History and Evolution of Martial Arts

The History and Evolution of Martial Arts

The history and ongoing evolution of martial arts is a vast yet exciting journey. These ancient battle and survival techniques have been in use even before 10,000 BC as shown by Spanish cave paintings depicting structured fighting in many forms of friendly competitions and self-defense training.

Martial Arts

In this article, we will briefly discuss the origins and evolution of martial arts. This information will help you learn how this unique art form has developed throughout the years so stay with us till the end.

Martial Arts: Origin

Though martial arts originated from various regions of the world, however, Chinese martial arts are considered the most ancient and famous of all. Shuai Jao, or Chinese Wrestling dates back to the time of the Xia Dynasty that existed thousands of years BC.

Martial Arts: Origin

Chinese martial arts combined with Japanese, Korean, and Indian fighting styles evolved into a kind of Asian martial arts around 350 BC. Different forms of martial arts have also been practiced in ancient Greece since 2,000 BC. 

Since these times, martial arts have gone through significant changes, and today these fighting styles are taught and learned by millions of individuals across the globe. Throughout the years, various cultures developed their own martial arts styles however, among all of these, Chinese martial arts have endured and flourished more than anything.

Different Martial Arts Types and Their Origins

Kung Fu

Kung fu has its origins in Shaolin Monastery which dates back thousands of years. Kung fu includes fighting styles like Wing Chun, Tai Chi Chuan, Northern Shaolin, etc.

Kung Fu

This fighting style has gathered so much recognition for its unique fighting stances, moves, and effective offense and defense techniques.


Karate, which is probably the most popular martial art originated in Japan in the city of Okinawa in the 1700s. Karate mainly involves kicks and punches. It also includes weapon training in some cases. 


Judo is a very popular karate style that was developed in the 1800s by Jigoro Kano. This style involves the use of throws ad grappling to conquer your opponent.


Aikido is another famous martial art that was developed in Japan in the mid-1900s by Morihei Ueshiba. This sport is a blend of various fighting styles, including spear fighting, swordsmanship, and Jujitsu. The main goal of Aikido is to use the energy of your opponent against them without causing severe damage.


Taekwondo was developed in the 1940s by General Choi Hong Hi who during his occupation in the country merged Shotokan karate with Korean martial arts such as Taekkyon and Gwonbeyop to come up with a different martial arts style.

Brazilian Jiujutsu

Another popular martial art called Brazillian Jiujutsu was developed in the early 1900s by Carlos and Helio Gracie. The grappling-based style involves taking down your opponent without using strikes or throws. This fighting style gives relatively smaller opponents a good fighting chance against large and heavy fighters.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is believed to have originated back in the 16th century in Thailand as a form of self-defense by the Siamese army. 

Muay Thai

This martial art style involves stand-up kicking, punches, sweeps, knees, and some clinching moves to take down your opponent. This fighting style is used predominantly in UFC matches where the fighter is demanded to be efficient in striking and blocking to avoid being vulnerable to submissions.

Martial Arts in the 18th and 19th Centuries

In these 200 years, martial arts become more of a hobby and sport than a popular method of warfare. Various martial arts-based sports, like fencing, Greco-Roman wrestling, boxing, etc., appeared on the scene. Around this same time, modern martial arts like kendo, karate, jiu-jujutsu, and judo were being developed. Due to the increase in trade and travel between East and West during this time, the Western world also began to learn more about these survival arts forms.

Martial Arts in the 20th Century

In the 20th century, martial arts grew even further in the US and some European countries. The exposure of European and American soldiers to these cultures in the second world war and the Korean War is believed to be the main contributing factor in this regard.

In the 1920s, modern Muay Thai rules were developed, the 50s saw the rise of Tae kwon do, and in the 60s Judo was first introduced as an Olympic Sport. In the 1970s, the very first Karate World Championship was organized.

Martial Arts in the 20th Century

These years also saw the rise of Bruce Lee who developed Jeet Kune Do. He made his name both as a legendary martial artist and a globally recognized movie star. 

In the 90s, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu began to gain the attention of the world, and tournaments and competitions were organized both locally and internationally. During this same time, UFC, or ultimate fighting champions became a world sensation, and many martial arts enthusiasts turned to this exciting sport.   

Martial Arts Today

In this century, pankration, PRIDE, and UFC promotions introduced and popularized MMA or mixed martial arts to the world. At first, martial artists from different styles were put against each other. Eventually, MMA developed its own fighting style and rules by combining techniques like BJJ, Muay Thai, wrestling, boxing, and many other martial arts.

Apart from MMA, martial arts like Kickboxing, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Boxing, etc., also thrived in the 21st century and became popular both as recreational as well as competitive sports. 

Martial Arts Today

This century also saw the presence of martial arts exercises and supplies in traditional gym settings where people use these for fitness purposes. Many gyms around the globe offer lessons on cardio kickboxing, MMA, and boxercise to fitness enthusiasts who wish to be in good shape without having to fight in a competition.

Final Thoughts

The world of martial arts is rich with history and culture which is as ancient as the man himself. Martial arts have evolved a lot in the past few centuries, and the future looks promising. 

Martial arts-influenced self-defense classes are expected to become more popular in traditional gyms, and many of these art forms are soon to appear in the Olympic games.

Martial arts have evolved a lot from the time of their inception, and this process will continue to improve and change in the future. We hope you have found this information useful and now you have a good idea about how martial arts originated and evolved into what it is today.