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Martial arts are as old as the human race. Any time someone applied themselves to become better at fighting, whether it was to be able to beat the caveman next door to secure the best chunk of meat at the camp fire, or to be better able to defend one’s own family and resources, the fighting arts were developed further. Every part of the world has their own indigenous fighting arts, and here we will talk about a few of them.

Most often, when someone says “martial arts”, people immediately think of Asian arts. However, it is crucial to understand that, while most commercial martial arts schools today teach Asian arts, these are by no means the only arts that are out there.

That being said, here is a brief discussion about a few of the arts that are out there:

  • Karate
  • Karate is a martial art developed on the Ryukyu Islands in what is now Okinawa, Japan. It developed from the indigenous martial arts of Ryukyu Islands (called te, literally “hand”) under the influence of Chinese martial arts, particularly Fujian White Crane. Karate is now predominantly a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands, and palm-heel strikes. Historically and in some modern styles grappling, throws, joint locks, restraints, and vital point strikes are also taught.
  • Aikido
  • Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as “the way of unifying life energy” or as “the way of harmonious spirit.” Ueshiba’s goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.

    Aikido techniques consist of entering and turning movements that redirect the momentum of an opponent’s attack, and a throw or joint lock that terminates the technique.

    Aikido derives mainly from the martial art of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, but began to diverge from it in the late 1920s, partly due to Ueshiba’s involvement with the Ōmoto-kyō religion. Ueshiba’s early students’ documents bear the term aiki-jūjutsu.

    Ueshiba’s senior students have different approaches to aikido, depending partly on when they studied with him. Today aikido is found all over the world in a number of styles, with broad ranges of interpretation and emphasis. However, they all share techniques formulated by Ueshiba and most have concern for the well-being of the attacker.
  • Ninjutsu
  • Ninjutsu is an art that uses strategy and tactics of unconventional warfare, guerrilla warfare and espionage purportedly practiced by the shinobi (commonly known outside Japan as ninja). Ninjutsu was more an art of tricks than a martial art. Ninjutsu was a separate discipline in some traditional Japanese schools, which integrated study of more conventional martial arts (taijutsu) along with shurikenjutsu, kenjutsu, sojutsu, bōjutsu and others.

    While there is an international martial arts organization representing several styles of modern ninjutsu, the historical lineage of these styles is disputed. Some schools claim to be the only legitimate heir of the art, but ninjutsu is not centralized like modernized martial arts such as judo or karate. Togakure-ryū claims to be the oldest recorded form of ninjutsu, and claims to have survived past the 16th century.
  • Judo
  • Judo is a modern martial art created in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the objective is to either throw or takedown an opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue an opponent with a pin, or force an opponent to submit with a joint lock or a choke. Strikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defenses are a part of judo, but only in pre-arranged forms and are not allowed in judo competition or free practice.
  • Kung Fu
  • Chinese martial arts, often labeled under the umbrella terms Kung Fu and Wushu, are the several hundreds of fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in China. These fighting styles are often classified according to common traits, identified as “families”, “sects” or “schools” of martial arts. Examples of such traits include Shaolinquan physical exercises involving Five Animals mimicry, or training methods inspired by Chinese philosophies, religions and legends. Styles that focus on qi manipulation are called internal , while others that concentrate on improving muscle and cardiovascular fitness are called “external”. Geographical association, as in northern and “southern”, is another popular classification method.

    Chinese martial arts training consists of the following components: basics, forms, applications and weapons; different styles place varying emphasis on each component. In addition, philosophy, ethics and even medical practice[35] are highly regarded by most Chinese martial arts. A complete training system should also provide insight into Chinese attitudes and culture.

    The basic training techniques in Chinese martial arts are usually made up of rudimentary techniques, and conditioning exercises, including stances. Basic training may involve simple movements that are performed repeatedly; other examples of basic training are stretching, meditation, striking, throwing, or jumping. Without strong and flexible muscles, management of Qi or breath, and proper body mechanics, it is impossible for a student to progress in the Chinese martial arts.
  • Tai Chi
  • Tai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. Though originally conceived as a martial art, it is also typically practiced for a variety of other personal reasons: competitive wrestling in the format of push-hands, demonstration competitions, and achieving greater longevity. As a result, a multitude of training forms exist, both traditional and modern, which correspond to those aims with differing emphasis. Some training forms of tai chi are especially known for being practiced with relatively slow movements.
  • Qigong
  • Qigong is a holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for health, spirituality, and martial arts training. With roots in Chinese medicine, philosophy, and martial arts, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance qi (chi), translated as “life energy”.

