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Here is a discussion of the origins and development of Martial Arts in Mystara, covering all canonical sources I could track down (see appendix) and adding a few non-canonical but likely arts (i.e., Ochalean and Myoshiman martial arts).
The present discussion includes also weapon-oriented styles -- e.g., the fencing styles of the Savage Coast, and differs on several point from the most complete previous work (DM's Martial Arts Styles), especially in that I try do define an historical development of Martial Arts, and to associate the various styles to the Mystaran nations more similar to those RW nations where equivalent styles were developed (i.e., I'm not giving Judo to the Sindhi or Sumo to the Thyatians).
Diffusion and Development of Martial Arts in MystaraGiampaolo Agosta
Fencing is the art of fighting with rapiers and other light piercing or slashing weapons. Its origins lie in Thyatis, where traditional sword-fighting techniques were modified by Rakes with the addition of Nuari stick-fighting techniques.
The style was then developed by those who preferred light weapons and armours, Thyatian and Minrothad sailors, Kerendan bullfighters, and Darokin merchants.
Nowadays, fencing is popular in Thyatis, Darokin, Glantri, Minrothad and the Savage Coast. Various schools have developed, specialising different techniques.
The Darokin rapier & main-gauche fighting style focuses on this combination, while Minrothad sailors use sabres or cutlasses and fight with a single weapon, keeping one hand free for unarmed manoeuvrers; they also tend to be more acrobatic.
Belcadiz fighters use rapiers or long swords, and adopt aggressive tactics, favouring flashy moves.
Thyatian Rakes often fight with two weapons, but otherwise keep to no fixed rules.
Savage Coast fencing schools are as diverse as those of the known world. They favour the rapier and sabre, as well as the buckler, main-gauche and stiletto as off-hand weapons. Long swords are often used by Cavalcante and Verdegild swordsmen, but Moncorvo stylists seldom use them.
Knife-fighting and staff-fighting schools tend to develop in these nations as well. They are usually less formal than fencing schools, often including only a master with a few direct students with no fixed teaching schedule, curricula or even a school building. Nonetheless, few doubt the effectiveness of the Gaucho knife-fighters of Guadalante or Cimarron.
Wrestling is popular almost everywhere, but the Traldar, Sind and Ethengar are the regions where wrestling was first formalised.
Sind wrestling styles are quite obscure, and practiced only by some mystic orders of that land.
The Traldar wrestling style was developed in the Milenian Empire, and later in Thyatis, and is still studied by gladiators in the Thyatian arenas. Known as Milenio-Thyatian wrestling, it is a pure wrestling and grappling style, with no punches, kicks, or weapons allowed.
Gladiators often combine the style with other gladiatorial fighting techniques, which allow them to use it effectively on the field. A variant known as Pankration, of Milenian origin, is used in sport contests, and allows any type of unarmed attacks, but no weapons.
Ethengar wrestling was developed by the followers of Baka Khan to help in their anti-goblinoid resistance. It is now studied mostly by Brataks and by the Ten Thousand Fists of the Khan, a sect whose adherents try to combine the abilities of the priest and the spy. Ethengar wrestling is actually a mixed style, including many strikes, especially punches.
A variant of the style, owning much to Sindhi styles, is studied by the mystics of Lhamsa in Glantri.
Yellow Orks have also adopted Ethengar wrestling and adapted it for their use, adding weapon techniques. As the humanoids of the Broken Lands have brought cultural traits from several lands with them, the Tharian Legion has adopted a semi-formal training curriculum mixing Yellow Orkish techniques, tricks from the Thyatian and Caurenzan arenas popular in Bugburbia and Kolland, and the odd bit of Sindhi fighting styles known to the Ogres of Ogremoor.
The Shadow Elves, after a few shocking defeats suffered by their infiltrators at the hands of seemingly unarmed goblinoids, decided to include martial arts into the standard training of their army. They started from goblinoid techniques, especially the Yellow Orkish fighting style, and formalised a fighting technique of their own.
The Shadow Elves have developed a no-frills, quick to learn combat style, using wrestling and punching techniques that target the vitals.
They also add knife fighting and weapon improvisation, and teach the style mainly to army shamans and commando units.
Sindhi and Ylari Arts
In the Alasiyan desert, centuries ago, mystics and hermits developed techniques of physical training and unarmed combat that are now very popular in Sind, after being brought there by Alasiyan merchants and pilgrims.
The Dervishes are the most ancient type, still common in Alasiya, while Fakirs and Shehids are nowadays found mostly in Sind.
All of them are highly effective martial artists, especially due to their incredible physical prowess, obtained through countless hours of strenuous exercise. This excellent physical training is most evident in Dervishes, who adopt a fighting style full of quick, acrobatic moves.
Fakirs take vows of extreme poverty, so their combat techniques rely almost only on unarmed attacks or very small and inexpensive weapons.
