Karate, now a worldwide martial art with an estimated 50 – 100 million practitioners, originates from Okinawa in Japan. While martial arts have been taught in Japan and Okinawa for centuries, karate itself has only exploded relatively recently. It didn’t in fact take the name, ‘Karate’ until fairly recently. People tend to think of Shotokan Karate as being the foundation of modern karate, seeing as so many of the other schools sprang up from students of Shotokan, such as Goju-Ryu, Kyokushin and Wado-Ryu. Regardless of popularity there are said to be four pillars of Karate, from which the others can be derived. These are Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, Wado-Ryu and Shito-Ryu.
All of these styles are inherently Okinawan, although, there are elements of Chinese kung fu, especially Shaolin kung fu, seen in Shorin Karate (the Okinawan term for Shaolin). Many of the styles incorporate Chinese yin yang philosophy and aspects of qigong (internal energy work using breathing techniques.
Although these styles can all be said to come under the umbrella that is, “Karate”, you shouldn’t think that these types of karate are all the same. To the contrary, some styles use low, wide stances, while others have higher, narrow stances. The philosophy and influence is often different and the extent to which the styles incorporate internal elements varies throughout the styles.
Here you can see a short clip about the history and development of Karate in Okinawa