Traditional Chinese martial arts are deeply rooted in the time-honored Chinese culture, especially the philosophies, and cannot be separated from it. Martial arts is more than just fight skills, it is a way of living and thinking.
Most of the styles and training methods we inherit today date from the Song Dynasty (960-1297). These same methods continued to advance throughout the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and are believed to have been completely systemized by the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The three pure styles of Chinese martial arts are Xingyi Quan, Bagua Quan and Taichi Quan.
The two main philosophies that influenced Chinese martial arts are Buddhism, practiced by the Shaolin Monks on Song Mountain in Hunan Province; and Taoism, practiced by the Wudang Monks on Wudang Mountain in Hubei Provence.
In 1644, Manchurian invaders lead by the Ching Family ended the Ming Dynasty. As a result, an internal rebellion began in China. Many people sought refuge in the Shaolin temples throughout the land. The Shaolin monks, seeking to remain above politics, offered passive resistance and allowed the refugees to remain at the temples. This action caused the Shaolin temples to become the defacto center of the rebellion.
In 1647, Ching troops attacked the main temple in Hunan Province. Using cannons, they completely destroyed the temple and only four of the elders and 30-40 of the monks survived the attacked. It is said that over 1000 people were in residence at the temple at the time of the attack.
The attack on the temple marked the end of the rebellion and the beginning of Ching rule in China. It was at this time martial arts were outlawed in China and those found practicing were put to death. As a result, many of the masters chose to immigrate to Japan and Okinawa. They began teaching and the styles that resulted from this were known as Chinese or China Hand. Today they are simply known as Karate.
The art of Karate originated in Okinowa, a small island off the coast of Japan. In 1609, Okinowa was invaded by the Japanese Shogun. The Shogun immediately banned the possession of weapons by all people on the island. This led to the development of a unique system of self-defense that helped protect islanders from the Samurai warriors.
In 1922, Karate found its way to mainland Japan when Gichin Funakoshi left Okinowa to reside in mainland Japan. Following the example of Funakoshi, another great master, Miyagi Chojun, also moved to the mainland and began teaching. (Yes, he was the original Mr. Miyagi!)
Stories and legends abound when it comes to Asian history surrounding martial arts. Most agree, however, that modern Kung Fu or Wushu can be traced back to an Indian Buddhist monk known as Bodidharma, which means, "enlightened one". The Chinese referred to this same monk as Damo. In some writings his name is spelled Tamo.
Bodidharma left his home in Kali, India in the hope to deepen his practice and knowledge of Buddhism. He traveled to China, where he wandered the land from village to village gaining knowledge of Buddhism as well as the different fighting arts the country had to offer. When he arrived in Hunan province, he made his way to the Buddhist temple and sought admittance. He was denied because they had never seen an Indian before and decided that he was unworthy.
Bodidharma remained at the gates of the temple for seven years thereby proving his worthiness to the monks. When he finally gained admittance to the temple, he found that the monks were unhealthy, out of shape and lacked energy. He noticed that they put all of their efforts into scholarly works and that they were out of balance. In return for their teachings on Buhdism, Bodidharma began instructing the monks on the fighting arts from his village of Kali, as well as what he learned from the Chinese in his travels. The combination is what we know of today as Shoalin Kung Fu.
During World War II, Robert Trias was stationed in the British Solomon Islands. Trias was a skilled boxer and a middleweight champion in the U.S. Navy. During many of his practice sessions, a Chinese missionary would stop by and ask to get in the ring with him. The missionary offered to teach Trais Hsing-Yi in exchange for boxing lessons.
Each time the missionary asked, Trias would decline. One day Trias had had enough of the interruptions and decided to teach the missionary a lesson and invited him into the ring. The joke was on Trias, as the missionary interested in his boxing style was, Master T'ung Gee Hsing. The match that ensued would be a turning point in the life of Robert Trias. Trias was unable to land a single blow. He was so intrigued by what had transpired that he finally accepted the offer originally made by Master Hsing. From then on, martial arts became his way of life. Robert Trias earned a black belt from T'ung Gee Hsing on July 10, 1943.
Yoshiaki Yamashita teaches Judo at the invitation of the director of the Great Northern Railroad
Yamashita begins teaching President Theodore Roosevelt, who later puts a dojo in the White House and eventually earns a 3rd Degree black belt
First formal Judo Dojo is founded in Seattle, Washington
Judo is introduced to Chicago
Ark-Yuey Wong begins teaching Kung Fu in Los Angeles
Chojun Miyagi demonstrates Karate in Honolulu
First intercollegiate Judo competition takes place between San Jose State and U.C. Berkley
James Mitose begins teaching JuJitsu in Honolulu
Robert Trias establishes the first Karate school in the U.S. in Phoenix, Arizona
Mas Oyama tours U.S. giving karate demonstrations
Ed Parker begins teaching in Provo, Utah
Bobby Lowe founds first Kyokushinkai school outside Japan in Honolulu
Robert Trais holds first Karate Tournament in U.S.
Jhoon Rhee introduces Tae Kwon Do to U.S. in San Marcos, Texas
Bruce Lee arrives in Seattle and begins teaching Wing Chung at Blue Cross Clinic
Black Belt Magazine is launched
John Leong introduces Hung Gar and Tai Chi to Seattle, Washington
First North American Karate Tournament sponsored by Mas Oyama is held at Madison Square Garden.
Chuck Norris opens his first school in Torrence, California
Bruce Lee gives first public demo at Long Beach International Karate Championships
Bruce Lee becomes Kato on the Green Hornet
Kung Fu the TV series airs on ABC
Inside Kung Fu magazine makes it debut
North American TaeKwonDo Union is founded
Mike Swain becomes the first American to win gold at the World Open Judo Championships
First Americans win gold in TaeKwonDo at the Olympic Games