It is generally believed that the art of Karate-Do can be traced back to sixth century China. There, in the Mt. Sung Hennan Province, Dharma, and the founder of Zen, a sect of Buddhism composed a sutra or collection of precepts to promote the physical development of the monks and missionaries to help protect them from bandits and criminals.
The sutra developed by Dharma was called "Ekkin-Kyo," and it is believed that it evolved into Shaolin Temple Kenpo, " the way of Fists". Unfortunately, not much is known about this period in the history of Karate-Do and the relationship between Karate-Do and Shaolin Kenpo remains an ambiguous one.
In 1868, the Meiji restoration ended the Japanese feudal system. Japan opened free trade with western countries. Western culture, its industrial methods and educational system flourished in Japan in the late 1800's and early 1900's. In this era, in Karate, there were no specific styles, names, ranks or belts that are known today. Lacking formal names, people generally referred to various labels by putting the names of masters and Katas (as instructional methods) together, creating a label for the particular school. Similarly, distinctions of Karate were also named according to their distinct districts.
The three prominent centers of Karate in Okinawa were Shuri, Naha, and Tomari. You must understand that the teaching methods at the time were not like today's systematic rational methods. There were only a few Katas in each location, which were taught and developed. Only a small number of people took the private lessons. Later, Karate came to Tokyo, the capital of Japan, which recorded an exhibition in 1922 of Gichin Funakoshi. Funakoshi's Karate-Do later became the modern Shotokan system.
In this era many prominent Karate masters came to Japan, even though Okinawa was a part of Japan, Okinawa's history and its remote location resulted in the people of Okinawa being considered as colonized peasants and mistreated by most common Japanese. The most prominent Karate Masters came to Japan, among them were; Kenwa Mabuni, founder of Shito Ryu, and Chojun Miyagi, founder of Goju Ryu.
The term Karate-Do also was influenced by the Japanese Zen Buddhist sect and became "Kara" (empty) "Te" (techniques) and "Do" (The way of.). Dr. Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, established the current belt system during this era.
Gichin Funakoshi aimed to teach only university students who were candidates for the governing leadership group. Funakoshi did not like his students to participate in tournaments.
That young Japanese group developed today's sparring methods and later developed the basis of today's tournament systems, not those of Okinawan residents' Karate instructors. Okinawan masters never even dreamed of competing with each other under established rules. They thought Karate techniques were so deadly that it would be impossible to hold any tournament. The first appearance of the modern version of a Karate tournament was held in the late 1950's in Japan. All Japan Collegiate Karate tournaments were the first tournaments ever held in Japan including Okinawa. It went on to develop Karate-Do worldwide.