How fascinating are martial arts? And how difficult, however, is it to distinguish them?
Karate, judo, jujitsu and other disciplines are often confused, in the imagination of ordinary people, in a great mixture.
It is thus believed that they are all Japanese martial arts, when instead there are also Chinese and Korean ones. It is thought that they are all variations on a single theme, when instead they are quite distinct disciplines, with also significant differences in the conception of the body, of strength, of violence.
Today we will help you clarify and introduce you to the characteristics and history of nine different Japanese, Chinese and Korean martial arts.
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Taekwondo
- 2 2. Karate
- 3 3. Judo
- 4 4. Kung Fu
- 5 5. Jujitsu
- 6 4 other international martial arts, in addition to the 5 already reported
Korean kicking discipline
Martial art from Korea whose name can be translated as the way of the hand and foot, taekwondo is actually a martial art known above all for the use of kicks rather than hands (it is estimated that the techniques they do use of the feet are approximately 80% of the total, compared to 20% of those involving the hands).
This particularity derives from the fact that, given the length and strength of the legs, it is believed that they are a more powerful and dangerous weapon within the fight.
Very important, moreover, is the value of inner peace, which the practitioner can only obtain through meditation and training and which is necessary to achieve adequate fighting skills.
Now practiced all over the world without particular distinctions neither as regards sex, nor as regards age, it is an Olympic sport from the Sydney games of 2000 and indeed Italy has always shown quite well in these races.
In four editions he brought home a gold (Carlo Molfetta, heavyweights, in London 2012), a silver (Mauro Sarmiento, medium weights, in Beijing 2008) and a bronze (always Sarmiento, in London).
The system of rank and belt advancements is regulated by a sort of central government that maintains uniformity worldwide on the subject.
In Korea, of course, it is the national martial art so much so that even the army itself is trained in this technique and, remaining in the Olympic arena, the South Korean team already boasts ten gold medals, double the second in ranking that is China.
Japanese martial art from Okinawa
In Japanese, karate means “empty hand” because discipline develops as an unarmed fighting technique.
It is one of the most popular martial arts and perhaps the first to have achieved a certain notoriety in the West, thanks first to the occupation of Japan after the war by American troops, then to the schools opened in the United States by Japanese immigrants.
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Finally, some popular films have also played a role, such as Karate Kid or the Italian boy with a golden kimono.
The importance of the master Gichin Funakoshi
Born on the island of Okinawa, the discipline actually derives from the revisiting of ancient Chinese techniques since the island where it developed was substantially subjected to China until 1879, when Okinawa was annexed to Japan.
Martial art thus began to spread within the country thanks to the work of the master Gichin Funakoshi, who simplified its techniques and added a set of philosophical elements to it.
However, over time, various different types of karate have been generated ( Shotokan – the most common modern style, shito, sankukai, goju, wado and others ).
This often happens when these disciplines are free to grow thanks to the influence of the various masters, who in turn draw inspiration and influence from local traditions.
Not how, but where
Although there are these different schools and these different styles, the fixed elements of the discipline are the fists, the kicks (especially the legs and the trunk), the knees, the open hand strokes in the most sensitive areas of the body such as the liver, the throat, the femur, the joints, according to the rule of maximum result with minimum effort.
Fundamental, in this sense, is knowing not so much how to hit, but where to hit, and in fact at an advanced level, one is also introduced to the study of the most important pressure points.
Beyond the individual techniques, however, karate focuses not only on learning the fighting styles but also on an improvement of the whole body of karateka.
The discipline of sweetness
Developed during the 19th century in Japan, judo is a discipline that was created by Jigoro Kano, a master who had often been bullied at a young age.
For this reason, after trying jujitsu without obtaining the desired results, he developed a new combat system that made the size and strength of the fighters irrelevant, trying to exploit the levers and the movements instead.It is no coincidence that the term judo even means “sweetness”, which makes it even more evident that physical strength constitutes a secondary element in the development of this martial art.
The main objective of competitions becomes no longer to knock down and stun the opponent, but to make him fall or to surrender after being immobilized: for this reason, as a rule, little is used, punches or kicks, but a lot more often shifts and techniques to make you lose your balance.
From this point of view, the discipline is also fairly fair in alternating fighting in an upright position and at ground level.
From forbidden sport to Olympic discipline
As already said for taekwondo, today judo is also an Olympic discipline, and indeed even well before the Korean martial art.
Forbidden – together with other forms of combat that were judged too “warlike” by the Allies following the defeat in the Second World War – it was rehabilitated thanks to the Olympic Committee, of which the same master Kano had been part.
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Admitted to the Games starting, not surprisingly, from Tokyo 1964, it is today one of the most universal sports, since athletes from almost all countries of the world take part in the competitions.
The Japanese domination is obviously strong in the medal collection, while, in addition to the obvious good positions of South Korea and China, the excellent traditions of France and Cuba are highlighted.
Italy has so far brought home three gold medals: with Ezio Gamba in Moscow 1980 in the lightweight category, with Giuseppe Maddaloni in the same category in Sydney 2000 and with Giulia Quintavalle always in the light ones in Beijing 2008.
4. Kung Fu
The set of Chinese martial arts
So far we have seen martial arts originating in Japan or Korea, countries very close to each other geographically, and traditionally linked also from a philosophical and spiritual point of view.
It is no coincidence that Korea was subjected to the de facto Japanese empire between 1905 and 1945, a period in which many of the martial disciplines we are talking about the spread and found a theoretical arrangement.
Kung fu, however, was born in China probably around the 6th century, invented, according to one of the most famous legends, by the Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma as a methodology to help his brother monks to concentrate better during meditation but also to defend themselves from assaults brigands and ferocious beasts, which were quite common.
