In 1377, the king of Okinawa expressed his allegiance to the emperor of China, which resulted in a huge influx of Chinese culture and customs, including Chinese combative systems. In 1392, thirty-six Chinese families emigrated to Kume village in Okinawa as part of a cultural exchange. Amongst these thirty-six families were a number of Kempo experts who had a huge influence upon the growth and development of the native Okinawan combat systems. The Chinese transported many of the pattern practiced within modern karate to Okinawa, and their methods were the inspiration behind many others. Many of the patterns are named after the Chinese martial artists who created or inspired them e.g. Kushanku, Wanshu, Chinto, etc.
In 1429, King Sho Hashi wished to improve the standing of Okinawa and ,as a result the Okinawan people began active relations with other countries. This resulted in trade with Indonesia, South-East Asia, Korea, Japan, and, of course, China. The towns of Shuri and Naha became famous as trading centers for luxury goods. Later these towns would also gain notoriety for the systems of fighting that bore their names. This influx of trade also led to the exchange of combative ideas that will have further influenced the native fighting systems, and the patterns used to record these traditions.
In 1477, the Okinawan king Sho Shin imposed a ban on the private ownership of weapons by civilians and ordered that all nobles live close to Shuri castle. This attempt to control people had a huge effect upon the nature of the native fighting skills. In the majority of fighting systems throughout the world, weapons were always the first choice. No warrior would choose to fight with their bare hands when they could use a weapon. The banning of weapons resulted in Okinawans having no choice except to use their unarmed combat skills. This acted as a catalyst in the advancement of the empty handed fighting skills of Okinawa. The moving of the nobles close to Shuri castle also effected the development of karate. It was common practice for kings to keep nobles close at hand to make the calling meetings easier and it ensured that the families of the nobles were within hostage-taking distance. This ensured loyalty to the king. Since strong fighting skills were acknowledged and rewarded by the king, many nobles practiced martial arts, and they had the resources and opportunity to do so. For this reason, the upper classes were mostly responsible for the development of karate, not, as is commonly thought, the lower classes.