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What is the history of karate?

Fighting arts have existed in China for generations; the main inspirations for contemporary karate trace back to traditional kung fu and the indigenous Ryukyuan fighting arts in Okinawa. Chinese traders and new settlers introduced their fighting styles to the native islanders in the late 1300s. Techniques were passed down from master to student for hundreds of years, evolving and shifting its disciplines.

When Japan annexed Okinawa in 1879, its residents started bringing this new style to the main islands. By 1901, thanks to the insistence of Itosu Anko, karate became a part of public school education; he is considered the grandfather of modern karate. One of his students, Gichin Funakoshi, founded Shotokan karate, which spread throughout Japan and into western cultures over the next several decades.

There are two main disciplines of karate: kumite (sparring) and kata (form). Kumite matches were initially banned but grew prominently after WWII. Kata is the practice of technique, where one or two participants move in unison, showing their skill and precision, like an elegant and choreographed dance. The World Karate Federation was formed in 1990 and is the most significant competitive organization in the world; their influence brought karate to the Olympics.

Karate at the Olympic Games

Attempts to include karate in the Games began in the 1970s as popularity was increasing worldwide. It wasn't until 2015 when the Olympic committee finally decided to accept its entry, in a bid that included baseball, softball, skateboarding, surfing, and sport climbing.

What are the current Olympic karate events?

Three fighting arts techniques—karate, judo, and taekwando—are making their first Olympics appearance at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

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