For a mass of centuries now we've had this fascination for working out how to smash peoples faces in, or watch other people smash other peoples faces in, in a ring, cage or on the movie screen, but the martial arts have been an object of fascination ever since some indian monk went to China and sat in a cave looking at a wall for about 10 years ,stood up and was feeling a bit stiff, not totally suprisingly, but he was tougher than the other Chinese Buddhist monks who were weak and spindley and only able to sit in the lotus position for 8 or 9 years at a time. So the Indian monk BOHEDERAMA(Sorry about the spelling, but my knowledge of ancient indian monk names leaves a little to be desired. )....Anyhow ,him!...He decided they had to be toughened up and decided to take them through a series of excercises based on animal movements, which became the origins of Kung Fu and Tai-Chi and the martial arts were born. The temples produced the toughest monks in the world . The famous, legendary SHAOLIN monks had arrived. All youse out there of a certain age remember DAVID CARRADINE as the monk on the run in the old wild west in the telly series KUNG FU. They showed the monks training and fighting ;dodging spears ,blindfolded and walking on wet bog paper; most famous is picking up of a cauldron full of white hot coals which burn a TIGER and a DRAGON into his forearms....Thats what they did before coloured belts and exams. From the chinese martial arts , the Japanese ,Koreans ,Basically all of the far east developed their own way of knocking seven bells out of each other.
The interesting thing is how obviously ,once upon a time a certain monk who favoured kicking techniques went to ,say Korea ,he got in there early and developed TAI KWAN DO, which is basically a kicking orientated fighting style . Others rely on fists, power, speed ,tension, or relaxation , whatever floated the boat of whoever formulated all these martial art forms . Then each subdevides again ,take KARATE for example . Originally formed on the island of OKINAWA, sub divided from the basic tough strength power orientated GOJU-RYU style to various WADO-RYU and SHUTO RYU ,One is powerful the other fast and fluid ,then went over to the Japanese mainland SHOTOKAN was formed, a mixture of various forms and on it goes. Then in Thailand , for instance you have less disciplined ,in the body physics sense ,THAI-BOXING is pure fighting ,the fighters train to do nothing, but fight in the ring. I watched a tournament in Bangkok and it was absolutely breathtaking ,the speed ,power and pure violence, after i walked away stunned .
Most of the martial arts started as a functional way of defending or attacking and killing , but as time passed they became slightly mystical They becamE 'THE WAY'!!!...As wars subsided and that awful state called peace decended upon our once blood thirsty martial artists ,they developed training techniques that could be done ,with training partners or alone, and demonstrated their power on wooden planks and bricks n' blocks. Body toughening on things like a punch board called a MAKIWARA which is still used today. The fighting arts became an art and a science were bodily mechanics and physics were studied ;Breathing techniques developed to build energy and power and some really weird stuff ,which has to be said created almost superhuman masters of their arts. Most of the styles relied upon self development and made things like KARATE a life long excercise ,TAI-CHI, etc.....But in the 50's after the war the competition aspect of the martial arts came in and many traditionalists still think the sporting aspect has destroyed the traditional martial arts. The Americans introduced semi contact from the highly controlled non contact Karate. The non contact had no gloves or body armour ,it was spirit and control. The Americans introduced Semi-contact then years later ,with gloves and guards ,control wasn't needed so control was out the window ,years later full contact with boxers gloves came about. Now ,basically with MIXED MARTIAL ART, etc Two fellahs get in a cage and pound the living daylights out of each other.....Bare knuckle, elbows, knees and joint locks ,strangles, etc and most nasty looking is the hammering on an opponents face if he's underneath you on the floor, even the winners look like shit with blood just about everywhere. But its brought Cauliflower ear and eyebrows back into fashion, with the wanderlust nose ,broken all over their faces.... Its entertaining stuff, but by the time your 30 your well burnt out. The MUAY-THAI, -THAI BOXERS they start as young children ,train every hour of every single day and only the greats get past 30.
Now i'm at my age ,i reckon the best is TAI-CHI ,a form of excercise where you have to totally relax, move as slowly as possible and just reeelllaaaxxx, but it really does you good, its my form of training , Moving slowly and relaxed can give you speed and power ,it truly is amazing when you see it in action.
But as i said Martial arts go from a cave to a temple to smashing faces in and killing people ; then smashing boards and blocks ; now smashing faces in ,just stopping short of killing as it may be good for television ratings, but the advertisers sponsering the events might have to pull out, as it wouldnt look good for them. Thats what its all about now ,trendy kickboxing classes in leisure centres , often to music and then hammering hell out of each other in a cage , watch some of the vanishing videos on the internet of the traditional masters , thats the martial arts.