Historical examination of Rumi Maki – a modern South American martial arts style developed in Peru or an ancient Inca fighting system?
The introduction to Rumi Maki Fighting Arts: Martial Techniques of the Peruvian Inca is reminiscent of a Karate Kid movie. A teenager from Lima is relocated away from the big city when his military father is posted at an army camp in the Peruvian Andes. The city kid, roaming the streets with little to do, is set upon by a group of local youths and takes a beating. A man then approaches and asks “Do you want to learn how to fight?” And so begins a young man’s training in the ancient and secretive martial art of the Inca civilization, Rumi Maki.
Rumi Maki – Historical Background
According to Juan Ramon Rodríguez Flores, author of Rumi Maki Fighting Arts (and former set upon youth), Rumi Maki was developed from various fighting styles taken from the conquered rivals of the ever-expanding Inca civilization. These styles, principally those of the Chavin, Mochica-Chimú, Paracas and Nazca civilizations, were merged into one by the Inca, forming an organized fighting style named, in Quechua, Rumi Maki (“Stone Hand”).
In his book, Rodríguez Flores states that “In oral tradition, the origins of Rumi Maki date back to 2300 BC. There are two legends pertaining to the beginnings of this martial art.” The first of these legends involves Waminka Kusillo, the Monkey Warrior, who, as a child, sparred with his pet monkey. The techniques that he learned through these play fights led him to be a great tribal chief and warrior.
The second legend is known as “The Legend of the Three Sons of the Sun.” The Sun God had sent his three sons to be instructed in all knowledge in the hope that one of them would eventually govern creation. The two malevolent elder sons, one blessed with great strength and the other with great agility, planned to kill their younger brother.
This youngest son was blessed with great intelligence, but no great strength. However, he had previously been taught a martial art by one of his instructors. His father, the Sun God, had also turned his hands to stone in order to help him defeat his brothers. This he did, giving birth to Rumi Maki, the Stone Hand fighting style.
Rumi Maki – Modern Martial Art of Peru
Modern Rumi Maki is divided into five separate fighting styles, with each practitioner known as a Rumi Runa. The styles, as stated by Rodríguez Flores and echoed by the Spanish language website Auka Wasi (a site dedicated to Rumi Maki), are the llama, alpaca, vicuña, condor and sun (or Inti) systems of fighting. The first four styles focus specifically upon various attacks, such as punches, kicks, grapples and jumping techniques. The sun style is a combination of all four and is regarded as the pinnacle of Rumi Maki.
Rumi Maki – Ancient Martial Art of the Incas?
Juan Ramon Rodríguez Flores states that “For decades, Rumi Maki remained an elusive art” – until, that is, he himself published his first article on the subject in the 1970s. His book, Rumi Maki Fighting Arts, followed soon after. In 1985, thanks to the writings of Rodríguez Flores, Rumi Maki was officially recognized by the South American Association of Martial Arts.
However, Juan Ramon Rodríguez Flores is not a historian, and the Inca did not have any form of written records that could possibly have recorded the development of Rumi Maki. Rumi Maki Fighting Arts is based, as Rodríguez Flores often states, upon oral tradition and the teachings of his first instructor, Eugenio Panta. While oral tradition is certainly a useful historical source, Rumi Maki Fighting Arts, and therefore Rumi Maki itself, lies open to both criticism and doubt.
Rodríguez Flores takes a quote from the chronicles of 16th century Spanish Dominican priest, Bartolomé de las Casas, to support his history of Rumi Maki. However, this “glimpse of Peruvian martial culture,” as it is put by Rodríguez Flores, is a first-hand description of standard Inca warrior and weapons training. It is not, in any way, proof of an Inca Rumi Maki fighting system.
Peru Fighting Styles of the Andes
It is true that regional sparring takes place in the Andean highlands. Rodríguez Flores highlights the traditional Andean fighting practices of Chiaraje, Luchas de Tocto and Huarachico. However, he also points out that “each village has its own names for the art and its techniques” and that any visitor to the region “can confirm that this warrior art has survived in one form or another throughout the years by means of its uses and customs.”
The oral tradition, it would seem, is not particularly clear in regards to the Inca martial art of Rumi Maki. There are different names for various fighting forms that differ from one village to the next. While the development of a modern fighting style known as Rumi Maki is not in question, the supposed historical roots of such a style do invite a degree of scepticism. The claim that Rumi Maki was indeed the martial arts system of the Inca Empire can be seen as tenuous at best.