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Okinawan martial arts refers to the martial arts which originated among the indigenous people of Okinawa Island, most notably karate, tegumi, and Okinawan kobudo.
Okinawa is not, nor ever has been, the name of a nation (Ryukyu had been, until 1875), but rather is the name of the largest island of the Ryukyu islands, a chain of islands in the western Pacific Ocean at the eastern limit of the East China Sea, stretching southwest from Kyushu to Taiwan. As such, Okinawa is in close proximity to Japan, the Korean peninsula, and China. Due to its central location, Okinawa was greatly influenced by these other cultures, with a long history of trade and cultural exchange with China that greatly influenced the development of martial arts on Okinawa.
The precursor of present-day Okinawan martial arts is believed to have come by way of visitors from China. In the 7th century, Chinese martial arts were introduced to Okinawa through Taoist and Buddhist monks. These styles were practiced in Okinawa and developed into Te (?, Okinawan: Ti?, Hand) over several centuries.
In the 14th century, when the three kingdoms on Okinawa (Chuzan, Hokuzan, and Nanzan) entered into a tributary relationship with the Ming Dynasty of China, Chinese Imperial envoys and many other Chinese arrived, some of who taught Chinese Chuan Fa (Kempo) to the Okinawans. The Okinawans combined Chinese Chuan Fa with the existing martial art of Te to form To-de (??, Okinawan: Tu-di?, Tang hand or China hand), sometimes called Okinawa-te (????).
In 1429, the three kingdoms on Okinawa unified to form the Kingdom of Ryukyu. When King Sho Shin came into power in 1477, he banned the practice of martial arts. To-te and kobudo continued to be taught in secret. The ban was continued in 1609 after Okinawa was invaded by the Satsuma Domain of Japan. The bans contributed to the development of kobudo, which uses common household and farming implements as weaponry.
By the 18th century, different types of Te had developed in three different villages – Naha, Shuri, and Tomari. The styles were named Naha-te, Shuri-te, and Tomari-te, respectively. Practitioners from these three villages went on to develop modern karate.
Shuri-te (???, Okinawan: Sui-di?) is a pre-World War II term for a type of martial art indigenous to the area around Shuri, the old capital city of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
Important Okinawan masters of Shuri-te:
The successor styles to Shuri-te include Shotokan-ryu, Wado-ryu, Shito-ryu, Motobu-ryu, Shorin-ryu, Shudokan and Shorinji-ryu.