Martial arts timeline

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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 (3000 to 1000 BCE)[edit]

  • 20th century BCE – Murals in tomb 15 at Beni Hasan, depicting wrestling techniques, in present-day Egypt (in Africa).
  • 19th century BCE - Celtic wrestling (which evolved into Cornish wrestling, Collar-and-elbow wrestling, etc) is described as being part of the Tailteann Games which continued until the time of the Normans.[1]
  • 18th century BCE – 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 BCE to CE 500)[edit]

  • 8th century BCE – Roughly the start of Greek Olympic Competition. Through the popularity of the Olympics, martial arts like boxing, wrestling, and pankration flourished.
  • 8th century BCE – Homer's Iliad describes many scenes of hand-to-hand combat in detail.
  • 6th century BCE – Ten styles of Śastravidyā said to have been created around north India and combined in Takshashila, present-day Pakistan.
  • c.4th century BCE – Indian epic poetry and the Vedas give the earliest written mention of South Asian martial arts. Boxing, wrestling, swordsmanship, archery, and the use of numerous weapons are all described in detail.[2][3]
  • 264 BCE – First recorded gladiatorial combat staged in Rome during the funeral of Junius Brutus.
  • 50 BCE – Earliest records of a Korean martial art, namely taekkyon, found in paintings in the Muyong-chong, a royal tomb from the Goguryeo dynasty.[4]
  • CE 72 – The Colosseum opens in Rome, providing the public with the world's largest martial arts venue for over the next three hundred years.
  • CE 1st century – Buddhist texts such as the Lotus Sutra mention a number of South Asian fighting arts,[5] while the Khandhaka discourages their practice.[6] Vajra-musti is also first attested to.
  • CE 2nd century – P.Oxy. III 466, a Greek papyrus manuscript on wrestling, is written. It is the earliest known European martial arts manual.
  • CE 477 – The first abbot of Shaolin Monastery was Buddhabadra, an Indian Dhyana master who came to China in AD 464 to translate Buddhist texts to Chinese. The Shaolin Temple is built at the western base of the Chinese Songshan mountain range, at the orders of Emperor Xiaowen. Successive Chinese emperors authorize fighting monks to train in the temple.

Middle Ages (500 to 1500)[edit]

  • 550 – Indian monk Bodhidarma teaches what will be called Chan Buddhism. While there is no evidence he was involved in the martial arts, folklore would link him to the creation of qigong and Shaolin fist, as well as crediting him with introducing forms into silat. Chán and its Japanese offshoot Zen Buddhism will be influential among martial artists.
  • c.700 – Kuvalaymala describes non-keshatriya students learning martial arts from Hindu priests at gurukula or traditional educational institutions.
  • 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."[7]
  • c.800–900 – Agni Purana, the earliest known manual of dhanurveda, lists over 130 weapons, describes dozens of fighting stances, names techniques for various weapons, and provides a detailed discussion on archery.[8]
  • 1124–1138 – Manasollasa, written by King Someswara, gives the names of Indian wrestling techniques, training exercises and diet.[9]
  • 1156–1185 – Japanese samurai class emerges during the warring period between the Taira and Minamoto families. The warrior code of bushido also emerges during this time.
  • c.1200 – Kalaripayattu is a martial art developed in Kerala. Its origin is unknown, according to historians, it was practiced since "at least" 12th century.[10][11][12]
  • 1200–1300 – Bas-reliefs in Angkor depict armed and unarmed combat.
  • c.1200 – Malla Purana, the oldest known text describing the techniques of malla-yuddha.[9]
  • c.1300 – MS I.33, the oldest extant martial arts manual detailing armed combat.
  • 1338 – Japanese Ashikaga era, during which the samurai class expands its influence further. Many schools of swordsmanship flourish. The period ends around 1500.
  • 1346 - The first annual Kırkpınar tournament is held in Edirne in Turkish Thrace
  • 1400 – China sends delegations to Okinawa, which then begins trading extensively with China and Japan. The indigenous Okinawan unarmed combat art called ti or te (hand) is likely influenced by Chinese and Japanese arts over the next three centuries, forming the basis for modern karate.
  • 1477 – The Okinawan king Sho Shin, influenced by the Japanese, bans the carrying of arms. Similar bans occurred in Japan in 1586.[13] 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)[edit]

