The Martial Arts

[Martial-Arts in General/Self-Defense, etc.] [Karate] [Tang Soo Do] [Aikido] [Shaolin Kung Fu] [Jiu-Jitsu || Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu] [Krav Maga] [Jeet Kune Do/Bruce Lee] [Martial-Arts Doublespeak Guide]

Don't take anything on this page as gospel. It's just informational. This page includes information and/or links on:


If you're completely new to the martial-arts, please read the rec.martial-arts FAQ .

Required reading for serious martial-artists:

It's hard to train in the martial-arts without equipment:


Karate is a Japanese word meaning "empty hands" which indicates that Karate is a kind of martial art that does not require weapons other than the parts of the body. Originally, it was a method of unarmed self-defense developed in the Okinawan Islands from various techniques introduced from mainland China, as well as local innovations. In truth, the origins of karate appear to be somewhat obscure and little is known about the early development of karate until it appeared in Okinawa. Although its origin is obscure, a popular legend prevails that the evolution of karate began over a thousand years ago, possibly as early as the 5th BC when Bodhidharma arrived in Shaolin-si in China from India and taught Zen Buddhism. He also introduced a systematized set of exercises designed to strengthen the mind and body.

This set of exercises allegedly marked the beginning of the Shaolin style of temple boxing. Bodhidharma's teachings later became the basis for the majority of Chinese martial arts. However, the question of his contributions to the martial arts and to Zen Buddhism and even of his very existence has been a matter of controversy among historians and martial arts scholars for many years.

Karate was originally known as 'Kenpo', meaning 'First Law'. From China it crossed over to Okinawa, where known as 'Te', which consisted mostly of hand movements. In 1923 the Okinawans altered the Chinese character to a Japanese character. Thus, the meaning changed from 'hands of China' to 'empty hand'. This transition assuredly lead to a deeper meaning to the art in which the spiritual overcame the physical.

Te continued to develop over the years, primarily in three Okinawan cities: Shuri, Naha and Tomari. Each of these towns was a center to a different sect of society: kings and nobles, merchants and business people, and farmers and fishermen, respectively. For this reason, different forms of self-defense developed within each city and subsequently became known as Shuri-te, Naha-te and Tomari-te. Collectively they were called Okinawa-Te or Tode, 'Chinese hand'. Gradually, karate was divided into two main groups: Shorin-ryu which developed around Shuri and Tomari and Shorei-ryu which came from the Naha area.

It is important to note, however, that the towns of Shuri, Tomari, and Naha are only a few miles apart, and that the differences between their arts were essentially ones of emphasis, not of kind. Beneath these surface differences, both the methods and aims of all Okinawan karate are the same .Shorin-ryu was quick and linear with natural breathing while Shorei-ryu emphasized steady, rooted movements with breathing in synchrony with each movement.

The Chinese character Tode could also be pronounced 'kara', thus the name Te was replaced with kara te - jutsu or 'Chinese hand art'' by the Okinawan Masters. This was later changed to karate-do by Gichin Funakoshi who adopted an alternate meaning for the Chinese character for kara, 'empty'. From this point on the term karate came to mean 'empty hand'. The Do in karate-do means 'way' or 'path', and is indicative of the discipline and philosophy of karate with moral and spiritual connotations

In the last seven decades, the techniques have been modified into distinct Japanese styles. Today there are four main styles of karate-do in Japan: Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan, and Wado-ryu:Many. These styles are currently taught in the world and are often modified into styles more suitable to their own methods of self defense. Thus the art of karate is constantly undergoing improvement and revision.

In its course of development, Karate has gradually come into prominence as a sport. In 1916, two experts form Okinawa, Kenwa Mabuni and Gigen Funakoshi introduced their techniques to Japan aiming at promoting Karate as a sport throughout Japan.

