Today karate is widely known as a Japanese tradition however this is not strictly true!

The history of martial arts is fragmented with limited documentation, where traditional practices were passed in secrecy by word of mouth. Through a lifetime of comprehensive research Hanshi Patrick McCarthy has traced the roots of the fighting arts (in particular karate) from South-East Asia and the Fujian China province during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) to the Ryuku Kingdom of Okinawa.

It was here that ancient Chinese traditions fused with Okinawan traditions to form the core of the art that would become known as karate. Five key disciplines emerged from the Ryuku Kingdom, reflecting both Chinese and Okinawan practices:

1. Tegumi – Chinese based method of clinching/grappling
2. Tigwa – percussive impact ie. Siamese boxing (known today as Muay Thai)
3. Torite – techniques of seizing and controlling used by law enforcement officials
4. Buki-gwa (Kobudo) – the use of weapons
5. Kata – sole re-enactment of fighting routines

When Okinawa transformed from an independent state to a territory of Japan, the traditions of karate evolved under the influence of Japanese culture. A simplified version of martial arts was introduced into the Japanese school system for militaristic purposes with a focus on the physical fitness aspects. Japan’s influence can be noted in the introduction of uniforms (gi) and the ranking system portrayed by coloured belts, showcasing their need for conformity and hierarchy. This ranking system may also be noted in other Japanese-based martial arts such as Judo and Kendo.

American occupation of Japan in the late 1940-1950’s saw the art of karate spread across the world. As Western cultures adopted karate, the fundamental purpose deviated from realistic, practical self-defence mechanisms to sports-oriented, rule bound practices. The focus of kata has shifted from function to form and karate has evolved into a set of ritualised, choreographed routines and the emergent trends of ‘styles’.

Koryu Uchinadi

Through his extensive studies Hanshi identified how much karate had fundamentally deviated from its traditional purpose as a vehicle for self-defence. In response Koryu Uchinadi was established as an alternative to the ambiguous and dysfunctional styles of modern day karate practices, focused on returning karate to its original roots of functional technique as a self-defence framework. KU is a modern interpretation of Okinawan fighting arts. It has been designed to carefully preserve the heritage of the Okinawan arts, as well as reflecting Chinese and Japanese traditions. The importance of the tradition is reflected in the name of Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo-jutsu which translates into old stream, empty handed, Okinawan based, Chinese origin {Quanfa} fighting arts.

A key component of studying Koryu Uchinadi is based on the Japanese phrase On Kochi Shin– meaning that studying the history of the art leads to a better understanding of its modern interpretation. KU is based on honouring the heritage of the traditional art, gaining valuable insights from those that came before while building on those traditions for the fighting arts to continue to evolve. It embraces the dual concept of classical tradition and contemporary insights.

For more in-depth information relating to the history of martial arts please refer to the following articles:
Koryu Uchinadi
On Kochi Shin
Siamese Boxing
The history of karate – Ben Stone
What is Koryu Uchinadi?

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