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Early Karate History: To-De

To-De: “Chinese Hand”

In Okinawa, the chinese influence in the development of the Okinawan martial arts led to their martial art, originally only known as “Te” (Hands), to be referred to as To-De, “Chinese Hands”.

Three villages, three styles

Interestingly, in three different villages only few miles apart from each other, three different styles of Te or To-De developed. Naha was a port town south of the river, with an emerging style called Naha-Te. North of the river was Shuri, the ancient capital of Okinawa, which produced Shuri-Te. Further north, another village named Tomari, entertained Tomari-Te, however their style was not further developed and eventually Tomari-Te was assimilated by the more active Naha-Te and Shuri-Te development.

One of the early Okinawan masters, Master Sakugawa, was known by his nickname, To-De Sakugawa. He is credited as being one of the initial importers of Chinese martial arts to Okinawa, in particular to Shuri, where Shuri-Te manifested.

52 comments about “Te and To-de”

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  2. Rada Jaser said:

    hello ! my name is Rada, i’ve been a karate practicioner since 1993 and i live in japan.i think that In the time when tode was introduced to okinawa, when the schools of shuri-te, naha-te, tomari-te appeared there was no karate styles like today (shotokan,shitoryu,goju-ryu,etc) instead everybody was practicing all the styles and all the founders of karate styles were practicing together under the guidance of many teachers like higaonna,sokon matsumura,and itosu anko.shuri,naha, and tomari are cities in okinawa. however;karate styles began to be identified when funakoshi gichin introduced karate to the main land japan coming from okinawa in 1922 when he performed karate in public in the kodokan where judo was practiced in tokyo. after that, funakoshi succeeded and developed a style of his own that was called shotokan after his nick name “shoto” . other schools also emerged immediately after this introduction and where developed in the west of japan ,in kyoto and osaka called shitoryu(mabuni kenwa)and goju ryu(chojun miyagi) .as for wado ryu ,the founder was a student of funakoshi gichin called otsuka sensei, it was a combination of shotokan karate and japanese juujutsu and was developed later on after shotokan karate spread which makes wado-ryu the first style that was developed directly in japan.

  3. Tammy Jo Burkett said:

    In the karate history you are forgeting about Isshinryu karate. Isshinryu Karate one of the okinawa Styles that was formed out of Shuri-Te, Goju Ryu, Shotokan, and Shorin Ryu.
    Tatuso Shimabuku founded isshinryu karate in 1954 on the island of Okinawa. As a master of karate systems he took what he considered to be the best of karate styles and created something special and called it Isshinryu Karate – (One Heart Way)

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  5. okinawa said:


    Im also from Japan. I want to know Karate, can you give me tips how to do it.


  6. Karate Overview | Karate said:

    [...] The development of Karate began in Okinawa, an island south of Japan. Okinawans travelled to China, where they learnt the Chinese martial arts. On their return to Okinawa they set about blending their own martial arts (initially simply called Te, “Hands”) with what they had learnt in China and called it To-De, Chinese Hands. [...]

  7. okinawa said:

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  8. william r buck said:

    I am saddened you do not mention uechi ryu amongst the te styles as it also is
    one of the base styles of todays kara-te.

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