There are two main theories about beginnings of martial arts..
One is that it all starts in China with monk named Ta-Mo or Bodhidarma , who was sent from India to China to spread Budhisam . He went to the Shaolin Temple in the 6th century. Bodhidharma was disturbed by the poor physical shape of the Shaolin monks after which he instructed them in techniques to maintain their physical condition as well as teaching meditation. Shaolin monks were exposed to many attacks from local bandits. He taught them exercises that were designed to improve their physical strength and focus. His teachings were based on his native Indian art Vajra Musti and Joga and the movement of eighteen animals such are monkey , tiger, deer, snake, leopard. Shaolin monks were trained to fight wild animals and bandits in the remote areas where the temple was built. Over time Shaolin monks developed fighting techniques with the movements taught by Bodhidharma which evolved into the martial arts and spread this arts to all China and other Asian countries.
Another theory is that Alexander The Great with his army developed the fighting system named Pankration . It is an ancient martial art which mixes wrestling and boxing. Pankration was a combination of boxing, kicking, wrestling,with many grabbing, breaking arms, legs, fingers techniques with the only difference that there were virtually no rules, only biting was forbidden. Pankration was part of earlier Olympic Games. Soldiers trained in Pankration were highly appreciated in the famous Macedonian army- Phalanxes as Alexander The Great was said to have given them priority in the recruitment of his army. He often sought to attract pankratiasts in his famous Macedonian Phalanxes army as he regarded soldiers trained in Pankration as a valuable army asset . The Macedonian Phalanxes reportedly contributed to the spreading of Pankration to the East, and following Alexander’s conquests over Europe and Persian armed fighting system eventually reached the Indus Valley.
Some researchers even speculate that by practicing their ancient military art along their route, Macedonian soldiers influenced the Indian combative art “Vajra Musti” and, ultimately, had an impact on the martial arts in China. According to Eastern tradition, the Chinese fighting systems evolved from Indian Budhist doctrines that taught early Indian combative arts with help of Bodhidarma.( theory one) Which of this two theories is true or maybe there are others, it is not so important because in mankind history every country has developed native art of fighting with or without weapons. There are many martial arts in the World such are Western boxing , French boxing- Savate, Greek and Roman Wrestling or Japanese Sumo, Goshin Jicu, Judo , Aikido, Jiu Jicu, Indonesian Pencak Sylat, Korean Hapkido, Hwarang Do, Tank Su Do, Chinese Kung Fu Wu Shu in various styles Wing Chun, Chuan Fa, Tai Chi, Hung Gar.. For many Japanese Karate –Do is one of the most effective martial art. There are many styles of Karate , most popular are Shito Ryu, Goju Ryu, Shotkan, Kyokunshinkai or Oyama Ryu, Uechi Ryu, ..etc. Rots of Karate are coming from Okinawa.
In Okinawa was developed one of the most effective and dangerous martial art known as To-Te.( today known as karate). Okinawa had been occupied by Japan and people were banned to wear weapons so they developed secret effective martial art To-Te or Okinawa-te was developed secretly. To-Te or To-De is origin of Kara-te, kara means empty , te-hand , the Japanese word for “empty hands,” was born in the Okinawan Islands as a form of self-defense, It began as Okinawian-Te, te (hand), a fighting style used by the natives of the Ryukyu Islands. To-Te was developed in tree different villages in Okinawa Naha, Shuri, Tomari. Three general styles emerged and were named after the areas where they developed: Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. First tracks as a beginning of To-te ( kara-te ) lead to Chatan Yara ho was an early Okinawan master of whom some information exists , he was born in 1670, he contributed much to Okinawa To-Te .Most skilled in martial arts was Satunuku Sakugawa (1733-1857) called “Tode” Sakugawa. Sakugawa Tode studied martial art under Takabara Peichin of Shuri Village. Later, Sakugawa train under the famous Kusanku. Kusanku had been a military attaché in Okinawa. Sakugawa became a famous samurai and was given the title of Satunuky or Satonushi, titles given to Okinawan warriors for service to the Okinawan King. Sakugawa had many famous students; among them is Sokon Matsumura, also known as Bushi (Warrior) Matsumura who was one of the most renowned martial artists of his time.Bushi was recruited into the service of the royal , Sho. He was the chief bodyguard to two kings of Okinawa. One of Matsumura's top students was Itosu Anko , another was Kanyro Higaonna. To-Te remained underground until the early 1900’s, when it was brought into the Okinawan school system’s physical education program by Itosu Anko. At the turn of the 20th century, Anko Itosu gained permission to end the shroud of secrecy for those who wanted to learn martial arts and began teaching Te in Okinawan schools. This led to further expansion by one of Itosu’s students, Gichin Funakoshi, who introduced the art to Japan in 1922. Karate began to be introduced as organized martial art throughout Japan by several master, including . Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957, Founder of Shotokan-ryu) , Chojun Miyagi (1888-1953, Founder of Goju-ryu) , Kanbun Uechi (1877-1948, Founder of Uechi-ryu;) , Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952, Founder of Shito-ryu;) and Hironori Otsuka (1892-1982 Founder of Wado-ryu;). Also throughout Okinawa, karate was taught by masters such as Chotoku Kyan (1870-1945), Choki Motobu (1870-1944) and Choshin Chibana (1885-1969, Founder of Shorin-ryu). Goju means hard –soft , Go-hard Ju-soft. Shito-Ryu is created by taking the pronunciation of the characters of Kenwa Mabuni two teachers names , Itosu Anko and Kanyro Higaonna. ‘Shi’ deriving from the character ITO in Itosu, and ‘To’ deriving from the character HIGA in Higaonna. Shotokan means “tiger tail” and also mean Shoto House. Wado means Peaceful way. After Karate-Do was discovered to the World it was spread very fast at every Continent.Many organizations and federations were established in almost every country.
Immportant dates for Karate:
1905: Karate is included in Okinawa’s physical education
1917: Funakoshi gives the first public demonstration of karate-do.
1922: Funakoshi is invited by Dr. Jano Kano to give a demonstration at the Kodokan Dojo, bringing karate-do to Japan.
1924: The first university karate club is established in Japan, at Keio University.
1930s: Karate makes its way to Canada..
1939: Japan opens Shoto-Kan, its first formal training school.
1945: The first dojo is opened in the United States.
1949: The Japan Karate Association is formed.
1950s: Karate is introduced in the United Kingdom…
After several decades first World Union of Karate Do Organizations (WUKO) was established on October 10, 1970. and first WUKO World Championships was held in Tokyo, 1970 with National teams of 33 countries. WUKO after chamge name to WKF- World Karate Federation . Huge growth of WKF during the 1980s and 1990s resulted in a consolidated organization that fully represented sport Karate at the international level. This legitimacy was confirmed in 1999, when the IOC- International Olympic Committee officially recognized WKF as the sole governing body for sport Karate in the World.