Burbank now boasts a martial arts museum that city officials say will diversify the city’s entertainment attractions.
The Martial Arts History Museum, founded by President Michael Matsuda in 2007 in Santa Clarita, has relocated to Burbank, and it officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 25.
In the floor plan, Matsuda has kept in mind the progression of the martial arts beginning in Asia and their introduction to the United States through TV and film starting in the 1960s.
The museum space is divided into sections representing the areas that adopted their own styles of martial arts. Martial arts originated in China, Matsuda said, so artifacts, fighting costumes and weapons from that country are displayed in the first section that greets visitors. Japan is next, followed by Korea, Hawaii, the Philippines and then America.
“When ancient Chinese warriors were creating Kung Fu, they watched how monkeys and tigers fought,” he said. “Chinese operas use martial arts — spears — in their fighting.”
Also on display are Chinese swords. Matsuda pointed out the differences between the ones used by nobility and those used by commoners.
Posters of martial arts icons look down on visitors from the walls, and at the top of each wall a timeline illustrates the introduction of the martial art to its respective country and when it came here, Matsuda said.
One of the posters is of Chinese Grandmaster Ark Yuey Wong, whose students included Bruce Lee and David Carradine.
“In 1960 [Wong] was the first Chinese instructor to teach Kung Fu in America,” Matsuda said. “He’s considered the father of Kung Fu in America. The poster of him and a uniform were donated by his students.”
The museum also has Tournament, Thai and Media sections. The pictures of four world champions of martial arts take up one wall in the Tournament Section, including Chuck Norris, who was a top point fighting champion in karate.
“In the Media section we talk about the impact of martial arts in American film, TV and print,” Matsuda said.
Martial arts film actor Don Wilson, who has won 11 world titles in kickboxing, stopped by the museum on opening day. The posters from the 1970s films “Billy Jack” and “Enter the Dragon” supported the historic impact of martial arts on the entertainment industry, Wilson said.
“The 1971 film ‘Billy Jack’ is considered by martial arts fans as the first American martial arts movie, and ‘Enter the Dragon’ in 1973 with Bruce Lee is one of the first films to star an Asian actor,” he said. “So that’s what the museum is trying to do — show the history of the martial arts.”
Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes also attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“We’re pleased they decided to make Burbank their home,” he said. “It’s just something else the residents of the community can enjoy.”
Future events Matsuda plans to have at the museum include talks by martial artists; cultural workshops, such as sushi making, tea ceremonies, painting and calligraphy; and performance demonstrations, like lion dancing. Matsuda also hopes to partner with surrounding studios to preview movies and animated films — anything that has to do with martial arts, he said.
What: Martial Arts History Museum
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday
Where: 2319 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank
Cost: $6 adults and seniors; $3 for ages 6 to 12 and free for children under 6