as the Satsuma force.
The birth place of Karate (??) is Okinawa prefecture in Japan (??). Okinawa (??) is located south of Japan and is created by many large and small islands; the biggest of which is called Okinawa Hontou (Main Island)
Even though Okinawa is the island located south of Japan, their cultural background is the same as mainland Japan. Their main religion was the same as old Japanfs Ko-Shinto (???Eold Shinto), and their language is a dialect of Japanese.
In pre-historical time of Okinawa, it is not clear but was probably the same as mainland Japan also. In that time, mainland Japan was a pre-agriculture era and small villages everywhere collected food from the sea and mountains. After agriculture was introduced, those small villages fought each other for food, power, etc.
Later it was more effective to work with lots of people together to make rice fields so congregating into larger villages was the way to make people wealthy. Eventually these larger villages were strong enough to be called Kingdoms. As the legend says that in pre-historical time of Okinawa there were three kingdoms which rose and fell.
After the fall of the third kingdom, Okinawa was divided into three areas such as North, Middle, and South. These areas were called Mountains, so there was North Mountain, Middle Mountain and South Mountain kingdoms. We call this the gThree Mountain Countryh era.
After this Three Mountain Country era, there are person named Shou Hattushi (???)rose, and at last, he united Okinawa and created the Ryukyu Kingdom. King Shou settled the capital of Ryukyu in Shuri, built the Shuri castle, and moved all those in the warrior class from all over the island to the Shuri area.
Sixty-some years after King Shou Hattushi created the kingdom, a coup happened and the Shou family not only fell from power but were erased from history entirely. The person who was in charge of the coup became the king as Shou En(??). Although this was a different family, for political reasons, they used the name Shou . Historians now call them the first Shou clan and the second Shou clan to distinguish the difference. The latter Shou family kept the dynasty until the Meiji Restoration in mainland Japan. After the Restoration the Ryukyu Kingdom became the Okinawa prefecture under mainland Japanese government.
However, in 1609, the Shimazu of mainland Japan invaded Ryukyu kingdom and occupied it. The Satsuma region is now days Kagoshima prefecture but was ruled by the Shimazu family. Shimazu attacked the Ryukues with a force of 13 ships and 2,500 samurais. The Shimazu was one of the strongest lords in the history of Japan; Ryukyu's army could not defend against the attack of the Shimazu fleet. The ruler of the Ryukyufs King Shou Nei surrendered and was sent to mainland Japan as a prisoner of war and released after two years.