The martial arts is a popular discipline, with around six million Americans having practiced it in the last decade. Although people today perform karate kicks and throw taekwondo punches, the discipline has been around since ancient times. Its unique name also has an interesting history.
What is the history of the martial arts?
An ancient form of combat, the martial arts has been practiced since at least 2,000 BCE. The discipline is thought to have originated in East Asia. Tracing the evolution of the martial arts is difficult, however, due to the lack of historical records.
The growth of older martial art forms, such as the Indonesian art pentjak silat, are especially challenging to examine without records. Cultural factors and revolutions have placed certain marital art disciplines under the threat of elimination. The historical records that do exist show the discipline has long prospered.
Four thousand years ago, China promoted the martial arts. Chinese Emperor Huang Di required that his soldiers focus on studying the martial arts. Chinese martial arts subsequently spread to Asia Minor and India via the Silk Road around 500 BCE.
Observing animals, such as pouncing tigers or attacking eagles, taught ancient practitioners valuable skills in fighting, which were integrated into Asian culture. The importance of combining art and combat was the focus of Sun Tsu’s The Art of War, the oldest military treatise, written 2,500 years ago.
The modern-day martial arts originated in 527 CE, when the Indian monk Ta Mo / DharMa taught other monks at the Shaolin Temple the art of meditation and fighting, taking the cue from movements in animals and nature. While the martial arts evolved in many East Asian countries, such as India and Japan, it was the Chinese martial arts that flourished and endured.
Our own “Mu Yae Do”, or “Martial Art”, “MooSool”, reflects the historical significance of “Mu”, or Blank, empty, and “Do”, or “Art”, “The Way”, “Way of Life”.
Where did the term “martial arts” originate?
Although the martial arts originated in Asia thousands of years ago, the discipline was not known by the term used today. “Martial arts” is rooted in Latin, rather than an Asian language. In Latin, the term “martial arts” literally means “art of Mars.” Mars is the Roman god of war.
Roman soldiers made appeals to Mars before marching into battle. They sought protection and victory. Since Mars was a significant influence over Rome, it’s no surprise that 15th century Europeans began to refer to their own forms of combat discipline as “martial arts.”
Upon the publication of the Japanese-English dictionary in 1918, in which the term “martial arts” was listed, the term spread to the West. The “martial arts” gained widespread recognition with the rise of popular Hollywood stars, like Bruce Lee, in the 1960s and 1970s.
What is classified as martial arts?
The martial arts is an incredibly rich and diverse field of disciplines. Each discipline is defined by unique characteristics, from graceful movements to powerful strikes. The numerous disciplines within the martial arts come with their own individual histories and purposes.
Sixteen popular martial arts are practiced by individuals all over the world today. Some, like Muay Thai, originated from Thailand, while others, like Taekwondo, hailed from Korea. The ever-popular Tai Chi, took birth in China and is practiced by individuals seeking relaxation, balance, and inner harmony.
Other forms of the martial arts include karate, which comes from Japan. It focuses on powerful strikes, kicks and open-hand techniques. Kung Fu originated in China and is exciting to not only perform but watch, given the elaborate forms and acrobatics central to this discipline.
Aikido, developed in Japan, is classified as a martial art; the Aikido practitioner harmonizes the opponent’s energy with a series of joint locks and immobilization techniques. A martial art that involves grappling and throws is Judo. Kendo also comes from Japan and utilizes bamboo swords.
Like Judo, Jiu-Jitsu emphasizes grappling techniques; its origins date back to Japanese samurai warriors who used its techniques on the battlefield. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a mixed martial art and also focuses on ground-based grappling; it was founded by a Japanese judoka who immigrated to Brazil.
Several other disciplines are classified as martial arts. These include Wing Chun, a Chinese martial art that focuses on close-range combat. Jeet Kun Do, developed by martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, seeks maximum efficiency with minimal movement. Krav Maga is a self-defense system that comes from Israel.
Capoeira is a lesser-known form of martial arts but is widespread in Brazil, where practitioners incorporate both music and rhythmic movements. Hapkido is a Korean martial art that emphasizes self-defense by redirecting an opponent’s energy to use it against them.
Every discipline of the martial arts incorporates strategies, techniques, philosophies, and cultural traditions that are harnessed during combat and self-defense. People today practice it for a variety of reasons, including personal growth, cultural preservation, self-defense, and the thrill of competition.
When you wish to become a part of an ancient discipline that endures today, Master S.H. Yu Martial Arts can help. Our highly regarded martial arts school provides martial arts lessons geared toward people of all ages, from kindergarten through adult. Our world-class instructors accelerate learning and growth.
Our martial arts program for teens and adults is based on the traditional disciplines, such as Judo, Kumdo, Hapkido, and Taekwondo. Those aiming to incorporate the grace, power, and dignity of ancient sword fighters are encouraged to take lessons in Kumdo, the art of the sword.
Master S.H. Yu Martial Arts offers a 12-week martial arts self-defense program, where students gain knowledge in their discipline of choice, whether that is Hapkido, Karate or Kung Fu. You’ll leave each class feeling greater confidence and a heightened sense of awareness of your environment.
Taking classes in the martial arts improves not only your physical strength, endurance, and flexibility, but enhances your mental focus. Students gain a range of physical, mental and spiritual benefits when they pursue martial arts instruction from our esteemed school.
Whether you seek to hone your techniques in motivating group martial arts classes or seek one-on-one instruction, Master S.H. Yu Martial Arts martial arts has a program for you.
Contact us at (708) 383-3456 or pre-register online today to learn more about our martial arts classes. Visit our Oak Park, Illinois, martial arts facility today to see how studying this popular discipline will benefit your body and mind.