As a sport, Karate offers many different levels and types of competition. A typical tournament would include demonstrations of breaking, weapons use, self defense techniques, tradition and open forms and the most exciting competition, sparring. Competitive tournaments bring together many different styles of Karate. The Diamond National World Karate Championships, the biggest and most prestigious tournament held annually in Minnesota, is sponsored by the North American Sports Karate Association (NASKA). It also sponsors the US Open World Karate Championships that is held annually in Florida.


Tang Soo Do is a traditional style of Korean martial-arts, with linear strikes and a wide array of kicking techniques and strategies -- a good "base" martial-art. It is especially effective for long-range attacks. Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan was developed by Grandmaster Hwang Kee after extensive training in the Korean martial-art of Soo Bahk Do, along with training in both northern and southern Chinese gungfu styles. Tang Soo Do contains a mix of 50% Soo Bahk Do, 40% northern gungfu, and 10% southern gungfu. While many of its techniques are similar to those of Tae Kwon Do, TSD differs in its approach; Tang Soo Do training is generally more traditional:

  • It stresses art and practicality over sport and tournaments, and yet includes much more emphasis in traditional forms.
  • There are subtle differences in the way TSD techniques are performed, as compared to TKD. TSD derives power more from a centered lower stance and waist rotation; TKD, however, chooses to concentrate on power via fast whiplike delivery from a higher, more frontal stance.
  • Tang Soo Do hand techniques are distinctly "Asian", while TKD often adds hand techniques that are remarkably similar to those of Western boxing.

A Brief History of Tang Soo Do

[From the United States Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation, Inc. guidebook]

The martial art of Tang Soo Do is relatively modern. However, its basis, the Korean art of Soo Bahk Do, dates back many centuries. Tang Soo Do is a composite styles, being 60% Soo Bahk Do, 30% northern Chinese and 10% southern Chinese. Our kicking techniques, for which Tang Soo Do is unsurpassed, are based on Soo Bahk. Soo Bahk was first developed during the Silla Dynasty (618-925 A.D.), but enjoyed it flowering during the Koryo Dynasty (935-1392 A.D>).

Tang Soo Do is both a hard and soft style, deriving its hardness in part from Soo Bahk and its soft flowing movements from the northern Chinese systems.

The man who developed Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan, Grandmaster Hwang Kee, is a martial arts prodigy, having mastered Tae Kyun (another Korean system not related to Tae Kwon Do) and Soo Bahk Do at the age of 22. At that time, (1936), he travelled to northern China. There he encountered a Chinese variation of martial artistry called the Tang Method and developed what was to be known as Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan.

Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan (a brotherhood and school of stopping inner and outer conflict and developing virtue according to the way of the worthy hand) is not a sport. Though it is not essentially competitive, it has great combat applications. It is a classical martial art, and its purpose is to develop every aspect of the self, in order to create a mature personality who totally integrates his intellect, body, emotions, and spirit. This total integration helps to create a person who is free from inner conflict and who can deal with the outside world in a mature, intelligent, forthright, and virtuous manner.


Aikido is a soft martial-art which in beginning stages is excellent for teaching body movement, balance, focus, and relaxation; it is only after many years of practice, however, that Aikido can be effectively used for self-defense. Aikido essentially involves taking control of a person's energy, movement and momentum and directing it away from you -- few strikes (atemi) are involved in Aikido, and what strikes there are exist mainly as distraction/setup techniques. The problem with Aikido, in my opinion, is that when facing a well-trained martial-artist who remains completely centered and balanced during execution of a technique, an Aikidoka has very little to work with -- especially if the Aikidoka is anything less than perfect in his response. Despite this lack of practicality, the study of Aikido is very worthwhile -- it provides good training in attribute development (see the Bruce Lee/JKD section below), is very calming and spiritual, and is beautiful to watch. This site will point you to a bunch of others; I especially liked these:

Here are a few good passages written by past Aikido sensei Morihei Ueshiba.


Kung Fu is Chinese term for "martial art", it can also be called "Wu Shu". The holy Shaolin temple of the Buddhism was established about 1600 years ago on the mountain of Sung.

