History of Martial Arts
Anyone could name a whole set of different martial arts. Most have tried at least one of them at some
point in their lives or actively practices it. Yet when we look at the history of martial
arts, at best we know a few stories about our own practice, yet what to speak about
the whole history of martial arts in the entire world. Hi, my name is RokasLeo, and today we will
fill this gap with a brief history of the roots and evolution of all martial arts in
the world. Definition
Before we begin, let us define what a martial art is. The word ‘martial’ derives from the name of
Mars, the Roman god of war, making the term ‘Martial Arts’ literally mean the arts of
Mars, or to put more simply – the art of war. This term comes from 15th century Europeans
who were referring this way to their own fighting arts that are today known as Historical European
martial arts. Yet in it’s entirety, Martial arts through
history can be defined as systems of codified practices and traditions of training for combat. While each style has unique facets that makes
it different from other martial arts, with some of them being more linked to spiritual,
religious beliefs or philosophies, a common characteristic – is that they are all systemization
of fighting techniques. And these systemizations started very early
on throughout the entire world. Antiquity
The earliest evidence of martial arts comes from depictions of fights, both in figurative
art and in early literature. Although Martial arts are commonly associated
with East Asian cultures, the oldest work of art depicting scenes of battle, dates back
to 3400 BCE Egypt in paintings. A section found in the Indian Vedas from 1700
– 1100 BCE, already contain references to martial arts with both armed and bare-handed
combat. Looking even further to the West, boxing became
a part of the Olympic games in Greece as early as 688 BCE with detailed depictions of wrestling
techniques being preserved in vase paintings of the Classical period, while the Romans
produced Gladiatorial combat as a public spectacle starting from 3rd century BC. Greek Pankration – a martial art that included
empty-hand submission with scarcely any rules used techniques from boxing and wrestling
but also other types, such as kicking and holds, locks and chokes on the ground, where
the only things not acceptable were biting and gouging out the opponent’s eyes. Pankration is actually even considered to
be one of the very first Mixed Martial Arts in history. Looking back at Asia, where most of our well
known martial arts originated – according to a legend, in China, during a semi-mythical
dynasty more than 4,000 years ago the Yellow Emperor introduced the earliest fighting systems
to his country. Yet the earliest historical references to
Chinese martial arts found in the 5th century BCE where a hand-to-hand combat theory, one
that integrates notions of “hard” and “soft” techniques, is mentioned in a book. Interestingly enough, the foundation of traditional
Asian martial arts is actually most likely not only a blend of early Chinese, but also
of Indian martial arts, since extensive trade occurred between these nations in 6th century
B.C. as they shared not only their merchandises, but also culture and knowledge. Only later in China, during the Warring States
period in 480-221 B.C. extensive development in martial philosophy and strategy of it’s
own emerged, as described by Sun Tzu in The Art of War (c. 350 B.C.). All this could be considered the dawn of martial
arts, as these early forms continued to be further developed and evolved in the Middle
Ages. Middle Ages
Most Japanese martial arts origins can be found in the Middle Ages during the development
of the warrior traditions of the samurai and the caste system that restricted the use of
weapons by other members of society. Originally, samurai were expected to be proficient
in many weapons, as well as unarmed combat, reaching for the highest possible mastery
of combat skills, which brought a lot of attention to the development of martial arts. Although it is likely that the first iron
swords were manufactured in Japan in the fourth century, based on technology imported from
China, the oldest schools of Japanese swordsmanship in existence today arose in the 14th century
and such arts as Battōjutsu literally meaning “the art or science of drawing a sword” developed
in the mid-15th century. In order to know how to counter an opponent
with a sword, the well known Jujitsu began developing around the 15th century too, combining
various Japanese martial arts which were used on the battlefield for close combat in situations
where weapons were ineffective. In contrast to the neighboring nations of
China and Okinawa, whose martial arts were centered around striking techniques, Japanese
hand-to-hand combat forms focused heavily upon throwing, immobilizing, joint locks and
choking, as striking techniques were ineffective towards someone wearing armor on the battlefield. Exploring martial arts during Medieval Ages
in China, we come across an early legend in martial arts, that tells the tale of an Indian
monk known as Bodhidharma (also called Daruma), believed to have lived around 550 A.D. who
is credited with influencing the unarmed combat arts of the Shaolin temple in China, while
also finding the meditative philosophy of Zen Buddhism. It is sometimes considered that actually here
the martial virtues of discipline, humility, restraint and respect were developed. With regards to the Shaolin fighting system
itself, the oldest historical evidence of Shaolin participation in combat is from a
recorded battle which happened in 728 CE and a defending of the Shaolin Monastery from
bandits around 610 CE. In Korea, a martial art also developed in
the Middle ages known as Ssireum where it gained widespread popularity starting from
the 14th century. The West was well acquainted with it’s ways
of war too, not standing down to it’s Asian contemporaries. Pictorial sources of medieval combat was already
present in 11th and 13th century, where also an earliest martial arts manual of the West
was compiled in a monastery, detailing sword and buckler combat, and consisting a manuscript
