menu close menu

The exact origins of karate are lost in the mists of time.

We do know that Karate originated in Okinawa but is very difficult to tell the true story of Okinawa martial arts for two reasons; Firstly almost all written documentation regarding Okinawan martial arts was destroyed during the Second World War and secondly martial arts was practiced in secret as they didn’t want their new developed techniques to be known so they were not recorded.


There is some evidence based on the writings of the famous Orientalist Paul Pelliot that in the year AD 520 Bodhidharma an Indian monk, traveled to China and introduced meditation and exercise to monks in the Songshan Shaolin Monastery. The Shaolin monks developed a fighting system utilizing the exercises and meditation techniques taught by Bodhidharma. This fighting system is known as Chinese boxing.

Ch´un Fa

In the late 1600′s Chi-Nang Fang, daughter of a murdered Shaolin monk, further developed the system of Chinese boxing Ch´uan Fa, “The fist way” or White Crane (nowadays know as a Kung Fu) which eventually spread to the island of Okinawa.


The earliest stage of Karate development was a form of closed hand fighting which the Okinawan’s called te or “hand.” This form was practised in secret due to the wars and ban on weapons.

This form was studied in the cities of Shuri, Naha and Tomari, although only a few kilometres apart different forms of self-defence developed within each city. Subsequently they became known as Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. Collectively they were known as Okinawa-te or tode; “Chinese Hand.”

The styles were eventually divided in to two main groups – from Shuri and Tomari area Shorin-Ryu which was quick and linear movements with natural breathing and Shoei-Rye from Naha that was steady rooted movements that focused on synchronized breathing, similar to Goju-Ryu.

Satunushi “tode” Sakugawa

sakugawaRecognised as one of the most important figures in the history of karate as he was the one of the first martial artist to blend the elements of “te” with “tode” to become what is today known as Karate.

He began his martial arts training as a youth under two local instructors. Due to the influence of one if his instructors – Kusanku; “tode” was privileged with making a number of visits to China where he studied various other martial forms such as Kempo and Bojutsu.


Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura

sokon_matsumuraKnown as the father of all karate styles that originated from Okinawa. Having learnt the fundamentals of te as a young boy, he then progressed to train under “tode” where he learnt many of techniques and Kata skills.

During his life time he served as a body guard and martial arts instructor to Ryukyuan kings and was one of the last known people to be awarded with the title “Bushi” meaning Warrior.

After retirement from his service to the royal family Matsumura went on to teach karate in Shuri where he systemised Shuri-te to become what is now known as Shorin-ryu . Noteworth students taught by Matsumura are: Yasutsune Itosu, Kentus Yabu, Chomo Hanashiro and Gichin Funakoshi.


Yasutsune (Ankō) Itosu

yasutsune-itosuArguably one of the greatest karate teachers in history due to the fact he simplified and modernized teaching methods to enable studying the martial arts form easier and less dangerous for future generations.

Another of his achievements was introducing karate into the physical education curriculum within the Okinawan school system.

Noteworthy students of Itosu are Gichin Funakoshi and Kenwa Mabuni.


Yasutsune (Ankoh) Azato

itosu_ankohAttended the courts of the Sho Kings and Shuri government as a “military attache” and foreign affairs advisor and as such was conceivably well placed to provide bodyguard protection to the Royal family.

Azato, along with his best friend, Yasutsune Itosu were direct karate students of the redoubtable Bushi Matsumura. Azato having excelled in virtually everything he did became highly trained in Karate under Matsumura.


Kaniro Higashionna

220px-Higaonna_Kanryo1-e1344520919441Kaniro Higashionna is regarded as one of the most influential karate instructors in Okinawan history. He learnt the basics of te as a youth and began studying tode at the age of sixteen.

At the age of twenty two, Higashionna travelled to Fuchou, China where over a number years he studied Chinese Boxing. On is return to Okinawa he began teaching what was to become known as Naha-te.

Noteworth students are: Chojun Miyagi founder of Goju-Ryu and Kenwa Mabuni who founded Shito-Ryu.


Chojun Miyagi

chojunChojun Miyagi began training with Higashionna when he was Fourteen and stayed with him for fifteen years until his master’s death. Before Higashionna’s death, Miyagi travelled to China to develop a deeper knowledge of martial arts.

After Higashionna’s death, Miyagi began taking on his own students and combined the style previously studied under Higashionna and the new elements he had learnt from his Chinese Masters. This was then to become known as Goju-Ryu.


