Perhaps the common misconception upon many is that many if not all martial arts originated from Asia. Albeit we can never deny the fact that many martial arts came from Asia such as kung fu, karate, and taekwondo, still Asia is not necessarily the birthplace of all martial arts.
Martial arts as what we have read from books have taken its form today from many factors. it can be dated to many years ago, even before a system of writing was probably invented. A lot of arts are so old that no written historical account can be found to trace its origin just like the lua of Hawaii or the very pantjak silat of the Indonesian culture.
Sometimes, culture may have affected martial arts in a way that it could have killed them even before they flourished as in the case of China’s Kung Fu or popularly known as Chinese Kung Fu. On some cases however, cultural infusion has helped facilitate the evolution of martial arts just like the metamorphosis of jujutsu into jiu-jitsu in Brazil. Hence, martial arts can be formed through various factors- and this factors may make or break the art itself depending on the context and timeline.
Chinese Martial Arts
Perhaps one of the oldest martial arts originated in China. Martial arts there evolved from people battling animals for hunting as well as with other empires and tribes. The thing was, ancient people observed that animals in order to survive in the wild had to take advantage of their natural forms to fight and battle for survival on a daily basis. Hence they arrived at a conclusion that animals carry with them an innate capability to defend themselves and by copying their styles, through a lot of discipline, one can eventually learn how to survive as well just like how beasts do it in the wild.
Hence, the pouncing moves of the tiger was simulated, the agile flight of the eagle was constructed and the powerful beak attacks of the crane was copied. There are still many styles that were incorporated from animals such as the monkey style, snake style, and the bear. All of which slowly evolved and even eventually as religion took part in everyone’s life, it too became a basis for fighting. The immense discipline of Taoism and Buddhism were incorporated, hence the Shaolin Kung Fu and other poet-fighter stances. Through time, it was nature and discipline that formed the Chinese martial arts.
Japanese Martial Arts
The Japanese martial arts can be divided into two general parts. The modern one can be traced by the influence of the Mongolian culture springing up in Japan and teaching them Karate, Kendo and Judo. But the older type of martial arts in Japan is the one associated with the Bushido- the way of the samurai. One thing that’s common in almost all Japanese martial arts is that they specialize with carrying a weapon in combat. This was due to the past feudal conflicts in Japan, hence people need to learn a way of not just defending themselves with their bare hands but with weapons.
Samurais later emerged and started to revolutionize the warfare in terms of bringing in weapons such as katana and spears. The weapons would soon be improved according to the carrier’s preference, hence creating more sub branches of fighters.
Swords became popular until gunpowder completely dominated the main lands of Japan, however, later on, more martial arts would be derived such as Karate and Judo. But the common denominator amongst these modern martial arts is that they were strictly used for self-defense and not for aggression and showing off. Anyone caught manipulating others through aggression were stripped off their honor and were forced to leave the training taverns.
Western Martial Arts
Perhaps the oldest form of martial arts in the Western part of the globe roots back to the times of Egyptian Empires rose into power. The oldest record hence of martial arts in their hieroglyphics can be traced to 4000 B.C. where pankraiton, a sport similar to boxing- just bare-knuckle was highly popular.
The Western Martial Arts culture continued to evolve relative to the social changes that were happening on that era. The Capoiera for example was invented by African slaves when they had no choice but to fight with their hands tied on their back, hence only using their feet to defeat their enemy in a seemingly artistic but deadly dance. The Finnish created the art Kas-pin in order to defend themselves in the Viking era. French savate or more commonly known as foot fighting was only invented in 1789, the time when the French revolution started. Edward Barton meanwhile in 1898 combined different cultures in what seems to be his campaign for social integration through martial arts- he combined the jujutsu of Japan, boxing of the Philippines and Savate of France to concoct the Baritsu, a highly deadly form of martial arts. Evolution has never ceased to occur since then and what can be noted from Western martial arts is that they aren’t just for defense- their art capitalize on going on the offence to defend oneself.
Korean Martial Arts
The first martial arts in Korea was ssirum a fighting style created in 770 B.C. and was introduced by Chinese. Many decades later, Korean assassins helped China defeat Japan using the Tangsu martial arts- a fighting style that would later evolve into Tang Soo Do. Many more martial arts were introduced by China to Korea as their ties strengthened through time.
Southeast Asian Martial Arts
The most common form of martial arts in the South East Asian Region of the globe are pentjak silat, arnis, boxing, muay boran and even Muay Thai. All these arose during the early 1200 to 1300 as a self-defense to the conquests that were sent by the outside world to them. Martial Arts from the Southeast Asia is certainly one that only seeks to defend oneself rather than be the aggressor. Some more lethal martial arts were invented through time but generally, martial arts there are supposedly purely defensive.
Generally, although almost all martial arts originated from the Asia, it is wrong to think that all of them were conceived there. Also, different events trigger the birth, evolution or even death of a certain martial arts. In the West, oppression had led to the creation of martial arts. In Japan it was all about discipline while in China it was all about survival through copying the wild. In some places, oppressions led to an art being silenced and eventually shut down while for some it had served as a unifying tool. For countries like Japan and China, martial arts was so sacred that it was forbidden to share them to nations that were not binding allies. But for some, the mixing of culture had led to many more martial arts being created. In Egypt, martial arts may just be a form of entertainment and bloodshed but in some areas it was all about survival. Some used martial arts as a tool to oppress or conquer while many used it to educate and survive. There are many factors that trigger martial arts- and all of them shall be discussed in the next issues.