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#154957 - 06/12/05 04:01 PM Martial Arts History of China and India
kennethtennyson Offline
Stranger

Registered: 06/12/05
Posts: 3
Martial Arts in China and India
Through my readings of martial arts history, I discovered a disturbing trend. Many nationalistic Indians are trying to lay claim that they discovered martial arts and kung fu, karate, and all of the East Asian Martial arts originated from them along with the transmittal of Buddhism. Unfortunately, India today in terms of written historical text, is in a state of flux. For the last few decades, the Hindu nationalistic parties have been distorting historical texts and in general the history of India. Accurate historical texts are dismissed, children are taught fabrications, and sometimes outright lies that are pro-Indian and pro-Hindu. Many of these distortions have engendered their way into the internet age on websites and have been self propagating especially with Indian writers. The result of this is that much of the history of India in present time, has been distorted in some way as to make it difficult to separate fact from fiction. The purpose of this article is to dispel the myths that are currently being propagated by Nationalistic Indians. In this article, Kung Fu will relate to Chinese martial arts, and Shaolin Kung Fu relates to the Kung Fu style originating in the Shaolin temples.

To begin with, very few historians believe that martial arts originated from one place and spread throughout the world. Most military powers in their history have invented some form of martial arts, such as wrestling and self-defense in ancient Sparta and Greece. Most historians believe that many of the martial arts even in Japan (lost in legend with oldest accounts possibly 27B.C.), Korea (Silla Kingdom 57 B.C.), Southeast Asia, and South Asia developed independently to some degree and perhaps influenced each other after their invention. Most of these martial arts share similarities possibly through influences on each other, but most likely secondary to the fact that armed or unarmed combat by human beings employs similar principles and the human body is similar. The reason why the East Asian Martial Arts are so popular today is due to the fact that they have been so well codified, their ease of use and effectiveness in self-defense, their use of the entire human body and scientific principles for self-defense, their focus on personal development, and especially the popular media.

The Indian belief that India is the origin of Kung Fu (Chinese Martial arts) and most Eastern martial artists center on their contention that Bodhidharma (Pu Tai Ta Mo in Chinese or Daruma Daishi in Japanese) the creator of Zen Buddhism came from India, notably south India, and spread Zen Buddhism along with martial arts from India to China sometime in 450 AD. To begin with, history does not know the origins of Bodhidharma, as most of the biography relating to him has been lost in legend. Bodhidharma has also been associated with the discovery of tea (unlikely as the Chinese have historical records and even an ancient encyclopedia stating that they have been drinking tea since 200 B.C. or so) and that he could bore a hole into a wall by looking at it. Further, no historical efforts have accurately shown where he originated from, and many accounts differ. Some suggest India, others suggest Central Asia and perhaps Tibet.

Secondly, historical records suggest that Bodhidharma might have taught the Shaolin monks meditation exercises in 500A.D.; however, historical evidence has shown that the Shaolin monks during this time and before this time (the Shaolin temple predates Bodhidharma) harbored retired soldiers, who taught the monks self defense that they had learned during military training. Not only that, various meditation exercises such as those of Taoism, existed before this time that predates Bodhidharma by a millenia. The Shaolin monks, in order to protect themselves from bandits and criminals around 500A.D, began to codify what they learned into a "Shaolin" Kung-Fu style; however, the development of Kung Fu (or general martial arts in China) goes back millenia before this.

The oldest evidence of Kung Fu, or Chinese martial arts, as it is practiced by the military goes back to the Zhou dynasty (1111-255 BC). The first written history of Chinese martial arts comes from the reign of Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor of the Zhou Dynasty (1122-255 BC). Huangdi was a famous military general, before becoming China’s leader and wrote a lengthy treatise about martial arts. He is also credited with being the founder of China’s oldest known martial art – chang quan (long fist). Further, the Taoist monks were practicing physical exercises that resembles Tai Chi (or a soft form of Kung fu) at least during the 500B.C. era. In 39-92 A.D. , the "Six Chapters of Hand Fighting", in the Han Book of Arms were written by Pan Kuo. Also, the Hua To, "Five Animals Play" - tiger, deer, monkey, bear, and bird, was developed during 220 A.D. As stated earlier, the Kung Fu that is practiced today developed over the centuries and many of the later additions of Kung Fu, such as the Shaolin Kung Fu style, later animal forms and the drunken style were incorporated from various martial arts forms existing later on in China or have accurate historical data relating to their inventor.

