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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 world has witnessed great fighters like the Spartans, Vikings, Mongols, Huns, Romans, Ottomans, Macedonians, Goths, Knights, Persians and Celts. Warriors like Alexander the Great, Richard the Lionheart, Hannibal, Hercules, Eric the Red, Hector, Attila, Achilles and even Siddhartha (Buddha) trained in systematic ways of fighting and lived by a code of ethics.

This leads us to ask several intriguing questions. Did martial arts originate from China, India or Greece? Or have they risen independently? How did they spread? Many arts have come and gone. Recent efforts hinged on nationalism are bringing back lost martial arts, especially in Europe. So why has Chinese martial arts consistently endured and flourished more than in any other country? New evidence suggests Brazilian capoiera came from China rather than Africa. There’s a great history book waiting to be written.

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  1. Haruo Matsuoka on Steven Seagal and Aikido’s History in America

    Haruo Matsuoka on Steven Seagal and Aikido’s History in America

    Black Belt contributing editor Dr. Mark Cheng explores the history of modern aikido relative to the martial paths of the respected Haruo Matsuoka and his former sensei, action star Steven Seagal.
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  2. 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Jeet Kune Do Techniques Expert Dan Inosanto

    6 Things You Didn’t Know About Jeet Kune Do Techniques Expert Dan Inosanto

    Friday fun starts with facts about this acclaimed Filipino-American martial artist, who was a student of both Ed Parker and Bruce Lee. (And no, those aren’t two of the facts. There’s still six waiting when you click through.)
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  3. 2014 Black Belt Hall of Fame Nominations: Vote Today!

    2014 Black Belt Hall of Fame Nominations: Vote Today!

    The nominations for the 2014 Black Belt Hall of Fame are now open. Use our convenient online form to submit your selections in a variety of categories, including Man of the Year, Instructor of the Year and many others!
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  4. Savate: From the Back Alleys of France to the Martial Arts World

    Savate: From the Back Alleys of France to the Martial Arts World

    Most martial artists know that savate is the official fighting art of France, but they’d likely be hard-pressed to provide any further details. Savate expert Salem Assli is here to help fill you in on the rest!
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  5. Ninja History 101: Ninjutsu Training

    Ninja History 101: Ninjutsu Training

    Masaaki Hatsumi, one of Japan’s few remaining ninja practitioners, describes the ninja of old as the perfect all-around athletes of their day. Learn about the intense regimen that produced such well-rounded warriors.
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  6. Zen in the Art of Archery, Bodhidharma and the Shaolin Temple: Martial Arts Fact or Fiction? (Part 2)

    Zen in the Art of Archery, Bodhidharma and the Shaolin Temple: Martial Arts Fact or Fiction? (Part 2)

    Keith Vargo concludes his fascinating exploration of why martial artists find tales such as the Bodhidharma legend and Zen in the Art of Archery so compelling.
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  7. Zen in the Art of Archery, Bodhidharma and the Shaolin Temple: Martial Arts Fact or Fiction? (Part 1)

    Zen in the Art of Archery, Bodhidharma and the Shaolin Temple: Martial Arts Fact or Fiction? (Part 1)

    Martial arts history is replete with tall tales of philosophy and heroism. Zen in the Art of Archery and the story of Bodhidharma traveling to the Shaolin Temple are two prime examples. Why do martial artists find them so compelling? Keith Vargo explains.
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  8. Martial Arts History: Michael Jai White, Kayla Harrison, Tim Kennedy, William Cheung, Tim Larkin, Isaac Florentine and Other Martial Arts Leaders on the Influence of Black Belt Magazine

    Martial Arts History: Michael Jai White, Kayla Harrison, Tim Kennedy, William Cheung, Tim Larkin, Isaac Florentine and Other Martial Arts Leaders on the Influence of Black Belt Magazine

    In this exclusive video, martial arts notables share how Black Belt magazine has built an industry, has educated the public about international styles and has served as an authoritative source to shape the career paths of future martial artists.
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  9. 2012 Martial Arts Departures — Part 1: Jerry Poteet and Joe Lewis

    2012 Martial Arts Departures — Part 1: Jerry Poteet and Joe Lewis

    BlackBeltMag.com curates a retrospective honoring the instruction, insight and innovation these men shared with Black Belt magazine, its readers and the martial arts community at large in ways both large and small.
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  10. Download Your New FREE Guide to Hoplology — The Science of Fighting and Martial Arts Weapons!

    Download Your New FREE Guide to Hoplology — The Science of Fighting and Martial Arts Weapons!

    Have you ever wondered if — beyond authoritative martial arts publications such as Black Belt — there was a scientific endeavor to study how humans fight? Well, there is. And it’s called hoplology — the behavioral science that examines and catalogs the entire spectrum of conflict.

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