Many people believe that the martial arts all came from Asia.
But in reality it is traced back to the Africa as far back as 2500 BC.
When researchers traced the cave drillings in the Beni Hassan region of Egypt,
they found cave drawings that showed a complete martial arts fighting system,
displaying hand to hand to hand fighting, kicking, fighting with spears and shields,
throwing techniques, and wrestling.
These drawings are traced back as far as 2500 BC…
There are many countries and cultures that practiced martial arts long before the Asians;
long before the Chinese, Okinawans, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, and others.
The martial arts were practiced by the Vikings, Ancient Greek Spartans, and Knights.
Here are some martial arts styles one might not have heard of:
Martial Arts of the Vikings –
Krigarenve (8th to 11th Century Nordic Europe)
Krigarenve is the way of the life of the Viking.
It consisted of training with the
Viking Battle Axe (Bearded Axe),
Barbed Spear (Krokspjot)
Short Spear (Spjotsprika)
Curved Blade (Sax)
Shields (which were highly decorated)
And the Broad Sword, which were heirlooms to the Vikings and given names; like the infamous ‘Fotbitr’ that belonged to Geirmundr of Iceland who planned to abandon his wife, Purior and daughter. The story goes that the wife stole his sword and rowed away at night. He was awoken by the cries of his baby daughter. He looked out and saw his wife rowing away. He called out to her. He said to her, "Take your daughter and whatever wealth you want." She asked, "Do you mind the loss of your sword so much?" He responded, "I'd have to lose a great deal of money before I minded as much the loss of that sword." Then she replied back, "Then you shall never have it, since you have treated me dishonorably." The sword was the most valuable item the Viking owned. The swords passed down from the Viking Sages were the most valuable. And the one given by King Hakon to Hoskuldur during the Laxdæla Saga is the rarest. It at the time was said to be valued at a half mark of gold. In saga-age Iceland, that represented the value of sixteen milk-cows which is a very substantial sum. The Vikings believed in Norse Mythology and believed that the goddess Valkyrie, chooser of the slain, would decide their fate of either life or death in battle.
About the Art of Krigarenve –
The ancient art of the Viking, who begin their training as children, has been modernized into a modern day martial art using the traditions of Old Nordic times. It is uses skills called idrottir which is divided into three categories: academic, athletic, and craft.
The basic skills for a Viking are as follows:
The more a Viking knew the more he was worth. It is to note that the people in Scandinavian society had a price fixed to them at birth. This was called a rett, or blood-price. This was the amount of silver that a person was worth based on what social level they belonged to when they were born. And this rett could never drop below that amount.
The Vikings fought both at land and at sea. Their martial art was mostly a close combat fighting system, where axe, sword and spear was the most preferred weapons however they would also use distance weapons such as the crossbow and throw stones.
Their martial exercises may be classified under three categories.
1. Athletic games and gymnastic exercises -
Wrestling (Glima) in sometimes they were tied together with a belt
free fighting, swimming, running, jumping, leaping, balancing on rocks, climbing rocks, playing ball, and racing on snowshoes
2. Warlike exercises with weapons, which embraced fencing, spear throwing, shooting the crossbow at a target, horseback riding, and slinging stones.
3. Mental exercises, consisting of writing poetry, telling stories of the Saga, telling riddles, playing games of chess and draughts, and playing the harp.
The Vikings were agile, could jump higher than their own height even with armor on, and were quick on their feet even on rough terrain. The old and young would train alike, because training was of the upmost importance with the Vikings constantly at war. They would train as if their life depended on it. Their education was seeped into their training. They learned by doing. The Vikings were skilled at building ships, traveled great distances, were skilled navigators and explorers, and were excellent sea warriors. The Vikings could fight with axes, blades, crossbows, a spear and shield, and could cut a man in half with a single blow of his sword. A Viking could kill with a single blow.
They were a breed apart to the warriors of the time. They were the Nordic Warriors.
More on Glima –
It translates as, “The Game of Joy”. It was brought to Iceland by the Viking settlers.
It is over 1100 years old. It has been practiced as a Folk Art since the days of old.
And it is mentioned in the Jonsbok writings of 1325. The basic idea of Glima is just like wrestling of today. Whoever gets the first two out of three falls wins. If both of the players fall at the same time then it is known as a “Brother Fall”.
Three Glima Styles:
1. BUXNATÖK – Trouser Grip
2. HRYGGSPENNA - Back Hold
3. LAUSA TÖK – Free Grip
In Summery – the Vikings were not the brute clumsy warriors as displayed in TV and in movies. They were very skilled warriors of old. They could leap high even with armor on, could fight on rough terrain, and could kill with a single blow. They could fight with an axe, blade, crossbow, sling, spear and shield, and sword. They were skilled craftsmen and artists. They could make etchings and designs on wood, stone, and iron. They were the best skilled shipbuilders of the time. And of course they were skilled sailors, navigators, explorers, and warriors of the sea. The Viking; the Nordic Warrior of Old.
I wrote about the Vikings first and their martial way of training first,
Because I found that the most intriguing
Now I will be writing about what I found to be the oldest of all martial arts;
The Martial Arts of Africa which today is known as the African Fighting Sciences.
