History of Martial Arts
To learn martial arts we must first acknowledge the origing of martial arts. Martial art practitioners agree that the shaolin temple in the Hunan province, China is the birth place of martial arts. During the early 5th century, a buddhist monk named Bodhidharma (also Ta-Mo) travelled from India to China to preach Chan (Zen) Buddhism. He was appointed to teach in the shao-lin temple (built by an Indian monk named Ba Tuo in 495 AD. Bodhidharma, the founder of martial arts developed a physical training method which incorporated a physical discipline into a spiritual path. He did so to recover the health of the weakened monks and strengthen their bodies so that they could continue with the practice of Zen Buddhism , meditation and physical workout became the daily training programs of the monks , not very long enough the health of the monks improved and Zen Buddhism flourished throughout China. Futher the physical aspect of his teaching developed into different methods of self-defence technique which were used by the monks in times of need. Even today the Shao-lin temple is considered as the origin of all kinds of martial arts.

What is martial art?
The history of the early man is filled with countless war fare and glorified combat. Basic Instincts drive human to strike one another when pushed into a fight. It is part of who and what we are. Therefore, it would not be possible to say that the development of Martial skills and weapons by our ancestors was for hunting or for combat. There are many different types of martial arts broadly classified into armed and unarmed combat. Use of weapons in armed combat is indispensible while the use of only hand and feet are made in unarmed combat. In ancient times, martial art was practiced more for the purpose of self defence and not martial sport. In many countries martial art was taught only in the military and the common man had very little or absolutely no knowledge of self defense. The people then were harassed and tortured at the hands of the military officials and others influence personnel. Many a times the innocent had to pay with their lives. In those days, carrying weapons of any sort, by the common man, was forbidden by law and so the innocent people had no choice but to develop some kind of fighting technique to protect their own lives. It was in more or the same time period that many styles of unarmed combat originated. They were developed by great masters, most of whom lived in exile, and who were experts and well-acquainted with every aspects of different martial arts. These great masters taught their styles to the common people in order to protect their lives in times of danger. Over the time people began to realize the benefit of practicing martial art. They got stronger, their level of stamina had increased and they felt fit and confident than before. So it would not be wrong to say, that martial arts enhanced the physical fitness of the then poor man who had very little food to eat and a hard life to live. From then onwards, common people fought corrupt officials, empty hand and protected the lives of their own and their loved ones. In today’s modern world of peace and harmony, the use of martial arts has changed, all together. Nowadays no body uses this art form to survive to live or fight to kill, but is practised more as a martial sport.

Even today many form of martial arts use weapon but again only as a sport. There are competitions held world over and great masters are seen exploring and contributing to the field of martial arts more then ever before. However, the only popular form used in Olympic competition is the only unarmed combat i.e., Judo, Tae Kwon DO. The western interest in Asian martial arts namely Karate and Kung Fu dates back to the late 19th century. Also the unarmed combat martial arts is most widely practiced world over. A martial artist has to be much focused and has to practice very hard to achieve the level of excellence required in his field. Practicing under the able guidance of a master (teacher = Sensei) is a must. The sensei guides the young martial artist and teaches him to become a disciplined disciple.The student requires patience and dedication along with strong determination. Many young student drop out of class over a period of time due to lack of determination and fail to become a good martial artist. The first few years, in the life of a martial artist are the most trying ones for here he learns the basics; exercises, drills etc that will later shape him into a fine disciplined disciple. Some students are not regular to class and soon loose interest and drop out. It is difficult to learn about the level of dedication in a student until he or she has not achieved a higher grade or equivalent. Here it gets tougher than before, the practice sessions are intense and a very high level of concentration required. The basic in all martial arts include hand techniques (punches, block etc.,) feet techniques include different level of kicks and kick blocks etc, Different stances (postures), grappling, locks, chokes, throws, etc, and basically all martial artists learn different forms, drills, sparring, as well as meditation, though the syllabus may vary as per the style. Some famous systems are mentioned below;

1. KARATE – Karate is a Japanese unarmed self defence, simply meaning empty- hand. Being an unarmed combat only blows of the hand or the feet are delivered from a particular stance. The traditional karate styles are Shotokan, shito ryu, goju ryu and wado ryu.

2. JUDO – Judo is a Japanese martial art means the gentle way. It is used in Olympic competition. It stresses more on lock, chokes and throws.

3. KALARIPPAYATTU – A martial art that originated in Kerela, a state in India. It is based on the Gurukul system and consist of strict physical and self discipline training. It includes various techniques namely, striking, kicking, grappling, weaponry, choreographed martial art sequences, etc. The weapons used are sword, dragger, shield, sticks, spears, etc.

4. TAE KWON DO – A Korean martial art and also an Olympic sport. It has very artistic and powerful movements and develops excellent co ordination. It is one of the famous martial art most widely practiced the world over.

5. WING CHUN KUNG FU – A Chinese martial art (KUNG FU -Meaning skills). It stresses practicality and agility to maintain its ideals on effectiveness based on the concept that the shortest distance between to points. Its theory focuses on opponent’s centerline. It uses the least amount of required force in any fighting situation. Here, there is no substitute to hard work. Every student is aware of this fact.

History by Gauri C Naik (c)