Okinawan Karate-Do origins

(in progress) A Summary

Okinawa was a major trading hub between China and the rest of the region. Their close relationship with China meant that they were frequently visited by Chinese Emperor or his court. This provided the King of Okinawa's personal guard with direct access to the Chinese Martial Arts which they blended with their own warrior arts of Ti or Te.
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In addition visiting merchants of wealth were often accompanied by personal bodyguards of monks who cared for their physical and spiritual well being. Along with Martial Arts came Buddhism, also absorbed into this knowledge hungry Kingdom.

There are 3 main "styles" of Okinawan Karate - Naha-Te, Shuri-Te and Tomari-Te named after the villages of their origination (now mostly one sprawling city!)
Legend says that the originator of Eastern Martial Arts is the Bodhidharma from his time at the Northern Shaolin Temple in the 5th Century. We can neither prove nor disprove this conclusively. Te or Ti in Okinawa dates back to the 14th Century according to historical documentation and probably before that. It was restricted to the court of the Okinawa King until Japan abolished it in 1870 when it became a prefecture. Those court officers were now without income and had to move into the community to make a living. Many became merchants or trades people and taught their art in secret often in the backyard to trusted friends and associates.

We assume it found its way together with Buddhism to Okinawa. The Japanese mainland also took in Chan Buddhism and Confucianism at around the same time which became, together with Taoism and native Shinto, the basis for Zen Buddhism "The religion of the Samurai, or Bushi".

Today in modern Okinawa we still see the practice of these arts in schools, the many dojos across the island, and in TaiChi in the parks early in the morning. Traditional Okinawa Dance clearly shows the "secret kata" of Karate, most notably the kata, Kushanku.