IntroThe earliest martial art techniques were developed for combat. In combat, the primary fighting tool is the weapon, be it a rock, arrow, sword, or firearm. For times when a weapon was unavailable, dropped, broken, or taken away, the warrior must rely on the empty hand for fighting.
Technique developmentHumans are aggressive, they are at the top of the food chain and as such, they seek power, wealth, and prestige. Thus, they are always looking for better ways to attain these things.
As humans evolved, they experimented and found better ways to do things, including empty hand combat. They discovered quicker, more powerful, and more effective ways/techniques to punch, kick, throw, etc. At first, they had sages and masters who knew and remembered all these techniques and could past them down to later generations. After written languages developed, they codified these techniques, so they didn’t become corrupted from the verbal passage from one generation to the next. As more people began training in and committing their lives to these methods of fighting, martial arts began developing.
Technique progressionStrikes are in our being, they are instinctive. What’s the first thing toddlers do when angry at something? They strike it; it's instinctive. Therefore, strikes are our number one way to fight empty-handed.
Striking martial arts were developed for combat. Some strikes were developed to discourage others from attacking or continuing an attack. Some strikes were developed to be deadly "one strike - one kill" blows, such as sharp, thrusting, powerful punches for use against bare skin. Other strikes were developed for use against armor, such as pushing kicks designed to knock the enemy off balance or down or jumping kick to know the enemy off horses. Ground grappling would only be used as a last resort.
Grappling martial arts weren’t developed for combat as much as they were for sport; although, some grappling skills are effective for combat. You need grappling skills on the ground, but only until you can get back on your feet. When two rival gangs meet for a fight, you don’t see a lot of grappling. Standing throws may be used to injure an opponent when he hits the ground or to set him up for a finishing blow.
Standing joint locks, designed to break or seriously injure the joint (not for submission) can be effective. Standing chokes, strangles, or neck cranks can be effective since they are relativity quick and they may also be used on the ground if necessary. Hold downs (including submission hold downs) are not effective for combat since they take you out of the action, leave you vulnerable to attacks from others, and they don’t permanently remove the enemy from the action.
Some techniques were not developed for life or death combat, they were designed as come-a-longs (to safely make a person come with you), releases (to make a person release you), or as controls (to safely control a person). These techniques are useful for non-life-threatening situations, such as a police officer removing an angry customer from a store or a woman getting away from an overly amorous drunk, but they have limited effectiveness in life or death circumstances.
Martial arts techniquesAs the martial arts developed, these methods of combat developed into systems and styles and became ways of life. Different martial arts concentrate on certain types of techniques. They may use all types of techniques, but they specialize in one or more types. For example, taekwondo and savate specialize in kicks, judo specializes in throws, and jujutsu specializes in grappling.
To train in combat, one must have trained, agreeable opponents to fight. Opponents don’t want to get seriously injured or die, so some way of lessening the effects of the fighting techniques for training was needed. The lessening of the effects varies among the various martial arts. Some arts expose participants to more injury than others. Some are brutal such as boxing, others are safe for children, such as judo. Some arts attempt to retain their combat background, such as krav maga, while others have turned into pure sports, such as sport taekwondo.
Continued developmentAs science and medicine discover more about how the human body moves and operates, martial arts techniques will continue to evolve. New techniques will be few since there are only so many ways to use the body as a weapon, but more effective ways to use current techniques will continue to be discovered.