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Karate was born on the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa pre 1879).
There are a few important factors that led to the development of
karate. One of the first factors was the first sword ban. From
around the 11th to the 14th century, the main island had three
ruling kingdoms: Nanzan, Chuzan and Hokuzan. Around the
middle of the 15th century, the Chuzan Sho (king) annexed the
other two kingdoms which unified the Ryukyu Kingdom. To
prevent a revolt, the king issued a sword ban and prohibited
commoners from practicing martial arts. From this point forward
karate was taught in secret. It was taught behind closed doors, in
caves, at night and only to a trusted few. New weapons emerged
from the use of farm implements.
Over the next few centuries the Chinese Shaolin Temple was the prime source of influence for martial training. Okinawa's location in the center of the East Chinese Sea, relatively close to China, Japan, Korea and other South East Asia countries, allowed them to thrive as a trading nation. Many people visited from these surrounding countries including Buddhist monks. These monks taught the Ryukyuans "Chinese Hand", now known as karate (kara meaning Chinese and te meaning hand).
The next major factor was the Japanese invasion in 1609. After the invasion, Japan used Samurais to enforce the bans on swords and martial training. Japan eventually dismissed the Samurais when they were no longer needed. They were now without the training of their masters and on their own. This forced them to move to the countryside and look for new livelihoods. Many became merchants and farmers to survive. In time they began to teach the locals their art. Our Grandmaster's weapons teacher Shinken Taira can trace his lineage back to these Samurais.
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