The origin of karate is obscured by myths and legends, but some facts are known. One legend states that at the time karate was developing there were many scoundrels that would rob and kill travelers whether they were monks or beggars. The monks were not recognized as clergyman by the people at this time and they were as likely to be killed by the robbers as anyone. Since monks were not allowed to carry weapons they were taught various forms of self-defense at the monasteries along with their Buddhist religion. Another legend says the art of karate was taught in secret for hundreds of years in Okinawa. Japan regained control over the island about 400 years ago.
They confiscated everything resembling a weapon and blacksmiths were forbidden to manufacture any edged weapons. Karate, however, remained secret and underground Through the centuries, Japanese invaders were found dead. Stories and rumors spread, and the only facts known about karate in the outside world were statistics of the number of invaders falling victim to its practitioners. Karate remained secret on Okinawa until 1901 when Master Itsosu opened the first karate school on the island. Ginchin Funakoshi was trained in this school and in 1916 he took karate to Japan in a series of demonstrations. They were so successful that he remained in Japan and established a style known as Shotokan. The Japanese systemized and established sport karate which has spread rapidly over the western world since the end of World War II.