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Martial Arts Timeline

BRONZE AGE (2000 to 1000 BC)

20th c. BC

Murals in tomb 15 at Beni Hasan, depicting wrestling techniques.

18th c. BC

The Babylonian Gilgamesh epic describes includes the major hand-held weapons (sword, axe, bow and spear) used prior to the gunpowder era.

IRON AGE (1000 BC to 500AD)

8th c. BC

Roughly the start of Greek Olympic Competition. Through the popularity of the Olympics, martial arts like boxing, wrestling, and pankration flourished.

8th c. BC

Homer's Iliad describes many scenes of hand-to-hand combat in detail.

800 BC

Boxing in China can be traced back reliably to the Chou dynasty.

700 BC

Wrestling in China.

6th c. BC

Sun Tzu writes The Art of War, one of the seminal works in military strategy and tactics, during the Warring States period of Chinese history.

300 B.C.

Foundation of Taoism, which later influences Chinese internal or soft styles such as Hsing-i and Tai Chi, which involve the cultivation of chi and the study of nature and animal movements.

264 BC

First recorded Gladiatorial combat staged in Rome by Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus

50 B.C

Earliest records of Korean indigenous martial arts called Taekkyon found in paintings in the Muyong-chong, a royal tomb from the Koguryo dynasty.

23 BC

First Sumo match took place in front of Emperor Suinin of Japan.

72 AD

The Colosseum opens in Rome, providing the public with the world's largest martial arts venue for over the next three hundred years.

2nd century

A Greek papyrus manuscript on wrestling, is written. It is the earliest known European martial arts manual.

477 AD

The first abbot of Shaolin was Batuo, an Indian dhyana master who came to China in AD 464 to spread Buddhist teachings.


Hua To ("five animals play" - tiger, deer, monkey, bear and bird) was developed.


Bodhidarma was born as the Prince of Kanchipura in the south of India.

MIDDLE AGES (500 to 1500)


The primary Shaolin Temple is built at the western base of the Chinese Song Shan mountain range, at the orders of Emperor Hsiao-wen. Successive Chinese emperors authorize fighting monks to train in the Temple. Other Shaolin temples are built in China thereafter.


The Shaolin temple was built.


Bodhidarma arrived at the Shaolin temple.


The first reference to Bodhidarma was written in "The History of the temples Lo-Yang", by Yang Hsuan-Chih.


Indian monk Bodhidarma (called Dharuma in Japan) founds Zen Buddhism and contributes Maipayat to Shaolin temple boxing. His philosophy includes static meditation and related breathing techniques, and includes the martial virtues of discipline, humility, restraint, and respect for life.


Hindu temple artwork in India depicts unarmed combat techniques.


Shaolin monks save the emperor of China.


The Chronicle of Japan" ("Nihongi" in Japanese) was written, and the word "bugei" was used for the first time.


Date of the "combat stele" at the Shaolin Monastery


Butokukai was founded by Emperor Kamu.


Japanese Heian period begins. Curved swords called Tachi (large sword) appear. Although samurai did not technically appear until the 12th century, in appearance these are the early curved swords commonly recognized as "samurai swords."


Shaolin heroic period.


Japanese Samurai class emerges during the warring period between the Taira and Minamoto families. The warriors code of Bushido also emerges during this time.


The first Mongolian attempt on invasion of Japan was stopped by the samurai.


The second Mongolian army (150,000 men) was destroyed by the typhoon "Kamikaze" after 49 days of battle.


Chuan'fa reached its zenith during the Ming dynasty.


Malla Purana (Gujarat) ca. 1300 – MS I.33, the oldest extant martial arts manual detailing armed combat.


Japanese Ashikaga period, during which Samurai caste expands its influence further. Many schools of swordsmanship flourish. The period ends around 1500.


Okinawa and King Satto officially established a dialogue with Emperor Ming of China. Trade between the realms begun, and Chuan`fa introduced on Okinawa.


Chinese officials were assigned to Okinawa, several of these were experts in Chuan'fa.


China sends delegations to Okinawa, which then begins trading extensively with China and Japan. The indigenous Okinawan unarmed combat art called “Te” is likely influenced by Chinese and Japanese arts over the next three centuries, forming the basis for the modern art of Karate.


Pai Ho chuan (white crane Gung Fu) is developed in Tibet.


Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-Ryu was founded in Japan. Today's oldest existing martial arts school.