Kenwa Mabuni

mabuniKenwa Mabuni started training at the age of thirteen where he studied under Shuri-te master Itosu and Naha-te master Higashionna. Mabuni later moved to Japan where he combined the elements from both styles to create Hanko-Ryu which he then renamed in tribute to his masters to Shito-Ryu.



Gichen Funakoshi

funakoshiGichen Funakoshi is probably one of the most influential masters of modern day karate. Called the grandfather of Japanese karate; Funakoshi founded Shotokan. This is one of the most popular styles of Karate in the world today.

Funakoshi began training under Yasutusune Asato and later Yasutusune Itosu. Unlike most karate masters of the time Funakoshi was well educated, a poet and a scholar. The name Shotokan comes from two words, Shoto which was Funakoshi’s poet pen name meaning ‘Pine Waves’ formed by the wind blowing through pine trees and Kan which denotes the school. In 1917 Funakoshi was asked to perform his martial art at a physical education exhibition sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Education. He was asked back again in 1922 for another exhibition. He was asked back a third time, but this was a special performance. He demonstrated his art for the Emperor and the royal family. After this, Funakoshi decided to remain in Japan and promoted his art teaching Karate at Tokyo University and elsewhere in Japan.

Noteworthy students are: Lee Won Kuk and Hironori Ohtsuka


Hironori Ohtsuka

ohtsukaHironori Ohtsuka was introduced to martial arts by his great uncle, Chojiro Ebashi who taught him Jujitsu. As a teenager he then continued on with Jujitsu under Grand Master Shinzaburo Nakayama. In 1922 Ohtsuka met Gichen Funakoshi and studied Karate with him, he also studied other Japanese styles such as Judo, Kendo and Aikido. He skilfully blended elements from these styles which lead to the birth of kumite in Karate.

Ohtsuka broke away from Funakoshi to develop his own style that was more fluid and dynamic; Wado. In 1934 Wado-Ryu was officially recognised as an independent style of karate. In 1944 Ohutsuka was recognised as Japans Chief Karate Instructor.

Lee Won Kuk

leeLee Won Kuk was one of the first to establish a Korean training venue. Lee always had a love for the martial arts. However, due to the Japanese occupation of Korea, Lee never had the chance to study at an early age. Lee started his martial arts training during his college years at the Central University law school in Japan under Gichin funakoshi, there he claims to have studied the Korean martial arts forbidden in his home land of Korea. Lee bolstered his martial arts education by visiting training centres in Okinawa & China.

In 1944 after lee achieved his black belt in Shotokan karate under Gichin, Lee returned home to his native Korea where in practiced Tang Soo Do. This was now possible because the Japanese had lifted the ban on defensive training in 1943.

A while later Lee sort permission from the occupation government to teach martial arts. Following an initial refusal, Lee ultimately was given the go ahead to proceed & begin teaching at the Yung Shin School in the OK Chun Dong district. A man not to be deterred, Lee went on to establish what was to become the preeminent martial arts academy of the time. Choosing the name Chung Do Kwan (Blue wave Institute)

Lee arrived at this name while sitting on a beach one day watching the waves come in. He set in his mind that the waves were strong and unstoppable and that is how he wanted his martial art to be known.

Noteworth students: Jhoon Rhee


Jhoon Rhee

jhoonrheeJhoon Rhee was a student of Lee Won Kuk studying the Chung Do Kwon system, and arrived in the U.S in 1956 to study at San Marcos Southwest Texas State College as a member of the Korean Army Officer Training Program. He was called back to Korea to complete a year of remaining active duty before returning to the US in late 1957.

He began teaching a non-credited karate (the name tae kwon do was not known at the time) class in 1959. To attract students he gave a demonstration where he would jump into the air and break 3 boards 8 feet high with a kick. This greatly impressed the audiences, especially when you consider Mr Rhee is 5 feet 4″ tall.  184 students signed up for Rhee’s first class. Of those students, only six made it to black belt. One of those six was Allen R. Steen, who is credited as being Mr Rhee’s first American black belt.

Mr Rhee was a third dan black belt when he arrived in the U.S. and in Korea first and second dan black belts were not allowed to teach. Rhee had little experience in teaching, but had a lot of experience in military life having been a captain in the Korean Army, so he ran his class like a military boot camp.


Allen Steen

allen_steenNative Texan, Allen Steen built the first real stronghold of Karate in the United States, and is known as the “Father of Tae Kwon Do in Texas” as well as the “Father of Texas Karate”. Steen opened his first school in Dallas, Texas in 1962.