It was the symbol of Buddhism power in China, and it also represented the ultimate domination of Buddhism over other religions in the next 1000 years in China. Shaolin temple was built during the feudal age when warlords divided and ruled each region of China separately. It was the time when murderers, bandits, and thieves were commonplace. In order to repel threats from outside world, the high priests of Shaolin temple research and devised many unique and powerful martial arts; monks were trained with martial arts as protector of holiness (at that time, all those that opposed buddhism principles were said to be "unholy").

Legend has that Shaolin temple devised powerful techniques such that allow people to punch through concrete wall, to regenerate and heal at faster rate, and to walk on the surface of water like dragonfly. All these martial arts have come together as what we called "Shaolin Kung Fu". However, after centuries of warfare and disasters, much of Shaolin Kung Fu were swept away and forgotten. What we are learning now, the modern Shaolin Kung Fu, is the remnant of this ancient martial arts that once shaken the foundation of the world of martial art in the far east. Although Shaolin Kung Fu had lost it former glory long time ago, it still remains as one of the most prominent and most powerful martial arts exist in the world today.

Martial arts like Karate, Judo, and Tai Kwan Do are actually variants of the techniques that originated from Shaolin Kung Fu. Suffice to say, no other martial arts in the world is as rich in techniques and as effective as the Shaolin Kung Fu.

Major Shaolin styles include Crane, Tiger, Praying Mantis, Snake, Dragon, Wing Chun, and Qigong.


The general idea embraced by most historians is that systemized martial arts techniques came from India along with Buddhism (Dharma). The concept here is that the Shaolin temple was built in the center of China and this is where Dharma introduced Buddhism and Boxing. Buddhist Monks in northern India are said to have greatly contributed to the early development of Jiu-Jitsu. Bandits constantly assaulted the monks during their long journeys through the interior of India. Buddhist religious and moral values did not encourage the use of weapons so they were forced to develop an empty hand system of self-defense.

These Monks were men of great wisdom who possessed a perfect knowledge of the human body. Consequently, they applied laws of physics such as leverage, momentum, balance, center of gravity, friction, weight transmission and manipulation of the human anatomy’s vital points in order to create a scientific art of self-defense.

Another version supports the idea of Jiu-Jitsu coming from China around the time of the fall of the Ming Dynasty. When a Chinese monk named Chin Gen Pinh came to Japan, accompanied with his knowledge and experience of Kempo, known as the “China Hand.” Another theory says that there were practitioners of Chikura Karube, a wrestling sport developed around 200 B.C. It is said that Chikura Karube later became Jiu-jitsu in Japan.

One thing is certain about these stories, and that is that the Japanese were responsible for refining a grappling art into a very sophisticated grappling system called Jiu-Jitsu which was developed in Japan during the Feudal period.


When the days of the Samurai came to an end, the gun replaced the sword, and new sportive ways to practice martial arts were developed. Eventually, in Japan many different variations of Jiu-Jitsu took shape, including Karate, Aikido, and Judo. But these arts were missing essential pieces of what the complete art of Jiu-Jitsu originally held.

This lack of reality created years of confusion in the martial arts community, a confusion that legendary Bruce Lee would later refer to as the 'classical mess'. Bruce Lee was actually a student of Judo and did many studies on grappling while he was alive. He criticized traditional martial arts as being ineffective. The more traditional combat schools were simply practicing techniques no longer suitable for modern day combat, and with no way to safely test them, practicing these arts became like swimming without water.

It wasn't until the sport art of Judo and the combat art of Jiu-Jitsu were introduced to the Gracie family in Brazil that the real art of Jiu-Jitsu would be brought to life again. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu (practiced as Judo) was introduced to the Gracie family in Brazil around 1914 by Esai Maeda, who was also known as Conde Koma. Maeda was a champion of Jiu-Jitsu and a direct student of Kano, at the Kodokan in Japan. He was born in 1878, and became a student of Judo (Kano’s Jiu-Jitsu) in 1897.

