The top Martial Arts that have influenced the way we train today. Part 1.

The top Martial Arts that have influenced the way we train today. Part 1.

If you were training in the martial arts in the 1950’s through the 1980’s and for some reason just woke up in today's Martial Arts world, you would find it practically unrecognizable. The landscape has changed so much over even that last 15 years. What used to be the arts that were popular are no longer practiced by many people at all. The reasons for training have dramatically changed as well. This is both a good and a bad thing depending on what your perspective is.

First let's look at the most popular Martial Arts throughout the years starting with the 1950’s in the United States. The 1950’s were where it all started. When U.S. soldiers were returning from the European and Pacific theaters of WWII, some brought back some martial knowledge with them from being stationed in places like Japan, Okinawa and and the like. The first Martial Arts to gain a secure foothold in the states was Judo. The Japanese Martial Art best known for throwing and pinning its opponents. Even president Theodore Roosevelt was a avid practitioner of Judo. The founder of Judo was a man named Jigoro Kano. Kano even lectured at USC in the 1930’s. By the mid 1950’s there were enough people practicing Judo in the United States to hold a  national championship tournament.

In the 1950’s Judo was required training for the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC). Many U.S. service personnel who had been serving in Asia began teaching Judo when they returned home. The other big thing that helped to propel Judo into the forefront was the use of it on the silver screen in such movies as 1954’s Blood on the Sun, in which James Cagney portrays a Judo practitioner and purportedly trained in the art intensively for the role- with James Halleran, a LAPD officer and a Judo expert. Or how about the Manchurian Candidate, in which Frank Sinatra portrays a Martial Arts expert? Today, Judo is a Olympic sport and has regained much of its popularity due to the meteoric rise of one of the UFC’s most recognizable faces, Ronda Rousey. Rousey won the bronze medal at the 2008 games in Beijing.  

There are many historians who proclaim that the Chinese Martial Arts were first taught in the States by immigrant laborers who were brought here to work on the transcontinental railroad. While this is most likely true, up until the late 1960’s it was considered taboo for anyone to teach another person their Martial Arts if they were not of Chinese descent. That story, however will be saved for another blog post.;-)   

Next week we will explore the 1960’s and how the Martial Arts focus in the United States made a large shift, and how that affected the landscape of today.

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