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The earliest martial arts in the U.S. were boxing and wrestling, which have origins that long predate the colonization of America. During the 19th century, these were popular pastimes among the poorer strata of society. Lawmakers often outlawed prizefights, but this simply drove them underground or led to bizarre legal dodges such as paying an "appearance fee" at a bar, charging customers a "membership fee" for a one-night-only private club, or staging bouts on barges or at unadvertised locations along a train route. Today, American boxing and wrestling have a dedicated following in the U.S. and worldwide.

Few martial arts claim the U.S. as their point of origin, and even those that do - for instance, Hawaii's Kajukenbo (p. 168) and California's Jeet Kune Do (pp. 164-165) - can trace their development from Asian arts. Contact with America has changed many martial arts, though. The present-day U.S. has an eclectic collection of martial arts; look hard enough and you can find almost any style within its borders. Asian styles and mixed martial arts are especially common. This makes the U.S. a hotbed of martial-arts development.

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