A Brief Overview of the Origins of Martial Arts

//A Brief Overview of the Origins of Martial Arts

A Brief Overview of the Origins of Martial Arts

History of Martial Arts

Through out ancient and modern History all over the world there are many different martial art styles that are practiced in different countries by millions of martial arts practitioners.

This article is taken from a number of different books written about the history and origins of different martial art Forms and Styles it is compiled to inform any one who is training in martial arts who would like to read briefly about past History of the martial Arts in various styles.

Martial arts is a collective term for various types of self defense or fighting arts that originated in Asia. Most martial arts practiced to day were established in China, Japan, and Korea each which were taught into specific styles or systems.

Asian martial arts spread to the West mostly through Japan. Many of the Japanese immigrants who went to Europe and the United States to seek work towards the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, brought with them jujitsu and judo. Westerners became fascinated by these fighting methods and Eastern philosophy’s which enabled a small or single person to ward of or defeat a larger person or multiple attackers. Before World War 11, their were only a small number of people in the West that were proficient in the martial arts. In 1945 after the war many of the western armed forces occupying Japan began to study martial arts. On returning to the West besides judo and jujitsu both of which had been previously known in the United States, the returning servicemen brought with them the techniques of karate, aikido , and kendo. After the end of the Korean war in 1953, U S soldiers stationed in Korea studied the karate techniques such as tae kwon do and t’ang-su do.

Not until the 1960’s after the relaxation of the U.S. immigration quotas which brought in a larger amount of Chinese immigrants many who were experienced in certain martial arts which made it possible for the Westerners to learn and study the Chinese techniques of martial arts which before then had been kept very secret such as Kung-Fu systems as Shaolin-chuan, praying mantis, and tai-chi chuan

With these martial arts introduced to the West came the Eastern beliefs, culture and philosophy such as Taoism and Buddhism. Buddhism emphasizes the role of an individual seeking to attain self-mastery,
self –realization, and enlightenment. Taoism seeks the use of certain physical exercises and breathing disciplines to attain similar enlightenment .The martial arts viewed in East Asia
Many people believe that what we today regard as the oriental martial arts have their roots in India , looking at such disciplines as yoga and breathing techniques that originated in India which have great similarity between those and many of the modern martial arts systems. It is so noted that the evolution of karate began over a thousand years ago as early as the 5th and 6th Centuries BC.

As legends have it an Indian Zen Buddhist monk Bodhidharma known as Da Mo or Ta Mo in Chinese and Bodai Daruma or Daruma in Japan . Bodhidharama’s name stands out amongst all the Buddhist enlightened people second only to Gautama Buddha .

Bodhidharama was the 28th patriarch or successor to Buddha. At the end of the of the 5th Century Bodhidharma on Prapyatara’s influence a women who was enlightened and also initiated him on the path of Gautama Buddha travelled from India to China were he is accredited with bringing Zen Buddhism to China . On his arrival in Canton in 527 AD. From their he travelled to Nanjing were the Imperial Court stayed. He was greeted by the emperor Liang Wu who had thousands of scholars translating Buddhist scriptures from Pali into Chinese. The emperor had built thousands of temples and monasteries and donated large amounts of his wealth towards promoting the ideas and philosophies of Buddha. Emperor Wu was only promoting these deeds for self gain in the hope of one day being reborn as a God In Heaven. After a disagreement with Bodhidharma who ideas was not for self gain.
‘’On the path of Gautama Buddha there is no reward because the very desire for reward comes from a greedy mind”.

On the 17th October 527 A C , Bodhidharma took sail in the Yang Tze river towards North , to the Song mountain the home of the Shao Lin Monastry .When Bodhidharma arrived he saw that the priests were weak and sickly, so he shut himself away to ponder the problem. When he emerged after nine years of self seclusion and meditation, he wrote two classic books :Yi Jin Jing (Muscle/ Tendon Changing Classic ) and Xi Sui Jin (Marrow /Brain Washing) The Yi Jin Jing taught the priests how to build their Qi to supernatural levels and use it to improve health and change their physical bodies from weak to strong . When these exercises were integrated into martial arts forms, it increased the effectiveness of their martial arts techniques.

Because the Xi Sui Jing was hard to understand and practice the training methods were passed down secretly to only a few disciples in each generation. The Chinese fighting styles of the 5 animals emerged with the Kalaprayat aryan style of martial arts, which is known today as Tai Chi Chuan. Bodihidarama died in Shaolin Temple in 536 AD and was buried on Xiong ER Mountain.


Aikido is known as the three concepts: Ai meaning (harmony), KI meaning (spirit) and Do meaning (way) or the way of spiritual harmony. It is a self defence system that incorporates different styles such as Judo, Jujitsu, and many other styles.