    Qigong practice typically involves moving meditation, coordinating slow flowing movement, deep rhythmic breathing, and calm meditative state of mind. Qigong is now practiced throughout China and worldwide for recreation, exercise and relaxation, preventive medicine and self-healing, alternative medicine, meditation and self-cultivation, and training for martial arts.
  • Tae Kwon Do
  • Taekwondo is a Korean martial art. Taekwondo was developed during the 1940s and 1950s by various Korean martial artists combining and incorporating the elements of Karate and Chinese Martial Arts along with combining the indigenous and traditional-based Korean martial arts styles of Taekkyeon, Subak, and Gwonbeop.

    The oldest governing body for taekwondo is the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA), formed in 1976 by a collaborative effort by representatives from the nine original kwans, or martial arts schools, in Korea. The main international organizational bodies for taekwondo today are the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), founded by General Choi Hong Hi in 1966, and the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), founded in 1973 by the KTA. Gyeorugi, a type of full-contact sparring, has been an Olympic event since 1992.
  • Silat and Pukulan
  • Silat is a collective word for a class of indigenous martial arts from a geo-cultural area of Southeast Asia encompassing most of the Nusantara, the Indonesian Archipelago, the Malay Archipelago and the entirety of the Malay Peninsula. Originally developed in what are now Indonesia, peninsular Malaysia, south Thailand, and Singapore, it is also traditionally practiced in Brunei, Vietnam and the southern Philippines. There are hundreds of different styles (aliran) and schools (perguruan) but they tend to focus either on strikes, joint manipulation, throws, bladed weaponry, or some combination thereof.

    While the word silat is used by Malay-speakers throughout Southeast Asia, the art is officially called pencak silat in Indonesia. Primarily a Javanese term, other names include silek (the Minang pronunciation of silat), penca and pukulan (used in West Java), main-po or maen po (in the lower speech of Sundanese), and gayong or gayung (used in parts of Malaysia and Sumatra).

    Generalizations in silat technique are very difficult; styles and movements are as diverse as the Indonesian archipelago itself. Individual disciplines can be offensive, defensive, or somewhere in between. They may focus on strikes (pukulan), kicks (tendangan), locks (kuncian), weapons (senjata), grabs, or even on spiritual development rather than physical fighting techniques. Most styles specialize in one or two of these, but still make use of them all to some degree
  • Sambo
  • Sambo is a Russian martial art and combat sport. The word “SAMBO” is an acronym for SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, which literally translates as “self-defense without weapons”. Sambo is relatively modern since its development began in the early 1920s by the Soviet Red Army to improve their hand-to-hand combat abilities. It was intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts.

    The pioneers of Sambo were Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov. Oshchepkov died in prison as a result of the Great Purge after being accused of being a Japanese spy. Oshchepkov spent several years living in Japan and training in judo under its founder Kano Jigoro.

    Spiridonov and Oshchepkov independently developed two different styles, which eventually cross-pollinated and became what is known as Sambo. Compared to Oshchepkov’s judo-based system, then called “Freestyle Wrestling”, Spiridonov’s style was softer and less strength-dependent. This was in large part due to injuries Spiridonov sustained during World War I.

    Anatoly Kharlampiev, a student of Vasili Oshchepkov, is also considered a founder of Sambo. In 1938, it was recognized as an official sport by the USSR All-Union Sports Committee.
  • Savate
  • Savate, also known as boxe française, French boxing, French kickboxing or French footfighting, is a French martial art that uses the hands and feet as weapons combining elements of western boxing with graceful kicking techniques.

    Only foot kicks are allowed unlike some systems such as Muay Thai, Silat and Yaw-Yan, which allow the use of the knees or shins. Savate is a French word for “old shoe”. Savate is one of the few styles of kickboxing in which the fighters habitually wear shoes. A male practitioner of savate is called a tireur while a female is called a tires.
  • Boxing
  • Boxing is a martial art and combat sport in which two people throw punches at each other, usually with gloved hands. Historically, the goals have been to weaken and knock down the opponent.

