Karate may not have such ancient roots as the rest of this stuff, but we think the number of movies to feature it in the last hundred years gives it some extra credit popularity points. Its first major influence was a common fighting system called Te on Okinawa in Japan which was probably influenced even earlier by Korean Kenpo. Chinese martial arts were then added to it by Chinese visitors who came in 1392. Of course, it became even more popular when weapons were banned by the king a few years later. After all, there needs be some organized way to fight people or it would be chaos! Karate continued to develop and make exchanges with Chinese fighting until it was finally brought to mainland Japan around the end of the 19th century. It gained popularity among U.S. troops who were stationed in Japan in WWII who eventually brought it back to Hollywood where movies are made.
4 Kung Fu
In English, Kung Fu is used to refer to any form of Chinese martial art, which means as a category it definitely makes this list of systems that have been in use for a respectable period of time. Most types of Kung Fu put a lot of emphasis on meditation, control of the body and the lessons of nature and ancient mythology. According to legend, Chinese martial arts developed during the period of the Xia dynasty more than four thousand years ago and we actually have records of them starting from the 5th century BCE as a system that included just about every way you could hurt a person. Grappling, striking, throwing and joint manipulation all came into play, making us very glad we don’t live in ancient China. Although to be honest, that’s just one of many reasons.
Men and women from all cultures have more in common than not and we’ve all developed ways to slice each other open, from Excalibur to the swords of samurai warriors to modern fencing equipment. Although strictly speaking, some are more likely to pierce than slice. And here’s your fun fact for the day: gladius is Latin for sword, so if someone was a gladiator he was probably a swordsman. Oddly, with the exception of the military, no matter where you go in the world swords were reserved for the upper class. Because after all, slicing people open with metal is so much more refined than any other way of killing them.
This combat sport is known as “the sweet science” and we can’t figure out why either. We have evidence of boxing being an event in the ancient Olympic games as early as 688 BCE but there are reliefs carved all over the ancient world that show people throw punches at each other whole others watch. Although its popularity may have waned for a little while, it made a comeback in the 16th century with the return of bare-knuckle boxing. Of course, back then you were sometimes also allowed to beat your opponent with a club. Since 1867 however, the sport has been governed by the eminently gentlemanly Marquess of Queensberry Rules which say that boxing gloves must be “fair-sized” and that boxers shoes can’t have spikes on them.
Forget the ancient Greeks, people have been grappling with each other for the entertainment of crowds since the Neolithic period and we’ve got cave paintings to prove it. Then we’ve got Ancient Egyptian tomb artwork and Indian scrolls. Only then do we get to Greco-Roman wrestling and its appearance in the ancient Olympics. It was reintroduced in the modern Olympics, but this time with the wrestlers wearing pants. It was one of the sport’s greatest steps forward, depending who you ask. It’s important to note that wrestling still exists as a sport and a great way to knock people over, but professional wrestlers aren’t the ones to look for there. Professional wrestling is mostly theatrics, which doesn’t make it any less cool to watch.
That’s the official list of the most popular martial arts of all time. Think we missed one? Let us know here, but be ready to fight for it!