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James Burke

Ms. ********

World History

28 February 2007

Martial Arts throughout the world

Board breaking, high flying kicks, fancy acrobatics, monks, and Chuck Norris are all

things that usually come to mind when the term Martial Arts is used. Popular culture has heavily

influenced the way these ancient arts are perceived, however most people have a rough

understanding that they are at least missing some of the facts. Martial arts are more than just

fighting techniques and looking cool, they are a way of life practiced for centuries throughout the

world. They cultivate not only the body physically, but mentally and spiritually as well.

The exact origin of martial arts is still a mystery. Traces of Martial arts have been found

all over the world, tracing back as far as 2000 B.C. (History...Martial Arts). The eastern martial

arts that most people are familiar with are said to have been brought from Tibet and India to

china by a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma between A.D. 4702 and 543 ( History...Martial

Arts). In order to complete the extreme training necessary to ascend Zen Bodhidharma's disciples

built on Indian combat moves to prepare themselves mentally and physically (History...Martial

Arts). Over time this art developed into the Chinese martial arts currently known as Kempo

(History...Martial Arts).

Evidence of martial arts have been found in Korean tombs dating back to A.D 37

(History...Martial Arts). After hundreds of years of evolving, the primitive art became a well

composed system called “soo bahk” (History...Martial Arts). Soo bahk was taught to high
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members of the Korean military, as well as special forces, which later evolved to what is known

today as Tae Kwon Do (Tae Kwon Do). While Korea was inhabited by Japan many Korean

styles took on the techniques of Japanese arts (Tae Kwon Do).

Japan was the last of the Asian countries to develop a martial arts (History...Martial Arts).

Around A.D 220 simple warrior training called chikara kurabe was created (History...Martial

Arts). It was discovered quickly that just using speed and technique to disable an opponent or

disrupt their balance was easier than fighting with heavy suits on (History...Martial Arts).

Beginning in the seventeenth century, Jujitsu was the foundation of modern Japanese martial arts

(History...Martial Arts).

The arts in the United States are not all that different from their original forms in various

Asian countries. They still stand for self-defense and self-discipline of the body and mind

( After World War II, Americans who had seen several examples of martial

arts practice returned to the United States fascinated by the new world they had seen (History..

United States). They set up their dojos of practice and invited experts from the far east to come

and teach (History.. United States).

There are hundreds of styles of martial arts throughout the world. They are all different,

but are alike at the same time. Some focus on unbalancing an opponent and tossing them to the

ground while others practice on swordsmanship and honor, and others may have been developed

for military reasons. However every art is a way of living in its own respect.

Wushu, more commonly known as Kung Fu, is a group a several hundred unarmed

Chinese martial arts (History..Kung Fu). This includes anything from different fighting styles,

mediating arts, and gymnastics (History..Kung Fu). Every variation covers physical exercise,
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mediation, concentration, and Chinese philosophy, in one form or another, usually focusing on a

single area over the others (Wushu). A large difference between the versions of the arts are their

origins. In north Buddhist China, monks focused on speed and strength, while their southern

Taoist counter parts relied on more balanced movements and complicated techniques.

Originally developed for military purposes, Wushu literally means military art, or the art

of fighting (Wushu). However modernization has transformed kung fu into a practice for the

general public, and mainly the entire country of China (Wushu). Training in Wushu has allowed

almost anyone to increase their health and fitness (Wushu). Exercises have been adapted to fit the

times and busy lifestyles of the modern world (Wushu).

Ever since the mid-nineteenth century kung fu has been practiced in America

(History..Kung Fu). However until 1957 when the first dojo opened in Hawaii, most training was

done in private away from the general publics' viewing and participation (History..Kung Fu).

During the nineteen seventies during the height of kung fu action flicks staring actors like Bruce

Lee, Wushu was spread throughout the world to almost anyone who wanted to have a try at it

(History..Kung Fu). However to this day the most important techniques and abilities are hidden

(History..Kung Fu).