The Okinawan king Sho Shin, influenced by the Japanese, bans the carrying of arms. Similar bans occurred in Japan in 1586. Both apparently led to the underground development of striking arts and may have encouraged unarmed combat techniques designed for use against armored soldiers, such as Jujutsu.

EARLY MODERN PERIOD (1500 to 1800)


The Portuguese introduced firearms in Japan reducing the status of skill in unarmed battle.


Hayashizaki Minamoto is born and later founds the art of Iajutsu or Iaido, the art of drawing and cutting with the sword in a single motion. Successive masters of his school can be traced to the present day


Dragon style chuan'fa (T'ang Lang chuan'fa - praying mantis) was developed in the shaolin temples.


A newer style samurai sword, called a katana or daito, is widely used.


The Satsuma clan invaded the Ryukyu islands and Okinawa. They again forbade weapons among the civilians.


Legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi is believed to have written The Book of Five Rings, a seminal work regarding the art and philosophy of the samurai and swordsmanship.


Chinese Emperor K'ang Hsi's army burns the Shaolin Temple at Song Shan, perhaps due to concerns around the capabilities of its fighting force. The temple is rebuilt, but this event disrupts 1,100 years of concentrated training in that facility. Many of the surviving monks are believed to have moved to other temples, spreading Shaolin boxing further.


Hsing-I (mind form), wu shu style, developed in the Shaolin-temple at Wu-Tang mountain.


Development of Wing Chun Kung Fu


Chinese temple frescoes depict Shaolin Temple monks practicing unarmed combat. Okinawan Te and Chinese Shaolin boxing styles mix as part of trade between the countries.


Jack Broughton, an English bare-knuckle fighter, writes the first rules of boxing, later to become the London Prize Ring rules in 1838.


First shinai was constructed by Chuzo Nakanishi.


Techniques of the Chinese martial art Tai Chi are written down.


Wing Chun Gung Fu was founded.




Pa Kua chuan'fa (eight trigram palm fist way) was founded.


Choy Li Fut Gung Fu was founded.


Huo chuan chuan'fa (monkey style Gung Fu) was developed.


Kanryo Higaonna, founder of Naha-te, is born March 10th

1866 (1868)

Kanryo Higaonna sails to Fukien province, where he studies Chinese martial arts with Ryu Ryuko.


John Graham Chambers publishes a revised set of rules for boxing. They are publicly endorsed by John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry, leading the rules to become known as the "Marquess of Queensberry rules".


End of the samurai clans, and Gichin Funakoshi was born.


Jigoro Kano founded Kodokan Judo and opened the first dojo at the Eiso-Ji temple. One of his training methods, called randori, removed more dangerous striking techniques to emphasize grappling and submission locks between students practising at full-force. His students taught Judo using randori around the world during the early 20th century.


Morihei Ueshiba was born, the founder of Aikido. T Tsunejiro and Shiro were given shodan by Kano sensei.


Chogun Miyagi, founder of Goju Ryu, is born on April 25th.


Kanryo Higaonna introduces Naha-te and a breathing exercise called Sanchin.


Sumo, Kendo and Judo became part of the curriculum in the Japanese school system for boys (naginata-do for girls).


The first world heavyweight boxing championship is fought under the Marquess of Queensberry rules of 1867, which are similar to those used today. Jim Corbett defeats John L. Sullivan.


Hironori Ohtsuka, founder of Wado-ryu karate, was born.


Edward William Barton-Wright studies Jujutsu in Japan and created Bartitsu upon returning to England, one of the earliest introductions of Japanese martial arts in the West and the first known martial art to combine Asian and European fighting styles.


Dai Nippon Butokukai was reestablished.


Kenwa Mabuni was born, founder of shito-ryu karate.



British and American soldiers in Japan begin learning techniques from the Japanese Army.


Chogun Miyagi begins his training with Kanyro Higaonna


Karate became a part of the curriculum for Okinawan schools.


First official demonstration of karate on Okinawa.


Jigoro Kano designed the gi model which is used today.


Chojun Miyagi enters the Armyand served in the Fifth Division of Kumamoto for three years.


Amateur boxing becomes an Olympic Sport.

1909 - Jan 21

The founder, Gogen Yamaguchi was born in Kagoshima Pref.


Kanryo Higaonna dies on December 23rd. Chojun Miyagi travels to Foochow province in China and trains in several local styles including Chugoku Kempo.


Chojun Miyagi returns to Okinawa and becomes an instructor at the Okinawa Ken Police Training Center, Naha City Commercial School, Okinawa Normal School, and the Prefectural Health Center.


