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Martial Arts History

Many people consider Asia to be the center of the martial arts world—though it is not necessarily the birthplace of all the arts. However, it can’t be denied that many of the most prominent martial arts originate from the region—kung fu, karate, hwa rang do.

From ancient myths and legends to historical revolutions, martial arts have been shaped by many factors. Sometimes it’s often difficult to trace the evolution of an art because of the lack of historical records. This is true for older arts like the Hawaiian martial art lua or the Indonesian art pentjak silat. At the same time, cultural factors and revolutions have threatened to exterminate martial arts, such as bokator in Cambodia and Shaolin kung fu in China.

However, history has shown that martial arts have thrived, especially when combined with martial arts from other cultures. For example, Mitsuyo Maeda brought jujutsu to Brazil and taught the art to a young man named Helio Gracie who in turn created Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

  1. Chinese Martial Arts History Chinese Martial Arts History

    China became the center of the martial arts universe in 2600 B.C. In 2000 B.C., Emperor Huang Di was noted to be a shuai jiao (wrestling) and pole-fighting expert and had his troops learn martial arts. Mongolian tribesmen introduced a violent style of skull-bashing wrestling to China around 770 B.C.; this art is believed to be the progenitor of ...

  2. General Martial Arts History General Martial Arts History

    Since time began, every culture has developed fighting styles out of necessity. Modern martial arts history categorizes Western heroes and martial societies as practicing martial arts, which opens up an interesting can of martial arts worms. Besides the ancient martial arts heroes of China (Shaolin), Japan (samurai) and Korea (Hwarang), the ...

  3. Japanese Martial Arts History Japanese Martial Arts History

    Mongolian tribesmen introduced the Chinese to violent skull-bashing wrestling in 770 B.C., and consequently, they indirectly introduced the Koreans and Japanese to it, too. In China, the wrestling was called shang pu, and in Korea, it was called tae sang bak. Tae sang bak is also a synonym for the Korean wrestling form known as ...

  4. Korean Martial Arts History Korean Martial Arts History

    Like many other countries’, Korean martial arts history begins outside Korea. The first martial art to be practiced in Korea was a form of Mongolian wrestling called ssirum, which was created in 770 B.C. and introduced to Korea by the Chinese in the late 400s B.C. Hundreds of years later, during the Tang dynasty in China and the ...

  5. Southeast Asian Martial Arts History Southeast Asian Martial Arts History

    Southeast Asia generally encompasses Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines. Important martial arts that take their histories from the region are pentjak silat, arnis/escrima, kali, muay boran, krabi krabong, muay Thai and vovinam. In the 1400s, two major silat ...

  6. Western Martial Arts History Western Martial Arts History

    The oldest record of boxing are pyramid hieroglyphs and mural paintings in Egypt that date back 4000 B.C. From these early origins, fighting sports were born like pankration in ancient Crete to today’s prizefighting. (The first recorded bare-knuckle champion was Englishman James Figg in 1719.) Western martial arts continued to evolve ...