The master of a martial art is often portrayed as an old man with a long curly beard that

even in old age can do multiple back flips and run up walls. Obviously this is a bit of an

exaggeration, but there are still a hand full of people who truly shaped martial arts to its current

form. These include movie stars popularizing the practice of martial arts in their movies, to

masters of their art starting schools around the world, and early users developing their skills and

evolving the martial arts they love. Common names such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Chuck
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Norris, to the lesser known Jhoon Rhee, and Sosai Masutatsu Oyama, all influenced and continue

to affect the world.

The father of modern Tae Kwon Do is often a title given to Jhoon Rhee (Jhoon Rhee). He

is responsible for the movement of Tae Kwon Do to the United States (Jhoon Rhee). He was

born in South Korea in 1932 (Jhoon Rhee). He picked up martial arts at the age of 15 after

growing tired of bullies (Jhoon Rhee). After a bully would not leave him alone Rhee challenged

the bully to a fight, and won, gaining the respect of his peers (Jhoon Rhee). After the removal of

Japanese troops from Korea, he became fascinated with American culture (Jhoon Rhee).

Rhee had planned to moved to America, but was delayed when North and South Korea

engaged in a civil war (Jhoon Rhee). After being drafted and surviving the war, he moved to the

United States and began to study engineering (Jhoon Rhee). He started his first school in

Washington D.C. In 1962 (Jhoon Rhee). At first he did not have any students and was unable to

pay teachers (Jhoon Rhee). But Rhee did not lose faith, his school soon had over a hundred

students, and was soon operating schools throughout the country (Jhoon Rhee).

The “Jhoon Rhee Fighting Style” spread through the country as martial arts grew in

popular culture (Jhoon Rhee). Rhee based his teachings off of the lessons he learned as a child

(Jhoon Rhee). He taught less contact was necessary to subdue an opponent, and knocking them

off balance was more efficient (Jhoon Rhee). He has even taken his art to congress, where he

discussed the importance of martial arts and exercise in general (Jhoon Rhee). He demonstrated

by doing a hundred push-ups in under a minute, and vowed that in 2032 he would be back to do

it again at the age of 100 (Jhoon Rhee).

Bruce Lee was the largest influence of martial arts in popular culture (Bruce Lee).
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He stared in numerous movies and defined martial arts as the public sees them today (Bruce

Lee). A master of the art, and a great actor, Bruce Lee lived a short life that was brought to an

end at the age of 32 (Bruce Lee). He was born in 1940 and died in 1973 (Bruce Lee).

He was born in the United States, however his family moved back to China when he was

less than a year old (Bruce Lee). Growing up on the streets of Hong Kong were rough for him

(Bruce Lee). He was involved in gangs and has been quoted as saying,

“Kids [in Hong Kong] have nothing to look forward to. The white

[British] kids have all the best jobs and the rest of us had to work for

them. That is why most of the kids became punks. Life in Hong

Kong is so bad. Kids can never get out.”

He began taking lessons in a style of kung fu at the Wing Chun School (Bruce Lee). He was

extremely good, and soon began adding his own techniques and style (Bruce Lee). However this

was considered treasonous and he was kicked out (Bruce Lee). His acting was being noticed, and

he was offered a chance to star in major productions before his high school education was over

(Bruce Lee). His parents sent him to America to make sure he finished school and was not

distracted by future prospects (Bruce Lee).

After graduating high school, he began teaching kung fu for money (Bruce Lee). He

married Linda Emery, one of his students, in 1964 (Bruce Lee). The next year they had a child

and moved to California where Lee began to pursue his acting career (Bruce Lee). His first large

role was as Kato on the show The Green Hornet (Bruce Lee). Although the show itself was short

lived, the character that he created was unforgettable (Bruce Lee). Using fancy hand movements

and overly exaggerated kicks, Bruce Lee shaped the way America would view martial arts
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(Bruce Lee).

