Nuba Fighting – Sudan
A combination of wresting and stick fighting, Nuba is a ceremonial fighting sport held from November to March every year, after the first Dura (harvest). The strongest young men from every community compete with athletes from other villages to prove their personal strength. Training for the event involves learning traditional songs and drinking lots of milk, while avoiding promiscuity and beer.
Performed mainly by the Kabye of northern Toga in West Africa, Evala is a traditional rite of passage for young men passing into adulthood. During Evala young men are separated from their families for one week, to live in special huts and undergo training. Prior to wrestling, participants go on a pilgrimage which involves climbing three mountains and those who do not complete it are not initiated into adulthood.
Capoeira - Brazil
A striking blend of Brazilian folk dancing and African fighting techniques, Capoeira was created by slaves brought from mainly Angola and the Congo to Brazil after the 16th century. Disguised as a dance form, the art remained an outlawed fighting style until 1932 when Mestre Bimba opened the first Capoeira school, the Academia-escola de Cultura Regional, at the Engenho de Brotas in Salvador, Bahia and Brazil’s national sport was born.
Lucha Libre – Mexico
Spanish for free wrestling, Lucha Libre is the precursor to today’s American WWF. Featuring good guys (technicos) and bad guys (rudos), high flying moves and the wearing of masks, Luchadores have been slugging it out since the early 20th century and the sport’s governing body, The Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) is the longest running active professional promotion company in the world.
Rumi Maki – Peru
Translated as ‘Stone Fist’, Rumi Maki may be the oldest martial art in the world. Practised by the Incas and mixing in fighting techniques of other cultures including the Mochicas, Chavin and Tiahuanaco, this fighting style is primarily designed for hand to hand combat.
Jailhouse Rock – USA
An alleged fighting style developed in the penal institutions of America, the very existence of JHR has been questioned by martial artists. However professional fighters, Mike Tyson and Zab Judah have both testified to the existence of the style and it received widespread acceptance after it featured in Douglas Century’s 2002 true crime novel, Street Kingdom.
Bokator – Cambodia
Used by the ancient armies of Angkor since before the 12th century and immortalised in the wall carvings of Angkor Wat, Bokator or more formally, Labokator (to fight like a lion) is a Khmer martial art that probably forms the basis for most modern, Southeast Asian kickboxing styles.
Developed in the penal institutions of America, the very existence of JHR has been questioned by martial artists. However professional fighters, Mike Tyson and Zab Judah have both testified to its existence.
Kalarippayattu - Kerala
Another contender for the title of ‘World’s Oldest Fighting Style, Kalarippayattu derives from Kerala, India and involves strikes, kicks, grappling, weaponry and healing methods. This system demands great flexibility and traditionally students are trained from the age of seven in order to achieve the suppleness required.
Sea Jousting – Languedoc, France
Familiar to the Mediterranean coast since the 12th century, this Roman sport involves two jousters, protected only by a shield, trying to knock one another from their boats. Today, The most prestigious remnant of this once glorious sport is the jousting tournament held at Sète each August.
Stav – Norway
From Norway, Stav is probably the only authentic European body, mind and spirit training system alive today. The basis of Stav training is the practice of the sixteen stances. These are posture, breath and meditation exercises which look a little like a short and simple Tai Chi form.
White Crane – China
Originating in China’s Fujian province in the 17th century, Fujian White Crane is an imitative-style of Shaolin Boxing based on the characteristics of the Taiwanese Crane. According to legend the style was developed secretly by Fang Xi Liang, daughter of a Shaolin fighting monk, after she encountered a crane in her garden.
Sumo – Japan
Sumo is first mentioned in Japan’s 8th century Kojiki (The Book Of Ancient Matters). Describing how possession of the Japanese islands was determined by a Sumo match between the gods. According to legend, Takemikazuchi and Takeminakata wrestled on the shores of the islands until Takeminakata lost to Takemikazuchi and Japan was born.
Taekwondo – Korea
The national sport of Korea has been practiced since around 50 BC and today is probably the most popular fighting style in the martial arts world. Meaning literally ‘The way of fists and kicks’ it does exactly what it says on the tin.
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