View Full Version : Geography of Martial Arts

18th December 2000, 01:55
Do you think there is any value to looking at the development of the "Martial Arts" from a Geograpahical perspective. I have been thinking about the merits of this for while, and I am wondering what you guys think about it. The geographical perspective would consist principally of a spatial analysis, but could also include a temporal component. It might be interesting to compare how different social and environmental influences may effect the MA's and if correlations can be drawn between the influences and ... the application...or the popularity of a given MA. Anyway, I apologize, I sort of think out loud here, any comments..? Thanks for time.

Neil Hawkins
18th December 2000, 08:41
Ed definitely an interesting area of research, but a huge undertaking! I had started to think about this a little a while back, but kept getting a headache, so I stopped. :D

The hard part is always going to be where two geographically seperate areas developed the same thing simultaneously. Grappling type arts are by far the oldest, but were very similar all over the world, proving links or evolutionary paths will be difficult.

I have tried linking the wrestling shown in books from 17th century Holland to jujutsu. I believe that the techniques were brought back by the traders and soldiers that travelled to Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries, but the general consensus from historians and researchers seemed to be that they developed independently despite many similarities. I don't necessarily agree but without conclusive evidence it's impossible to say.

I would say that your best approach would be to start small and try and trace one specific area, then branch out where opportunities appear. Maybe a simple 'atlas' of arts or styles would be a good place to start, then start looking at origination dates, similarites, etc, this would undoubtedly lead to some conclusions re expansion and spread, but as I said big task.

I'll pass your post onto Joe (he's having connection problems at present) it's bound to be something he's considered and he may have some suggestions.



[Edited by Neil Hawkins on 12-18-2000 at 03:45 AM]

18th December 2000, 13:07
There's a website dedicated to studying western martial arts called http://www.thehaka.com (I think, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about the link). Apparantly some styles of spanish duelling matches the progression of one of the koryu kenjutsu schools almost exactly. Or are you looking for geographical affect on specific techniques? Such as why do many koryu schools not have sliding movements with their feet, but instead go the opposite way and increase the number of balance points touching the ground? Sucking mud (battlefield) would make foot sliding difficult, but urban styles fight on concrete and can make full use of those movements.

My head hurts, I feel a migraine coming on.:santa: Good luck with your search and merry christmas.

18th December 2000, 20:35
Originally posted by Neil Hawkins

Thanks Neil,

Your right, there many ways of developing this topic into a more focused exploration. The Atlas approach would certianly be the best basis from which to work from.

Neil Hawkins
18th December 2000, 21:58
Here's what Joe had to say...

I think that examining the diffusion of martial arts through the world during the 19th and 20th centuries as an element of human geography could be quite interesting. Track the immigration patterns, for example, and see if the diffusion really is owed to immigrants (conventional wisdom) or whether it is really owed to something else. Each case is unique, so what you'd have to do is plot the whole thing on a chart, with the goal being to discover general tendencies.

Another possibility involves examining the cultural imperialism inherent in the diffusion, a perspective that is also essentially geographic in nature.


More than enough to keep you busy! ;)



Neil Hawkins
19th December 2000, 00:45
More from Joe, I explained my suggestion and this is what he said...

Plotting martial arts on a map is going to be a difficult task in its own right first you have to identify the things. Venn diagrams, perhaps? That is, rather than sticking flags into the map, instead draw circles and see how they overlap? You end up with a shotgun pattern on the map, but with computer overlays it shouldn't end up being as frightening as a Brigade S-3 map with admin log overlays. (That is the alternative -- overlays.)

Anyway, plot the MA diffusion and then overlay it with military, commercial, political, and religious transmission during the same eras, and you should see where the true roots of transmission for that particular art lie. I'm guessing commerce and politics transmitted more
arts than soldiers and priests.

If you do follow this up Ed, I'd be interested in viewing the results, it's got me intrigued. I would say that a computer model would be the easiest. Differentiate grappling from striking from weapons, etc, but the more I think about it the harder it gets. There are going to be obvious patterns but getting it down in a coherent manner is the thing.

Generic names could help, by reducing the numbers of arts but then there are huge differences between certain styles in a small geographic area. Take Pencak Silat as an example, Indonesia has thousands of islands and there are hundreds of styles, many of which are now extinct or amalgamated into others, but there are distinct differences between Javanese styles and Sumatran styles, stuff from the Malay Peninsular is different again. Where do you draw the line?

Some areas would be extremely interesting, like the Philippines. Old Arnis has the same origins as Silat, but there are Spanish and Portugese influences from the 1600's as well as Japanese from then and the 1940's, then you have american influence bringing in modern arts since the 50's. But don't forget the Chinese influence over the last 1000 years, the Thai influence, etc.

Finding the right focus would be the hardest part, too deep, buried in trivia, not deep enough, miss links or evolutionary paths. See what I mean about a headache!! :D

Good Luck:santa:


19th December 2000, 02:58
Thanks for the respone! Luckly as a "geographer" I have access to the required software, so the basic cartography should be a interesting but do-able exercise.

Getting the data will be a challenge as a well as distilling it down into something usable. Anyway, thanks again Neil, and send my thanks to Joe, time to plan it out I guess!