Third, unfortunately, there is very little historical evidence to lay claim to the Indian contention that their various martial arts predates East Asian martial arts. Mythology does exist in India as to their creation of martial arts going back a few thousand years, but mythology exists in every culture relating to the origins of martial arts going back a few thousand years. Mythology does not equate historical evidence. In fact, the various Indian martial arts, especially Kalaripayate, had very few practitioners before the advent of the modern age and especially the "Bruce Lee" era. Contemporary Indians in India were just as fascinated with Kung Fu as regular Americans in America were. Very little historical evidence suggests that Indians were practicing their martial arts as it is in its current form even a few centuries ago. What historical evidence exists suggests that the East Asian martial arts predates the current Indian martial arts. Whatever similarities exist are either due to the innate requirements that the human body requires in order to defend itself, or were additions to the Indian martial arts, possibly through Mongol or Muslim conquest later on or within the last century with international trade.

Another interesting concept is the idea of "chi" or life force energy. Many Indians believe that they invented this concept with their ideas of "prana." However, historical evidence suggests that various cultures have a similar concept, even within SouthEast Asia and South America. Historically, "Chi" developed from Taoism and Lao Tse Tung from concepts that predate 500B.C., and this invention predates that of Buddhism's introduction introduction to China. Further, Tai Chi, which is the martial arts exercise developed with Taoism also predates Buddhisms introduction to China, and historical books related to its breathing exercises go back to at least 500 B.C. Finally, Indian contention that Karate and Kalarippayat share common ancestry due to their similar sound is doubtful as both words are anglicized constructions of multiple Japanese and Indian words, both of which have totally opposite meaning. Kara-Te in Japanese means "Empty Hand." In India, "Kalari" is an arena for combat; "payat" stands for a system of combat.

The historical inaccuracies that are being propagated by nationalistic Indians on the web and in print are concerning. Even today, some Indian children are being taught that the East India Trading Company was created in India, when in fact, it was a British company that took over India. As to the influences of the various martial arts of India and China on each other, no one knows as no evidence exists. However, it is a long stretch of the imagination to believe that all of the East Asian Martial Arts or even Chinese martial arts had their origins in India as historical evidence suggests that the Chinese martial arts predates the Indian martial arts. The historical inaccuracies are dangerous for the Indians, as the Indian martial arts should be a source of cultural pride for Indians. However, by stretching the truth, at times fabricating the truth, and making fallacies of reasoning, nationalistic Indians today are lending doubt to the whole history of Indian martial arts.

-Kenneth Tennyson, Ph.D

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#154958 - 06/13/05 02:19 AM Re: Martial Arts History of China and India [Re: kennethtennyson]
ButterflyPalm Offline
Enigma

Registered: 08/26/04
Posts: 2637
Loc: Malaysia


So what's new?

Did Abraham Lincoln really cut down a cherry tree? and dutifully confessed?

Did Japanese soldiers looted and raped their way through Nanjing, South China? According to a recently re-written Japanese history textbook for grade school, NO.

I suppose the Indians will next claim that silk was discovered by a 2000BC Indian princess who happened to be singing and dancing round a mulberry tree one day (as they still do now in Indian movies?) and why not, given that the majority of Indian women in India to-day still wear silk sarees as an everyday wear.

I suppose Henry Ford was right -- history is bunk! or something to that effect.

Since humans or pre-humans needed to fight right from the stone-age period and the present state of archaeological knowledge suggests that the earliest humans were found in Africa, then we can say, guite confidently, that kung fu or MA in general must have been practiced first in darkest Africa and then maybe spread to India or that perhaps the early dark-skinned Africans tracked their way to the Indian subcontinent (bringing their primitive MA with them) and eventually evolved into the present day dark-skinned south Indians.

This should make a good topic for a PhD. dissertation.

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#154959 - 06/13/05 08:58 AM Re: Martial Arts History of China and India [Re: kennethtennyson]
MAGr Offline
Veteran

Registered: 04/11/05
Posts: 1147
Loc: London, home: Athens
It would be great to have an unbiassed, historically accurate source that gave us the true story about the origins of oriental martial arts.

The fact that each nation (with no exceptions) construes history to suit their puurpose, that all historical texts, portray the foreigners as the bad people and the domestic as the good. What you are saying is not something new.
Merit is given to the country with the loudest voice, and thats just the way it is.

Personally i find more constructive to try and find out the truth rather than critisize the lies.

