The world is changing. There is no doubt about that. As the days pass, the closer our world moves toward something we’ve all seen or read about in a science-fiction novel. Every passing month, a new emerging technology shows us that the line between reality and fantasy are no longer as fine as they once were. It seemed like yesterday we were hearing news of the first walking talking robot coming out to the world and yet now, researchers and engineers have been doing their best to help robots mirror the ways of humans, going as far as to implement martial arts techniques.

The Cross Between Martial Arts & Robots

robots martial arts

For many of us, when we trip and tumble, our bodies react automatically by placing our arms out to help break the fall. We walk away with a few bumps and bruises, pick ourselves up, and move on. For robots, however, this was not the case for quite some time. No matter how advanced their movements became, unless programmed to do so, these pieces of metal came crashing down to the ground and had no way to lift themselves back up.

Yet, in 2015, this problem seemed to be no longer an issue as scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta implemented an algorithm that imitated the techniques from judo into a robot named ESCHER (Electromechanical Series Compliant Humanoid for Emergency Response). Such programming allowed the robot to fall with style, as they learned to use their appendages to tumble, which in turn decreased the impact intensity by 30-90 percent.

Battling with Robots: Years Before

robots martial arts

In 1964, the world changed the way they looked at robots, seeing them not only as tools for labor but entertainment. This concept was first introduced when the Marx Toy Company released the famous toy, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em. Originally designed by Marvin Glass and Associates, the toy requires two individuals to take control of the joy sticks equipped at the base of each side of the miniature plastic ring. By pushing down on the buttons that lie on the joystick, the two robotic figurines that stand face-to-face within the plastic ‘boxing ring,’ punch each other back and forth.

The objective of the game is to knock the head off the opposition’s robot – an act only possible if players manage to hit with the right amount of force and accuracy. This simple toy served as one of the first examples of robot fighting for entertainment purposes.

King of Bots: Future of Robots Fighting

Shows like Robot Combat League and Battlebots have been around in the US since the 90’s. The concept of robotic fighting has been well documented in the western world, showing people a glimpse into the future of robot competition. However, recently, China has been entering the playing field of this merge between technology and entertainment, as The Makers – a leading technology content provider – has announced the start of China’s first robot battling tournament: King of Bots.

Standing as the show’s global ambassador, Jet Li has reached out to the public and even expressed his growing interest in this emerging world of battling bots, stating how this is just another way for people to express themselves – much like martial arts. He believes this is more than just pitting two robots against each other, but a movement that helps encourage the younger generation to gain interest in fields of technology, commerce, and entertainment.

As Sky Li, a World Cyber Games Champion noted in an interview regarding the upcoming King of Bots TV show and robot fighting, E-sport is operating by your own hands in a virtual arena. Now, robot fighting is also through the operator in your hands, but combating with another person’s robot in the real world.”

An Extension of Us

robots martial arts

While the field of robot fighting is still in its early stages, the advancement of sensory technology opens a gateway of opportunity for martial artists and fighters alike to become immerse themselves into this technological field. Not only can martial art practitioners provide information in fighting techniques that could be applied to the robot itself, they can also contribute practical tips on the way our body works, which in turn helps to build greater, more efficient robots.

Ultimately, robots are an extension of humans. With the growing accessibility to technology and machinery, the field of robotics is advancing at an incredible rate. With such an inevitable occurrence, we are beginning to see more human-sized robots emerge, with greater resemblance to us in shape and form, and rather than run away from it, we should learn to embrace it. By doing so, we can also come to explore and grasp a deeper understanding of ourselves.

robots martial arts

In this world, everyone has a dream of martial arts, whether Westerner or Chinese. Why do we worship a hero? It is because a hero can solve the problems humans cannot solve. In my world, the definition I was thinking from the age of 20 is, with the development and needs of human beings, martial art is also developing in various human technical aspects, and [I believe] martial art will extend dreams of many people. Robot fighting is something I cannot do. I cannot reach the limit of my body and fitness, but I can make one of my apprentices, and let him to complete my dream, so I have to give this machine my focus, my soul, my perception and my thoughts toward errantry.” (Jet Li on King of Bots)

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