  • c. 1500 – Firearms become increasingly prevalent in Europe, diminishing the importance of traditional armed fighting systems.
  • 1520 – At the Field of the Cloth of Gold (the summit meeting between the English King Henry VIII and the French King Francis I) are extensive Cornish wrestling matches, including between the monarchs themselves.[14][15][16][17]
  • 1521 – Spanish conquistadors arrive in the Philippines, recording that the native population fought them off with broadswords and bamboo spears.
  • 1527 – Mughals invade India, bringing Middle Eastern weaponry to South Asia and, indirectly, to the Malay Archipelago. Indigenous malla-yuddha is supplanted by the Persian-derived pehlwani.
  • 16th–19th centuries – Most of South and Southeast Asia gradually comes under European colonial rule. Martial practices are discouraged, in some places banned outright and preserved in secret.
  • 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. Afro-Brazilian slaves begin to develop the art of capoeira.
  • 1621 – Wubei Zhi is compiled by Mao Yuanyi, which includes individual martial arts training with different weapons such as the spear and Dao.
  • 1641 – Chinese rebels under Li Zicheng sack the Shaolin Monastery for its support of the Ming government. While the monastery would be later rebuilt and patronized by the Qing government, it loses its fighting force and its place as a center of martial arts development.[18][19][20]
  • 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.[21]
  • 1674 – Maratha Empire founded by the warrior Shivaji, bringing his native art of mardani khel to prominence.
  • 1699 – Faced with growing intolerance from the Mughal rulers, Guru Gobind Singh militarizes the Sikh community in order to defend their faith and independence. Sikhs and Panjabis in general subsequently become renowned as a warrior community.
  • 1700s – Chinese temple frescoes depict Shaolin monks practicing unarmed combat. Okinawan te and Chinese Shaolin boxing styles mix as part of trade between the countries. Wing Chun is also founded in Yunnan.
  • 1713 – Sir Thomas Parkyns, known as the ‘Wrestling Baronet’, publishes his detailed book on Cornish wrestling, The Inn-Play: or, the Cornish Hugg-Wrestler, which is reprinted many times.[22][23][24]
  • 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 taijiquan are written down.
  • 1752 – Formation of the ‘Cornwall and Devon Wrestling Society’, which ran Cornish wrestling tournaments and matches in London with the Prince of Wales (Duke of Cornwall) as patron.[25][26][27]
  • 1767 – Burmese forces capture Siam’s capital of Ayutthaya and burn the kingdom's archives, including manuals on boxing and swordsmanship.[6]
  • 1790 – Muyedobotongji is commissioned by King Jeongjo of Korea and written by Yi Deokmu, Pak Jega, and Baek Dongsu. It is one of the most comprehensive pre-modern military manuals of East Asia.[28]

19th century[edit]

20th century[edit]

