Karate is a martial art developed in the Ryukyu Islands(Okinawa) from indigenous fighting methods. Karate is characterised as a striking art using punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes and open-handed techniques such as knife-hands (karate chop). Grappling, locks, restraints, throws, and vital point strikes are taught in some styles. Karate developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom prior to its 19th century annexation by Japan. It was brought to the Japanese mainland in the early 20th century during a time of cultural exchanges between the Japanese and the Ryukyuans. In 1922 the Japanese Ministry of Education invited Gichin Funakoshi to Tokyo to give a karate demonstration. Keio University became the first Japanese university to open a dojo; by 1932, all Japanese universities had dojos. After World War II, Okinawa became an important United States military site and karate became popular among servicemen stationed there. The martial arts movies of the 1960s and 1970s served to greatly increase its popularity, and the word karate began to be used in a generic way to refer to all striking-based Oriental martial arts. Karate schools began appearing across the world, catering to those with casual interest as well as those seeking a deeper study of the art. Shigeru Egami, Chief Instructor of Shotokan Dojo, opined "that the majority of followers of karate in overseas countries pursue karate only for its fighting techniques...movies and television...depict karate as a mysterious way of fighting capable of causing death or injury with a single blow...the mass media present a pseudo art far from the real thing." Karate expert Shoshin Nagamine is quoted as saying, "Karate may be considered as the conflict within oneself or as a life-long marathon which can be won only through self-discipline, hard training and one's own creative efforts." For many practitioners, karate is a deeply philosophical practice. Karate teaches ethical principles and can have spiritual significance to its adherents.
Karate began as a fighting system known as "ti" (or "te") among the pechin class of the Ryukyuans. After trade relationships were established with the Ming dynasty of China by King Satto of Chuzan in 1372, some forms of Chinese martial arts were introduced to the Ryukyu Islands by the visitors from China, particularly from the Fujian Province. A large group of Chinese families moved to Okinawa around 1392 for the purpose of cultural exchange, where they established the community of Kumemura and shared their knowledge of a wide variety of Chinese arts and sciences, including the Chinese martial arts. The political centralization of Okinawa by King Sho Hashi in 1429 and the "Policy of Banning Weapons" enforced in Okinawa after the invasion of the Shimazu clan in 1609, are also factors that furthered the development of unarmed combat techniques in Okinawa.
There were few formal styles of ti, but rather many practitioners with their own methods. One surviving example is the Motobu-ryu school passed down from the Motobu family by Seikichi Uehara. Early styles of karate are often generalized as Shuri-te, Naha-te, and Tomari-te, named after the three cities from which they emerged. Each area and its teachers had particular kata, techniques, and principles that distinguished their local version of ti from the others.
Members of the Okinawan upper classes were sent to China regularly to study various political and practical disciplines. The incorporation of empty-handed Chinese wu shu into Okinawan martial arts occurred partly because of these exchanges. Traditional karate kata bear a strong resemblance to the forms found in Fujian martial arts such as Fujian White Crane, Five Ancestors, and Gangrou-quan (Hard Soft Fist; pronounced "Gojuken" in Japanese). Further influence came from Southeast Asia, particularly Sumatra, Java, and Melaka. Many Okinawan weapons such as the sai, tonfa, and nunchaku may have originated in and around Southeast Asia.
Sakukawa Kanga (1782–1838) had studied pugilism and staff (bo) fighting in China (according to one legend, under the guidance of Kosokun, originator of kusanku kata). In 1806 he started teaching a fighting art in the city of Shuri that he called "Tudi Sakukawa," which meant "Sakukawa of China Hand". Around the 1820s Sakukawa's most significant student Matsumura Sokon (1809–1899) taught a synthesis of te (Shuri-te and Tomari-te) and Shaolin styles. Matsumura's style would later become the Shorin-ryu style.
Matsumura taught his art to Itosu Anko (1831–1915) among others. Itosu adapted two forms he had learned from Matsumara. These are kusanku and chiang nan. He created the ping'an forms ("heian" or "pinan" in Japanese) which are simplified kata for beginning students. In 1901 Itosu helped to get karate introduced into Okinawa's public schools. These forms were taught to children at the elementary school level. Itosu's influence in karate is broad. The forms he created are common across nearly all styles of karate. His students became some of the most well known karate masters, including Gichin Funakoshi, Kenwa Mabuni, and Motobu Choki. Itosu is sometimes referred to as "the Grandfather of Modern Karate."