In 1914, Maeda was given the opportunity to travel to Brazil as part of a large Japanese immigration colony. In Brazil, in the northern state of Para, he befriended Gastão Gracie, an influential businessman, who helped Maeda get established. To show his gratitude, Maeda offered to teach traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu to Gastão's oldest son, Carlos Gracie. Carlos learned for a few years and eventually passed his knowledge to his brothers.

Helio Gracie, the youngest son of Gastão and Cesalina Gracie's eight children (three were girls), was always a very physically frail child. He would run up a flight of stairs and have fainting spells, and no one could figure out why.

At age fourteen, he moved in with his older brothers who lived and taught Jiu-Jitsu in a house in Botafogo, a borough of Rio de Janeiro. Following doctor’s recommendations, Helio would spend the next few years limited to only watching his brothers teach.

One day, when Helio was 16 years old, a student showed up for class when Carlos was not around. Helio, who had memorized all the techniques from watching his brothers teach, offered to start the class. When the class was over, Carlos showed up and apologized for his delay. The student answered, "No problem. I enjoyed the class with Helio very much and, if you don't mind, I'd like to continue learning from him." Carlos agreed, and Helio became an instructor.

Helio soon realized that due to his frail physique, most of the techniques he had learned from watching Carlos teach were particularly difficult for him to execute. Eager to make the techniques work for him, he began modifying them to accommodate his weak body. Emphasizing the use of leverage and timing over strength and speed, Helio modified virtually all of the techniques and, through trial and error, created Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

To prove the effectiveness of his new system, Helio openly challenged all the reputable martial artists in Brazil. He fought 18 times, including matches against onetime world heavyweight wrestling champion, Wladek Zbyszko and the #2-ranked Judoka in the world at the time, Kato, whom Helio choked unconscious in six minutes. His victory against Kato qualified him to enter the ring with the world champion, Masahiko Kimura, the best Jiu-Jitsu fighter Japan has ever produced, and who outweighed Helio by almost 80 pounds. Kimura won the match but was so impressed with Helio’s techniques that he asked Helio to go teach in Japan claiming the techniques Helio presented during their bout did not exist in Japan. It was the recognition by the world’s best to Helio’s dedication to the refinement of the art.

At 43 years old, Helio and former student, Waldemar Santana, set the world record for the longest uninterrupted no-holds-barred fight in history when they fought for an incredible 3 hours and 40 minutes!

Widely regarded as the first sports hero in Brazilian history, Helio also challenged boxing icons Primo Carnera, Joe Louis, and Ezzard Charles. They all declined.

A dedicated family man who exemplified a healthy life-style he was the epitome of courage, discipline, determination, and an inspiration to people everywhere. A modern-day legend, Helio Gracie gained international acclaim for his dedication to the dissemination of the art and is recognized as the creator of Gracie/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.


The history of Israeli Fighting systems dates back to 1919, with the implementation of the British Mandate. In this same year the Jewish people formed an underground army known as the Haganah (the Hebrew word for defense) to deal with the ongoing conflict with various terrorist gangs, and in anticipation of the creation of a Jewish state promised to them by the British in the Balfour Declaration. Throughout its existence since that time, the little region in the Middle East now known as Israel has had to fight daily in order to survive.

Completely surrounded by enemies under the most hostile circumstances, Israel has always been outnumbered in its battles. In response to continuous overwhelming odds, the Israelis developed systems of combat that emphasized mental toughness, versatility, innovation and practicality at its core.

The formalities of traditional defense systems were abandoned in favor of methodologies that valued rapid and instinctive learning. These philosophies helped Israel and its citizens to survive in the face of constant aggression as the nation formed one of the most respected military forces in the world in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Faced with warfare and terrorism, the Israeli military developed combat systems that were practical in the battlefield.

Israeli Fighting systems have been successfully used for decades by Israeli Special Forces, FBI, high profile bodyguards, counter-terrorist police units, and SWAT units from around the world.

