Karate was developed from the same ancient traditions that led to the development of Kung Fu. By the fifth century AD, on the Okinawa Islands, a weaponless combat system called te ("hand") had developed. Later, when the teachings of the Shaolin Temple in China were carried to Okinawa, some of the Shaolin techniques were infused with the te art.

During the 15th century, the Japanese who occupied Okinawa forbade the natives to carry arms and te began to flourish as an art form; at the time, it went by several names, including te and karate (a term which originally meant "China hand," but which in the 20th century was redefined to mean "empty hand").

In 1905, an Okinawan instructor named Gichin Funakoshi introduced Okinawa-te to Japan, teaching it in public schools. At that time, its name was formalized as Karate. After World War II, American servicemen stationed in Japan learned the art, which helped to spread it worldwide.

Karate, as a HERO System martial art, may be bought initially one of two ways. As Karate, it is an unarmed fighting style. As Kobujutsu, it is an armed Okinawan fighting style, using these weapons: bo (6' staff) and several shorter staffs, sai, nunchaku, tonfa (threshing handles), kama (sickles), eiku (or chizikunboor sunakakebo) (boat oar), timbeand rochin (tortoiseshell shield and hand-spear), suruchin (a short, weighted rope), kue (hoe) and tekko (metal knuckle-dusters).

Karateka (Karate practitioners) can buy the Weapons Element to learn Kobujutsu techniques, and Kobujutsu practitioners can buy the Barehanded element to learn empty-hand techniques for their art. For our purposes, the two styles are functionally identical.

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