Karate’s Chinese language Connection – White Dragon Martial Arts

Karate’s Chinese language Connection

As a kung fu and tai chi instructor, one of the frequent questions I get requested is, “What’s the distinction between kung fu and karate?” My brief reply is, “Kung fu is the title given to the martial arts of China and karate comes from Japan.” On the floor, this transient reply works however it doesn’t pay correct respect to the origins of each kung fu and karate types.

Though karate could be thought of the quintessential Japanese martial artwork, “karate” (Kara te) was initially written as “Chinese language hand” (唐手) in kanji. The phrase “Kara” is Japanese for “Tang” or “China,” and ” te” is “hand.” So the literal translation of “karate” means “Chinese language hand” or “Tang Dynasty hand.”

The Tang Dynasty dominated from AD 618-907 in what was generally known as the “Golden Age” of historic China. Throughout the Tang rule, China skilled a interval of peace, prosperity, and affect. The Tang Dynasty had widespread influence on all components of Asia, which included the Ryukyu Kingdom of which Okinawa was an element. To higher perceive the Chinese language roots of Japanese karate, it’s a must to look West.

Bodhidharma and the Shaolin Temple

The story of Bodhidharma is basically primarily based on legends. It’s believed that he was born of Indian royalty within the sixth century and left his princely place to unfold Buddhist teachings all through China. He traveled to China’s Henan province and settled in Mt. Track, residence of the famend Shaolin Temple. Bodhidharma noticed that the monks of the temple had been in a poor bodily state and unable to endure lengthy hours of meditation. He then taught them a collection of workout routines that might strengthen their minds and our bodies. These workout routines would later grow to be Shaolin Kung Fu.

Shaolin Kung Fu unfold to all components of China and would give rise to a number of hundred distinctive types. Kung fu could be loosely divided into northern or southern programs. Northern types are identified for his or her kicking and fast-paced footwork, whereas southern types are identified for shut fight hand strategies. It was southern kung fu that might have a profound influence on the event of Okinawan martial arts. Southern kung fu is maybe greatest identified for types corresponding to Wing Chun, Hung Gar, Choy Li Fut, and White Crane, simply to call just a few.

The Ryukyu Kingdom and Okinawan Te

The Ryukyu Kingdom (AD 1429-1879) was a tributary state of Imperial China and consisted of a sequence of volcanic islands which stretched from the southern tip of Japan to Taiwan. The biggest island within the archipelago was Okinawa. Due to its geographic location, solely 400 nautical miles east of Fujian Province and the southeastern a part of the Chinese language mainland, the Ryukyu Kingdom performed a central position in maritime commerce. 

Though the main points and dates are unclear, it’s believed that the primary switch of martial arts between China and Okinawa came about within the late 14th century. On the time, there was a settlement of Chinese language dwelling among the many Okinawans. This group would type the inspiration of cultural change and play a significant position within the improvement of karate.

Throughout this era, three distinguished types of Okninawan “te” emerged. Named after their villages of origin (Shuri, Naha, and Tomari), the types had been Shuri-te, Naha-te, and Tomari-te. These martial arts had been collectively known as “Tode” (唐手) which additionally interprets to “Tang Hand.” The phrase “te” would proceed for use as a normal time period to explain Okinawan martial arts till the twentieth century.

The Evolution of Karate

Kung fu would proceed to form the evolution of Okinawan karate all through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This led to the institution of many various types of karate which might be nonetheless practiced immediately.

The oldest type of karate that comes from Okinawa is a mode referred to as Shorin-ryu. Though not formally named till 1933, Shorin-ryu has a a lot older historical past and dates again to the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom. The phrase “Shorin” is the Japanese phrase for “Shaolin” and “ryu” means college. Thus, “Shorin-ryu” interprets to “Shaolin college.”

One other distinguished model of Okinawan karate is Goju-ryu or “soft-hard college.” Goju-ryu was based by a well-known martial artist by the title of Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953) who traveled extensively to southern China and lived there for a number of years. The phrase “go” means “sturdy” and refers to closed fist straight-line assaults. The phrase “ju” means “smooth” and refers to round open handed strategies. Goju-ryu is understood to have its roots in Nanpa Shorin-ken or “Southern Shaolin kung fu model.”