History of African Martial Arts:
This martial science is the oldest form of Warrior Combat. It is based on the essence of how men attack straight on in battle using the ancient spear and shield. How a man can use the other mans force to take him down. Kicking and stomping techniques, and even striking with stones. It was a rather brutal way of fighting. Also with this style is the staff, which is 6 to 8 feet long. The staff had the reach to keep the evading warrior clan away. Later blades were implemented as well.
Weapons of African Martial Arts –
1. Shark Tooth Spear
2. Bamboo Shield
3. Bone Blade
4. Bamboo Staff
Zulu Stick Fighting –
The ancient African warriors would train by cutting a fresh switch and fighting each other. Getting hit with a bamboo or palm switch would cause much pain and lacerations. They would train like this to learn how to ignore pain. When the British attacked Africa during the Anglo-Ashanti war (1863) and the Anglo-Zulu war (1879) the warriors did not flitch when being fired upon by the British muskets. The British had interest in the Gambia, Sierra Leone, and the Gold Coast region. These regions are where the slave trade and the gold came from. Later in 1880s to 1900 the British set up colonies along these regions of Africa.
Egyptian Martial Arts –
Specific to the cave region, Beni Hassan, where the cave drawings were discovered is a martial art that is specific to Egypt. This martial art is known as Tahtib which was originally named Fan A'Nazaha Wa-Tahtib which means the art of being straight and honest through the use of stick. It is accompanied by a folk dance and music and it is still performed today.
What is ironic is that the ancient warriors of Hawaii would also carry shark tooth spears, bamboo type shields, blades, and long staffs. The name of this ancient Hawaiian martial art is known as the Kapu Kuialua. The ancient Hawaiian warriors would shout a war cry and stomp their feet in a dance known as the Haka. This actually originated from the warriors of New Zealand who still use it before their rugby games.
Hawaiians, also, during hulas do a performance with a flaming bo staff.
Kajukenbo is actually a combination of Karate, Jujitsu, Kenpo, and Chinese Boxing. Karate as you should know came from Okinawa in the 15th & 16th Century. It means empty hand. Jujitsu came from Japan from the 1200’s and is traced to the Tenji Temple. And the first school of Jujitsu was the Daito Ryu School. Chinese Boxing obviously came from China and it is known as Shadow Boxing. Kenpo I will write about in a moment. First I will discuss Kajukenbo in itself. Kajukenbo is a hybrid American martial art in which it was a man name Joe Holk that came up with the idea of the name. It is a beautiful martial art that combines the best of karate, jujitsu, kenpo and boxing. I believe it to be created sometime just before Ed Parkers death or right after his death in 1990.
So it is a relatively new martial art.
Kenpo and Ed Parker’s American Kenpo are actually two different styles; however the word Kenpo became synonymous with Grandmaster Ed Parker. Grandmaster Edmund Kealoha Parker was born in Honolulu Hawaii on March 19th 1931 and died in the same city on December 15th 1990. He was a Mormon, earned a Masters in Ministry and Philosophy from Brigham Young University, and was the Father of American Karate.
Kenpo is a Chinese Martial Art which had 30 precepts for each progression of rank.
Ed Parker changed that to 24 precepts for each progression of rank.
He later expanded the techniques and made them constant and never ending; forever flowing. It is like the circle of kenpo with several lines running through it.
Kenpo went through five (5) phases before it actually became American Kenpo.
The Five Phases of Kenpo:
First Phase (1954-1961)
Five Animal Kenpo; Tiger, Dragon, Crane, Snake, Leopard
Second Phase (1961-1963)
Traditional Kenpo; Forms modified
Third Phase (1963-1969)
Chinese Kenpo; Emphasized three animals – Tiger, Dragon, and Crane
Fourth Phase (1970-1981)
Ed Parker's Kenpo; 30 Precepts changed to 24 Precepts
Fifth Phase (1982-1990)
American Kenpo; Only the Tiger and Dragon remained
American Kenpo emphasizes the flow of the Tiger and the power of the Dragon.
It has multiple techniques for any scenario of an attack that arises.
It is constant, forever changing, and always flowing.
It has long and short forms. It combines speed and power.
And it is combined with an American style that was created in the prisons;
known as Jail House Rock in the 1960’s, believe it or not.
This style has 52 never ending continuous movements.
This makes Kenpo a very devastating martial art.
I had the privilege to train under the tutelage of Grandmaster Ed Parker,
under the instruction of Master Ed Booze from 1987 to 1990…
The fact is there is over a 2400 year old tradition in European culture and Western civilization of military warfare and martial arts. European Martial Arts involves a fascinating combination of military history, fencing, literature, art, language, and archaeology. The historical aspect of the martial arts in the medieval era was as a combative art and not an aesthetic or necessarily an athletic art. Though one would have to be in shape to swing a heavy broad sword and wear all that armor. Not to mention to ride a horse with heavy armor while shooting a cross bow at the same time. Knights had many skills. I will list skills of the knights later. The martial arts of the knights were disciplined methods for combat and survival on the battlefield. This art had many social, athletic, recreational, realistic, and even some sporting components as well. Like the art of jousting. Of course the term ‘martial art’ today is synonymous with Asia. It is from the Latin that we actually derive the English term, “martial arts” which is derived from the “Arts of Mars” who is the Roman God of War. The term “martial art” was used in regard to fighting skills as early as the 1550s and is found in an English fencing manual of 1639 referring specifically to the science and art of swordplay.
