Fighting and self defence are as old as humanity. Once past the stage of dire necessity, men began to realise that pitting their strength against one another was actually fun. It did a lot to boost status, and the respect of other men, as well as the admiration of women.
As armed combat tended to gravitate towards warfare and more deliberate attempt to kill or maim, unarmed combat developed into martial arts. From among this conglomeration of ‘anything goes’ fighting, several distinct contact sports have emerged.
Artworks depict bare fisted boxing and these date back to 2000 –1500BC. In 688BC boxing was first accepted as an Olympic sport.
Wrestling, as an organised sport, is even older. There are many references to it in ancient mythology. Images on Egyptian tombs depict wrestlers dating back to 2300BC. So many different forms of wrestling existed that it was only in 1896 that a regulated Greco-Roman style was selected to be part of the Olympic games.
in 1904 freestyle wrestling became an Olympic event, and women’s freestyle wrestling was added in 2004.
Jujitsu, karate and judo are all associated with Japan. These sports use striking and/or throwing techniques. They all demand a high degree of physical fitness. Although these combat forms are essentially benevolent and were developed for self defence, their techniques have proved useful in modern mixed martial arts.
Muay Thai is a form of kick boxing, also known as the ‘Art of Eight Limbs’. It makes use of eight points of contact, using punches, kicks, elbows and knees. It has been known and used in Asia for about 1000 years and possibly more. In Thailand actual records go back 400 years. By 1921 the sport was regulated and presided over by a referee.
In the early 1900s a hybrid style of martial arts began to emerge in both Europe and Asia. This has developed into what is now known as Mixed Martial Arts or MMA. It has been growing enormously in popularity since the 1990s.
At first the question was raised, ‘would a top boxer be able to beat, for instance, a top wrestler?’ Everyone wanted to know which type of fighting technique was the best. Several other contact sports, such as karate, judo, jujitsu, and kickboxing [or Muay Thai] became involved, to sort this question out. However, what happened pretty soon, fighters began to develop skills and strengths in some or all of the other techniques. What the sport has now developed into, is a single fighter who is expert in multiple defensive and offensive moves. The rules allow both striking and grappling contact.
‘Vale Tudo’ was a combat sport in Brazil in the 1920s. The Gracie family brought it to the US in the 1990s and from then on it grew in popularity, and went from minimal rules to what it is today. The new rules are mainly to help increase the safety of the participants in the sport.
In Denver in 1993, the first major MMA championship was organised.

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