Aikido was mostly formulated during the 1920’s and 30’s by Morihei Ueshiba in Japan. Morihei Ueshiba was born in Tanbe, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan on December 14th 1883. His father a wealthy landowner that traded lumber , fishing as well as politics . Ueshiba who was rather a small weak child was encouraged by his father to participate in athletics and often told him abut his grandfather Kichiemon who was a great Samurai.

It is said that Useshiba witnessed his father attack due to his political beliefs and aspirations. This persuaded Ueshiba to want to become skilled enough in the martial arts to be able to defend himself. Ueshiba began to train in Tenjin Shin’yo –Ryu jujutsu under Tozawa Tokusaburo in 1901 , Goto-Ha Yagya Shingan-Ryu under Nakai Matsakatsu between 1903-08 , and in Judo under Kiyoichi Takagi in 1911.

He became very serious about his training in 1915 while studding Daito-Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu under Takeda Sokaku .He was affiliated with Daito –Ryu for the next 22 years which he began to call ‘Aiki Budo’, the art that that would become known as Aikido in 1942, which was greatly influenced by two things , the training Ueshiba received in Daito-Ryu and the Omotokyo religion.

The ideas of Omotokyo was the unification of all humanity into a ‘heavenly kingdom on earth, which has philosophical bearings on Aikido .Ueshiba is referred to by his students as Osensei (great teacher) due to his amazing contributions to the art. In 1951 aikido was first introduced to the West by Minoru Mochizuki when he visited France to teach judo students.

Kisshomaru Ueshiba the third child of , Kisshomaru became the international leader of aikido when his farter passed away . This made him the second doshu, or ‘keeper of the way’ for the art. kissomaru influenced a large part of aikido by introducing aikido to the rest of the international world . Moriteru Ueshiba, son of the now deceased Kisshomara, is now the third doshu of aikido. Steven Seagal a 7th dan black belt in aikido and is considered one of the first foreigner to operate a dojo in Osaka.


Judo became the model for almost all the modern Japanese martial arts that developed from traditional schools (Koryu). Practised by practitioners called judoka.
Judo is the martial art of the meaning the “gentle way”. In 1882, Dr. Jigora Kano (The Father Of Judo) who is credited with jujitsu’s survival of the Meiji Restoration ,took jujitsu and adapted it to his new methodology which was known as Kodakan Judo .Jigora Kano was born in Japan on the 28th October 1860 , in the seaside village of Mikage, near Kobe.

In 1871, Kano’s family moved to Tokyo. As a young boy Kano was small, weak and often sickly in order to improve his health as well as to learn to protect himself at the age of 18 he enrolled himself in the Tenjin Shinyo Ryu School of Jujitsu under the guidance of Fukuda Hachinosuke, which was a soft martial art which included striking and grappling techniques.

Later Kano transferred to the Kito Ryu School to study under Tsunetoshi likubo which used a soft freedom of physical and throwing techniques. Kano began a comprehensive study of other forms of jujutsu such as Sekiguchi-ryu and Seigo-ryu.He also studied the manuscripts developed by founders of various schools, the I Ching (Book of Changes) as well as Lao-Tsze’sphillosophy. In 1880 Kano began to combine the best of the various techniques into one combined system so he could create a physical education that would combine mental and physical skill , as well as if the more dangerous techniques were not included in this system , it could be adapted as a competitive sport .

In 1882 Kano at the age of 22, presented his new – sport which he called Kodakan Judo .Kodakan which means ko (lecture, study , method ) Do (way, path), Kan(Hall , Place), so meaning “a place to study the way.” Kano established his judo school called the Kodakan, in the Eishoji Buddhist Temple in Tokyo.
In 1889 Kano left Japan to visit Europe and the U. S. He travelled abroad eight times in order to teach judo and several times to attend the Olympics and its committee meetings.

In 1892 Judo began to spread across the world when Takashima Shidachi lectured the Japan Society in London on the History and development of Judo. On 24th July 1905, representatives of the leading Jujitsu schools of Japan met at the Butokukai intstitute in Kyoto to agree on the forms of Kodokan Judo and to continue the development of the technical forms of the sport . The ancient Jujitsu techniques of each particular school were to be preserved in kata

In 1907, Gunnji Koizumi arrived in the U.S.A to teach Judo. In 1909, the system underwent change and Kodakan became an official Japanese foundation in the same year Jigoro Kano became the first Japanese member of the International Olympic Committee

In 1910 Judo became recognised as a safe sport and in 1911 was adopted as part of Japans educational system. In 1921 the Judo medical research society was established
In his lifetime Kano attained a doctorate degree in Judo, a degree equivalent to the Twelfth Dan awarded only to the originator of Judo.