Prior to 1500 the martial arts of Europe and the West was used for Military Warfare,
rather than self defense.
The knights had many skills and many weapons which I will list now.
Skills of the Knights:
1. Close in weapons fighting
2. Shooting a crossbow from a galloping horse
3. Fencing and sword fighting
4. Medium range weapons fighting; Pole Fighting
Weapons of the Knights:
1. Mace (a spiked ball with a short chain and handle)
2. Morning Star (a spiked ball with a long chain and handle)
3. Dagger (a short straight blade)
4. Crossbow (a bow with a trigger on it that shoots wood and steel bolts)
5. Pole (a long staff with a hook or a steel or iron point at the end)
6. Joust (like a pole but longer, and used for horseback; charging at the enemy knight killing him, or knocking him off the horse).
7. Armor and Shield
Games of the Knights:
1. Pygmel – a form of boxing; using bare knuckles
2. Pale – a form of wrestling
4. Sword Fighting with Armor
Martial Arts of Greece and the Spartans –
It was introduced in the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC. It combined Pale, Pygmel, and other techniques such as kicking, arm bars, and chokes. The only thing that was not legal was biting and eye gouging; much like the original UFC in the early 1990’s. Pankration means “all of might.” It had very scarce rules and was the most brutal form of wrestling at the time. A devastating sport, that is certain.
The Martial Arts of Native America:
This is a hybrid martial art that combines the ancient fighting techniques of the Cree Indians with wrestling and the use of the tradition weapons that the Native American Indians used. The main Okichitaw School is located in Toronto, Canada and was founded by Canadian Martial Artist George J. Lépine in the 1990s.
Weapons of Okichitaw –
1. Gunstock War Club (Nontoni Towin Mistik)
as one can see the martial arts is not just from Asia. It was practiced in every culture of the world throughout the centuries. It was practiced before Christ by the Spartans of Old and by the Viking explorers. It was practiced in medieval times by the Knights of Old. And it was even practiced by the Native American Indians. Each culture had there own system and style. The Chinese had Gung Fu, exotic animal forms, and Taiquiquin (Tai Chi Chuan). The Okinawans had Te, Karate, and Okinawan Wrestling. The Japanese had Ninjitsu, the Art of the Samurai, Judo, Jujitsu, and Aikido. And the Koreans had Hwarang Do, Kuk Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, Tang Soo Do, and Hapkido. These are the common styles that most people heard of, but not many heard of the uncommon styles like the Knights had the Arts of Chivalry, the Greeks and Spartans had Pygmel, Pale, and Pankration. The Vikings practiced the art known as Krigarenve, the Native American Indians the art known as Okichitaw, and the Africans the art known as Rhee Efi Aree Ehsee. Each one of these styles would have their own weapons fighting system adapted within it as well. The Chinese would use such exotic weapons as the Snake Head Spear, the Naganta (a two headed spear), Butterfly Sword,
The Okinawans adapted the use of farming implements into weapons such as the sticks used to crack grain (Nunchaku), the handle of the grinding stone (Tonfa), the pin of the Yoke which was also used to plant seed (Sai), the walking stick (Jo), and the stick used to carry buckets of water (Bo). These are common weapons of martial arts that many people heard of, but not many would think weapons of the Knights such as the Morning Star, Broad Sword, and the Crossbow, the weapons of the Vikings such as the Battle Axe, Barbed Spear, and Viking Broad Sword, or the weapons of the Indians such as the Tomahawk as Martial Arts Weapons; yet they are. One has to remember the word martial art literally means the Art of Combat or the Art of War. The modern day martial arts do come from Asia. Many martial arts went through transition before it became Americanized. Like the Ancient art of the African warriors spread to the Hawaiian warriors. And later was combined with Kenpo and American Jailhouse Rock. As one should know that I discuss in my Karate classes is that the Father of Modern Karate is Gichen Funikoshi (1869 – 1957). He simplified the old forms of karate for beginning students to master and called them Taekyoku meaning ‘first basic steps” in 1922. He created the belt structure as we know in karate today taken from Kano’s belt system of Judo, and he introduced karate to school children and made it a curriculum in Japan. But many do not know who the father of American Karate is. To me it was actually Robert Allen Trias (1923 – 1989) who introduced karate to America in 1945. However another man who was inspirational in the development of karate was Ed Parker (1931 – 1990). This is because he made the first modern American form of Martial Arts known as American Kenpo. Kenpo went through five phases before it actually became known as American Kenpo. That is the martial arts one would not think of as a martial art that is seeped into the history of the cultures and the warriors of old.
Kyoshi Timothy L. Kerofsky, MA