Where did martial arts originate from?
Most people do not agree on the definition of exactly what the "Martial Art" is, so it would be very difficult to agree upon an origin. Components for the earliest use of the term Martial Art included refined fighting skills, code of honor or tenets of ethical conduct, philosophy of life, and spiritual enlightenment. While many forms of fighting, and combative training have been around since early human existence, the physical elements came together with mental and spiritual aspects in various forms of structured education, most notably throughout Asia. There is no evidence to support that one system started it all, but rather many kingdoms developed unique fighting methods separate from each other, and later, mutually influenced by one another.
It was originally a simple form of using the hand in a way to defend oneself, this was brought from India and was passed along with the teachings of buddisim however the shaolin temple is considered the birth place of martial arts because it added many of the principals teachings and techniques in what we call martial art today.
Technically speaking, martial arts originated in Africa along with the first humans. We evolved from non-human primates over the course of several million years. Modern chimpanzees, our closest genetic cousins in the animal kingdom, are known to box and wrestle, as well as fight with sticks. One chimp community in Senegal is even known to hunt with spears. These were probably traits held by the joint human-chimp ancestor that lived 7 million years ago as humans have similar behavior. Anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa around 200,000 years ago. Their very thick bones indicate that they lived hard lifestyles. They lived in hunter-gatherer societies at this time. Modern examples of hunter-gatherers like the !Kung San people (! = click sound) are known to war amongst themselves, so there is no doubt that early humans did the same. The spears and bows and arrows that were used in hunting eventually became the first weapons of war. Humans are believed to have started to leave Africa around 50,000 years ago. Over the course of many millennia, they spread to countries all over the world. The skeleton of a Neanderthal, a close human cousin, discovered in Iraq in the mid-20th century indicates that he was killed by a spear thrown by humans shortly after their exodus from Africa. This is a prime example of humans bringing their martial skills with them. Like language, these skills splintered with each group and snowballed into the traditions that we have today, including armed and unarmed combat. That is why there are so many similarities between seemingly unrelated styles of boxing, wrestling, and weapons.
The idea that martial arts followed the path of Greece --> India --> China is a 20th-century concept. It is all tied to a Chinese daoyin (breathing and stretching) manual published in 1624. The first of two forged prefaces ascribed to two famous historical generals of different eras attributes the creation of the exercise to the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The Chinese author of an early 20th century satirical novel reported the story of Bodhidharma's creation; however, he confused the exercise with boxing, thereby influencing the legend that the monk had been the source of Shaolin's boxing tradition. I honestly don't know when the Bodhidharma legend was first connected to Alexander the Great's activities in India. But it's easy to understand how this further evolution of the legend came about. Knowing that Pankration is one of the oldest recorded martial arts, a Eurocentric sort of person most likely thought that Alexander was the source of the Indian martial arts that Bodhidharma passed to China. There is of course no evidence to support this. A historian would be hard-pressed to prove a connection without the Bodhidharma legend linking Pankration to Chinese martial arts. As I stated above, all similarities between foreign styles stem from the common "human" source.