What Are Martial Arts?

  • Introduction
  • What Are Martial Arts?
  • Martial Arts & Africa
  • Lifestyle & Culture

Only the fittest of the fittest will survive. But when the worst forms of materialism and conspicuous consumption, causing obesity, heart disease and depression, riddle our lifestyle. Then we cannot be expected to stand the test of time. So we take a quick fix to ease our conscience. Perhaps use the gym, or go jogging once – but not once a week. But then our favourite soap opera is on, ‘we’re tired’ or we just can’t be bothered, so we collapse in the sofa in squalid apathy. ‘next week,’ is the excuse, as we dive into a packet of crisps and belch, sitting in front of the goggle box, depleting the life force, which is us. We have become something other than what was intended.


No. Holistic is the watchword and our guide, if it doesn’t work holistically, then question, reject or abandon it. Being fit for life is not a one-year course at oxford university with one week off for good behaviour or an exclusive article in the local gossip magazine for the rich and famous. Fit for life, is a life (no pun intended) commitment, in personal and collective development. It will and does require work every single day, but the goal is tangible, to be a powerful and dynamic person, with balance, poise, personality and power. Now that is worthy to be any one’s epitaph – but not too soon, please.

From the beginning of time until now, men and women have attempted to define their reality and prepare themselves for the rigours and dangers of the outside world. This system of training has been called rights of passage. The principle elements of this training were the early martial arts.

What Are Martial Arts

So martial arts is/was training for life. Man marvelled and looked with envy at the animal kingdom and the way they fought with talons and beaks, claws and teeth. Despite his physical weakness, he attempted to copy their styles. But he didn’t have the strength, so he began to utilise his eternal energy or chi, to make up for what he lacked in brute force. These earliest forms incorporated animal methods of attack and defence, but also relied heavily on internal strength. The purpose was to prepare.

All different people throughout the world have felt the need to express themselves through song, dance and movement.


The Nile Valley in Africa became the cradle of civilisation, with a culture that had emerged from the south i.e. Ancient Nubia (Ethiopia/Sudan and Tanzania/Uganda). With the image that is now shown to us about Africa, it is hard for some people to believe that the first martial arts started there. But history has shown that along with advances in agriculture, science and technology, in Nubia and Kemet (Egypt) some of the first and most advanced fighting systems were created. Some of these early systems like Nubian wrestling can be seen in images on the pyramids and show the prototypes of throws, punches and kicks. In these schools, warriors and the aristocracy were taught through a regimented system of discipline. This was later incorporated into the mystery system and Egyptian priests learnt this as part of their spiritual duties, just like Shaolin monks do today.


These fighting systems later went to India and then China, becoming Tai Chi, Kung Fu and in Thailand Muay Boran (Thai boxing). The Japanese adopted the techniques from the Chinese and created a system designed for combat called Ju Jitsu and Judo emerged from this. Other arts were created like Kendo and Wada Ryu based upon, in some cases the personal preferences of particular masters. In Japan arts like Karate and Tae Kwon Do developed from truncated elements of Ju Jitsu and Kung Fu.

Martial Arts and Africa

Now there are many different styles of martial arts. There is Jeet Kune Ddo, developed under Bruce Lee. It is an amalgamation of the techniques of Wing Chung mixed with Judo and Kickboxing. There is Ninjitsu, Pent Jak Silat and Escrima, Aikido, Kobudo Aido, Kazimba Yoruba wrestling and there are styles like Capoeira. African slaves in Brazil as a means of self-defense developed Capoeira. Then there is Kickboxing, developed by Americans soldiers studying Japanese Tae Kwon Do and Muay Thai during the Second World War.


At Mashufaa we have researched the ancient traditions and the African root of martial arts but we have also incorporated what works from other systems. Mashufaa is formal but not rigid and we celebrate those who have trained in different styles.

In any race, you have to train and be fit to run it!


It is accepted medical opinion that when we are born, we inherit the propensity for conditions like obesity or high blood pressure. We struggle through life to overcome them, plus all the others we get just by living. Amid a mass of contradictory explanations of how we should live: our mother and our father says, the gossip column, our friends say, the bible and the koran tell us.


Scientists now tell us red meat is bad for us causing cancer and white sugar is a poison. But this seems to contradict the very cultural practice that many of us were brought up in. Our mother used sugar in her ‘very, very, special cakes’ and we ate red meat as a delicacy.


Many of us are condemned to obesity, cancer, heart disease and depression. So cultural practices though we followed them for a thousand years, can still be wrong.

LifestyleA good dietician will tell you if you want to lose weight or reduce your stress levels, you have to look at your whole lifestyle. Not just counting the calories of the food you eat, or working out with oprah, but the relationship you have with your wife, children, or your father etc.


Practical pragmatism and intelligent research is needed. Start reading. But many of us don’t even reach this point, it is fashionable to eat the food you haven’t cooked, to sit in the car you don’t own and be driven, instead of exercising your body by walking. We want and expect to be beautiful people but don’t want to work at it. Because work is too much like hard work!


Well life is not for the faint hearted. We can win, but not without skill determination and fortitude. It is harder and less fashionable these days to do the right thing and work hard for it. But that does not mean that in the long run, it is not better. It is. Better to cook your own meals, rather than buy junk food, cooked in a microwave in two minutes. It is better to read a book rather than sit down vegetate and watch tv all day and it is better to get on your own two feet and change your life, rather than sit down and just complain about it.

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© 2017 MASHUFAA | Spirit of the Warrior