I love the martial arts. I’m sure you likely guessed that from some of my blog posts, but martial arts as a whole has given me so much throughout my life, that I sometimes wonder how life would have turned out for me had I never stepped into that first martial arts studio. Like any story, the martial arts has its own story and its a very old one.
Depending on what style you study and what histories you’ve read, there are different sources of information in relation to this. Although some lists provide different information, the majority of them agree that the originators of martial arts as we recognize them, originate from India.
Kalaripayattu is often-thought to be one of the original martial arts and the progenitor of “modern” Kung Fu. This style incorporated punches, kicks, forms, weapons as well as healing techniques. Practitioners of this style were known to incorporate pressure points and it is believed to be one of the oldest ancient martial arts still practiced today, making it well over 3,000 years old. Based on its history, Kalaripayattu is attributed to bringing Kung Fu to the first Shaolin monks.
Malla-Yudda is another one that traces SOME of its lineage to India, although it also includes several regions in the surrounding subcontinent. Malla-Yudda is a form of combative wrestling, and included punches, kicks, pressure points, choking, biting and grappling. It was believed to be extremely violent and even though the original form is no longer practiced (officially), there are variations still used today, making this style of martial art over 5,000 years old!
I’ve focused on the two styles that share their origins from the Indian subcontinent because these are the styles that are believed to have been the progenitors of martial arts as we know them today. But there are several ancient styles that trace their roots to Greece, China and Korea. These styles are also many thousands of years old in some respects.
By contrast, believe it or not, karate is only a couple of hundred years old. As its current form exists, it really isn’t old by martial arts standards. Granted, most forms of karate, which originate out of Okinawa, owe their existence to Chinese Kung Fu. So, karate is unofficially several thousands of years old as well.
There’s plenty of reading out there for anyone who would be interested in learning more. Although it can only be taken with grain of salt, Wikipedia has some good entries with lots of information. The best part about all of this is that the story is still being written. Martial arts may never become extinct, as the nature of the world generally makes for a need for fighting arts. ☯