I believe that karate is a very complete art and therefore has a very long and convoluted history. The standard textbooks tend to say that, you know, from India Bodhidharma came through to China and started teaching monks how not to fall asleep meditating and it became,you know, a martial art from there and that traveled, you know, to Japan eventually. While I think that's possibly true and it's a very nice story, I believe that every country has its indigenous martial arts.
And the Japanese are very good at assimilating other things and making them their own. And karate arrived really in the 20th century, early 20th century from Okinawa. Okinawa was a trading post for many centuries between Japan and China and so there were a great deal of cultural exchanges as well as, you know, the bartering of goods, etc, etc. So in Okinawa karate starting forming distinct from the other arts in Asia, and the Japanese took that and ripped it apart and made it very efficient and very much more refined in that Japanese aesthetic.
So I think it hardened in Okinawa from a softer flowing Chinese art by necessity because the Okinawans were somewhat oppressed and they needed to defend themselves and they weren't allowed to have weapons, as the story goes. So they would use farm implements and they would toughen their fists and elbows and feet in order to use them for self-defense. This got imported to Japan in the 20s and 30s in pre-war Japan, and then post-war Japan became very refined and that's more the art that you'll see today.