Is Karate Japanese? Chinese? Indian? Controversy of Origins

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Is Karate Japanese? It’s a question that has been asked a great many times, but the answer has never been fully determined and likely never will. I’ll go into some of the factors that have contributed to this debate.

By no means am I an expert on this topic. I’m merely a student of Karate and have taken an interest in Karate’s origins and traditions in order to incorporate Karate as a way of life.


Karate has been practiced for centuries and it is one of the most popular martial arts in the world. There’s a lot of controversy about where and when Karate originated.

Many people believe that Karate originated in India and spread to Okinawa, Japan.

But some people believe that karate originated in Okinawa, Japan and some believe Karate originated in China.

This blog post will explore the origins of Karate and the controversy surrounding it.


3 Possible Origins for Karate

The controversy around these three possible origins is largely due to the lack of historical evidence backing up the claims. Even after an extensive search for evidence, it’s still difficult to prove that Karate originated from only one of these three potential places.

1) Shaolin Monastery, China

karate origins

The argument that karate originated in China is not widely accepted. However, this is an idea that has been put forward by many experts. One reason why this idea is so popular is that it makes sense. There are many aspects of Karate that seem to be more suited to the Chinese than the Okinawans.

For example, there are many Chinese kung fu concepts that are similar to karate concepts. There are also Chinese influences in Kata, which are the building blocks of Karate.

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The theory is that Karate was brought to Okinawa from China by the Ryukyuans, but it was the Japanese who brought the martial art to the world.

2) Okinawa, Japan

karate origins 1

One view is that of Gichin Funakoshi, who is considered to be the founder of Karate, particularly Shotokan Karate. He was born in Okinawa and this view is that Karate originated in Okinawa and was passed down to mainland Japan.

Okinawa is a small island but it was home to many martial arts. After his father was killed, Gichin Funakoshi moved to Japan to study. When Gichin Funakoshi was in Japan, he studied Japanese martial arts. Karate is thought to be born through the combination of Japanese martial arts and Okinawan martial arts.


Some think that Karate was created by a Japanese named Kanbun Uechi, Gichin Funakoshi’s teacher. It’s been shown that Gichin Funakoshi labeled the art “Karate”, but he may not have created it. Some argue that Funakoshi’s origins as karate’s creator are unfounded and that he simply brought it to Okinawa and put a new face on it.

On the other hand, there is a different view of Karate’s origins which is that of the Japanese writer and historian, Kaneko Kentaro. Kaneko claims that Karate came from mainland Japan and that it was created in 1839. He also says that it is a “Japanese art,” and the view that karate was created by a Japanese in 1839 has been a common one in Japan. However, this view is not universally accepted among scholars outside of Japan.

So which one did create karate?

3) India

is karate Japanese

It is said that the Okinawan martial arts were brought to Okinawa in the 5th century from India by a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk and the patriarch of the Shaolin Monastery in China. He is also known for bringing Zen Buddhism, which is a type of Buddhism that emphasizes meditation and non-attachment.

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One story is that he came to Japan to uphold Buddhism. Another story is that he was brought to Japan by the Chinese emperor to teach the art of medicine. There is also a story about an Indian prince who became an emperor and was told to take care of the art of karate.

This theory is supported by evidence that in ancient India, a martial arts called Kanku Shiromukai was in use in the 3rd century. This theory is supported by a variety of historical evidence, including the fact that the Tai Chi Chuan in China was originally a version of Kanku Shiromukai.


Why all the confusion?

There is little to no concrete evidence that points to the history of Karate in the past centuries. All the answers that may point to the origins of Karate and its’ development were burned during the final days of World War Two when Okinawa was invaded.

This is known as the Battle of Okinawa (April 1, 1945-June 22, 1945) and was the last major battle of World War II, and one of the bloodiest. On April 1, 1945—Easter Sunday—the Navy’s Fifth Fleet and more than 180,000 U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps troops descended on the Pacific island of Okinawa for a final push towards Japan.

Agree to Disagree

At the end of the day, Karate is a martial art with an unparalleled history with multiple theories about the origins of the art. Karate has many potential origins, which is what makes it so interesting! It’s hugely popular in Japan, but it is also practiced in China and India. The origins of the martial art of karate are hotly debated, which leaves the history of Karate up for interpretation.

It’s likely that Karate is a result of a blend of various fighting styles from different cultures, then given a label.

I hope that this article has helped you understand the history of martial art, and has given you a new perspective on this subject.

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What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.



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