Allen Steen attended a demonstration put on by Master Rhee in late 1959. He was impressed when the Master kicked a support beam in the college gym and cracked the plaster from floor to ceiling. Steen signed up for Jhoon Rhee’s first Karate class along with 184 other students and soon proved himself to be a dedicated and talented martial artist.

Allen Steen was an early student of Jhoon Rhee’s at southwest state collage. Allen is credited with being Mr Rhee’s first American black belt and he went on to win 30 major titles as well as defeating both Chuck Norris and Joe Louis to win the prestigious Long Beach International Tournament in 1966.

After earning both his black belt, and his college degree, Steen moved to Dallas, Texas and started the first of many Karate schools, “The Jhoon Rhee Institute of Karate” in 1962.

Allen Steen went on to become one of the most famous American martial artists in history, winning many national competitions. He was rated by Black Belt Magazine as one of the top fighters in the U.S. in 1966. His trademark sparring attack was the jump sidekick, delivered so quickly and powerfully, that his opponents were often knocked completely out of the ring.

Some of the many exceptional martial artists who emerged from Steen’s schools include: Pat Burleson, Skipper Mullins, Mike Anderson, Fred Wren, and Roy Kurban.

Chris Batte

Chris Batte was a member of the Southwest Karate Black Belt Association and an Air Force officer based at USAF Bentwaters, Suffolk, England. Chris Batte was a student of Fred Wren and the first American instructor to teach Korean Karate in the East of England. Chris Batte’s technical ability was superb and his strength and fighting spirit second to none.

In 1970 Chris Batte opened a professional Karate School in Ipswich, noteworthy students being Mick Blackwell and Billy Brennan.

Mick Blackwell (EKKA)

Mick Blackwell

Mick Blackwell began training in Sudbury, Suffolk, England under Tatsuo Suzuki and James Self as well as a number of other notable Japanese Instructors. Mick gained his first Dan in Wado Ryu Karate before changing to Korean Karate (Chung Do Kwan) under Chris Batte. Mick became his first Black Belt following a gruelling Black Belt grading assessment by Fred Wren and Jim Harrison.
Mick Blackwell now holds the rank karate Grandmaster 9th Dan and a Kick boxing 7th Dan. As President and chief instructor to the EKKA Mick has produced many international competitors and medal winners at all levels.  Mick has also produced a number of English, British & European Kick boxing champions & 3 world champions & a number of US open Freestyle karate champions.

Mick has been a professional Martial Arts instructor for over forty years and is the principle owner of the Blackwell Academy in Ipswich, Suffolk, England which is considered one of the best martial arts academies in the country, specialising in karate, kick boxing and MMA.
In 1968 Mick, who was a 2nd kyu Brown Belt at the time introduced Billy Brennan to Wado Ryu Karate but on reaching 4th Kyu Billy like Mick, also changed Karate styles to Chung Do Kwan under Chris Batte. To see an interview from 2010 with Mick Blackwell click here 


Billy Brennan (EKKA)

Billy Brennan

Billy (Liam) now holds the rank Karate Grand Master 8th Dan Black Belt and is also a 1st Dan Black Belt Jujitsu. As a competitor he has won National and International Karate titles including the English and British Championships in both Kata & Kumite, and was a finalist in the European Karate Championships.

Billy is a qualified World  Karate Federation Referee in both Kumite and Kata and has officiated in over sixty World, Commonwealth and European championships including several finals – some live on satellite Television such as Eurosport and Fox Sports.

In 2010 Billy was lucky enough to referee the -75kg world final between Rafael Aghayev and Ko Matsuhisa, that produced the now famous scorpion kick. The fight can be seen here

Billy now commentates for the World Karate Federation official channel on all World & European Karate Championship finals. To see an interview from 2010 with Billy click here


Over the last 40 years both Mick and Billy have coached a number top competitors that include English, British, European, Commonwealth and World Championship gold medallists. As of 2015 the EKKA is still producing great fighters & now great coaches, with Davin Pack as assistant England Coach and head coach for the 2015 junior European championship, Chris Harris as regional England coach, and Mitchell Thorpe sliver medallist in the 2015 junior European championships. The EKKA was also the highest ranking English club in the British 4 nations Karate Championships (producing a 7 year old champion). The EKKA also ranking 1st over all in the 2016 English National Karate championships.