History of Martial Arts, USA

» Posted by on Aug 12, 2019 in MMA | Comments Off on History of Martial Arts, USA

History of Martial Arts, USA

The history of Martial Arts in the USA does not go very far back in time. In 1948 the first association of the arts was started. The United States Karate Association was inaugurated in 1948 when karate was brought back by army personnel after the Second World War.

The first exhibition/competition was staged at the University of Chicago in 1963. With the help of Theodore Roosevelt, instructors were brought out from the East, Japan in particular. The USA armed forces soon recognised the value of the arts and Judo was introduced to the USA Air Force as part of the personnel’s training in unarmed combat.

As there were many martial arts instructors in Hawaii, which became a state of the USA in1959, their teachings soon spread to the other States. When Robert Trias, a combatant in the USA Naval Reserve, learnt the art, he was based in the Solomon Islands. This is where Tung Gee Hsiang, a Chinese missionary of Buddhism, taught Okinawan Shuri-Te karate. He and Trias started the first karate training facility in the USA. In 1959, Bruce Lee’s skills in unarmed fighting and acting featured in films about the martial arts and brought them to the American public, generating immense interest.

The purpose of martial arts is to teach individuals in personal defence and attack when in a combat situation. Although it is difficult to assess the number of schools and students in the USA because of “back yard” schools, it is believed that there are 16000 dojos and nearly four million students. Most Asian schools have strict religious philosophies such as Buddhism, Daoism and Shinto. Methods of training include group training or katas practised by individuals or pairs.

Types of Moves

  • Striking: Punching, including kicking, hitting with knees, elbows and hands.
  • Grappling: Throwing, locking in the joints, and pinning the head, among others.
  • Weapons: There are many different types of weapons used. Some of these include swords, spears, axes, sickles, clubs or sticks, bows and arrows, and blowguns, to name a few.


Kickboxing is a product of three martial art forms, karate, boxing and Thailand’s Muay Thai. The first World Championships were held in 1974 and has developed into an accepted martial art, but it still has not been approved by the International Olympics Committee.

When kickboxing gained popularity in the ‘70s, most fighters came from a karate background and had trouble with following through with their blows as karate exponents were taught to pull back on their punches. The sport requires a tremendous amount of fitness if opponents want to last the full ten rounds.


There are many kickboxing associations around the world, and each has its own rules and regulations. Therefore there can be no fair international competitions as some associations allow clinches and kneeing and others don’t.