"Very little is known of the exact origins of karate before it appeared in Okinawa,
but one popular theory states that it came from India over a thousand years ago, brought to China by a Buddhist monk called Bodhidarma ("daruma" in Japanese). As legend describes it, Bodhidarma arrived in Shaolinsi and began teaching Zen Buddhism as well, a style of temple boxing based on exercises designed to strengthen the mind and body. The historical accuracy of this legend is still a hot issue of debate today.
Karate, the Japanese word for "empty hands," was born in the Okinawan Islands as a form of self-defense, at a time when weapons were banned by invading Japanese forces. It began as te (hand), a fighting style used by the natives of the Ryukyu Islands, and was later influenced by Chinese kenpō, introduced through the Chinese families that settled on Okinawa after trade relationships between China and the islands were established.
From three Okinawan cities (Shuri, Naha, Tomari), each closely spaced but with very different societal demands, three separate styles emerged:
Collectively, these styles were called Okinawa-te or tode (Chinese hand), and over time, the styles merged slightly to become just two: Shōrin-ryū, developed near Shuri and Tomari, and Shōrei-ryū, near Naha.
Because of increasing Japanese influence, the label of te was eventually lengthened to karate-jutsu (Chinese hand art). It then changed to karate-do after an Okinawan master altered the meaning of the word kara (also pronounced tode) to mean "empty" rather than "Chinese hand." karate-do translates into "the way of the empty hand." 1
In 1922, the Ministry of Education in Japan held a martial arts demonstration in Tokyo and Funakoshi was asked to introduce Okinawan karate to Japan. His demonstration made a powerful impression on the Japanese public; Funakoshi was soon besieged with requests to further demonstrate and teach his art. Eventually Funakoshi had enough students to open the first karate dojo in Japan. The dojo was called 'Shotokan'
('Kan' means 'building', 'Shoto' means 'pine waves', which was Funakoshi's pen name). Funakoshi continued to teach until his death in 1957. Since then, Shotokan has spread throughout the world and his students have continued his spirit and teachings.