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history of martial arts

How America was introduced to martial arts; it’s influence and presence in American mainstream culture.

Martial arts is more than just a form of combat – it’s a codified system and tradition that hones in on physical, mental, and spiritual development, as well as a vehicle to preserve one of the world’s most influential cultural heritage of the East.

What Brought Martial Arts to the USA?

Martial Arts were first introduced into the American mainstream after World War II, mainly by Japanese masters. Many prominent U.S officials also help introduce it, like Theodore Roosevelt, who was an avid student and early adopter of martial arts.

Awareness quickly spread immediately around World World II. In the 1950s, judo became required training for personnel serving in the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command Division, with the servicemen spreading martial arts after coming home. Robert Trias, a U.S Navy veteran began teaching private lessons in Arizona, with other early teachers of karate in America being Ed Parter, a Coast Guard veteran; and George Mattson, who studied the arts in Okinawa in the mid-1950s.

Interestingly enough, there was a concentration of Asian martial arts teachers in the territory of Hawaii, which was not a state until 1959. Several Korean teachers also came to America to introduce their unique form of martial arts, which was not known by the term tae kwon do.

Robert Trias – Father Of American Karate. Robert Trias is sometimes heralded as the father of American Karate, who has inadvertently help spread the concepts behind martial arts. He is one of the first known American black belts, with Trias even developing his Shuri-ryu karate style that stems from Okinawan martial arts.

Trias was introduced to martial arts while serving as a United States Naval Reserve during World War II. While stationed on the Solomon Islands between 1944 and 1945, Trias met Tung Gee Hsiang, a Chinese missionary. Hsiang taught Trias Okinawan Shuri-Te Karate. In late 1945, Trias was training in his backyard, eventually opening the first public karate school run by a Caucasian in Arizona 1946.

Who Started the First Martial Arts School and Franchise?

Trias is commonly credited for opening the first martial arts school in the United States. By 1948, Trias opened the United States Karate Association – or USKA. It was deemed the first martial arts organization on the American mainland. With the help of his organization, Trias was able to host the first national karate tournament in the United States at the University of Chicago in 1963. Many of the rules he used for subsequent tournament competition are still used today, with slight modifications.

Trias taught a specific style of martial arts that he created himself, with it being called Shuri-ryu. His style has roots in traditional karate, though his style was different than any sort of fighting style originating from the Ryu-kyu islands. Instead, his specific style had apparent overtones of Chinese and Okinawan influence.

How Did Hollywood Help Fuel Interest in Martial Arts?

One of the quintessential characters that helped galvanize martial arts even further after World War II, was America’s introduction to Bruce Lee in 1959.

Bruce Lee is not only the founder of Jeet Kune Do, a type of martial art, but he was also an established actor who gained celebrity with his catalog of action films that introduced martial arts to Hollywood. He is considered by commentators, media critics, and other martial artists, as one of the most influential martial artists in American history.

Bruce Lee was introduced to film by his father, allowing Lee to appear in several films as a child actor. He moved to the United States at age 18 to attend the University of Washington, where he began teaching his fighting styles to receptive students.

His slew of Hollywood films propped martial arts to the spotlight, encouraging a surge of interest in Chinese martial arts in the United States by the 1970s.

How Martial Arts School in America?

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact numbers of martial arts schools and dojos due to several mom-and-pop establishments, but it is believed that there are about 3.9 million martial arts participants in the United States, with about 15,900 martial arts school helping to perfect their craft.

Martial arts tends to be a vehicle to help teach the benefits of discipline, self-mastery and fighting through physical – and mental – adversity. It’s a fighting style that has become a mainstay in American culture for generations.

We are proud to bring Martial Arts to Bellevue, Nebraska!

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