I always thought that he boxing classics and other written records on tai Chi and similar arts dated back to like the 14th century (although some count the Tao te Ching). That doesn't of course point to the actual origins, just the written codification. Interesting question, although I would think grappling and wrestling arts could spring up pretty independently without needing a single MA source.
Seriously, I have to think that hieroglyphs depicting grappling, wrestling and stick fighting carry a lot of weight when it comes down to it.
Exactly. Fighting pre-dates Tai Chi unless you believe all of the myths.
Fighting predates humans. Dinosaurs had their own fighting styles.
Somehow it still all goes back to Shaolin and Wudang.
So dinosaurs taught kung fu to a lone itinerant wandering vole-like ancestral mammal, who, after surviving the great cataclysm, taught it to his decendents, who then taught it to......
Well, before Tai Chi, there were most likely martial arts, but there's none that I could find that are known before it. Tai Chi was the very beginning of Kung Fu from my understanding and Kung Fu was eventually the starting evolution of martial arts. Then more martial art styles. Other martial art styles existed outside of just China I'm sure, but they were pretty big practitioners back in the day. Tai Chi is apparently, from what I've read in books of Cheng Dsu Yao and such, the oldest known martial art. Of course, that doesn't make it the oldest. Still, it's the basics of all Kung Fu and Kung Fu helped to develop other martial arts.
Either way I think we can all at least agree that Tai Chi is very old if not the oldest, and is pretty awesome in most of its many manifestations. Martial Arts history is really interesting but also quite frustrating in that there isn't much evidence floating around to confirm tradition.