Despite his talent, Hollywood executives refused to risk anything and gave Lee small

roles (Bruce Lee). He decided to move back to Hong Kong where he would get the attention and

parts he deserved (Bruce Lee). He signed a contract almost immediately to produce two movies

(Bruce Lee). His first movie quickly became the highest grossing film in China, followed shortly

by his second, which did even better (Bruce Lee). He soon started his own film studio so he

could have complete control of the productions (Bruce Lee). He worked on three more movies

before his death in 1973, which occurred during filming of his fifth production (Bruce Lee). He

officially died because of an allergic reaction to medication he was taking which caused his brain

to swell (Bruce Lee). After his death, his third and fourth movies were released, both to critical

acclaim (Bruce Lee). However his fifth movie flopped because it was put together carelessly

(Bruce Lee).

Arguably the greatest martial artist ever is Sosai Masutatsu Oyama (Gaines 7). He

created Kyokushin Karate, a style practiced by over 10 million people (Gaines 7). He was born

July 27, 1923 in southern Korea (Gaines 7). He began studying martial arts in elementary school,

and by the age of 22 he was an expert in many different forms (Gaines 8). However he did not

feel like he had accomplished anything (Gaines 8). So for 14 months he trained in isolation, and

when he returned he was a new man (Gaines 8).

To prove his newfound strength he announced he would fight a bull (Gaines 8). He

fought bravely and successfully defended himself, he then removed one of its horns with his bare

hands, and proceeded to kill it (Gaines 8). He preformed this feat of strength over 50 times in his

life (Gaines 8). He soon opened his own school and taught kyokushin Karate, known as “The
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Ultimate Truth” (Gaines 9). He fought in tournaments as a representative of Japan, and won back

lost awards (Gaines 10). His ultimate test to become a master was to fight 100 opponents in less

than four hours and win at least half of them (Gaines 10-11). This was accomplished by only 13

other people besides Sosai Oyama (Gaines 11).

Judo is a system of mainly throws and holds (Judo). It focuses on using an enemies

strength and weight against them, but does include hand and foot blows (Judo). A practicer often

tries to knock an opponent off balance, which makes learning how to fall a necessity of Judo

(Judo). Competitions are based on strict rules, and points are awarded for knocking an advisory

to the ground (Judo).

Judo was created as a method of reducing risk of injury to the participators by Jigoro

Kano in Japan in 1882 (Judo). Kano aimed for a way to synchronize the body, mind and spirit

(Judo). Judo is roughly translated as “gentle way” (Judo). Judo gained Olympic acknowledgment

in 1964 as an official sport of the games (Judo). The style first came to America around President

Theodore Roosevelt's time in office, when he became interested in the art after a Judo master had

defeated the United States Naval Academy wrestling coach easily (Judo). However popularity

was not accomplished cross country until after World War II (Judo).

Karate originates from Okinawa., prefecture of Japan (Crompton 7). It was originally

created as a method of killing someone with a single blow (Crompton 7). It focuses on power

and perfect technique to deliver a hit, rather than speed and balance (Crompton 7). In 1922

Karate became recognized in mainland Japan during a presentation by Gichin Funakoshi

(Crompton 8). “Within two years Karate was university curriculum” (Crompton 8).

In the beginning of Karate, there were no competitions (Crompton 8). In order to advance
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and improve on technique a practicer used katas (Crompton 8). A kata is a series of movements

that replicate different moves used in that art. Karate katas are often based on birds and other

animals(Crompton 15). A kata's exact movement may differ from one style to another, but are

generally the same within the same art (Crompton 15). Flexibility is a large requirement for any

martial art, and in Karate especially (Crompton 11).

Ninjutsu is largely unknown art (Ninjutsu). It is based on spy techniques and stealth

(Ninjutsu). Ninjutsu was developed between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries for

protection, by people living in the isolation of Japanese mountains (Ninjutsu). Western culture

has popularized and exaggerated the users, known as ninjas, creating an extreme interest

throughout the area (Ninjutsu).

Aikido is another lesser known martial art (Aikido). It is based off of jujitsu, much like

Judo (Aikido). It was created in Japan in 1943 by Morehei Ueshiba (Aikido). It uses joint locks

and twists to subdue and opponent, which makes it perfect for self defense (Aikido). Translated

as “way of the spirit”, Aikido is a nonviolent art that preaches the spiritual advantages as well as

physical (Aikido).

