CHINA AND KOREA
have both made vast contributions to the global body of martial arts.
world's largest country by population, is widely regarded as the home of
martial arts and is the birthplace of numerous diverse styles.Korea on the
other hand, has given us Tae Kwon Do an Olympic sport since the 2000 Games,
and the world's most popular martial art - one that is officially practised
by approximately 50 million people in 120 countries worldwide.
MODERN CHINESE MARTIAL ARTS can trace their origins to a number of sources,
including ancient military skills, the Buddhist martial arts that evolved
out of the Shaolin temple, the Daoist martial arts that originate from the
Wudang temple in Hubei province, and a number of other techniques used by
bandits, militia, secret societies, invaders, and marauding pirates
throughout China's turbulent history.
According to legend, the Indian monk Bodhidharma (known as "Da Mo" in China)
traveled from southern India to China in the 6th century CE carrying sutras
(collections of dialogs and discourses). He then settled in the Shaolin
temple in Song Shan, and introduced martial exercises and Zen Buddhism to
China. However, there is evidence to suggest that the practice of martial
arts in the country dates back to well before that time.
A longer history
Although Bodhidharma may well have been
one of the first to record martial-art techniques,he also introduced
techniques such as meditation to existing fighting systems-experts believe
that Chinese martial arts gradually developed from ancient hunting skills
and from one tribe's need to defend itself from another. These fighting
forms developed slowly over the years: punches and kicks were incorporated
and, in time, so was the use of weapons.
The first evidence of martial-art practice in China comes in 2698 BCE during
the reign of the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi, who developed the practice of jiao
di ("horn-butting") among his soldiers. In the 5th century BCE - some 1,000
years before Bodhidharma's arrival in Song Shan - Confucius mentions martial
arts in his texts; Daoist literature from the 4th century BCE contains
principles applicable to martial arts; and there is evidence to suggest that
physical exercises similar to taijiquan have been practiced in the region
since at least 500 BCE. In contrast, the earliest textual evidence of
Shaolin martial arts comes in 728 CE.
Putting soldiers to the test
The development of martial arts in
China is indelibly linked to the military. The first military martial-arts
tests were established in 702 CE. These challenged a soldier's physical
strength, horsemanship, and skills with a lance, spear, and bow and arrow.
Such a premium was placed on them that regular soldiers were categorized
according to their ability and courage in hand-to-hand combat and weapons
skills, particularly their swordsmanship.
Various military generals have added their expertise to China's martial-arts
mix. Even Genghis Khan, the Mongol warrior whose armies had conquered much
of South Asia- including all of China-by the 13th century, believed that
Bkyukl Bökh was the best way to keep his troops ready for battle. Two styles
of the art are still practiced today, one in Mongolia, the other in Inner
Boom in popularity
It was not until the Republican Period
(1912-1949), a time when China was recovering from the fall of the Qing
dynasty, the invasion by Japan, and the Chinese Civil War, that martial arts
became more accessible to the general public. In a wave of national pride,
the Chinese government classified all martial arts under the banner
"guosho," meaning "national art." Martial artists were encouraged to teach,
numerous training manuals were published, examinations in martial arts were
created, and demonstration teams started to travel the world- the first
martial-art demonstration in front of an international audience took place
at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
The founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October 1949 and the
Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976 in particular saw dramatic changes
in the Chinese martial-arts scene.The widespread practice of traditional
martial arts was discouraged and some systems were altered to reflect Maoist
doctrine.Many well known practitioners chose to escape the country.They went
on to teach their systems in overseas Chinese communities, then to
non-Chinese pupils, and so Chinese martial-art forms began to seep into
communities throughout the world.But the PRC government were keen to make
the most of one of the country's most iconic symbols.
In 1949, the term 'wushu' - a generic term for
a number of martial arts, meaning 'martial skill' or 'martial art' - started
to become popular in China.The Physical Culture and Sports Commission used
the term to govern and standardize versions of the traditional arts and
develop routines for use in competition.These routines consist of three main
categories:Chang Quan,Taijiquan and Nan Quan.
Taijiquan comprises slow,fluid, and graceful movements, and is considered
both a martial art and a health regime.
Nan Quan features short heavy-hitting styles, and is generally thought to
have originated in southern China.
Chang Quan uses acrobatic
martial-art styles that originated in the north of China.
Modern Chinese Arts
Today Chinese martial arts can be placed into different 'families'.Some styles mimic the movements of animals,
while some take their names from their founders. Some arts are categorized
according to wheter they are internal ("soft") or external ("hard"). Others
are grouped according to geographical location: styles that developed north
of River Yangtze, or "northern styles", which generally contain fast,
powerful kicks with fluid and rapid movements, and those which developed
south of the river,"southern" styles, where emphasis is placed on strong arm
and hand techniques,stable stances,and fast footwork.
Philosophy,religion,traditional Chinese medicinal and herbal theories, as
well as folk medicine, have all played a large role in the evolution of
Chinese martial arts.China is the world's most populated country and its 1.3
billion people include some 55 ethnic minorities, an addition to the Han
majority - have all brought their traditions, cultures, and beliefs into the
tremondous mixing pot that is Chinese martial arts.
Korean Martial Arts
Martial arts enjoy enormous popularity in Korea.Nearly every street corner
in Seoul has a "dojang", a martial training school, and
Tae Kwon Do has been taught in the
country's primary schools since the 1970's. Today, approximately 50 million
people around the world practise this Olympic sport, making it the most
popular martial art in the world.
Korea's long turbulent history has also played its part in the development
of martial arts, as have numerous wars that have taken place on the
peninsula, from early Chinese domination to the 20th-century occupation by
Korean martial arts have been shaped by religion and philosophy, most
notably Buddhism and Confucianism. The Buddhist element gave the country its
martial code during the Silla dynasty(57BCE-935CE) loyalty to one's king,
obedience to one's parents, honourable conduct to one's friends,never to
retreat in battle, and only kill for a good reason.
Korean Martial Arts
Because of its early isolationist policies, many of Korea's fighting
cultures developed independently of any technological advances. Favouring
the bow, Koreans did not develop sword or bladed weapon arts to the same
degree as China and Japan. The wooden staff, or 'bo' also failed to find
popularity in the country.
The earliest evidence of Korean martial arts dates back to the Koguryo
dynasty,founded in 37BCE.Korean wrestling competitions, similar to
Sumo were common occurences on national
holidays in ancient Korea, and Ssireum
the traditional form of Korean wrestling, is still popular today.Koreans are
also known for their archery skills and have won many international and