5 Fascinating Facts of Martial Arts History

5 Interesting Facts about the History of Martial Arts

The history of Martial Arts is a vast subject involving thousands of years of history and that may be the most interesting fact about Martial Arts itself.  For now, let’s take a brief look at some unique perspectives regarding the fascinating history of Martial Arts.

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Zen Kick by Theron Sturgess 2014


  1. Not all Martial Arts Traditions Originated in Asia 

    One of the first depictions of Martial Arts combat was found in Africa, during the 21st to 17th  centuries BCE (Middle Bronze Age) in the cemetery site of Beni Hasan in ancient Egypt. Those hieroglyphics are evidence of African codified methods of combat dating back at least 3,700. 

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    Hieroglyphics of Beni Hasan

  2. Mixed Martial Arts was one of the first Combat Sports
    in the Ancient Olympic Games
    Many people that think that MMA started in 1993 with the first UFC.  The history of MMA is much older.  Pankration (Greek No holds barred fighting that involved warriors that would strike, claw, bite, grapple, choke and or submit their opponents) has roots dating back to 440 BCE. 

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    Modern MMA has roots that date back over 2,600 years.

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    Pankration athletes fought gymnos (From the ancient Greek, meaning to train naked.)




  3. Much of what people think about Martial Arts comes from fiction, movies, and books that glorify knights, warriors, samurai, and fighting monks.
    Take Ninjas for example.  What we think of Ninjas derived from old Jedai (Japanese Samurai movies similar to Westerns) that took their cues from old plays where the evil spirits were manifested on stage by stagehands wearing black uniforms to blend into the shadows.Much of the shadow warrior myth comes from these old plays and movies and then became reborn in modern movies and T.V. The Shinobi, shadow warrior’s famous straight sword the Ninjago, and shuriken/throwing stars are cinematic creations that furthered the shadow warrior myth.

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    The Hollywood version of Ninja didn’t exist as dramatized.



    As with much legend and myth, there are shards and slices of history within the shattered patterns of an entertainment spectacle.  The truth of the ninja lives beyond a deep dive through history with few records lost in the mists of time.

    These tales have been passed down for centuries. Many teachers have exaggerated the myths and misconceptions of ancient practices, their own personal history, and the utility of certain techniques, traditions or training methods.


4. There are no new Martial Arts techniques.
New techniques aren’t invented, they are rediscovered.  The span of history and exploration of technique and their application in dueling, war, and sport for thousands of years indicates that people have been experimenting with a massive variety of techniques and methods.  Methods of challenging a warrior’s skills refine those skills through a filter similar to natural selection. The most successful methods survive and are passed on until the contest method changes. With new rules of engagement, old ways are reformed and adapted in an effort to secure a victory.

5. What makes modern martial arts unique is our interpretation of the past along with the application of the present.  The usefulness of practicing ancient combat technique isn’t limited to self-defense or sport as most people define it.  The usefulness emerges from the pursuit of personal and communal development through testing one’s ability to learn, persevere,  while facing and overcoming challenges. We all need self-defense every day. However, it’s not because we must engage in combat to safely navigate our way through our environment.  Martial Arts training in our modern world can help us combat fear, apathy, and toxic lifestyle choices. We must learn to fight the sedentary death of our spirit in the glow of our digital demons.  In the time following the Meiji period in Japan, a shift occurred from Bujitsu, Bu meaning War and Jitsu – technique, to Budo meaning  The Warrior’s Path, Do – path or way.

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In time, War-Craft shifted to the Warrior’s-Way.  Warriors approached the Monks in ancient times to make peace with death and to learn how to focus their mind in battle.  The monks taught them how to train their minds.  This fusion of mind and muscle emerged in several ancient traditions and is popular the world over in current times.  The Martial Way is a path that helps an individual develop the unity of mind and body along with humility, compassion and an appreciation of self=awareness.

In conclusion: The long history of Martial Arts reveals another interesting realization.  The fact that Martial Arts practice has such a long and diverse history is a testament to its usefulness.  The Warrior’s Way has been rediscovered, reformed and adapted to many cultures in many eras of human history.  Today, Martial Arts practice in the modern world can help the student to defeat the enemies of feeling inadequate, alone, worthless, or depressed by linking us to our primal past and showing us the promise of a stronger body and more peaceful mind.


The Way  by Theron Sturgess 2014

Incorporating the ancient warrior’s way in our modern lives helps us to learn to adapt and flow with the challenges of life. When life knocks a martial artist down they have already trained themselves to get back up, face their fear and persevere. Life is a journey and Martial Arts can help you to become safer, stronger and more aware along the way.

Theron Sturgess 2018


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