Tae Kwon Do literally means “the way of kicking and punching” (Park 1). It is in many

ways a culmination of different styles from the east, combined into a single art (Park 1). Tae

Kwon Do incorporates moves from Chinese kung fu, Japanese Karate, and the earliest forms of

Korean martial arts (Park 1). It has been accepted as an excellent source of exercise, and has

been an official sport since 1974 (Park 3;Tae Kwon Do).

Tae Kwon Do started around 50 B.C. in Korea as a series of weaponless combat (Park 2).

They were eventually used by a special forces group known as the Hwarang (Park 2). The
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Hwarang were educated in everything from history, ethics, and philosophy (Park 2). They were

also trained in archery, horseback, swordplay, and the earliest forms of Taek Kyon (Park 2).

The Hwarang teachings were based off of a code of conduct, much like a code of honor

or practice of chivalry (Park 2). Even to this day, performers of Tae Kwon Do follow rules of

conduct: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit (Park 2-3). Over

time and as the Hwarang traveled throughout Korea, knowledge and usage of the art increased

and spread (Park 3). The art evolved and became increasing complex and evolved to new levels,

and became known as Subak, which was used primarily as an exercise, rather than a fighting

style. (Park 3).

Practice of Subak had declined until 1909 when Japan invaded Korea for 32 years

(Park 3). During this time any practice of martial arts were outlawed (Park 3). After the United

States liberated Korea, there was a boom in martial arts (Jhoon Rhee). People were interested

again, and Subak became the current form to Tae Kwon Do (Park 3). The art made its way

around the world, and became popularized in America.

In the United States they advanced even farther, where the belt colors most people are

familiar with were designed (Visco). Based off of Feng Shui, belt colors tell a story of their own

(Visco). Each color and order represent a level of mastery (Visco). White, yellow, green, blue,

red, and black are the belts used by modern martial arts (Visco). White is the beginning, someone

with no previous knowledge of the art (Visco). Each color is step towards black, the “true

beginning” (Visco). It signifies that the holder has the adequate knowledge required to truly

advance (Visco).

While different martial arts focus on different things, they all link back to each other.
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Physical benefits are gained from practice in the dojo with kicks, punches, locks, and other

exercise. Practice ties the user's mind and body together in harmony, acting as one. And

spirituality is accomplished from use of an art's beliefs in everyday life, much like religion.

Above these, there are dozens of reasons to practice a martial art, or at the least try one. The

effects on a person are more than can be described with words.

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Works Cited
"Aikido." Gale Group Student Research Center. Gale Group. 14 Nov. 2006




"Bruce Lee." 2003. Gale Group Student Research Center. Gale Group. 7 Nov. 2006




Crompton, Paul. The Complete Martial Arts. London: Roxby Productions Limited, 1989.

Gaines, Ann G. The Composite Guide to Martial Arts. Philadelphia: Chelsea, 2000.

"History of Kung Fu." 2003. Gale Group Student Research Center. Gale Group. 7 Nov. 2006




"History of Martial Arts in the United States." 2003. Gale Group Student Research Center. Gale

Group. 14 Nov. 2006




"History of the Martial Arts." 2003. Gale Group Student Research Center. Gale Group. 7 Nov.


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"Jhoon Rhee." 2003. Gale Group Student Research Center. Gale Group. 07 Nov. 2006




"Judo." Gale Group Student Research Center. Gale Group. 14 Nov. 2006




"Martial Arts (Wushu)." Travel China Guide. 11 Oct. 2006. Travel China Guide. 14 Nov. 2006


"Martial Arts in the United States." 2003. Gale Group Student Research Center. Gale Group. 7

Nov. 2006




"Ninjutsu." Gale Group Student Research Center. Gale Group. 14 Nov. 2006



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Park Yeon H., Yeon H. Park, and Gerrard Jon. The Ultimate Reference Guide to the World's

Most Popular Martial Art Tae Kwon Do. New York: Facts on File, 1989.

"Tae Kwon Do." 2003. Gale Group Student Research Center. Gale Group. 7 Nov. 2006




Visco, Stacianne. "The Colors of TaeKwon-Do." Sulis. Jan. 1998. TaeKwon-Do Times. 14 Nov.

2006 <>.