  • 1904 - Freestyle wrestling becomes an Olympic Sport
  • 1904–1906 Yamashita Yoshitsugu gives judo lessons to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 and teaches judo at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1905 and 1906.[34][35]
  • 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. 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.[36]
  • 1920s–30s – Timed rounds, weight classes and standardized rules are introduced to Southeast Asian kickboxing under European influence. Modern gloves are made compulsory, replacing the hemp rope bindings, resulting in less grievous injuries and fewer deaths but also making many traditional techniques illegal. In Thailand, the newer ring-style becomes known as muay Thai (Thai boxing) while the older form is called muay boran (ancient boxing).
  • 1923 - The different regional Cornish wrestling associations within Cornwall merged into the Cornwall County Wrestling Association ("CCWA"), under the patronage of Commander Sir Edward Nicholl[37] and presidency of Lord St Levan.[37]
  • 1928 – Shaolin temple records are burned, destroying many documents and records of earlier martial arts.
  • 1930s – Imi Lichtenfeld begins developing Krav Maga in Czechoslovakia
  • 1932 – Mestre Bimba opens the first capoeira school, calling the style Luta Regional Baiana ("regional fight from Bahia"), because capoeira was still illegal in name.[38]
  • 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 kata (forms) of modern karate. A second edition was published in 1973, many years after his death in 1957.[39]
  • 1938 – Sambo presented by Anatoly Kharlampiev; Nguyễn Lộc introduces Vovinam to the public.
  • 1938 - Bokator appears in the first Khmer dictionary
  • 1942 – Morihei Ueshiba begins using the term aikido to describe his art, which is related to aiki-jujutsu.
  • 1943 – Judo, karate, and various Chinese systems 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 (daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu), later to become known as hapkido.
  • 1945 – World War II ends, with many more American and British soldiers stationed in Asia exposed to the region's fighting systems. This includes the American Robert Trias who began teaching Asian-based martial arts in Phoenix, AZ.
  • 1948 - The Indonesian Pencak Silat Association (IPSI) founded
  • 1949–1950 – Ip Man leaves Foshan and moves to Hong Kong to escape the communist government and begins teaching Wing Chun to his first Hong Kong student Leung Sheung.
  • 1950 Adriano Emperado opens his first school in Hawaii of a hybrid martial art called Kajukenbo (the first American mixed martial art)
  • 1955 – On April 11 General Choi calls a meeting between Korean masters to unify the Korean martial arts.
  • 1957 – Nine Korean training halls unite under the name taekwondo (way of the foot and fist).
  • 1959 – Bruce Lee arrives in America and begins to teach Chinese Wing chun\Kung Fu style to his first student, African American Jesse Glover, the first documented instance of a westerner learning Chinese martial arts.
  • 1964 – Kyokushin Kaikan, a style of stand-up full-contact karate, founded by Masutatsu Oyama.
  • 1964 – Judo becomes an official Olympic sport.[40]
  • 1966 – International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) is formed.
  • 1967 – Bruce Lee founded the hybrid martial art system Jeet Kune Do which derives aspects from various stand-up and ground style martial arts including Chinese Kung Fu, its also influenced in the formation of modern Mixed martial arts.
  • 1969 Mike Sandos and Al Dacascos travel to China and learn to integrate the soft method to their Kajukenbo and develop Wun Hop Kuen Do.
  • 1969 – Greek-American Jim Arvanitis introduces a modern reconstruction of pankration.
  • 1973 – The Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon bring influence in audience of America and around the world in Chinese and other forms of Martial arts. 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. The book was based on the hybrid martial art and philosophies created by him, which created a different style in martial art system.[41]
  • 1981 - Mak Yuree forms the first Butthan school in Bangladesh.[42]
  • 1982 – Tony Blauer created the "Panic Attack" drill that will become the Spear System.[43]
  • 1985 – Satoru Sayama, forms Shooto, a shootwrestling organization. It would go on to become the first mixed martial arts organization in the world. Ukrainian martial art based on cossack combat traditions Combat Hopak is formed.
  • 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[edit]


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  3. ^ The Timechart History of India. Robert Frederick Ltd. 2005. ISBN 0-7554-5162-7.
  4. ^ Park, Yeon Hee. Tae Kwon Do. New York, NY: Checkmark Books, 1999. Page 1.
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  15. ^ Sewell, Elizabeth Missing: Popular History of France, Longmans Green and Co (London) 1876, p302.
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  18. ^ Shahar, Meir, The Shaolin Monastery, pp. 183–188, 190
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  22. ^ Hole, Christina (1949) English Sports and Pastimes. London: Batsford; p. 31
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  24. ^ Sir Thomas Parkyns: The Inn-play or Cornish Hugg Wrestler, J Bailey (London) 1713
  25. ^ The Cornwall and Devon wrestling society's grand carnival, Sporting Life, 1 April 1863, p3.
  26. ^ Chalk Farm Tavern and Tea Gardens, Morning Advertiser. 1 April 1844, p1.
  27. ^ Devon and Cornwall wrestling match, Cornubian and Redruth Times, 12 June 1868, p3.
  28. ^ Yi Deok-mu, Pak Je-ga, and Baek Dong-su, et al. Muyedobotongji, 1790 (Preface by King Jeongjo).
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  31. ^ Gov. Roosevelt, a Wrestler, New York Times, 1 December 1899
  32. ^ Wrestler has apparently defied all traditions of athletics and is throwing all comers, The Minneapolis Journal, 21 January 1906
  33. ^ With the wrestlers, the Cornish style will attract much attention, Waterbury Democrat, 14 February 1902, p7.
  34. ^ New York Sun, 17 April 1904.
  35. ^ "Journal of Combative Sport: Yamashita goes to Washington".
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  40. ^ "Olympic Judo History".
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  43. ^ Young, Robert. "The Spear System" (PDF). Black Belt Magazine.