Martial arts tourism is when martial artists go to different places to teach, learn, or promote martial arts and its associated philosophy, tenets, and techniques. Martial arts tourism may have different aspects like teaching, learning, apprentice pilgrimage, promotion (private or government), seminars, conferences, competitions, and more.
Origin of martial arts tourism
Martial arts tourism is an ancient phenomenon and has existed since time immemorial. When friendly tribes helped each other by sending their fighters during war or during peacetime, then due to cultural exchanges, martial arts tourism also took place. Ancient records of such martial arts tourism may be found in some rare cave paintings, or in sculptures of ruins of ancient temples, or are simply lost in antiquity. Thus, the exact time when martial arts tourism began is not known.
Nonetheless, perhaps the earliest surviving record is around 495 AD when an Indian Buddhist monk named Buddhabhadra came to China and taught Buddhism. In China, Buddhabhadra was known as Ba Tuo, and his teachings were known as Xiao Sheng Buddhism. The Emperor Shao Wen provided land at the foot of the Shaoshi mountain, where Buddhabhadra founded the Shaolin Temple and was also its first abbot. Later, another Indian monk named Bodhidharma carried on the work of Buddhabhadra by teaching Buddhism in the Shaolin monastery and also taught the Chinese Buddhist monks martial arts and the tradition of warrior monks. Thereafter, Bodhidharma travelled to Japan to deliver his teachings and martial arts techniques. The following video briefly documents the biography of Bodhidharma, whose travels are perhaps the earliest recorded history of martial arts tourism.
Biographics video “Bodhidharma: Founder of Zen, from India to Shaolin”:
Individual promotional aspect
History has recorded that martial art teachers have travelled to different countries in an attempt to promote and popularize their art. For example, Gen. Choi Hong Hi had travelled to numerous countries and had promoted the art of Taekwon-Do via demonstrations, lectures, seminars, and workshops.
ITF HQ video “General Choi Hong Hi, Founder of Taekwon-Do”:
Government promotional aspect
Martial arts are also promoted by the governments of different countries as part of martial arts tourism. For example, Budo, Kalaripayattu, and Taekwondo are promoted by tourism departments to attract more tourists.
visitjapan video “BUDO Tourism JAPAN”:
Kerala Tourism video “History of Kalaripayattu | Myth, Philosophy & Techniques of the Kerala Martial Art | Kerala Tourism”:
서울시 · Seoul video “하늘을 가르는 발차기ㅣ2022 서울시 태권도 공연 in @청와대”:
Martial arts teachers have always encouraged their students to set up martial arts schools, both locally and internationally. For example, locally, the ITF school in Korea is set up to promote ITF Taekwon-Do.
andreas2769 video “North Korea Taekwon do ITF (Taekwondo techniques)”:
Likewise, internationally also, Taekwon-Do teachers have set up several schools in different parts of the world to promote ITF Taekwon-Do. One such international school is Pacific International Taekwondo in Australia.
Pacific International Taekwondo video “Black Belt training session”:
Besides Taekwondo, other martial arts like Karate, Judo, BJJ, Kendo, and more, are also taught in different schools both locally and internationally. All these schools help to promote martial arts tourism. For many people, martial arts is more than just a hobby or sport – it’s a way of life. By traveling to different countries to teach, martial arts teachers can immerse themselves in new cultures and learn about the daily life of the local people. This can be a truly unique and enriching experience that broadens one’s perspectives and helps to create lasting memories.
Many martial artists also desire to learn the martial art from its place of origin. By visiting the countries where specific styles originated, visitors can learn about the cultural significance of each style and gain a deeper appreciation for the art form. This can be a valuable experience for martial arts enthusiasts who are looking to deepen their understanding of their chosen style and the cultural influences that shaped it. The following video shows foreigners learning Taekwondo for few months in Seoul.
koreaculture video “Taekwondo in Seoul, Republic of Korea”:
Apprenticeship pilgrimage aspect
Martial arts tourism also results from doubts arising regarding a practitioners’ legitimacy, especially if the practitioner wants to teach or open up a martial arts school in some foreign country. By travelling to the place where the martial art originated and learning from a local master results in being accepted by local martial artists, which in turn acknowledges the foreigner as a legitimate bearer of that form of martial art. Such a travel undertaken to address the question of legitimacy by training under a local master, is known as apprenticeship pilgrimage. The following video shows conversations with authors of a book, which mentions the concept of apprentice pilgrimage, from 8:53 to 18.44 minutes.
