The Martial Arts History Museum

3 minutes read

Discover the world’s first Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank. The collection retraces the origins of Martial art, its evolution, and its impact on the American culture.

Origins of Martial Arts

Martial Arts can be retraced back to 425 BC. Many considered that Chinese Kung Fu was the first martial art.

The most famous tale depicts an Indian prince who decided to become a monk. He spent a few years in a cave to cleanse himself before joining the Shaolin temple. He developed spiritual and physical training to stay active. When he finally joined the monks, he taught them meditation and a series of body exercises.

Monks developed techniques of self-defense by observing animals. They observed their movements and reaction in front of predators. The crane style, monkey style, and snake style were born.

As martial arts spread across Asia, their form and style evolved quickly.  The museum showcases some of them like the art of the Samurai, Judo, Sumo, Kendo, Aikido, Hawaiian Lua, Ninja, Chinese Tai Chi, and Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing).

World Champion Buakaw poor. Pramuk’s short

Martial Arts in America

In the late 1840s/early 1900s Asian immigrants progressively introduced Americans to the Martial Arts. US president also helps to popularize it. In 1900, US President Ulysses S. Grant visited Japan and sited in a jiu-jitsu demonstration. Three years later, Yoshiaki Yamashita, Jigoro Kano’s student, presented Judo to the White House. The same year, President Theodore Roosevelt became a Judo student.

Did you know?

Kung Fun was only taught to non-Chinese trainees starting in 1960.
Benny “The Jet” Urquidez’s Championship belts

Among the many US champion in Martial Arts, Don Wilson “The Dragon” is considered the greatest kickboxer in the country. He won 11 World Championship titles, took 72 victories (and 48 by knockouts!) over 82 matches. In 1982, he became an actor playing in 60 films and TV shows.

Don Wilson “The Dragon”

Martial Arts in the US pop culture

In 1958, Americans watched for the first-time anime including martial art. It was the beginning of numerous martial arts movies and TV shows. The museum showcases many original artifacts from movies and singer star Elvis Presley.

Bruce Lee marked the cinema and pop culture with his mixed martial techniques. From “The Green Hornet” (1966) to “Enter the Dragon”(1973), he became a worldwide superstar and created Jeet Kune Do (The way of the interception fist). His demonstration and techniques influenced the sport and beyond.

Did you know?

Power Rangers was the longest-running American martial arts TV show.
Elvis Presley, famous TCB with lightning bolt sunglasses.

Legend: Karate kid Pat 2- Macchio headband

Katana (samurai sword) created by Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba) for The Bride (Uma Thurman) in the movie Kill Bill

My Highlights

Samurai – Japan

During the 12th century, the samurai, the elite skilled warriors, were employed by a feudal lord. Expert bowmen and swordsmen, they practiced and developed the art of war. In times of peace, they also acquired skills in poetry, calligraphy, and artistry like a tea ceremony.

Samurai respected the ethic code of bushido, “the way of the warrior.” The eight core values include loyalty, self-discipline, and honor. Out of loyalty to their master or to avoid the dishonor of defeat, these Japanese warriors practiced ritual suicide called “seppuku,” also known as “hara-kiri.”


Did you know?

Did you know? Female samurai warriors were fighting alongside men in battle. They are known as “Onna-bugeisha.”

Lua – Hawaii

The Lua is a form of martial arts developed in Hawaii in the 8th century. While combat techniques evolved over the years, its practice was restricted to some people or family bloodlines. The weapons were made from trees, rocks, and sharks teeth. Usually, these weapons had multiple purposes like fighting, farming, and cooking.

Did you know?

“Lua warriors covered their bodies with oil of candlenut or coconut to make it impossible for an adversary to grip them.” [Source: Martial Arts History Museum]

Ready to explore this museum?

*COVID-19 update as of February 2022*

– Please wear a mask and practice a physical distance of 6 feet between yourself and others

– Please check L.A County’s health and safety protocols before your visit

Plan your visit:

  • Location: 2319 W. Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91506
  • Hours: 11:00am-6:00pm Thursday-Sunday.
  • Admission: $10 per adult
  • Duration: I spent 45 minutes discovering it.
  • Parking: unmetered street parking
  • More information is available at

Article based on my visit in November 2021

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