In 1897, a martial artist by the title of Kanbun Uechi (1877-1948) traveled to Fujian Province to review martial arts and Chinese language drugs. Uechi was stated to have studied each the Tiger and Crane types of southern kung fu. He named his model Pangai-noon or “half laborious, half smooth.” In 1940, the title was formally modified to Uechi-ryu. In the present day, Uechi-ryu, together with Shorin-ryu and Goju-ryu, are Okinawa’s principal types of karate.

A dialogue concerning the early beginnings of up to date karate will not be full with out Gichen Funakoshi (1868-1957), thought of to be the “Father of Trendy Karate.” Born of Samurai lineage in Okinawa, Funakoshi studied Shorin-ryu (Shaolin model) and Shorei-ryu as a young person. Afterward he would make karate widespread and introduce it to mainland Japan. In 1936, Funakoshi opened his first dojo positioned in Tokyo and named it “Corridor of Waving Pines.” Shoto (松濤) interprets to “pine waves” or “waving pines” and kan (館) interprets to “corridor” or “home.” His model turned generally known as Shotokan Karate-do.

Empty Hand

The Tang Dynasty of China led to AD 907. Nonetheless, the kanji that signify it in Japanese language are nonetheless used to today. For instance, the identical character that represents China in “Chinese language Hand” (唐手) is identical character used within the phrase “Chinatown” (唐人街).

The time period “Chinese language Hand” was modified to “Empty Hand” in 1936.

The phrase “karate” was used as a manner of expressing “martial arts from China” till trendy instances. Within the 1930’s with the rise of Japanese nationalism, there was a powerful need to tell apart the martial arts of Japan from these of its neighboring international locations. So in 1936, the Japanese kanji character for karate that represented “China” (唐) was modified to the character meaning “empty” (空). The 2 phrases are homophones, that means that they’ve the identical pronunciation however have totally different meanings. From this level ahead, karate would merely be generally known as “empty hand” (空手).

Karate Involves the USA

It’s broadly thought that karate was launched to america by the use of American servicemen who discovered karate whereas stationed overseas in Okinawa, Japan and even Korea. Shortly after WW2, these servicemen would take their new discovered abilities again residence, open dojos, and even create their very own particular person types. 

Nonetheless, a Japanese American by the title of James Mitose was educating what he referred to as Hawaiian Kenpo in Oahu as early as 1936. The phrase “kenpo” is a Japanese translation of the Chinese language phrase “chuan fa” which suggests “flowering fist.” The time period “chuan fa” dates again to AD 525 and is broadly used to embody all conventional types of Chinese language kung fu.

Maybe probably the most well-known karate model in america is American Kenpo Karate based by Ed Parker. The Hawaiian born Parker earned his Kenpo black belt below William Chow who was a direct scholar of James Mitose. 

Parker opened his first dojo in Provo, Utah in 1954 and advanced his Kenpo Karate to make it extra relevant to self-defense on the streets of America. American Kenpo Karate could be the inspiration of many extra uniquely American types of Karate together with Shaolin Kenpo, B.Okay.F. Kenpo, and White Tiger Kenpo, simply to call just a few.

Parker printed his first ebook referred to as Kenpo Karate in 1961. The ebook emphasised laborious, linear actions and was a direct reflection of his early teachings and diversifications of the time. Afterward in his profession, Parker was strongly influenced by Chinese language martial arts. His second ebook printed in 1963, Secrets and techniques of Chinese language Karate, adopted many Chinese language ideas and strategies. 

From its Shaolin roots and its eastward journey by the use of Okinawa, Japan, and Hawaii, karate has come full circle in modern-day America. It continues to seek out new audiences immediately, being practiced by younger and outdated alike for well being and self-defense. Nonetheless, you don’t should look again very far to see karate’s Chinese language Connection and kung fu origins.


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