Martial arts as a codified system of combat training dates back as far as recorded human history. In ancient times, before the systems of writing and recording, martial traditions were passed down from one generation to another orally. Later, when recording systems like painting emerged, images were passed down. The earliest evidence for these are from 5000 years ago in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. 

Every country and culture around the world during every age developed their own martial traditions. Some were more complex than others and although not many survived, there is a great deal of evidence to show that martial arts naturally appear in societies in one form or another. 

The earliest forms of martial arts in Japan were folk wrestling. These were lost or superseded when settlers from the Chinese mainland began to emigrate to the Japanese islands. With them, the settlers brought early Chinese ideas and martial traditions of their own. 

The first instances of codified Japanese martial arts that we know of today first started appearing in the 8th and 12th centuries, called the Heian period. This is also the same time when the Samurai as a class started to rise to power. The idea of a warrior class was instrumental in the codification of martial traditions. During this time, Samurai had become vocational warriors, but war was intermittent, so the Samurai had to occupy themselves in peace times. 

Once war or conflict was over, poor Samurai would return to the land and either farm or manage their holdings. The richer Samurai however had plenty of time to pursue art, philosophy and education, which they combined with the military arts to prepare themselves for the next conflict. This lead to the rise of martial schools. Places were young Samurai could train and educate themselves, so they could be prepared for the battles ahead.

The Heian period also saw the spread of Buddhism to Japan. Buddhist temples started to appear, but they had no protection from banditry and Samurai themselves. Although Buddhists had precepts against violence and war, it is also a practical religion. Japanese monks trained in the arts of war and were often even better equipped than Samurai themselves. Buddhist and Shinto temples were well protected by monks and even the Samurai feared retribution if they infringed on religious freedoms or sacked temples. Martial arts flourished in these temples and this knowledge was protected and passed down from one generation to the next. Buddhist monks became so good at the arts of war that the Samurai themselves even sent young men to study the arts of war at temples.

The Japanese people have an innate need to create groups and to conform to standards, which makes it unsurprising that bandits, thieves,pirates and other down trodden groups formed their own classes and societies. The idea of Shinobi [Ninja] as groups evolved from this. Like guilds or societies in Feudal Europe, every vocation, legal or not, had a governing body. Shinobi were just people whose activities were frowned upon by the legal or moral framework of the time. Often these Shinobi weren't even part of a group, but working by themselves. Anybody could be labelled a Shinobi if their actions were considered heinous or against moral codes. It was only later that groups emerged that sold their services to warlords and fighting factions. The martial traditions of these groups were mostly passed down as Kuden [oral traditions] and many did not survive the test of time. 

The rise of the firearm in the west lead to a decline in the use of martial traditions and were replaced by drill and military traditions. Close combat was no longer necessary, so the need to maintain close combat skills reduced. Fortunately, Japan closed itself off from the world in the 16th century and continued to develop its martial traditions. When Japan opened up again in the 18th century, these traditions were almost due to modernisation, but a few dedicated men and women kept the traditions alive in order to pass them to us.

History can often open up a window to the future. By understanding the past, we can draw inferences to the future. Lineages and tradition are important in the martial arts, because many sacrifices were made to carry these arts into the present. Everything is connected.