Martial arts timeline

Martial arts timeline

This martial arts timeline is designed to help describe the history of the martial arts in a linear fashion. Many of the articles for particular styles have discussions of their history. This article is designed to help visualize the development of these arts, to help better understand the progression of the separate styles and illustrate where they interrelate.

The history of martial arts is challenging to document precisely, because of the lack of historical records, secretive nature of the teacher-student relationships and political circumstances during much of its history. It is likely that many techniques were learned, forgotten, and re-learned during human history.


Bronze Age (2000 to 1000 BC)

  • c.20th century BC – Murals in tomb 15 at Beni Hasan, depicting wrestling techniques.
  • c.18th century BC – the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic includes the major hand-held weapons (sword, axe, bow and spear) used prior to the gunpowder era.

Iron Age and Antiquity (1000 BC to AD 500)

  • 8th century BC – Roughly the start of Greek Olympic Competition. Through the popularity of the Olympics, martial arts like boxing, wrestling, and pankration flourished.
  • 8th century BC – Homer's Iliad describes many scenes of hand-to-hand combat in detail.
  • 6th century BC – Sun Tzu writes The Art of War, one of the seminal works in military strategy and tactics, during the Warring States period of Chinese history.
  • 300 BC – Foundation of Taoism, which later influences Chinese internal or soft styles such as Xingyiquan and T'ai chi ch'uan (Taijiquan), which involve the cultivation of qi (ch'i) and the study of nature and animal movements.
  • 264 BC – First recorded Gladiatorial combat staged in Rome by Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus
  • 50 BC – Earliest records of Korean indigenous martial arts called Taekkyon found in paintings in the Muyong-chong, a royal tomb from the Koguryo dynasty.[1]
  • AD 72 – The Colosseum opens in Rome, providing the public with the world's largest martial arts venue for over the next three hundred years.
  • 2nd century – P.Oxy. III 466, a Greek papyrus manuscript on wrestling, is written. It is the earliest known European martial arts manual.
  • AD 477 – The first abbot of Shaolin was Batuo, an Indian dhyana master who came to China in AD 464 to spread Buddhist teachings.

Middle Ages (500 to 1500)

  • 500 – The primary Shaolin Temple is built at the western base of the Chinese Song Shan mountain range, at the orders of Emperor Hsiao-wen. Successive Chinese emperors authorize fighting monks to train in the Temple. Other Shaolin temples are built in China thereafter.
  • 550 – Indian monk Bodhidarma (called Dharuma in Japan) founds Zen Buddhism and contributes Maipayat to Shaolin temple boxing. His philosophy includes static meditation and related breathing techniques, and includes the martial virtues of discipline, humility, restraint, and respect for life.
  • 630 – Hindu temple artwork in India depicts unarmed combat techniques.
  • 728 – Date of the "combat stele" at the Shaolin Monastery
  • 782 – Japanese Heian period begins. Curved swords called Tachi (large sword) appear. Although samurai did not technically appear until the 12th century, in appearance these are the early curved swords commonly recognized as "samurai swords."[2]
  • 1156–1185 – Japanese Samurai class emerges during the warring period between the Taira and Minamoto families. The warriors code of Bushido also emerges during this time.
  • 13th century – Malla Purana (Gujarat)
  • ca. 1300 – MS I.33, the oldest extant martial arts manual detailing armed combat.
  • 1338 – Japanese Ashikaga period, during which Samurai caste expands its influence further. Many schools of swordsmanship flourish. The period ends around 1500.
  • 1400 – China sends delegations to Okinawa, which then begins trading extensively with China and Japan. The indigenous Okinawan unarmed combat art called “Te” is likely influenced by Chinese and Japanese arts over the next three centuries, forming the basis for the modern art of Karate.
  • 1477 – The Okinawan king Sho Shin, influenced by the Japanese, bans the carrying of arms. Similar bans occurred in Japan in 1586.[3] Both apparently led to the underground development of striking arts and may have encouraged unarmed combat techniques designed for use against armored soldiers, such as Jujutsu.

