Evolutionary history of martial arts
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29-07-2012, 09:11 PM (This post was last modified: 29-07-2012 09:34 PM by ghostexorcist.)
Evolutionary history of martial arts
I've been an on-again, off-again student of martial arts over the course of my life. This was one of the reasons why I came to enjoy Asian culture and history so much. I've even studied the history of various styles for the last few years now. Well, since I switched my major to physical anthropology with an emphasis on primatology, I've decided to write a paper that traces the actual evolutionary origins of martial arts. While doing some preliminary research, I came upon this article on the subject. Overall, it’s not bad. They cover issues like bipedalism, the opposable thumb, and our large brains, but it doesn't go deep enough in my opinion. It doesn’t explore the reasons for these adaptations, or other things like primate social behavior and tool use, the origins of hunting weapons and their adaption for war, conflicts between early human species, or the need to further develop martial skills to protect settlements.

Primatologists study chimpanzees because their lives are believed to parallel that of our common ape-like ancestor who lived around 7 million years ago. I believe studying them helps us to understand the origins of martial arts too. For instance, young chimps like to wrestle. This helps them to hone the skills they use to protect their communities and territories as adults. This might also explain why wrestling is one of the oldest and most prevalent martial arts. They are also known to attack enemies with sticks and rocks. See this video for an example:





The slinging of sticks and stones could have easily given way to the use of clubs and staffs and projectile weapons by early human species. It is interesting to note that a community of chimps from Senegal actually hunts with spears! They sharpen the tips of branches with their teeth and then ram them inside of trees with the intent of skewering prey. This of course could have given rise to hunting spears that were later adapted for war by early human species. These are just a few examples.

Anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa 150,000-200,000 years ago. Their very thick bones indicate that they lived hard lifestyles. They lived in hunter-gatherer societies at this time. Modern examples of hunter-gatherers like the !Kung San people (! = click sound) are known to war amongst themselves, so there is no doubt that early humans did the same. The spears and arrows that were used for hunting were probably used in battles against various tribes. Humans are believed to have started to leave Africa around 50,000 years ago. Over the course of many millennia, they spread to Saudi Arabia, India, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Groups split from those in India and spread into Central Asia, the rest of the Middle East, and finally Europe. Like language, the martial skills that these people brought with them splintered and traveled with each group. The first settlements began to appear around 15,000 years ago. Naturally, these early groups of settlers would have had to protect themselves from nomads living in the area. And of course armies would have been required to protect the cities that started to appear around 6,000 years ago. Thus armed and unarmed combat progressed to meet the needs of society.

I will of course elaborate on these points and more in the actual paper. I know there are a few people on here who dabble in martial arts, so I figured that they would find this at least moderately interesting.
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29-07-2012, 09:36 PM
RE: Evolutionary history of martial arts
(29-07-2012 09:11 PM)ghostexorcist Wrote:  I will of course elaborate on these points and more in the actual paper. I know there are a few people on here who dabble in martial arts, so I figured that they would find this at least moderately interesting.

I think it's great... but I want to see these Senegalese chimps that hunt with spears - that's just freaky!! Smile

Oh, and I'm glad that the other article included the Egyptian hieroglyphs... you should have them in your paper, too. Unsure Ok, so I got a jones on for ancient Egyptians. They're my current fav dudes. Blush

I think in the end, I just feel like I'm a secular person who has a skeptical eye toward any extraordinary claim, carefully examining any extraordinary evidence before jumping to conclusions. ~ Eric ~ My friend ... who figured it out.
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29-07-2012, 09:59 PM
RE: Evolutionary history of martial arts
(29-07-2012 09:36 PM)kim Wrote:  I think it's great... but I want to see these Senegalese chimps that hunt with spears - that's just freaky!! Smile

Oh, and I'm glad that the other article included the Egyptian hieroglyphs... you should have them in your paper, too. Unsure Ok, so I got a jones on for ancient Egyptians. They're my current fav dudes. Blush

Here are a couple of videos:

* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT4WiMrzByg
* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyGxQq7jSA8

I will try to survey the oldest mentions or depictions of martial arts and present them within the context of how martial arts changed to meet the needs of human society. One of the points I would like to make is that martial arts are inherent to all cultures. Many people try to claim that one particular culture created it, and then it was spread to other cultures by famous soldiers or holy men. For instance, one flawed view is that Indian and Chinese martial arts are ultimately based on Pankration, a Greek style of wrestling practiced by the armies of Alexander the Great.
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29-07-2012, 10:05 PM
RE: Evolutionary history of martial arts
It's a fascinating topic. Thanks for sharing and please continue to do so!

