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Koryu is the Japanese term for all martial arts schools that predate the Meiji restoration (1860s).

The systems of Japanese martial arts that post-date the Meiji Restoration are known as gendai budō. The most well known of these arts include judo, kendo, some schools of iaidō, and aikido. These newer systems are commonly valued as sports or arts for self-improvement.

In many countries local arts like early Okinawan martial art in Okinawa, Kenjutsu and Ju-Jutsu in Japan, and Taekyon and Soobak in Korea mixed with other martial arts and evolved to produce some of the more well-known martial arts in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries like Karate, Aikido, and Taekwondo.

The Western interest in East Asian Martial arts dates back to the late 19th century, due to the increase in trade between America with China and Japan. Relatively few Westerners actually practiced the arts, considering it to be mere performance.

Edward William Barton-Wright, a railway engineer who had studied Jujutsu while working in Japan between 1894–97, was the first man known to have taught Asian martial arts in Europe. He also founded an eclectic martial arts style named Bartitsu which combined jujutsu, judo, boxing, savate and stick fighting.


During the late 19th century and early 20th century, catch wrestling contests became immensely popular in Europe.

During pre-war and World War Two shows the practicality of martial arts in the modern world and were used by Japanese, US, Nepalese (Gurkha) commandos as well as Resistance groups, such as in the Philippines, (see Raid at Los Baños) but not so excessively or at all for common soldiers.

However Asian martial arts remained largely unknown in the West even as late as the 1950s; for example, in the 1959 popular fiction Goldfinger, Karate was described to readers in near-mythical terms and it was credible for British unarmed combat experts to be represented as completely unaware of martial arts of this kind. The novel describes the protagonist James Bond, an expert in unarmed combat, as utterly ignorant of Karate and its demonstrations, and describes the Korean 'Oddjob' in these terms.

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