Funakoshi sensei gave the first demonstration of karate in Japan. The demonstration was not very successful in gaining interest for the art.

1920 - 1925

Mitsuyo Maeda, a student of Jigoro Kano's, travels to Brazil (among other places) to spread Judo and Jiu-Jitsu teachings. He also participates in several challenge matches. In 1925, Carlos Gracie, a student of Mitsuyo Maeda, opens his school, the first for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The art is further refined by the Gracie family thereafter, particularly by Carlos' brother Helio Gracie.


Miyagi gives a Naha-Te demonstration to Crown Prince in Nakagusuku Bay, Okinawa.


Funakoshi sensei's second demonstration became a success and he founded the first dojo in Tokyo.


Masatatsu Oyama, founder of kyokushinkai karate, was born in Korea under the name Choi Young Li.


Ueshiba sensei demonstrated, for the first time, his own version of Aiki-Jutsu.


Chojun Miyagi founds Goju-Ryu karate, also becoming the first to give his style a name other than that of the city from which it is produced.


Chojun Miyagi travels to Japan (for the first time) and teaches karate at Kansai, Kyoto, and Ritsumeikan universities


Shaolin temple records are burned, destroying many documents and records of earlier martial arts.


Gogen Yamaguchi entered Ritsumeikan University, majoring law studies. He organized Karate studies club.


Miyagi becomes an instructor at the Prefectural Police Dojo and later at Naha Courthouse, Prefectural Physical Culture Association, and the Prefectural Teachers' Training College. It was around this time that it became necessary to name the system that was growing in popularity throughout Okinawa and Japan. Goju-ryu karate was founded.


Gogen Yamaguchi establishes Japanese Goju-Ryu headquarters in Tokyo. Chojun Miyagi is named Karate Division Chairman of the Okinawan Prefecture Athletic Association. Miyagi performs at the Dai Nippon Butokukai (Greater Japan Martial Arts Association, the official governing body for Japanese martial arts)


Miyagi performs at the Sainei Budo Temple


Chogun Miyagi lectures and teaches karate in Hawaii. He also becomes a permanent officer of the Dai Nippon Butokukai (Great Japan Martial Virtues Association).


All Japan Goju-Kai Karate-Do Association is founded by Gogen Yamaguchi, who also originates jiyu-kumite (free sparring), the basis of sport karate. Gosei Yamaguchi is born.


Yoshioki Yamashita achieved 10th dan in Judo from Kano sensei.


“Karate” becomes official name of the Okinawan martial arts, based on the traditional art of “Te” (hand) and the term “Kara” (empty or unarmed).


Gichin Funakoshi publishes the first edition of his book "Karate-Do Kyohan," documenting much of the philosophy and traditional katas (forms) of modern Karate. A second edition was published in 1973, many years after his death in 1957.


Miyagi calls for martial arts unity and expressed the opinion that karate instruction should be made available to the rest of the world during a lecture in Japan's Sakaisuji Meiji Syoten Hall.


Miyagi received a medal for excellence in the martial arts from the Japanese Ministry of Education, and also became the first person in karate to be granted the kyoshi title from the Dai Nippon Butokukai.


In October of the same year, Miyagi attended a conference that adopted "karate" as official name of the martial art of Okinawa.


The karate masters of Okinawa decide Karate will be the official name of Okinawa-te, and the first independent karate dojo is founded in Tokyo. It was named Shotokan by the students of Funakoshi sensei.


Chogun Miyagi, along with other stylists, forms the Dai Nippon Butokukai Karate Jukkyoshi (great Japan Martial Arts Karate Teachers Association), under direction of Prince Moriwasa Nashimoto, commissioner of the Dai Nippon Butokukai. He also receives a Kyoshi Title from the Dai Nippon Butokukai.


Shito-Ryu karate founded.


Sambo presented by Anatoly Kharlampiev; Nguyễn Lộc introduced Vovinam to the public.


Wado-Ryu karate founded.


Gogen Yamaguchi is sent to Manchuria as an intelligence officer, where he is captured and held by the Russians.


Chojun Miyagi creates the katas: Gekisai Dai Ichi and Gekisai Dai Ni


Uechi-Ryu karate founded.


Morihei Ueshiba begins using the term Aikido to describe his art, which is related to aiki-jujutsu. He is credited as the father of Aikido.


September 28 - The present president Goshi Yamaguchi was born in Shinkyo, Manchuria.