There are also native Sindhi traditions, often aiming at increasing health and physical and spiritual training with martial exercises. The Svamins and Yogins of Sind belong to this tradition, as to the Jashpurdhanas, who have in their travels spread their teachings to other mystic sects, such as the Lhamsan mystics in Glantri.
Other Sindhi martial arts borrow weapon training from eastern or Rakastan sources, working mainly with sword and shield or clubs.
Rakasta Martial Arts
The Rakasta contribution to martial arts begun in Skothar, with claw-, sword- and stick-fighting techniques developed by the Sherkasta of the Bay of Tangor.
The Pardasta then brought a modified version of this Sherkasta fighting art to Ochalea and Bellissaria. There, the Tanagoro and early Ochaleans (Lupins and humans alike) adapted these martial arts for their own uses.
The Tanagoro developed more acrobatic styles, adding kicks and aerial manoeuvrers. A western branch of the Tanagoro stick-fighting was later a major influence on Known World fencing styles, as well as the source for the Spider animal form of Ochalea.
The eastern Tanagoro also preserved this knowledge, which resurfaced in Tanaka and Yavdlom, and is now known to outsiders as Verdan Capoeira, due to its popularity in the former Dominion of Tanaka, as well as its adoption by slaves in the plantations of the Colony of the Horn and Porto Maldišao.
The Ochaleans took the Pardasta and Sherkasta arts, and used them as the bases for their Animal Styles, Tiger and Leopard, to which the Spider was later added due to contacts with the Nuari, and the Chow-Chow to imitate the ferocity of the Lupin freedom fighters. The Dragon style, created to honour the Dragon Kings, completed the Five Animal Styles of Ochalea.
Ochaleans widened much the weapon array of the original Rakasta styles, adding polearms from the Shar-Pei tradition and farming tools from the Cypric culture, and developed additional unarmed techniques to cope with the lack of natural weapons of the humans.
In the Five Animals styles, the Tiger represent the powerful clawing attacks of the Sherkasta; the Leopard is blinding fast, like the Pardasta martial artists who introduced the style to Ochalea; the Spider has long range attacks and acrobatic movements; the Chow-Chow is single-minded and discards defence in favour of continuos strings of attacks; and the Dragon focuses on development of inner strength.
The Dragon style is not related to the Rakasta arts, but rather to a native Ochalean groups of martials arts with different principles and methods of training. The most popular of these style are the Eight Immortals Fist (Pa Hsien Quan), which takes its principles from the group of Immortals of the same name, and the Shar-Pei Pu Dao fighting art, a method of polearm-fighting devised by the Shar-Pei Lupins during the Ogre Magi Wars.
The Rakasta benefited as well from the contact with other races. From Ochalea, the Pardasta arts spread to western Rakastan after the Great Rain of Fire.
The great Rakastan culture of Plaktur became the centre of martial arts research, until it was destroyed by the goblinoids.
The heirs of that culture, the Rakasta of Bellayne and those of Myoshima, still practice martial arts descended from that original model.
On the Savage Coast, contact with the Tortle led to the creation of the Torasta, while in Myoshima the martial arts known as Nekotsume (or Nekotsume-do or Tsume-jitsu) and Matara-do are most prominent.
All of them are divided in several schools: there are four monastic orders in Bellayne that practice different styles of Torasta, while Nekotsume is traditionally divided into schools, of which only the Ichiyoda-Ryu is known to some Bellaynish fighters.
Nekotsume is a form of unarmed combat that focuses on long range punches and low kicks, plus some clawing techniques, while Matara-do is a purely sword-fighting technique.
Appendix: Canon References to Martial Arts Here are all canon references to Martial Arts that I could find (please tell me if I've missed some).
These include: Martial Arts skills or weapon proficiencies (when referred to some specific nation, e.g., the Yellow Orks' specialty skill is Martial Arts, so I listed Martial Arts for Yellow Orks rather than for Broken Lands goblinoid), Mystics and Fighting Monks, fencing schools or styles, and a few non rule-related items (e.g., the Thyatian Gladiators are said to have specific "arena" styles, even though they don't get any bonus or skill for this, AFAIK).
Mystic Order of Saffron Glantri GAZ3 Ten Thousand Fists of the Khan Ethengar GAZ3 Torasta Bellayne SCS Dervishes Ylaruam GAZ2 Fakirs Sind, Ylaruam CoM Keis Sind CoM Jashpurdhanas Sind CoM Shehids Sind CoM Svamins Sind CoM Yogins Sind CoM Yellow Orkian Martial Arts Yellow Orkia GAZ10 Shadow Elves Martial Arts SE Territories GAZ14 Dominguez Fencing School Torreˇn SCS Cavalcante Fencing School Vilaverde SCS Moncorvo Fencing School Texeiras SCS Verdegild Fencing School Eusdria SCS Darokin Rapier Fighting Darokin GAZ11 Thyatian Gladiators Thyatis DotE Shar-Pei Polearm Fighting Ochalea DM237