The origin of karate is somewhat obscure because ever since the beginning of mankind
there have no doubt always been some forms of fighting techniques. Diverse theories
have been offered as to which country first developed a system of unarmed fighting.
Mural paintings in tombs along the Nile River, and hieroglyphic inscriptions in
the pyramids prove that the Egyptians had a form of open-hand techniques as early
as 3000 BC. Evidence also suggests that India was using open-hand fighting techniques
around that time as well. Prevailing theory tends to credit one man, an Indian Buddhist
monk, named Bodhidharma, as the first man to put techniques into a formal system
of unarmed combat. Bodhidharma thus brought Karate as a true martial art form to
China. He taught his followers this method of physical and mental exercise; the
purpose was for self-defense and as an aid in enlightening the mind. His followers
worked at these exercises until they came to be the most formidable fighters in
China. They named their system of fighting Kwon Bop. It is suggested that Kwon Bop
was later spread by Buddhist monks through Korea, Japan, and Okinawa, and that it
is the primary system from which all other forms of open-hand fighting derived.
As time passed karate techniques began being applied to war. Many countries, which had their own fighting forms, accepted the scientifically developed karate movements, and changed the techniques in the way best suited to their own national character. Karate has thus developed in many places under many different philosophies and ideologies. The original meaning of karate is t'ang hand. Te meaning hand and Kara the symbol used to describe the Chinese T'ang. In 1936, due to the politics of the invaders, the symbol for Kara was changed to the one meaning "empty" which is pronounced the same.
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