From then on, it entered the Chinese cultural tradition until it was systematized thanks to the birth of specific schools during the twentieth century.
The origin of the name
However, a clarification should be made on the name. In itself, the term kung fu does not indicate something specifically martial, but can be translated into a more generic “ability or ability to do something”.
This indicates that under this label the Chinese encompass a whole even chaotic set of techniques and disciplines, while modern Chinese martial arts are usually indicated with the term wushu.
For this reason, even more than in the cases mentioned in the previous points, kung fu is not a monolithic discipline but is combined in hundreds of different styles, such as the famous Shaolin, Wing Chin, and Tai Chi.
In addition to practicing with bare hands, many techniques also include the use of weapons such as saber, stick, sword or spear.
The international fame of kung fu is primarily due to the success of Bruce Lee’s films on Chinese martial arts first and many of his followers then, but paradoxically these films at first ended up mainly favoring the development of Japanese martial arts.
This is because, in the 1960s and 1970s, the People’s Republic of China was unable and unwilling to organize courses or bring teachers out of the country.
The compliance technique
We started our journey in Korea, then moved to Japan and China and now we conclude by returning to the country of the Rising Sun, which has always been fertile ground for martial arts.
The last discipline we are going to analyze is jujitsu, an art of personal defense that basically teaches how to turn the opponent’s strength against the opponent himself.
The word jujitsu is translatable in fact with the expression “yielding technique”, indicating that the practitioner’s task is not to hit harder than his opponent, but to apply a set of measures based on the softness and compliance that make the l the attack of the adversary not only fails but also turns against him.
The apotheosis and the crisis
Originated in the Middle Ages – documents attest to its presence as early as the 16th century, but it was probably widespread for a long time before – jujitsu experienced its heyday between the 17th and 19th centuries.
He then entered into crisis with the westernization of Japan and the fall of the samurai class, as well as with the affirmation of judo, which in the beginning was presented by the master Jigoro Kano as an evolution of jujitsu.
The last side notes: this discipline should not be confused with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a technique born in the first decades of the twentieth century in Brazil, however, not starting from jujitsu, as the name seems to imply, but actually precisely from judo.
4 other international martial arts, in addition to the 5 already reported
Martial arts, in reality, there are many others, even leaving the trio of countries that we have presented so far. We dedicate the last part of our article to quickly introduce you to four other noteworthy ones.
Although it is a martial art that has something western inside it, kickboxing was born in Japan around the 60s of the twentieth century as an evolution of full-contact karate. The intent was to combine some of the oriental techniques of karate with other, more western ones, of boxing.
Perhaps also for this merger, which was quite unprecedented for the time. sport depopulated starting in the 1980s. especially in the United States, then expanding also in Europe.
It provides for various disciplines which, over the years, have remained more related to or originated from Eastern Europe. For example, point-fighting is a type of confrontation that resembles in some ways that of karate, so much so that combat is temporarily stopped every time a point is to be awarded.
In full-contact, however, you fight on a real boxing ring continuously, so much so that the match can end in points or knockouts, as in boxing. In this case, moreover, the contacts are much more violent and the power of the blows plays a fundamental role.
Tai Chi – or, in full, Taijiquan – is a Chinese martial arts style but also a mode of meditation on the move. It is no coincidence that today in the West it is more famous as a form of gymnastics or even preventive medicine.
Its origin is not clear and is cloaked in mystery, and this is also because some historical documents sometimes lead to legend. However, it probably developed by combining several previous conceptions thanks to the work of Chen Wang Ting.
At the base of the discipline, there is a precise philosophical reference: the cycle of Yin and Yang. The movements that Tai Chi puts into play, in fact, play on emptiness and fullness, in an ideal of roundness and completeness that must be achieved by merging one’s own movements and those of the opponent.
From the training point of view, a lot of work is done on stability, on steps, on the movements of the arms and legs and on the emission of energy. The techniques in this sense are numerous, all with a philosophical background which, however, is not always easy to render in western languages.
Let’s move now for a moment outside the countries we have talked about so far. Muay Thai is in fact, a Thai martial art, which however has various things in common with other oriental disciplines. It is also a sport in full contact and therefore marked by some violence.
Of very ancient origins, it became popular in Southeast Asia especially from the 16th century, although it has only recently arrived in the West, on the wave of the success of karate and other martial arts that we have already talked about.
The fighter can use different parts of the body: there are fist techniques but also techniques for the knees and elbows, as well as obviously for the kicks. The discipline is thus known as the “art of eight weapons” since all eight of these “protuberances” of the body can be used.
Again there are deep religious beliefs underlying martial art. It is no coincidence that in the pre-race rituals must be performed to find concentration and invoke benign spirits. Similarly, amulets linked to various sacred images are also used.
We conclude by moving a little further away from the Far East and ending up in Israel. There in the first half of the twentieth century, another martial art was created which at first glance can be confused with Chinese or Japanese ones, but is instead Jewish.
Even in this case, however, it is a martial art commissioned by the government. In fact, it was the state of Israel that asked Imi Lichtenfeld, a 1910-born military man, and hand-to-hand combat expert, to develop a new technique suitable for the army departments.
The result was Krav Maga, which in Hebrew means “contact combat”. It is an art designed to be acquired quickly and has as its purpose the immediate neutralization of the opponent. For this, it also teaches to hit some nerve points that are prohibited in other disciplines, such as the genitals or the carotid artery.
This ruthlessness means that Krav Maga is a technique widely used in self-defense courses and also used by police and armies, especially when you have to disarm and neutralize some attackers.