Karate began in Okinawa, which is one of the many islands which make up Japan. Okinawa was invaded by the highly organized samurai clans from the larger Japanese islands. The islanders developed okinawan karate to defend themselves. Okinawan karate was kept alive, passed down from master to student through the generations and eventually became integrated into the school system for all of Japan
Original Okinawan karate wass divided into styles which were named after the cities in Okinawa that they were developed in. Shuri-te, Tomari-te and Naha-te are all derived from cities in Okinawa. Okinawan karate is heavily influenced by Chinese kung fu or kempo. Okinawans often traded with mainland china and maintained friendly relations.
Today, there appear to be a enormous number of karate styles. However, all are derived in one way or another from okinawan karate. One okinawan master, Gichin Funakoshi introduced karate to the japanese school system. His shotokan style became one of most popular karate styles in the world. Often students would leave to create their own style. Many honoured their teachers instruction to preserve the art but often, students would have disagreements with their teachers and move out on their own.
Regardless of original okinawan karate style or mixture, it is important that the style has a detailed curriculum, chance for future advancement to ranks above black belt and lots of students and many instructors. You want to be sure if the school is going to be around for a long time if you are going to be devoting years of study.
Some schools are run for profit while others are not. You could say not-for-profit schools are closer to the Original okinawan karate system where karate was passed from father to son, master to student. Of course, If we trained like they did in original Okinawan karate, there would only be 1 or 2 students!
So long as the karate school has the students welfare at heart, operating for a profit is not a bad thing. My own experience has been with not-for?profit schools, and I have had great instructors but there are just as many dedicated teachers in for-profit schools.
True okinawan karate is more about self defence than tournaments and competition but competition is often important to young karate-ka. If you are going to involved in tournaments then be sure the school is affiliated with other karate organizations and provides proper coaching and tournament instruction. Many large governing bodies issue teaching and coaching certification to karate judges and officials. You want to be sure you or your children will competing in a safe and controlled environment and not a slugfest or free for all. So seek out qualified people.
Okinawan karate can improve your health and well being, develop great self confidence and life skills such as persistence and self control. Do your research and find the club that you feel most comfortable with. If you are interested, try out a couple of styles. See if okinawan karate is for you. Most clubs will allow 1 or more free visits to help you make up your mind.
Adrian Dunevein is a karate instructor with Mississauga Parks and Recreation and helps with karate instruction at the South Common and Rivergrove fitness centers in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Check the website at: