To many people in America, the proliferation of martial arts might seem like a relatively recent phenomenon. Fueled by Hollywood and a romanticized interest in Eastern traditions, karate, and other martial arts have become mainstays in American culture. But while martial arts might be new on the American scene, they arrived incredibly early in the general history of humanity. And karate, perhaps the most famous of the martial arts in America, is actually one of the newest forms. There are many other martial arts whose histories began thousands and thousands of years ago. Here are brief descriptions of seven of the oldest forms of martial arts.


This form was first practiced in Korea around 50 BC and appeared in paintings discovered among the ruins of ancient tombs. It gained wide popularity in the 16th century and has been revitalized in recent decades. 


 This Indian form of martial arts has been practiced on the Subcontinent since around 1000 BCE. Its creation is often attributed to a Hindu deity, and it maintains its popularity today. 


 This was the preferred form of the Ancient Greeks and was first practiced around 2000 BCE. According to Greek mythology, heroes Hercules and Theseus used this method to defeat their beastly enemies. It was an event in the ancient Olympic Games, and while it is not part of the modern Olympics, it is still prevalent in some parts of Greece. 

 Shuai Jiao

This Chinese form has existed for thousands of years since the Yellow Emperor famously used it in 2697 BCE. It is still prevalent in China today. 


 This ancient form was created around 3000 BCE and was popular in various Southeast Asian countries, from modern-day India to Sri Lanka. Its four derivations are named after Hindu deities, and certain communities still practice it. 


 This sport was first introduced by the Sumerians around 3000 BCE and remains popular today. It was a part of the ancient Greek Olympics and is now a part of the modern Olympic Games.


 This is another sport that has maintained its popularity from ancient times. It is believed to have originated in Egypt and was as popular in ancient Greece as it is today.