"All that is necessary for the triumph of Calvinism is that good Atheists do nothing." ~Eric Oh My
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29-07-2012, 10:19 PM
RE: Evolutionary history of martial arts
National Geographic. Heart The best.

So... what is the oldest recorded martial arts... at least that you've come across, so far?

Wow... I just thought... I wonder if there might be cave paintings depicting that kind of activity? There's hunting depicted of course, but humans "fighting" .. that kind of interaction... hmm... interesting.

You got some work ahead of you, fella! Thumbsup

I think in the end, I just feel like I'm a secular person who has a skeptical eye toward any extraordinary claim, carefully examining any extraordinary evidence before jumping to conclusions. ~ Eric ~ My friend ... who figured it out.
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30-07-2012, 12:33 PM (This post was last modified: 30-07-2012 12:40 PM by ghostexorcist.)
RE: Evolutionary history of martial arts
(29-07-2012 10:19 PM)kim Wrote:  National Geographic. Heart The best.

So... what is the oldest recorded martial arts... at least that you've come across, so far?

Wow... I just thought... I wonder if there might be cave paintings depicting that kind of activity? There's hunting depicted of course, but humans "fighting" .. that kind of interaction... hmm... interesting.

You got some work ahead of you, fella! Thumbsup

I actually don't know for sure. There are many claims, but most people can't back them with evidence since they are usually based on legend. Off hand, I would guess the Egyptian tomb pictures are probably the oldest record. But I will contact professional historians in order to find out.

The oldest depiction of fighting that I've read about is a 10,000 year old piece of rock art from Arnhem Land in northern Australia. The journal paper I read is from 1994, so older examples may have been found in the last 18 years. It looks like a recent book that I just ordered may have examples from Spain that predate this.
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13-09-2012, 11:58 PM
RE: Evolutionary history of martial arts
I am currently reading a book on the chimp community of Mahale in eastern Africa. The section on “play” discusses the various forms of locomotive motions like twirling and backflips that chimps do. The author mentions that males play this way to learn how to avoid predators, impress future mates, and show off their strength to future competitors. He believes these displays have ties to the young human athletes that liked to perform their feats of strength before crowds during the ancient Olympics. The author also mentions a book written by a sociologist that connected various aspects of human culture back to a need to play, including war. War falls under the term of playing because it is usually fought according to certain rules—i.e. rules of engagement. These are more extreme versions of rules that, say, little boys set while having mock battles of their own. And since play fighting gives animals and young boys the skills they will use as adults, the martial arts can also be considered a type of playing. Some martial arts are closely tied to dancing. Many cultures have “war dances” that they perform before going to battle. Likewise, some martial arts were born of dances. This ties back to the tumbling play of chimps and probably even our common ancestor.

I realize this seems like rambling, but the analogy to play has helped me to better understand the subject.
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21-12-2012, 11:31 AM
RE: Evolutionary history of martial arts
This is a science blog about a recent research paper that posits the shape of the human hand was adapted for punching. It's met a lot of resistance, but it's still an interesting idea:

http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/...-to-fight/
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21-12-2012, 04:06 PM
RE: Evolutionary history of martial arts
I have to say, now we're on a subject that is close to my heart Evil_monster

I personally don't practice any martial arts (at the moment at least), but I have always been fascinated by them and war history. I'll look forward to this with great interest. Thumbsup

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21-12-2012, 04:13 PM
RE: Evolutionary history of martial arts
For a second I thought "I'd like to fight a chimp", but then I realized "I really don't wanna fight a chimp..." Even Brock Lesnar would be hopeless against one of those things.

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