Also known as Te-do and consisting of "kata" forms, Karate is a martial art from the Ryukyu Kingdom and is believed to have originated sometimes in the 17th or 18th century. Recent research indicates that karate developed from a synthesis of indigenous Ryukyuan fighting methods and southern Chinese martial arts (such as kung-fu). In 1874, the Ryukyu Kingdom was annexed to the Japanese empire
to become the Okinawa prefecture. In 1912, Admiral Dewa of the Japanese Imperial Navy and several other sailors were housed in an Okinawan school, and were shown impressive demonstrations of Karate by Gishin Funakoshi. Eight years later, at the invitation of Admiral Dewa, Funakoshi was invited to give a demonstration of Karate at the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo. Funakoshi's demonstration impressed the Emperor, who asked him to remain in Japan and teach te-do to the Japanese.
Generally credited with having popularized karate in Japan,
Funakoshi changed the names of many kata: The five Itosu Pinan forms became known as Heian; the three Naihanchi forms became known as Tekki; Seisan as Hangetsu; Chinto as Gankaku; Wanshu as Empi; etc. These were mostly just political changes, rather than changes to the content of the forms. The name changes may have been designed to make the art sound more Japanese (less "foreign") and to get karate accepted by the Japanese judo organisation Dai Nippon Butokukai. They became afterwards the names commonly used in the sport worldwide, except in the Okinawa prefecture.
The popularization of karate in Japan also included the adoption of the ubiquitous white uniform which consisted of the kimono and the dogi or keikogi - mostly called just gi (pronounced 'gey' like 'key') - and colored belt ranks. Both of these innovations were originated and popularized by Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, one of the men Funakoshi consulted in his efforts to popularize karate.