Many students of Asian martial arts believe that Karate originated from an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma (Daruma in Japan). According to legend, Bodhidharma arrived in Shaolin-Si from India to teach Zen Buddhism. Through this, he introduced a systematized set of exercises that would strengthen both mind and body. These exercises were allegedly the early beginnings of the Shaolin style of temple boxing. Many historians and martial arts scholars, however, question the scope of Bodhidharma’s contributions to Martial Arts.
The true origin of Karate is as mysterious as the ancient art itself. Very little is known about Karate’s early development until the art appeared in Okinawa where it started out as an indigenous form of closed fist fighting called Te, or ‘hand’. Okinawans, at various points in their history, were banned from using weapons and this encouraged the development and refinement of empty-hand techniques that were taught in secret for many years.
Te developed in the Okinawan cities of Shuri, Naha and Tomari and resulted in three different forms of self-defense called Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. These three forms eventually split up into two groups: Shorin-ryu for the practice that developed in the Shuri and Tomari regions, and Shorei-ryu for the art that came from Naha.
The first public demonstration of Karate was held in 1917 at the Butoku-den in Kyoto by Gichin Funakoshi. This demonstration, as well as several subsequent ones, impressed many Japanese citizens, particularly Crown-Prince Hirohito. In 1922, Dr Jano Kano, a formidable martial arts master and founder of the Japanese art of Judo, invited Funakoshi to demonstrate and teach Karate at the Kodokan Dojo. This endorsement paved the way for the “peasant art” of Okinawa to be accepted by the mainstream Japanese.
Today, four styles of Karate-do exist in Japan: Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan, and Wado-ryu.
Kumite was conceptualised by Ohtsuka Sensie, Chief Instructor of Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujitsu and assistant instructor at Funakoshi Sensei’d dojo. He thought that the full spirit of budō was missing and kata techniques did not work in realistic fighting situation. This prompted Ohtsuka to experiment with other, more combative styles of martial arts such as judo, kendo and aikido. By blending the elements of Okinawan Karate with the techniques from jujitsu and kendo, he developed Kumite, or free fighting.
Kumite, which means “meeting of hands”, is viewed as a sport and as self-defense training. It is basically sparring in Karate and the levels of physical contact during Kumite vary considerably. In structured Kumite, the two participants perform a series of choreographed techniques where one strikes while the other blocks.
The ultimate test of physical and mental perseverance in Martial Arts is the hundred fighter kumite (or 100 Man Kumite). This exercise consists of 1.5 to 2 minute rounds of Kumite or sparring with 100 different opponents. It was established as a requirement for earning 4th or 5th dan Black Belt however, since not everyone had the spirit to complete the full set of exercises, it became a voluntary activity for willing participants.
Initially, the hundred fights could be completed over two days however, after 1967, Mas Oyama deemed it better that all fights should be completed on the same day. In addition to the 100 opponents, it is also required that competitors win at least 50% of the fights and, if knocked down, should not take longer than 5 seconds to get up. The National Martial Arts League, will bring back the true spirit of Kumite into a virtually untapped advertising market. M.M.A are currently one of the fastest growing sports in the world and we envisage this sport growing to rival them globally.