In the 12th century, regional lords called Aji emerged and exerted power over the island. This time frame was indeed a perfect time in history to develop martial arts combat techniques. Through the 1400's, the island experienced much turmoil. By 1429 the island was unified by King Sho Hashi. At this time the Okinawan's were still able to posses weapons. However in 1470, King Sho Hashi destroyed the former dynasty and made due with his own. Soon all arms were banned on the island, in fear that the reign might be over thrown. As a result, the emphasis on the fighting arts further progressed.
Beside empty hand combat, the Okinawan's also began the practice of Kobudo (weapons). Because of King Sho Hashi's ban on the traditional weapons (such as the samurai sword), the Okinawan's began using their everyday farming implements as weapons. From this practice the most commonly thought of weapons became known as the: Bo (six foot staff), the Eku (the
oar), the Kama (grass or cain sickle), the Tonkuwa or Tonfa (utility handle), and the Nunchaku (horse bit, and even rice flail). However because the Okinawan's never restrained the practice of survival, other weapons were also used such as the Kuwa (Japanese Hoe), the Timbei and Rochin (Shield and dagger), as well as the Nunti (Japanese like spear).
During the 14th to 16th centuries, a period known as the "Golden Age of Trade", the Kingdom of Okinawa flourished as a trade center for China and other nations. However, trade vessels were constantly threatened by Japanese pirates and the Okinawa sailors needed to protect themselves while in foreign lands.
Around 1580, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (daimyo of Japan) stated laws again that prohibited the possession or the carrying of weapons, in order to restore peace and bring some sort of prosperity to a resource poor Ryukyuan kingdom. It helped to prevent unnecessary loss of life among the people and was a deterrent to insurrection and civil wars. But that left Okinawa more or less defenseless against the Samurai, which were the only ones allowed to carry weapons.
Although the empty hand techniques developed on the battlefields were very effective and refined, they were not so for use in massive defense or offense operations. In 1609, the Satsuma Samurai Clan attacked and ravaged the Okinawan defenses. The islanders used turtle-shields and short stabbing daggers, but they were of very little use against horse backed, sword carrying samurai or bows. The only instruments the farmers had were their simple farming tools. The unique martial arts of Okinawan karate and kobudo were born from this background. Over long years, the techniques of Chinese and South East Asian martial arts were incorporated into Okinawa Karate and Kobudo to establish the forms known today. The Chinese methods were a combination of techniques with empty hands and with weapons.