    Amateur boxing is both an Olympic and Commonwealth sport and is a common fixture in most international games—it also has its own World Championships. Boxing is supervised by a referee over a series of one- to three-minute intervals called rounds. The result is decided when an opponent is deemed incapable to continue by a referee, is disqualified for breaking a rule, resigns by throwing in a towel, or is pronounced the winner or loser based on the judges’ scorecards at the end of the contest. In the event that both fighters gain equal scores from the judges, the fight is considered a draw (professional boxing). In Olympic boxing, due to the fact that a winner must be declared, in the case of a draw – the judges use technical criteria to chose the most deserving winner of the bout.
  • Wrestling
  • Wrestling is a combat sport involving grappling type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedowns, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds. A wrestling bout is a physical competition, between two (occasionally more) competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position. There are a wide range of styles with varying rules with both traditional historic and modern styles. Wrestling techniques have been incorporated into other martial arts as well as military hand-to-hand combat systems.
  • Capoeira
  • Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music, and is usually referred to as a game. It was developed in Brazil mainly by West African descendants with native Brazilian influences, probably beginning in the 16th century. It is known for quick and complex moves, using mainly power, speed, and leverage for a wide variety of kicks, spins, and highly mobile techniques.

    The most widely accepted origin of the word capoeira comes from the Tupi words ka’a (“jungle”) e pûer (“it was”), referring to the areas of low vegetation in the Brazilian interior where fugitive slaves would hide.
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art, combat sport, and a self defense system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was formed from Kodokan Judo ground fighting (newaza) fundamentals that were taught by a number of individuals including Takeo Yano, Mitsuyo Maeda and Soshihiro Satake. Brazilian jiu-jitsu eventually came to be its own art through the experiments, practices, and adaptation of judo through Carlos and Hélio Gracie (who passed their knowledge on to their extended family) as well as other instructors who were students of Maeda, such as Luiz Franca.

    BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using proper technique, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the opponent. BJJ training can be used for sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition or self-defense. Sparring (commonly referred to as “rolling”) and live drilling play a major role in training, and a premium is placed on performance, especially in competition, in relation to progress and ascension through its ranking system.

    Since its inception in 1882, its parent art of judo was separated from older systems of Japanese Jujutsu by an important difference that was passed on to Brazilian jiu-jitsu: it is not solely a martial art, it is also a sport; a method for promoting physical fitness and building character in young people; and, ultimately, a way of life.
  • Okichitaw
  • Okichitaw is a martial art based on the fighting techniques of the Plains Cree First Nations. It was founded and developed by Canadian martial artist, George J. Lépine.

    Weapons are introduced early in a student’s training because of the influence of the weapons on the hand-to-hand techniques. The main weapons used in the Okichitaw martial arts system are the Gunstock Warclub and the Long Knife. Although only advanced students will train with these weapons, all hand techniques of Okichitaw are based on the hand positioning and attack applications of these specific weapons.

    The primary weapon of Okichitaw is the gunstock war club, (nontoni towin mistik). These war clubs were originally a derivative of the flint musket rifle stocks, although later versions were made to simulate the rifle stock shape and The Plains gunstock war club has a characteristic elbow in the stock in both the long (horseback) or short (ground) versions.

    Tomahawk, short and long lance and Plains dagger are also part of basic Okichitaw training. Hand-to-hand techniques often assume the use of tomahawk and knife, but do not always rely upon the use of weapons. In Okichitaw, the hand positions are held as though there are weapons – in the same way that Aikido’s kamae position assumes the use of a sword – but, as in Aikido, the techniques do not presuppose use of weapons. Most Okichitaw techniques have both weapon and open-handed variations but the focus is primarily through the application of hard forearm impact techniques.

    As in many martial arts, much of training is based upon one-to-one combat. The attacker initiates the combat, offering a physical threat using basic weapons – tomahawk and knife attacks, or a punch. The student demonstrating the technique responds to the attack, usually by immediately moving into the attacker’s space with a combination of blocks, strikes, holds, rolls or throws to complete the technique.

    As in other grappling arts, rolls, flips and body dives are means of extricating oneself from an attack. In Okichitaw, these maneuvers are also methods of moving into a technique – the flip, roll or body dive are part of the takedown.
In addition to these, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other arts from around the world. With such an amazing variety of fascinating arts out there, it is unfortunate that so many people limit themselves to thinking of all martial arts as simply being karate.

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