The Evolution of Oriental Martial Arts
Extract from TAI CHI CHUAN TREASURE OF
MANKIND by Soon Tuan They
Most Martial Arts teachers claim that
their art was created or passed down by an Indian monk called Bodhidharma
who came to China
in 525 A.D. This belief is based on a preface written by Li Chin for a
book called "Yee Chin Ching" which has been dated at circa 628
A.D. He claimed that these arts were passed down by
"Bodhidharma", the founder of Wushu.
The earliest known edition of this
book was in fact printed in 1827, a period when many books were written
in the names of certain gods, heroes or influential people. No statement
of Bodhidharma on the arts of "Yee Chin Ching" can be traced in
the original Martial Arts texts (inside or outside) of the Shaolin Temple
(the temple in which Bodhidharma was claimed to settled) and yet many
texts, techniques and pictures have been created based on this misleading
Martial Arts are the product of a complex society, where no
single individual can be accredited as their creator. China is
a country formed from over fifty different races. People fought and
killed each other as one culture struggled for precedence over another,
or because justice was then a matter for each individual. Techniques were
collected and passed down by the survivors and perfected by their
successors throughout history.†
During the thousands of years of warring history, China has
made Wushu a profound form of art.
Amongst the many chapters of the "Book of Han" written
by Pan Ku (32-92 AD), thirty chapters describe bare hand, kicking and
weapon combat techniques, etc. Some stone carvings of the Han Dynasty
(206 BC-22 AD) have recently been discovered, which illustrate a well
developed system of Wushu present in the Nanyang region of the Honan Province during that period.
The flow of Chinese culture, most especially of Wushu from China to Japan, took place a long way
back in history.† In 238 AD† two "five foot long swords"
were given as a gift to Japan.
These are believed to have been modified and developed into the present
sophisticated Japanese Katana. In 1962 a Chinese sword made between
184-189 AD was found in a grave in Japan.
During the beginning of
the Ching Dynasty, in about 1558, Chen Yen Pin went to Japan at
the age of thirty-one to teach Martial Arts at the Shyo-koku
Monastery.† Three of his students, Miura
Yoshitatsu, Fukuno Masakatsu and Isokai Jino Saemon, formulated the arts
they learnt into Jujitsu, which in 1882 was further modified by the
Founder of Kodo-Kwan, Jigoro Kano into Judo. Morihei Uyeshiba a
practioner of Jujitsu , fencing and spear fighting, incorporated his
martial arts understanding with the philosophy of Taoism, Confucianism,
Shintoism and Buddhism. He aroused a great interest when he began
teaching in Tokyo
This art, developed by
Morihei Uyeshiba, has similar principles to the art of Tai Chi Chuan with
a heavy emphasis on the use of the centre and lever principles, and is
Most forms of Karate were developed from the martial arts
practised in the Shuri (called Shurite), Naha
(called Nahate) and Tomari (called Tomarite) areas of the Okinawan Islands. Karate "the way of
Tang Chinese hand" was later changed to "the way of empty
hand" by the Gichin Funakoshi, the first person who brought karate
from Okinawa to teach in Japan.
The Nahate is now presented as Goju Ryu Karate. Goju Ryu Karate was
brought over to the Islands by Kanryo
Higaonna (1853-1916). As a boy Kanryo Higaonna was fascinated with the
stories of China.
In 1874 Higaonna went to stay in the Hokkien Province of China for
fourteen years. He studied the White Crane System from Master Ryu
Ryu† Ko (Liu Liu† Ko). "San Chin", an advanced
kata of Karate, is still the foundation set for the White Crane, Wu Chu,
Tai Chu and Chu Kar systems.
Like the Japanese arts, the Korean Martial Arts were also greatly
influenced by the Wushu of China.
is situated in North East China and in 108 B.C. the Han Chinese Emperor,
Han Wu-ti, successfully sent his army to take over Korea.
The natives quickly adopted Han Chinese Culture but due to the natural
cycle of birth, growth, maturity and decay, which has always followed the
inauguration of new dynasties in China,
Korea broke away and
reunited with China
several times over the millenia. During the Sui Dynasty (581-617) Korea was divided into three separate kingdoms
which not only refused to submit to Han rule but also attempted to expand
their territories into China
itself. In 650 A.D. the Tang Dynasty Emperor sent 100,000 soldiers into Korea, thus reclaiming it for China. In
fact, some Koreans still called their Martial Arts "Tang Soo
Do" meaning the way of Tang (Chinese) Hands.
In 1895, China
was forced to sign an unfair treaty with Japan
which included relinquishing all her interests over Korea.
During the thirty-seven years of Japanese occupation, the Koreans were
forced to practise only the Japanese Martial Arts.
In 1937, General Choi Hong Hi, the father of TaeKwon Do, went to Japan, to
further his education. During this time he began to study Karate, under
Mr Kim. In 1954 he consolidated the art he had learned as a child, with
Karate and Kung Fu, forming the base of modern day Tae Kwon Do. In 1965,
he was posted as the Korean ambassador to my country, where he
recommended to his government that the name of Korean Martial Arts be
changed from Taesoodo to Taekwondo.
Due to the differences in physical, environmental and cultural
conditions, these techniques of fighting developed into systems with
individual style and flavours. Today there are 129 styles still practised
Some appear to be brutal and hard. Some are simple and linear. Some are
more sophisticated, graceful and artistic. These are categorised into
northern and southern systems, each capable of working as an effective
However, we are now living in a much more stable environment
where to kill each other is no longer necessary and certainly frowned
upon. A more modern way of practising these arts is to adapt them as
sporting hobbies where the main object is to encourage healthy living and
harmonious society to hand down to our children.