Borders, and nationalities when claiming rights over an "invention" is stupid.
Ok so the Greeks invented democracy, does that give merit to the Greek state corruption nowadays?
NO, it gives credit to the individual minds of Socrates and Plato etc...
Does the fact that India or China invented MAs give credit to the country? NO, it gives credit to the individual who first started it, who cares if it came from China, does that make modern Chinese people more enlightened?
History should be acredited to the individual not the country that bore him/her.
Of course its all part of cultural heritage, but if the Chinese and in turn the Indians believe that it is part of their heritage then it is, not because you prove or disprove it but because they have assimilated it into their culture.
Christianity did not start everywhere at once, yet christians of all nationalities lay claim to the religion.

I dont know if what I am saying makes sense, or even if I m right, but I truly believe that history is what people make of it and what people want to do with it, rather than a series of "facts".

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#154960 - 06/13/05 12:47 PM Re: Martial Arts History of China and India [Re: MAGr]
Bushi_no_ki Offline
Veteran

Registered: 05/03/05
Posts: 1669
Loc: POM, Monterey CA
History is written by the victors. Or in this case, is written by governments to try and make their nation seem even greater. Let me put it this way, I wouldn't even want to try and find out how many times "Just build your damn casinos and shut up" has been said in all the back room politics in the US in the last decade. I'm sure that India had its indigenous MA, and that some influence may have spread with the rise of Buddhism to other nations. I'm also sure that much of the foundation of JMA is indigenous to Japan. There will always be myths and legends and outright lies surrounding the history of many nations, including which ones originated this style of MA or that. Take American Kenpo Karate for example. The moves used all originate from China/Japan/Okinawa. But the nomenclature is all American, and the attitude/philosophy has a definite American bent to it. There is no single nation of origin for this art, simply because it came to be out of the necessity of a culture that needed it's own MA, and needed it to be effective.

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#154961 - 06/20/05 10:04 AM Re: Martial Arts History of China and India [Re: kennethtennyson]
DrAgOnPuNcH Offline
Newbie

Registered: 05/19/05
Posts: 18
Loc: Staten Island aka Shaolin, NYC
Interesting...I'm indian American (my parents are coincidentaly from the exact state that kallaripayet is practiced)and i heard this story being thrown around alot...

about the indian buddhist monk bringing martail arts to china...

If you look at kallaripayet some of it looks similar to kung fu styles due to the forms are all animal forms. They do have similarities...and the indian belief in internal power (yoga) also mirrors chinese philosphy as well...

but i think its naive to say without a shadow of a doubt that they were influenced by each other...i mean there is no tangible real hard evidence to substantiate it...

it's pretty much a legend, the way i look at it is it could be true or just a bunch of sensationalist bs (think about it a wandering monk brought a fighting style...sounds cool and mysterious)

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#154962 - 06/20/05 10:33 AM Re: Martial Arts History of China and India [Re: kennethtennyson]
tao_majick Offline
Member

Registered: 07/13/04
Posts: 54
Loc: Bradenton, FL, USA
All this nationalistic ferver from the Indians...thats bad juu juu. Any racial/national ferver stems from pride....pride is evil.
_________________________
Aku Soku Zan "Kill Evil Immediately" - Motto of the Shinsengumi

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#154963 - 06/20/05 01:44 PM Re: Martial Arts History of China and India [Re: ButterflyPalm]
laf7773 Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 05/05/04
Posts: 4065
Loc: Limbo
Quote:


Did Abraham Lincoln really cut down a cherry tree? and dutifully confessed?





Not to split hairs or anything but it was Washington who chopped down the cherry tree. I'm going back into my hole now.
_________________________
Enjoy life while you can, you never know when things will change.

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#154964 - 06/20/05 10:53 PM Re: Martial Arts History of China and India [Re: laf7773]
DrAgOnPuNcH Offline
Newbie

Registered: 05/19/05
Posts: 18
Loc: Staten Island aka Shaolin, NYC
Quote:

Quote:


Did Abraham Lincoln really cut down a cherry tree? and dutifully confessed?





Not to split hairs or anything but it was Washington who chopped down the cherry tree. I'm going back into my hole now.




lol...i was gonna leave that alone...but ya it was GW

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#154965 - 06/21/05 04:37 AM Re: Martial Arts History of China and India [Re: laf7773]
ButterflyPalm Offline
Enigma

Registered: 08/26/04
Posts: 2637
Loc: Malaysia


So did Washington really chopped down the cherry tree?

*looking for another hole*
_________________________
I'll rather be happy than right, anytime.

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#154966 - 06/21/05 08:23 PM Re: Martial Arts History of China and India [Re: ButterflyPalm]
Bushi_no_ki Offline
Veteran

Registered: 05/03/05
Posts: 1669
Loc: POM, Monterey CA
BP, I'm sure Washington chopped more than a few cherry trees down in his life, the question is, did he chop one down and then tell his father when asked about it.

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