The Birth Of Krav Maga

Krav Maga was developed in Czechoslovakia in the 1930s by Imi Lichtenfeld, also known as Imi Sde-Or (Sde-Or – "Light Field" – a calque of his last name into Hebrew). He first taught his fighting system in Bratislava in order to help protect the local Jewish community from the Nazi militia. Upon arriving in the British Mandate of Palestine, Lichtenfeld began teaching Kapap to the Haganah, the Jewish underground army.

With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Lichtenfeld became the Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) School of Combat Fitness. He served in the IDF for 15 years, during which time he continued to develop and refine his hand-to-hand combat method.

In 1964 he left the military though continued to supervise the instruction of Krav Maga in both military and law-enforcement contexts, and in addition, worked tirelessly to refine, improve and adapt Krav Maga to meet civilian needs

In 1978, Lichtenfeld founded the non-profit Israeli Krav Maga Association with several senior instructors. He died in January 1998 in Netanya, Israel.


Combat in the streets is completely unpredictable. There are no rules. There are no referees to stop a fight. Most important: there is no honor code as anything can happen. The attacker might pull a gun, or a knife, or have friends that decide to swarm you. Thugs and criminals are capable of stooping to any sub-human extent.

Solution: Think like a Commando. Engage the enemy only if there is no other choice, but if you must then exploit his weaknesses to create maximum damage as quickly as possible. Then rapidly disengage before a weapon is introduced or if his friends come to jump in. The goal is simple: Survival. This is the reality of the street.

Krav Maga's highly effective tactics and techniques are built upon a foundation of key concepts for survival:

Engage/Disengage In a street fight there are no rules or referee stoppages. Staying engaged with your attacker and trying to punish them can be fatal. At any time the attacker can pull out a concealed weapon or their friends may jump in. This is why one of the key concepts is to disengage whenever you can (as a big ego can you killed) but if you have no choice, immediately engage to create as much damage as quickly as possible then disengage to safety.

Maximum Damage/Minimum Time Further building on the concept of Engage/Disengage, The tactics and techniques are designed to inflict the maximum amount of damage in the minimum amount of time during a life-threatening confrontation. You are trained to debilitate the attacker with devastating street tactics that will ensure your survival.

5-Second Rule You are taught Ground Survival rather than Ground Fighting. No matter how superior your grappling skills are, staying on the ground during a street confrontation can be fatal. Unlike an MMA ring, the streets are unpredictable. Your attacker can suddenly pull out a knife or his friends may jump in. You are trained to get up in 5 seconds or less from any devastating ground attacks including ground and pound, submissions or lethal weapons. Once you're up, the goal is to disengage to safety rather than trying to punish the attacker.

The What-Ifs To train realistically, you need to implement the what-if mindset by putting yourself in the attacker's shoes. As the street is unpredictable, you need to consider the different variables. "What if the attacker is bigger, stronger or faster?", "What if the attacker moves from one attack to another?", "What if the attacker's friends jump in to help him?", "What if the attacker is carrying a concealed weapon?"

By internalizing the what-if mentality, you will develop the proper mindset to always prepare for the worst.

Adaptation You are trained to adapt quickly to the changing environment under the most realistic scenarios. After perfecting your tactics and techniques through progressive practice, you must test yourself under the most stressful and dynamic conditions.

Simplicity is Genius Any technique that requires more than 2 gross motor skills is extremely difficult to perform under stress. In Commando Krav Maga, most of the tactics were designed to be simple and universal so that you don't have to think about the move under stress. They work regardless of the direction you are attacked from as well as the size of the attacker.

More information can be found on the Krav Maga's Worldwide site .

But Does It REALLY Work???

We've all heard stories of the highly trained, highly skilled martial-arts master getting his butt kicked on the street by a totally untrained bar brawler. This has led many people to remark, "That crap doesn't work in a real fight."

So is martial-arts training completely useless for self-defense and fighting? Not really. The problem is, the black-belt spent all his time learning techniques that would be useful in a fight, but he never bothered to train himself to exploit opportunities to deliver them. He knew how to deliver that great roundhouse kick, but not when or why. All three are important. Perhaps, in addition, he failed to develop many important attributes needed to be a skilled fighter (which is not to say that the black-belt wasn't a skilled martial-artist.)

