Karate was born in the Okinawan Islands as a form of self-defense, at a time when weapons were banned by invading Japanese forces. It began as te (hand), a fighting style used by the natives of the Ryukyu Islands, and was later influenced by Chinese kenpō, introduced through the Chinese families that settled on Okinawa after trade relationships between China and the islands were established. Te continued to develop over the years, primarily in three Okinawan cities: Shuri, Naha and Tomari, within each city and subsequently became known as Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. Gradually, karate was divided into two main groups: Shorin-ryu which developed around Shuri and Tomari and Shorei-ryu which came from the Naha area.
Collectively they were called Okinawa-Te or Tode, 'Chinese hand'. Because of increasing Japanese influence, the label of te was eventually lengthened to karate-jutsu (Chinese hand art). It then changed to karate-do after an Okinawan master altered the meaning of the word kara to mean “empty” rather than “Chinese hand.” Gichin Funakoshi, founder of Shotokan karate, is generally credited with having introduced and popularized karate on the main islands of Japan. In addition many Okinawans were actively teaching, and are thus also responsible for the development of karate on the main islands. The first public demonstration of karate in Japan was in 1917 by Funakoshi, at the Butoku-den in Kyoto. These demonstrations greatly impressed many Japanese.
In 1922, Dr. Jano Kano, founder of the Japanese art of Judo, invited Funakoshi to demonstrate at the famous Kodokan Dojo and to remain in Japan to teach karate. 1924 the first university karate club is established in Japan, at Keio University, and in 1939 Japan opens Shoto-Kan, its first formal training school. In 1949 The Japan Karate Association was formed. In the 1930s Karate made its way to Canada, 1945 the first dojo was opened in the US. In the 1950s Karate was introduced in the UK, in 1960s to the Soviet Union and 1964 in France. The World Karate Federation (WKF) was formed in 1990. Today, karate-do is taught all around the world, and though it is often modified and always changing, four distinctive Japanese styles have emerged: Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan, and Wado-ryu.