Evolution from “Tee” to the prototype of Karate


Many martial artists came to Ryukyu in the Middle Ages.

It is a historical fact that in the latter half of the 14th century, there were immigrants from the continental power, Ming, to the Ryukyuu Kingdom. However, it is unclear whether the Chinese martial arts transmitted at that time were the original form of karate. This is one of the leading theories, and there are other interesting legends.

“Ryukyujin-Gyoretsu"From the National Diet Library.

Until the 19th century, the Ryukyu royal family was under the control of the Chinese emperor. During that long period, there were many exchanges between governments, and trade was also active. Soldiers would have come from China to Ryukyu, and merchants’ escorts would have also come. Pirates and thugs would come too, maybe. It is believed that not all martial arts skills were introduced during the migration of 36 families in the 14th century. However, there is no doubt that Chinese martial arts techniques came to Ryukyu little by little by various people.

“Ryukyujin Raicho zu" From the National Diet Library.

At the same time, the Ryukyu Kingdom was under the control of the Satsuma of Japan. The Satsuma, which had a large influence in the southern part of Kyushu, was a military superpower. Samurai martial arts were also highly developed. Naturally, many people came to Ryukyu from Satsuma, and officials and merchants of the Ryukyu Kingdom sometimes went to Satsuma. When people move, so does technology and knowledge. It is highly possible that Japanese martial arts were introduced to Ryukyu during this period.

“Ryukyujin Raicho zu" From the National Diet Library.

And there is one more important point that is often forgotten. During this period, Ryukyu had its own rich culture. And among them was Ryukyuan martial arts. The Ryukyu islands are strategic points of transportation located in the corridor of the sea. In such regions, weapons and martial arts were developed regardless of the times, and there werre many dangers. In the 14th century, there was already a martial art called “Tee” unique to Ryukyu, and it seems that many people practiced it. Many researchers believe that Chinese martial arts, Japanese martial arts, and Ryukyu martial arts have been fused over a long period of time to create new martial arts such as Karate and Bojutsu.

Around the beginning of the 19th century, the masters of karate who have been handed down to this day were born.


Posted by Japan-budo