of 64 images, manuals of wrestling techniques where compiled even earlier. Wrestling throughout the Middle Ages was actually
very popular and was practiced by all social levels. Jousting and the tournament were also a popular
martial art practiced by nobility throughout the High and Late Middle Ages. During the late Middle Ages there was an appearance
of elaborate fencing systems, such as the German or Italian schools with it’s teachings
still being is preserved in a number of 15th-century books. Unfortunately, with the changing of times,
the martial arts of the West suffered a lot of loss. Modern Ages
With the rise of firearms, martial arts in Europe experienced a strong decline and as
a consequence, they do not exit with historical roots in Europe today to the same extent as
in Asia. Despite that, a number of historical fencing
forms and manuals still have survived from 1400 to 1900 A.D. and many groups today are
actively working to reconstruct older European martial arts to become a part of our culture
again. The process of reconstruction combines intensive
study of detailed combat treatises produced, including such styles as sword and shield,
two-handed sword fighting, halberd fighting, jousting and other types of melee weapons
combat. All this reconstruction effort and modern
outgrowth of the historical methods is generally referred to as Western martial arts. Some well known modern martial arts emerged
in the West during the modern ages too. A well known martial art called Savate, also
known as French boxing or French kickboxing, is a martial art that uses the hands and feet
as weapons combining elements of western boxing with graceful kicking techniques. It was born in the beginning of the 19th century,
mainly from a mixture of French street fighting techniques and fighting methods of French
sailors. This style is still actively practiced today. Even further to the West another Western martial
art emerged known as Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance,
acrobatics and music, which was mainly developed by West Africans in the beginning of the 16th
century. In Asia, most fighting styles that are being
practiced as traditional Chinese martial arts today, reached their popularity in the Modern
Ages too. The increase in popularity of those styles
is a result of the dramatic changes that occurred within the Chinese society in the 20th century. The present view of Chinese martial arts are
strongly influenced by the events of the Republican Period in 1912–1949, when Chinese martial
arts became more accessible to the general public as many martial artists were encouraged
to openly teach their art. At that time, some considered martial arts
even as a means to promote national pride and to build a strong nation, thus many training
manuals were published, a training academy opened, as well as demonstration teams travelled
overseas and numerous martial arts associations were formed not only throughout China, but
in various overseas Chinese communities too. Some of the best known Martial Arts today,
developed in Japan during this period too. After the Meiji Restoration in the 19th-20th
century which ended the ruling of the samurai class, Martial arts such as Judo, Kendo, Aikido,
Karate and many others where formed mostly by people wanting to preserve traditional
ways of combat, while the samurai culture was fading away into history and also with
the desire to adapt the old ways to the new times. The 16th century also saw the emergence of
Muay Thai, a traditional Tai martial art. It still took some time for the West to become
interested in the martial ways of Asia. Although the Western interest in East Asian
Martial arts increased in the late 19th century, due to the increase in trade between America
with China and Japan, relatively few Westerners actually practiced the arts back then, as
they considered them to be a mere performance. That still didn’t stop Edward William Barton-Wright,
a railway engineer who had studied Jujutsu while working in Japan between 1894 and 97,
who was the first man known to have taught Asian martial arts in Europe, helping to spread
them and to change peoples beliefs and opinions. Interestingly enough, he also founded an eclectic
martial arts style named Bartitsu, which combined jujutsu, judo, boxing, savate and stick fighting. Yet Asian Martial Arts weren’t still as
influential until the later 1970s and 1980s which witnessed an increased media interest
in the martial arts, thanks in part to Asian and Hollywood martial arts movies, which helped
bring huge attention to these practices, their popularity and growth. With the help of such prominent movie figures
as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and others, Asian Martial Arts today became a huge interest
of many people. As Easter Martial Arts were introduced more
and more to the West, other mixtures of martial arts started to emerge as well, one of the
most notable ones being what we now call Brazilian Jujitsu, which was actually more a changed
and evolved version of early Judo, than Jujitsu itself. Year after year martial arts kept evolving
and being mixed together with the appearance of Mixed Martial Arts or MMA, Taekwondo, various
military combat based martial arts such as Israeli Krav Mag and more. Epilogue
These days we tend to limit our definition of martial arts only to Asian combat practices. But in truth the Martial Arts history in the
world is far more wider and intriguing as most of have thought. We tend to forget that there are so many martial
arts that have a unique heritage and deserve their own right place and respect in this
world, weather it’s the playful Capoeira, medieval sword fencing, boxing, philosophical
Aikido or combat efficient Krav Maga, they all have their place as they shaped, mixed
and changed with the changes of time and cultures. Although it’s impossible to introduce all
martial arts histories in less than 15 minutes, I hope you liked this video. If you did, press that like and subscribe
button to support our channel and see us make more videos about martial arts.

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