A Brief History of Karate and its Link to Canada

Karate is a martial art developed from the indigenous Ryukyuan martial arts in the Ryukyu Kingdom. This martial art is predominantly considered a “striking” art that includes punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, as well as “open-hand” techniques such as knife hands, spear hands, and palm-heel strikes, and is strongly influenced by Chinese Kung Fu. Both historical and modern styles also include teaching techniques such as grappling, throws, restraints and striking vital points of the body. A person who practices the art of karate is called a karateka.

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Karate began in Canada in the 1930s and 1940s, as Japanese people began immigrating to the country. During World War II, many Japanese-Canadian families were moved to the interior of British Columbia so karate was originally practiced without much organization. A Japanese-Canadian named Masaru Shintani began to study karate in a Japanese internment camp when he was only thirteen years old. After training for nine years, Shintani travelled to Japan and met Hironori Otsuka who invited him to join his organization in 1958. Otsuka officially asked Shintani to call his style of karate ‘Wado’ in 1969.

Shintani eventually moved to Ontario and began teaching karate and judo at the Japanese Cultural Center in Hamilton. With the endorsement of Otsuka, he opened the Shintani Wado Kai Karate Federation. Shintani was appointed the Supreme Instructor of Wado Kai in North America and in 1979, Otsuka publicly promoted Shintani to hachidan (also called the 8th dan) and privately gave him a kudan certificate (9th dan), which was only revealed by Shintani in 1995. The men visited each other in Japan and Canada numerous times, prior to Otsuka’s death in the 1980s. Masaru Shintani passed away in May of 2000, leaving his legacy of helping bring karate to Canada.

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