Early Modern period (1500 to 1800)

  • 1549 – Hayashizaki Minamoto is born and later founds the art of Iajutsu or Iaido, the art of drawing and cutting with the sword in a single motion. Successive masters of his school can be traced to the present day.
  • 1600 – A newer style samurai sword, called a katana or daito, is widely used.
  • 1600 - Afro-Brazilian slaves begin to develop the art of Capoeira.
  • 1643 – Legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi is believed to have written The Book of Five Rings, a seminal work regarding the art and philosophy of the samurai and swordsmanship.[4]
  • 1674 – Chinese Emperor K'ang Hsi's army burns the Shaolin Temple at Song Shan, perhaps due to concerns around the capabilities of its fighting force. The temple is rebuilt, but this event disrupts 1,100 years of concentrated training in that facility. Many of the surviving monks are believed to have moved to other temples, spreading Shaolin boxing further.[5]
  • 1700 – Development of Wing Chun Kung Fu
  • 1700 – Chinese temple frescoes depict Shaolin Temple monks practicing unarmed combat. Okinawan Te and Chinese Shaolin boxing styles mix as part of trade between the countries.
  • 1743 – Jack Broughton, an English bare-knuckle fighter, writes the first rules of boxing, later to become the London Prize Ring rules in 1838.
  • 1750 – Techniques of the Chinese martial art T'ai chi are written down.
  • 1790 – Muyedobotongji is commissioned by King Jeongjo of Korea and written by Yi Deok-mu, Pak Je-ga, and Baek Dong-su. 24 techniques are illustrated and described, of which one deals with unarmed combat, 21 deal with armed combat, and six include equestrian skills. Drawing from Korean, Chinese, and Japanese sources, it is one of the most comprehensive pre-modern military manuals of East Asia.[6]

