The origin and history of Martial Arts is a controversial issue. One can see signs of martial arts in Egyptian, Greek, African, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, as well as other cultures.
The first fighting systems on earth probably evolved alongside humans because mankind must have always had a need to defend himself against animals, as well as against his fellow man. Ancient murals and sculptures show fighting poses from Egypt, India and Babylon dating from as far back as 5,000 years ago.
The martial arts as we know them probably did not evolve until systems of offensive and defensive skills were devised in or imported into China. There, in a country saturated with the spiritual teachings of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, these fighting skills were combined with intangible elements such as compassion, discipline and self-control.
Martial arts are thought to have originated in India and made their way through China and across the rest of Asia. Folklore recounts mythical creatures called Tengu who practiced martial arts and passed them on to humans.
Founders of martial arts who wanted to give their methods the aura of legitimacy would often claim that the Tengu had taught them the art. Legend says that Bodhidharma, the Buddhist monk who brought Zen to China from India, also brought the martial arts. There is a clear path leading from the Southern China regions up to Korea, Okinawa and Japan. The details before that, and the exact details of that transfer, are greatly debated by historians and Martial Artists alike.
Through various periods in history when weapons were outlawed, the martial arts prospered as the only means for a person to defend himself and his family. But even as more civilized times descended upon humanity, the arts survived. They managed to outlive their violent origins primarily because they teach man much more than fighting. The true martial arts stress character development, discipline and respect. Self-defense, physical fitness and competition are some of the other benefits which modern practitioners enjoy. The fact that the martial arts have had a chance to evolve into many different styles has allowed it to endure for so many centuries.