The History of Martial Arts

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It is believed that Martial Arts began in Mongolia and spread south to China, Japan and other southern Asian countries. Chinese martial arts can be traced to the Zhou Dynasty about 1000 years BC when all males were expected to defend themselves and their families.

Shaolin Buddhist Monasteries started training their monks in weaponless defence and attack, but even these martial arts were preceded by centuries by Shuai Jaio and Sun Bin Quan styles of fighting. Buddhism also carried it with them on the move east from India and had a significant influence on Shaolin Kungfu. Also, the 108 pressure points could have been derived from the Indian teachings.

A 5th-century Chinese prince, who became a Buddhist monk, started his style and much of the Shaolin style is from these teachings, and this was the formation of the stylization and rules of Kungfu which had, until then, an ill-defined and personal style.

It is, however, the modern belief that these facts do not add up as there is no known record of Bodhidharma in the older classics. The discovery of a massive hoard of weapons in monasteries in 446 AD indicates that the monks were practising martial arts before the Shaolin monasteries.


The use of weapons by the non-warrior classes was not allowed. These unfortunates had to rely on their abilities for protection. The warrior class, or Samurai, we’re proficient in weapons and hand to hand compact. The training of these combatants was rigorous, and they were expected to train daily to maintain their fitness. To promote themselves and be noticed by the lords and royals the Samurai had to attain the highest level of proficiency in all skills to save “face” for themselves and their lords who employed them and kept them. When the Samurai class was banned, these men had nowhere to go and became thieves and robbers, and no travellers were safe from their attacks.


The Koreans followed their form of combat and wrestling was the main preferred style, and this included archery. For many years from before the birth of Christ for about 700 years empty-handed fighting called Subak, apart from the unarmed combat styles included bows and arrows and horse-riding.

King Seonjo, 1567 to 1608, was introduced to martial arts by the Chinese who had helped Korea fight off the Japanese who had invaded Korea. He ordered his followers to study the Chinese style of military strategies. This, together with their methods, formed the style known today.

Other countries to develop their styles of martial arts were the Philippines and Vietnam, basically from the Chinese. Today martial arts in many forms is practised and taught in every country in the world. Some of these students reach international standards and exhibit their skills in competitions and in the Olympic games which will be held in Tokyo, Japan in 2020. The styles to be included will be wrestling, boxing, judo, karate, taekwondo and fencing.