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Whenever we hear the word Martial Arts, most of us think of people beating each other up and our desire to learn the art deepens just so that we can beat up our brothers and sisters. Well actually that's not quite it…

If you want to go back to the time when the Martial Arts were first introduced into this volcanic world of ours, I would say it dates back to when the first savage man 'tried' to kill an elephant, or whatever those elephant like things with long teeth were called.

The first time I heard about Martial Arts was when I about the age of four or five and thought Barney the Dinosaur was funny. I thought it was 'Marital Art' the art of getting married…(yes, yes I sort of knew what marital art is at that profound developing age) But then I finally got grasp of what Martial Art is and that is how my journey to learning more about it had begun. Okay, time to get serious…

The original concept of martial arts incorporated a total system of training that went far beyond fighting. Martial Arts can be defined spiritually, as purely a medium for channeling one's energy in order to unite one's mind, body and spirit into one being. Ironic and contrasting as it may seem, the search for inner peace is the goal for any practitioner. Yet the art guides them past the violent antagonism of hand-to-hand combat to a radical transformation in the being himself. However, in the beginning of this very long journey, martial arts may be many things to many people. For some, it may be just a ticket to physical fitness; some may regard it as self-protection. It is completely up to you how far you wish to travel and how much you achieve. (Too serious? Bear with me)

Martial Arts is said to have started officially, around the 12th Century by a monk named Bodidharma, during his travel from India to a Shaolin-si (small forest temple shaolin temple) in China in order to preach Buddhism. He found the monks there to be very unfit and in poor heath; they could not defend themselves at all from thieves or robbers who attacked frequently, neither could they even sit for prolonged meditation. Bodidharma started to teach them a system of "exercise" based on yoga and fighting arts with inspiration mainly from having observing many animals in combat. So thus it started mainly to teach defense, body fitness, and calmness in one's mind so that it never cripples down with anger, hate, desperation and such emotions. After centuries of refinement, this art to make the body and soul one, spread to neighboring countries. In each new place, it was modified according to local needs and talents. What started as Shaolin Kungfu in China became Karate in Japan, and Taekwondo in Korea.

Martial Arts expanded with a passion, and developed into a fitness program, self-defense system, and an exciting sport that soon became popular all over the world. The different styles of Martial Arts include: Kungfu, Wushu, Ninjutsu, Tai Chi, Judo, Shinto Ryu, Kendo, Kenpo, Iado, Kick-Boxing, Jeetkwondo, Kyukushin, Jujitsu, Aikido, Taekwondo, Karate, and many more. The most popular of them in our country are Karate and Taekwondo. Other active styles also include Aikido, Wushu, Kyukushin.

Karate is a division of martial arts which loosely translated means "empty handed" (Kara means 'empty' and te means 'hand'). What is called "Karate" is actually a descendent of Southern Chinese Kungfu. There are several Fundamental Styles of Karate. They use slightly different training methods and place varying degrees of emphasis on factors such as the speed, strength and range of techniques - thus you will hear some described as 'fast' styles, others as 'strong' styles. Today there are four main styles of karate-do: Goju-ryu, Shito-ryu, Shotokan and Wado-ryu. In Bangladesh, Shotokan and Wado-Ryu are the most popular Karate styles.

Shotokan was founded by Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) in Tokyo in 1938. Funakoshi is considered to be the founder of modern karate. Born in Okinawa, he began to study karate with Yasutsune Azato, one of Okinawa's greatest experts in the art. In 1921 Funakoshi first introduced Karate to Tokyo. In 1936, at nearly 70 years of age, he opened his own training hall. The dojo was called Shotokan after the pen name used by Funakoshi to sign poems written in his youth. Shotokan Karate is characterized by powerful linear techniques and deep strong stances. Shotokan is the most widely spread form of Karate in Bangladesh and are taught in many places. One of the popular dojos teaching Shotokan is the Bengal School of Shotokan located in Gulshan-2 near American Burger, instructed by sensei B. Rani Padamsee.

Wado-ryu, 'way of harmony', founded in 1939 is a system of karate developed from jujitsu and karate by Hironori Otsuka as taught by one of his instructors, Gichin Funakoshi. This style of karate combines basic movements of jujitsu with techniques of evasion, putting a strong emphasis on softness and the way of harmony or spiritual discipline. Wado-ryu is not as popular as Shotokan in our country. Practiced in very few dojos in our country, Black Belt Academy located in Plot-8A, Road-2, Gulshan-1 under guidance of sensei Kazi M. Qais, derives the true essence of this art.

