A General Timeline of Karate Development in Okinawa (the Ryukyu Kingdom) and Japan


607 First recorded contact with the Chinese during the Sui dynasty. The envoys were unable to communicate with the Okinawans and returned to China.
1372 Satto, leader of the largest of Okinawa's three rival kingdoms, is approached by Emperor Hong Wu of China. Satto sees the value of a relationship with the Chinese and enters a tributary alliance.
1393 A Chinese mission referred to as the "Thirty-six Families" is established in Naha. This mission becomes a major source of Chinese culture, technology, philosophy and martial arts.
1404 Chinese sapposhi begin visiting Okinawa. These special envoys of the emperor traveled with a large entourage of technical specialists, tradesman and security experts. These visits would continue, roughly once for each new Okinawan king, for the next five hundred years.
1609 The Satsuma clan beings a campaign against the Ryukyu Kingdom. In May, Shuri castle was captured and King Sho Nei surrendered.
During the 270 year military occupation some Okinawan pechin1 traveled to Satsuma and almost certainly studied Jiten-ryu ken-justu. This training would have a significant impact on the development of kobudo in Okinawa.
1868 The Tokugawa shogunate is abolished by the Meiji Restoration.
1905 At the urging of Itosu Anko karate training becomes a part of the Okinawan public school system. This began a period of modernization where the focus of karate training shifted from self-defense to physical fitness.
1905 Hanashiro Chomo, a student of "Bushi" Matsumura, uses the first recorded reference of the karate ideogram. Prior to this the art had been referred to exclusively as "toudi" or "tode" (lit. "Chinese hand").
1920's Karate is introduced to the Japanese mainland. Karate was considered uncivilized and incomplete compared to judo and kendo because it lacked organization, an established curricula and a formal competition format. Karate also suffered from the period's strong anti-Chinese sentiment and rampant discrimination against Okinawans.
1933 The new "karate-do" is officially recognized by the Dai Nippon Butokukai. The Dai Nipon Butokukai was Japan's governing body for the martial traditions. This recognition marked karate's official acceptance as a modern Japanese budo.
1936 The phrase "karate-do" is officially accepted in Okinawa.
1939 World War II interrupts the Dai Nippon Butokukai's effort to formalize karate practice. The Dai Nippon Butokukai had intended to bring karate-do to the same level of organization and formalization as judo and kendo.
1945 The Dai Nippon Butokukai is disbanded after World War II. The organization's work on the unification of karate-do is essentially forgotten. Karate-do to the present day has remained a collection of related but technically varied styles.


1 Pechin was an Okinawan class similar to the Japanese samurai.