Judo, Karate, and Kung Fu are officially introduced in Korea, likely beginning to mix with the indigenous Korean arts.


First Korean dojang, or martial arts school, opens in Seoul, Korea. Many other schools follow. Korean military personnel receive training in martial arts.


World War II ends, with many more American and British soldiers stationed in Asia exposed to the martial arts.


Gogen Yamaguchi is freed by the Russians and returns to Japan.


Gogen Yamaguchi opened Dojo in Nihonzutsumi, Asakusa, Taito ward.


By Gogen Yamaguchi's proposal, All Japan Karate-do Goju-kai was united. Asakusa Senzoku dojo was opened.


October 8th - Chojun Miyagi dies.


Bruce Lee begins his studies of Wing Chun Gung Fu under Master Yip Man.


Kyokushinkai karate founded by Masatatsu Oyama


Shimabuku holds a meeting with his students and proclaims his new system as “Isshinryu.”


Funakoshi sensei dies.


Taekwondo becomes the official name of the Korean martial arts.


Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) is formed.


Peter Urban introduces Goju- Ryu to the United States.


Peter Urban opens the famous Chinatown Dojo.


Gosen Yamaguchi went to the United States to enter a university and He opened a dojo in San Francisco


Goshi Yamaguchi begins teaching Goju-Ryu in San Francisco.


Gosei Yamaguchi joins his brother Goshi in San Francisco.


Kyokushin Kaikan organization, founded in by Masutatsu Oyama.


Goshi, the third child went to the United States.


International Karate-do Goju-Kai Association was formed and united. Gogen Yamaguchi helps form the All Japan Karate-Do Federation.


International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) is formed.


Jeet Kune Do Gung Fu founded by Bruce Lee.


Judo becomes an official Olympic sport.


The Suginami Goju-kan head dojo was opened.


The Bruce Lee film "Enter the Dragon" brings Asian martial arts to the United States domestic audience. He dies that same year.


World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is formed.


Bruce Lee's book "Tao of Jeet Kune Do" is published post-mortem. He credits the influence of western boxing and fencing in developing his art, among others.


The Chojun Miyagi Sensei's 20th memorial, JKGA Delegation visits his grave in Okinawa.


Ashihara kaikan a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in by Hideyuki Ashihara. Often referred to as "fighting karate" by its practitioners.


The Goju-ryu founder, Chojun Miyagi Sensei's 30th Kensho Memorial International Friendly Match was held.


WTF-style Taekwondo becomes an Olympic demonstration sport, later becoming a full-medal sport in 2000.

1989 May, 20

Gogen Yamaguchi passed away of acute cardiac arrest.

1989 Sept. 26

All Japan Karate-do Goju-kai Association funeral was held at Meiji Kaikan, in Minato ward.


Goshi Yamaguchi became the president of All Japan Karate-do Goju-kai Association and of International Karate-do Goju-Kai Association.

1990 Nov. 21- 23

Chojun Miyagi Sensei & Gogen Yamaguchi Kensho The 1st Karate-do Goju-kai world Tourbament was held at Chiba Port Arena.


The first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is held. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Royce Gracie wins the event.

1995 Nov, 24-25

The 1st Karate-do Goju-kai Asian Pacific Tournament was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

1996 Dec, 28-29

The 2nd Karate-do Goju-kai Asian Pacific Tournament was held in Pune, India.

1997 Nov, 29-30

The 2nd Karate-do Goju-kai World Tournament was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Chojun Miyagi Sensei's 45th memorial, visiting his grave in Okinawa.

1999 - Nov, 20-21

The 3rd Karate-do Goju-kai Asian Pacific Tournament was held in Perth, Australia


2001 - Nov. 30 - Dec 2

The 3rd Karate-do Goju-kai World Tournament was held in Perth, Australia

2005 - Nov. 9-14

The 4th Karate-do Goju-kai World Tournament was held in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

2007 - Nov. 17-19

The 4th Karate-do Goju-kai Asian Pacific Tournament was held in Hong Kong, China


Zuffa, LLC the parent company that owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship (a mixed martial arts promotion) purchased PRIDE Fighting Championships from Dream Stage Entertainment.

2009 Sept. 20

100th Commemoration of the birth of Kaiso Gogen Yamaguchi, will take place in Tokyo, Japan

2009 Oct. 23-26

5th Karate-do Goju-kai World Tournament will be held in Cape Town South Africa



Special thanks to Eugene Kitney of the Kaizen GojuKan ( for this information 

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