Karate, or Karate-do when translated means (Kara-empty and te- means hand) the martial art of “empty hand’’. Karate do is the empty handed art of self defense which is practiced to harness both aspects of spiritual and physical perfection and harmony.

In the early stages during the 15th Century this undefined Martial art appeared on the Japanese island of Okinawa which is a part of the Ryuku chain of islands.

Karate was then a form of closed fist fighting which was developed in Okinawa and called T’e or hand generally known as (Okinawa hand). In 1470 under the Japanese occupation of Okinawa , the carrying of weapons were forbidden so the villagers had to learn different means of self protection against local heavily armed bandits who did not obey the law of the land which at that time dictated that any one found carrying weapons would be put to death,  which refined karate – empty hand techniques were trained in secret until modern times.

Further refining influences were brought about when other martial arts brought in by various  trade merchants to the Island .With the influence and importing of new techniques from China, eventually the new art was also translated as t’ang (China hand).

Gichin Funakoshi-(1868-1957)

It was not until the 20th century that t’ang became known as karate-do (empty hand). The suffix do was added by Gichin Funakoshi’s son, Yoshitaka Funakoshi .In friendly rivalry to his fathers Okinawa-te style which was a very hard and violent style. Punches were not pulled and full body contact was used.

Yoshitaka Funakoshi transformed the techniques of Okinawa-te into a gentler system and added the suffix do ‘ to light contact with the emphasis of more physical and spiritual development . Gichin Funakoshi was a student of the Chinese classics and of the martial arts , and he is associated with introducing karate to mainland Japan in the early parts of the 20th Century . In 1905 the occupying Japanese had authorised the inclusion of karate into the school educational system.

In 1917 the Japanese minister of education requested Funakoshi to travel from Okinawa to Kyoto in Japan and give the first display of t’ang. In 1921, Funakoshi demonstrated his system before the crown prince of Japan at Shuri Castle which was so impressive that Funakoshi was asked to appear at the first national athletic exhibitions in Tokyo .

In 1924 Funakoshi began teaching in a number of schools and founded the first University Karate Club at Keio University . Many other styles started to develop, including Kyokushinkai , Shukukaiand ,  Wado Ryu. In 1955 the first dojo of the Japanese Karate Association was opened. Two years later in Tokyo, on the 26 April 1957, Funakoshi passed away.

History of Kung Fu

Kung Fu in Chinese terms (Chinese , pinyin :Gongfu).

Kung fu and wushu are synonymous with Chinese martial Arts Kung Fu meaning “skill”, which incorporates hundreds of different forms and fighting styles such as Eagle Claw , Five Animals , Praying Mantis, Fujian White Crane, Wing chun and Tai Chi Chuan.

The various movements in kung fu are combined movements which are imitations taken of the fighting styles of different animals as well as Chinese philosophies, myths and legends. Some styles put more emphasis on focus and harnessing of qi energy, while others concentrate on competition and exhibition. As a martial art, Kung fu can be traced to the Zhou dynasty (111-255 B C ) and even earlier . As an exercise it was practised by the Daoists in the 5th Century BC.

Chinese Kung Fu can be split into various categories which are external and internal, as well as categorized by location as in Northern and Southern to what part of China the styles originated from separated by the Yangtze River . Northern styles emphasize fast and powerful Kicks, high jumps and rapid movements, Southern styles focus on more strong arm and hand techniques, and stable stances . Examples of Northern styles include Changquan and Xingyiquan , Southern include Bak Mei and Wing Chun.

History of Taekwondo

Tae Kwondo is a Korean martial art and national sport of South Korea as well as used by the South Korean Military. Translated in Korean Tae (strike or break with the foot), Kwon (strike or bread with the fist) Do means (way), loosely translated ‘the way of kicking and punching.

Taekwando organizations state that taekwando was formed from the earlier Korean martial arts , some say that taekwando derived from native Korean martial arts with influence from neighbouring countries or was to a degree influenced by karate during the Japanese occupation.

The oldest Korean martial art was amalgamated with combat styles by the three Korean kingdoms of Gouryeo, Silla and Baekje , men were trained in unarmed combat, strength, speed and survival techniques. Most popular was Subak, with taekkyeon being the most popular of Subak.

During these times an elite few select Sillian warriors were given training in taekkyeon by the early masters from Koguryo. These warriors became known as Hwarang. The Hwarang set up a military academy for the sons of royalty and influence , in Silla called Hwarang –do ‘The way of flowering manhood’.

The guiding principles were based on Won Gwangs five codes of human conduct loyalty, filial duty, trustworthiness, valor and justice Taekkyeon was spread throughout Korea. Formal practices of traditional subak and taekkyeon were reserved for military uses. Ordinary people still practiced Taekkyeon as a kicking game into the 19th century.


By | 2019-11-05T18:18:52+00:00 November 1st, 2019|Blog|0 Comments

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