Many historians believe that the Traditional Karate-do practiced today stems from martial arts developed in China several thousand years ago. The exact root cannot be traced since there are no reliable written records. There is a well-known legend that a Buddhist monk introduced a form of martial arts for health and self-defense to the monks of Shaolin Temple. From there the Chinese martial arts developed into numerous “external” and “internal” styles.
Due to active commerce and trade between the Ryukyu kingdom (Okinawa) and China, the arts eventually spread to Okinawa where it underwent further development and changes. This is believed to have started during the peak of the Ryukyu kingdom, around the 1500’s.
Master Gichin Funakoshi formally introduced a style of Okinawan fighting arts, known as Okinawa-Te (later known as Karate) to mainland Japan in 1917 where the art of Karate soon became popular. Master Hidetaka Nishiyama in his book KARATE THE ART OF EMPTY HAND FIGHTING claims, “At the same time, the ancient native Japanese hand-to-hand fighting techniques jujitsu and kendo (sword fighting) were being widely practiced, and modern sports imported from the West were rapidly becoming popular. Karate soon took over many elements of both of these, and the basis was laid for the modern Japanese-style karate”.
In 1948 the Japan Karate Association (JKA) was formed. The JKA organized an instructor-training program that began sending Karate teachers throughout the world. Since then, the JKA style of karate typically known as Shotokan Karate has grown tremendously with millions of practitioners worldwide.
The founder of our system, Gichin Funakoshi, believed that all styles be generically termed Karate-do, so he never claimed a name for his style. However, due to popularization of Karate outside Japan and his students’ desire to distinguish his system from others, many adapted Master Funakoshi’s dojo (school) name, Shotokan, to identify the style.
Master Funakoshi would sign his poems and calligraphy works with a penname “Shoto” or “the pine wave”, which symbolized the soothing sound of wind moving through the pine forest in his native Okinawa. The suffix “kan”, refers to “hall” and used to designate training hall or gathering place. Thus combined Shotokan means, “pine wave hall” or “Shoto’s hall”. It’s pronounced, shoh-toe-kah’n.
Karate in Malta
Karate in Malta officially commenced way back in 1972 under the patronage of the 41st Commando Group stationed on the island. The style practised was Wado Ryu and the first instructor was Edge Carter. In 1979, the style of Karate practiced in Malta was changed to Shotokan and subsequently, the Malta Karate Association was formed. The first foreign technical instructor was Sensei Takahashi (7th Dan), who was later replaced by Sensei Colin Williams (7 th Dan). In 1998, the association was transformed into a Federation and since 1999 the MKF’s Foreign Technical Consultant has been Sensei Santo Torre (7th Dan), who is also the Italian National Coach in Kata for Juniors.
As a result of the International Olympic Committee’s recognition of the World Karate Federation, the MKF became a full affiliated member of the Malta Olympic Committee (MOC). Presently, the Malta Karate Federation has 6 clubs, which are located in Birkirkara, Fgura, Mgarr, Mtarfa, San Gwann and Pembroke. The MKF now has its own local instructors, examiners and referees and is affiliated to the largest Karate body in the world, namely the World Karate Federation. The world governing body with its 172 member countries, and an estimated 20 million participating member athletes, renders the WKF as probably the strongest and most accepted Martial Arts Organisation in the world.
The WKF is currently in strong negotiations with the International Olympic Committee to include Karate as an Olympic Sport.