The oldest forms of martial arts trace their roots back thousands of years, originating in different regions around the world. While it’s challenging to pinpoint the exact oldest form, here are some ancient martial arts with well-documented histories:
Kalaripayattu (India): Kalaripayattu is an ancient Indian martial art that dates back over 2,000 years. It incorporates strikes, kicks, grappling, weaponry, and healing techniques. It is believed to be one of the oldest surviving martial arts in the world.
Chinese Martial Arts (Wushu/Kung Fu): Chinese martial arts have a long history that can be traced back over 4,000 years. Various styles, such as Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Wing Chun, have evolved over time and encompass a wide range of techniques, forms, and philosophies.
Egyptian Martial Arts: Evidence of ancient Egyptian martial arts can be found in ancient artwork and hieroglyphs dating back to around 2,000 BCE. These martial arts practices included wrestling, stick-fighting, and boxing-like techniques.
Pankration (Greece): Pankration was a martial art practiced in ancient Greece, dating back to at least the 7th century BCE. It was a combination of boxing and wrestling, allowing both striking and grappling techniques. Pankration was also part of the ancient Olympic Games.
Hwarang (Korea): Hwarang was a warrior class in ancient Korea, and their training included martial arts known as Hwarangdo. The practice emphasized ethical values, combat skills, archery, horsemanship, and swordsmanship. The origins of Hwarang can be traced back to the Silla Dynasty (57 BCE to 935 CE).
Bökh (Mongolia): Bökh, also known as Mongolian wrestling, has a long history that predates the Mongol Empire in the 13th century. It was practiced as a military training method and later became a popular sport, incorporating grappling and throwing techniques.
Sumo (Japan): Sumo is a traditional Japanese martial art that has been practiced for centuries. Its origins can be traced back to ancient rituals and folk traditions in Japan, dating back to at least the 8th century CE. Sumo is characterized by its heavyweight wrestlers and ritualistic ceremonies.
It’s important to note that the development and evolution of martial arts across different regions often occurred simultaneously, and influences from one martial art may have impacted the growth of others. The martial arts mentioned above are just a few examples of ancient practices that have survived through generations and continue to be practiced and cherished today.