In Goju-ryu much emphasis is placed on combining soft circular blocking techniques with quick strong counter attacks delivered in rapid succession. On the other hand, Shito-ryu schools use a large number of kata (a fixed sequence of basic defense and attack routines designed for practice of various Martial Art techniques, like blocking, striking, evading etc.), about fifty, and is characterized by an emphasis on power in the execution of techniques.

Kyokushin also falls under the category of Karate, founded by Mas Oyama born in 1923 in South-Korea. He became the Japanease karate champion in 1947 and also a national hero he fought against and defeated 53 bulls and killed 3 of them!!! As you can so guess, Kyokushin emphasizes primarily on power execution with its techniques. Kyokushin in Bangladesh is widely practiced in IKO Kyokushin Bangladesh Branch located in 25/2 Lake Circus, Kalabagan, trained by sensei Monir Ahmed Bhuiyan.

The earliest records of Taekwondo practice date back to about 50 B.C. Overtime time Taekwondo have evolved into many forms to its present day modern Taekwondo. Tae Kyon (also called Subak) is considered the earliest known form of Taekwondo. Tae means "to Kick" or "Smash with the feet," Kwon implies "punching" or "destroying with the hand or fist," and Do means "way" or "method." Taekwondo thus means the way kicks and punches are utilized to defend oneself. Compared to other styles however, Taekwondo focuses more on kicks and flexibility and reach of legs.

Taekwondo incorporates the abrupt linear movements of Karate and the flowing, circular patterns of Kung-fu with native kicking techniques. Over fifty typically Chinese circular hand movements can be identified in modern Taekwondo. A few of the earlier martial arts styles that contributed to Taekwondo are: T'ang-su, Taek Kyon, also known as Subak, Tae Kwon, Kwonpup and Tae Kwonpup. There are also influences from Judo, Karate, and Kung-fu. One of the leading Taekwondo school is the ITF Bangladesh Taekwondo-Do Federation located in 44/6 Azimpur Road, presidented by D. M. Jahangir Alam.

Aikido's founder, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in Japan on December 14, 1883. As a boy, he often saw local thugs beat up his father for political reasons. He set out to make himself strong so that he could take revenge. He devoted himself to hard physical conditioning and eventually to the practice of martial arts, receiving certificates of mastery in several styles of jujitsu, fencing, and spear fighting. In spite of his impressive physical and martial capabilities, however, he felt very dissatisfied. He began delving into religions in hopes of finding a deeper significance to life, all the while continuing to pursue his studies of budo, or the martial arts. By combining his martial training with his religious and political ideologies, he created the modern martial art of Aikido. Ueshiba decided on the name "Aikido" in 1942 (before that he called his martial art "aikibudo" and "aikinomichi").

On the technical side, Aikido is rooted in several styles of jujitsu (from which modern judo is also derived), in particular daitoryu-(aiki) jujitsu, as well as sword and spear fighting arts. Oversimplifying somewhat, we may say that Aikido takes the joint locks and throws from jujitsu and combines them with the body movements of sword and spear fighting. However, we must also realize that many Aikido techniques are the result of Master Ueshiba's own innovation. Aikido is presently taught in Black Belt Academy, Plot-8A, Road-2, Gulshan-1, thrice a week under Turkish sensei Itwo.

Wushu (literally, "martial methods") was historically termed "Wu-Yi". Fairly recently, the Chinese government changed the term to "Guoshu," or "national method." The term most popular term in North America is "Kung-fu," which actually means one's ability in any skill, nor necessary martial. Under the present Chinese government, the term "Wushu" is accepted. Ancient Chinese history records that during the "Spring and Autumn" and the "Warring States" periods (770 B.C. - 221 A.D.), the king of the Zhou kingdom ordered a sword contest. A young woman by the name of Yuh Niuy emerged from three thousand swordsmen as the ultimate victor in a seven-day contest. Her sword methods and philosophies were passed down for a thousand years.

Ever since the Zhou Dynasty, which ended in 771 B.C., practical Wushu training has included basic skills, such as strength training, fencing, staff sparring, spear training, etc., and it has also included training by using forms, such as the Shaolin Eight Methods, with the basic form supplemented by weapons forms, two-man forms, staff forms, etc. Wushu is also not very ubiquitous in our country; one of the dojos where it is practiced is the Diamond Martial Art dojo, located in Mohammadpur, Road 6/7 instructed by sensei Dildar Hasan.

If you are recently planning to learn Martial Art, choosing the right style is very important and not that easy. It's best to know at least some about the different dojos and options available and choose the correct one if you are planning to take this seriously. If you are not planning to take this seriously… make sure you break one or two of your bones.

By Adnan M. S. Fakir


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