Michael Di Giovine video “A Conversation with Lauren Griffith and Jonathan Marion, Apprenticeship Pilgrimage”:
One of the main attractions of martial arts tourism is the opportunity to visit the countries where specific martial arts originated, and experience the martial art from a local master. For example, the ancient Samurai culture of swordsmanship is still practiced in Japan today. Visitors to Japan can attend training sessions with local Samurai masters and experience the traditional techniques that have been passed down for generations. The following video shows a foreigner having an experience of Samurai training in Kyoto.
Gareth Leonard video “Samurai Training in Kyoto, Japan”:
Seminars, Conferences, Competitions aspect
Martial arts tourism also takes place when masters attend seminars, conferences, workshops, training camps, or interviews in other countries, or when students participate in competitions held at different places of the world. The following videos shows seminars of Taekwon-Do with Gen. Choi Hong Hi in Sydney and in Warsaw.
Global Fitness & Martial Arts Institute video “General Choi Taekwondo Seminar, Sydney 1993”:
TKD Wear video “Seminar with Gen. Choi Hong Hi – Warsaw 1994, part 1”:
The following videos shows ITF Taekwon-Do competitions taking place in Argentina and Germany:
Lucas Pini video “ITF World Championship Argentina 2018 , FINAL Lucas Pini(ARG) vs Kirill Pavlov (RUS) Middle Weight”:
ITF Taekwon-Do video “World Championships Germany 2019: Final Sparring Male -63kg USA/BLR”:
Since martial artists travel to different countries, all these seminars, conferences and competitions also promote martial arts tourism.
Martial arts tourism is a growing trend among martial artists and enthusiasts, who are looking to combine their passion for martial arts with the excitement of travel and personal growth. The major benefit of martial arts tourism is the opportunity to learn from different instructors and gain exposure to a variety of training methods. Each martial arts style has its own unique techniques and training methods, and by attending classes in different locations, martial artists can broaden their knowledge and expand their skill sets. This can also help to improve their overall martial arts abilities and make them well-rounded martial artists.
1. Griffith, L. M. (2016). Beyond Martial Arts Tourism: Outcomes of Capoeiristas’ Apprenticeship Pilgrimages. Ido Movement for Culture. Journal of Martial Arts Anthropology, 2(16), 32-40. Available at: https://www.infona.pl/resource/bwmeta1.element.desklight-6dda85b7-e3b6-40cb-99eb-5af751891ba0 [Accessed on 12 Feb 2023]
2. Figueiredo, A. A., Błach, W., Bujak, Z., Maroteaux, R. J., & Cynarski, W. J. (2020). Martial Arts Tourism of the “Europe—Far East” Direction, in the Opinion of Grand Masters. Sustainability, 12(21), 8857. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/21/8857 [Accessed on 12 Feb 2023]
3. Cynarski, W. J., & Swider, P. (2017). The journey to the cradle of martial arts: A case study of martial arts’ tourism. Ido Movement for Culture. Journal of Martial Arts Anthropology, 17(2), 24-33. Available at: https://cejsh.icm.edu.pl/cejsh/element/bwmeta1.element.desklight-887c4db3-53c3-4a30-a193-149cc98f76e2 [Accessed on 12 Feb 2023]
Need high-quality martial arts gear at reasonable prices?
Pacific Sports (a subsidiary of Pacific International Taekwondo) offers a range of high-quality, functional and affordable Taekwondo and Karate uniforms, as well as Martial Art and Kickboxing equipment, Kick Boxing Shorts, MMA Rash Guards, MMA Gloves, TKD paddles, Shin Guards, Kick Shield, Instep Pad Guards, Focus Pads, Focus Mitts, TKD shoes and Gel Hand Wraps.
Avail the benefits of discounts, free shipping and clearance sales.