19th century

20th century

  • 1900 – British and American soldiers in Japan begin learning techniques from the Japanese Army.
  • 1908 – Amateur boxing becomes an Olympic Sport.
  • 1920-1925 – Mitsuyo Maeda, a student of Jigoro Kano's, travels to Brazil (among other places) to spread Judo teachings. He also participates in several challenge matches. In 1925, Carlos Gracie, a student of Mitsuyo Maeda, opens his school, the first for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The art is further refined by the Gracie family thereafter, particularly by Carlos' brother Helio Gracie.[7]
  • 1928 – Shaolin temple records are burned, destroying many documents and records of earlier martial arts.
  • Unspecified date 1930s - The Thai Government introduces codified rules and regulations for Muay Thai (Thai Boxing)competitions. Gloves are made compulsory, replacing the hemp rope bindings used prior to the 1930s. Weight classes are also standardised and introduced.
  • Unspecified date 1930's Imi Lichtenfeld begins developing Krav Maga in Czechoslovakia
  • 1935 – “Karate” becomes official name of the Okinawan martial arts, based on the traditional art of “Te” (hand) and the term “Kara” (empty or unarmed).
  • 1936 – Gichin Funakoshi publishes the first edition of his book Karate-Do Kyohan, documenting much of the philosophy and traditional katas (forms) of modern Karate. A second edition was published in 1973, many years after his death in 1957.[8]
  • 1938 – Sambo presented by Anatoly Kharlampiev; Nguyễn Lộc introduced Vovinam to the public.
  • 1942 – Morihei Ueshiba begins using the term Aikido to describe his art, which is related to aiki-jujutsu. He is credited as the father of Aikido.
  • 1943 – Judo, Karate, and Kung Fu are officially introduced in Korea, likely beginning to mix with the indigenous Korean arts.
  • 1945 – First Korean dojang, or martial arts school, opens in Seoul, Korea. Many other schools follow. Korean military personnel receive training in martial arts.
  • 1945 - Choi, Yong Sool travels back to Korea after living in Japan with Sokaku Takeda. He Begins teaching Dai Dong Yusool(Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu), later to become known as Hapkido.
  • 1945 – World War II ends, with many more American and British soldiers stationed in Asia exposed to the martial arts. This includes the American Robert A. Trias who began teaching Asian based martial arts in Phoenix, AZ.
  • 1955 - On April 11 General Choi calls a meeting between Korean Masters to unify the Korean Martial Arts.
  • 1956 – Shimabuku holds a meeting with his students and proclaims his new system as “Isshinryu”.
  • 1957 – Taekwondo becomes the official name of the Korean martial arts.
  • 1959 – Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA) is formed.
  • 1964 – Kyokushin Kaikan a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in by Masutatsu Oyama.
  • 1966 – International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) is formed.
  • 1971 - The Chinese Goju System is formed by Ron Van Clief and Owen Watson, both students of Senseis Frank Ruiz and Peter Urban.
  • 1972 – Judo becomes an official Olympic sport.
  • 1973 – The Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon brings Asian martial arts to the United States domestic audience. He dies that same year.
  • 1973 – World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) is formed.
  • 1975 – Bruce Lee's book "Tao of Jeet Kune Do" is published post-mortem. He credits the influence of western boxing and fencing in developing his art, among others.[9]
  • 1978 – Tukong Moosul developed by Jang Su-ok and adopted by South Korean Special Warfare Command.[10][11]
  • 1980 – Ashihara kaikan a style of stand-up, full contact karate, founded in by Hideyuki Ashihara. Often referred to as "fighting karate" by its practitioners.
  • 1983 – Nhat Nam a Vietnamese martial art, was officially introduced by martial arts master Ngo Xuan Binh.
  • 1988 – WTF-style Taekwondo becomes an Olympic demonstration sport, later becoming a full-medal sport in 2000.
  • 1993 – The first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is held. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Royce Gracie wins the event.

21st century


  1. ^ Park, Yeon Hee. Tae Kwon Do. New York, NY: Checkmark Books, 1999. Page 1.
  2. ^ Shimbabukuro, Masayuki and Pellman, Leonard. Flashing Steel - Mastering Eishin-Ryu Swordsmanship. Berkeley, CA: Frog Ltd, 1995
  3. ^ Reid, Howard and Croucher, Michael. The Way of the Warrior – The Paradox of the Martial Arts. New York, NY: Overlook Press, 1983. Page 155.
  4. ^ Musashi, Miyamoto. The Book of Five Rings. Translated by Thomas Cleary. New York, NY: Shambhala, 2000.
  5. ^ Reid, Howard and Croucher, Michael. The Way of the Warrior – The Paradox of the Martial Arts. New York, NY: Overlook Press, 1983. Page 62.
  6. ^ Yi Deok-mu, Pak Je-ga, and Baek Dong-su, et al. Muyedobotongji, 1790 (Preface by King Jeongjo).
  7. ^ Gracie, Renzo and Gracie, Royler. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Montpelier, VT: Invisible Cities Press, 2001
  8. ^ Funakoshi, Gichin. Karate-Do Kyohan - The Master Text Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1973.
  9. ^ Lee, Bruce and Lee, Linda. Tao of Jeet Kun Do. Burbank, CA: O'Hara Publications, 1975.
  10. ^ History of Tukong Moosul, 대한특공무술협회 (Korean).
  11. ^ 장수옥. ㅌ특공무술이해(경호무도의 역할). 경호출판사, 2005.

13. ^ Historical interview with Jason White produced by www.WarriorVideos.Net - 2008 2000 - Goshin Ryu Bujutsu is formalized by Glenn Perry, a student of Grandmasters Ron Van Clief and Pierre Rene. Goshin Ryu is a combination of the hard and soft styles of Ju Jutsu and Karate-Jutsu.

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