Bruce Lee wrote an outstanding and famous article, Liberate Yourself From Classical Karate regarding this problem. His responses to reactions to his (at the time) controversial statements are also revealing.

Bruce Lee began his formal training in the style of wing chun gung-fu for self defense in his ongoing streetfights with gangs in Hong Kong. His teacher was the legendary Yip Man. Wing Chun is a relatively new, devastatingly fast and powerful style of gung-fu which stresses occupying the center-line, simultaneous parry-and-attack, and developing heightened sensitivity in the forearms. It is especially effective in the middle and close distance ranges.

Growing up in Hong Kong, Bruce was exposed to other styles of Gung Fu; from these, he learned some of the kicks of the northern styles. When he moved, at the age of 18, to the United States, he began to incorporate these kicks into his style. He also modified some of the stances and positions of Wing Chun, moving his right side forward and his left side back a little to create less of a square stance. Bruce's art -- Jun Fan.

In the early 1960's, Bruce met Ed Parker, the founder of American Kenpo; undoubtedly, each of them influenced the other's art to a certain extent. Bruce also met Dan Inosantos, a student of Parker's at the time. Inosantos was to become Bruce's main protege (and currently is regarded as one of the main authorities of Jeet Kune Do). Inosantos introduced Bruce to the Filipino martial arts. (Here is another place with info on the Filipino arts). Througout the '60's Bruce was constantly meeting other martial-artists, reading, practicing, and learning. Among the arts and/or people he came into contact with were:

  • Fencing
  • Boxing
  • Tae Kwon Do, through Jhoon Rhee
  • Judo and wrestling, through Gene LeBell (aka "the man who gave Bruce Lee noogies!" :-) )
  • Jujitsu, through Professor Wally Jay

It was Professor Jay who suggested an "all-encompassing martial-art" to Bruce. But, by the late '60's, Bruce was no longer just interested in 'styles' or in simply adding techniques to his arsenal. Instead, he was interested in a philosophy of combat -- a set of principles about the nature of combat -- and how to apply that philosophy. Thus was born Jeet Kune Do. Actually, the process is a little more involved. A little synopsis by Marty here. You can also read these:

  • Inosanto, Dan _Jeet Kune Do: The Art and Philosophy of Bruce Lee_ Know How Publishing Company, 1980.
  • Kent, Chris and Tackett, Tim _Jun Fan/Jeet Kune Do: The Textbook_
Bruce Lee believed the effective fighter generally had certain attributes and uderstood certain basic aspects and strategies of combat. To that end, Lee teaches that the most important general aspects of Jeet Kune Do are *simplicity* and directness. Among other things, this involved:
  • Using techniques that don't involve fancy complex setups, or stances.
  • Economy of motion -- which includes not telegraphing (using unconcious body language to precede an attack).
  • Straight line attacks whenever possible (although curves or hooked attacks are sometimes used -- "whatever scores").

JKD also stresses deception and misdirection:

  • Use broken rhythms to confuse and throw off an opponent.
  • Stay in constant motion to avoid predictability.
  • Distraction techniques.

Specific drills were introduced to train students in attributes so that they could effectively implement these strategies. Unlike most traditional MA training, JKD training includes specific drills to improve attributes like balance, reaction speed, technique performance speed, timing, reflexes, sensitivity, coordination, and rhythm. Then students are given protective gear and told to spar, no-holds-barred -- to learn how to employ these attributes and strategies in a real fight. Lee used to say, "You need to jump in the water to learn how to swim ... you can't just stay on dry land."

Theoretically, Lee found that there were four distance ranges and five general methods of attack in hand-to-hand. The Jun-Fan/JKD page describes these.

What was written here is by no means a complete description of Jeet Kune Do ... nor can any written account truly describe this, or any other martial-art. To learn and understand any martial art -- go, look, listen, and DO.

So, are you inspired to take up the martial-arts yet? Here's something a little more humorous

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