The Common Origin Myth

In this video, I discuss “the common origin myth”. It’s widespread throughout the martial arts and the myth is essentially the false assumption that common methods must have a common origin. In truth, common methods most often evolve independently due to common combative problems and common physiology.

This issue is also complicated by the fact that, over time, many arts have evolved from being holistic in nature to being highly specialised in one area. Modern practitioners therefore incorrectly assume that the specialised art – the one that has developed a given method to the highest level – has sole ownership of those methods and such methods therefore have their unique origins in that system. This leads to a great deal of historical confusion.

Based on such misunderstanding, people often ask questions like “how did those judo throws get in the karate kata (and old texts)?”, “how did that kung-fu joint-lock find its way into jujutsu?”, “how did karate’s knife-hand strike find its way into aikido?”, etc. The false assumption is that any given method can only originate in one place. The truth is that these arts developed common methods independently of each other.

By way of example, the hip throw is found in wrestling, old school boxing, karate, judo, jujutsu, various styles of kung fu, pankration, and so on. The throw did not originate in one place / one art to be exported to all other arts from there. All these systems developed variations on the method independently.

The common origins myth can cause people to misunderstand the development of the martial arts, and it can cause people to posit false historical connections based on common methods. It therefore needs to be identified and challenged whenever it arises.

All the best,

Iain

PS the YouTube link can be found HERE

Practical Kata Bunkai: The Common Origins Myth