The hygienic calisthenics practiced by the Chinese since about 2600 BC suggest that they were the beginnings of Chinese combat arts. During the Chou period in twelfth to third centuries BC, the character used to write the word "fist" indicated physical power and martial strength. The frequency the character was used in writings indicates that punching was a common fighting technique of the times. The Nine Chinese Classics, compiled during the Chou period, suggest that grappling and throwing had also gained in prominence.
In 2250 BC, during the Hsia Dynasty, Emperor Yu noticed that a pond of water collected diseases while a running stream stayed pure, so he reasoned that a moving human body should stay healthy and free of disease. He ordered that his people should exercise in sequenced patterns. During the Chou Dynasty (1150 BC), early Taoist and Confucian texts, including the I Ching (Book of Changes), the Shin Ching (Book of Poems), and much later the Li Chi (Book of Ceremonies and Rites) mentioned the martial arts.
Records from the Han period, from the third century BC to third century AD, such as the Kansho, describe techniques similar to modern wrestling techniques. Around 770 BC, nomadic Mongolian tribesmen invaded northern China and brought with them a bloody style of fighting "Sumo" in which opponents attempted to crack skulls or break limbs by striking with their heads while wearing ram heads. Because of the ram heads worn by the competitors, this early form of Sumo was called "evaluating the strength of the horns." Later, Sumo was performed ritually as a preparation for war in a dance-like fashion, from which comes its second meaning "bare hands dance."