The Karate means "empty hand", KARA: empty, TE: hand.
The earliest origins of karate as we know it today are somewhat vague due to a lack of documentation.
The traditional idea acceptable to most authorities seems to indicate that is started in India. A Buddhist priest called in Chinese "Daruma", or Bhodidarma" as he is better known, wised to take his particular sect of Buddhism called Zen, to the Chinese as a missionary venture. It was not uncommon for itinerant priests to be able to fight as they would obviously be in danger on their wanderings from wild animals as well and from men.
Even Gautama Sidhartha himself had been a warror before he became the Bauddha. When he established Buddhism, he saw no contradiction in the idea of a man of peace and love also being skilful in combat. About 500 A. D., Bodhidarma reached the court of emperor Wu at Chein-K'ang in China, where he was warmly received. He left the courts eventually, heading north to Henan province and into seclusion in the Shao-lin temple (Shorin in Japanese) to teach Zen. He also taught his system of unarmed combat Shorin Kempo.
Forms of Chinese combat have been recorded as fat back as 3,00 B. C. Bhodidarma is credited with being the founder of Chinese Kempo, mainly because he added the meditative practices of yoga and Zen, making it a more complete system as we know it today. Zen is inseparably linked with Karate and every master of Karate seeks a more enlightened experience by studying Zen.
In fact all the major developments in Shorin Kempo were achieved by various priests through the years. For instance, one priest, Chiao Yuan, co-ordinated all his techniques after contemplating the fighting methods of five beasts: Tiger, Leopard, Snake, Crane and the Mythical Dragon.
Finally, the Close connection between priests and medicine resulted in not only discovering vital spots on the human body where cures could be applied, but also areas where Kempo attacks could be directed for best results.