Karate had its beginnings on the island of Okinawa during a time in which the Japanese were occupying the island. According to Japanese tradition, the Okinawans were inferior to even the lowliest Japanese, and that is saying a great deal, since the Japanese culture operated on a class system that governed every aspect of their lives. Japanese samurai, or warriors, occupying Okinawa were particularly relentless in their brutality of the Okinawan people. They must have realized that, unlike Japanese peasants, the Okinawans were not willing to be subjugated. The Okinawans sent a few of their young men to China where they learned martial arts from Shaolin monks. They returned to Okinawa to teach what they had learned to others. The Japanese instituted a type of martial law on Okinawa, forbidding the training in martial arts. This did not deter the Okinawans, however, and students would work a full day, and then, late at night, would creep through fields to the home of their Sensei where they would learn new technique. They then returned home and practiced what they had learned until they felt they had mastered the technique. Then they returned to the Sensei to demonstrate what they had learned and received a new lesson.
Because the Sensei was the holder of the knowledge of self defense, it was considered crucial to protect him at all costs. Therefore, if samurai arrived at the Sensei’s home, it was critical that the Sensei be protected until he could get away from danger. Students were arranged in line in the building with the most advanced students closest to the door, prepared to stop the samurai at all costs.