The martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices. They are practiced for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, as well as mental, physical, and spiritual development.
The term martial art is heavily associated with the fighting arts of eastern Asia, but was originally used in regard to the combat systems of Europe as early as the 1550s. An English fencing manual of 1639 used the term in reference specifically to the “Science and Art” of swordplay. The term is ultimately derived from Latin, and means “Arts of Mars,” where Mars is the Roman god of war. Some martial arts are considered ‘traditional’ and are tied to an ethnic, cultural or religious background, while others are modern systems developed either by a founder or an association.
Unarmed or Open Fist
Unarmed martial arts can be broadly grouped into focusing on strikes, those focusing on grappling and those that cover both fields, often described as hybrid martial arts.
Punching: Boxing (Western), Wing Chun
Kicking: Capoeira, Kickboxing, Taekwondo, Tang Soo Do, Savate
Others using strikes: Karate, Muay Thai, Sanshou, Vale Tudo, Wushu
Throwing: Jujutsu, Aikido, Glima, Hapkido, Judo, Sambo
Joint lock/Chokes/Submission holds: Judo, Jujutsu, Aikido, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Hapkido
Pinning Techniques: Jujutsu, Judo, Wrestling, Sambo
Another key delineation of Unarmed martial arts is in the use of Power & Strength-based techniques (as found in Boxing, Kickboxing, Karate, Tae Kwan Do and so on) vs. techniques that almost exclusively use the Opponent’s own energy/balance against them (as in Tai Chi Chuan, Aikido, Hapkido and Aiki Jiu Jitsu and similar). Another way to view this division is to consider the differences between arts where Power and Speed are the main keys to success vs. arts that rely to a much greater extent on correct body-mechanics and the balance of the practitioners energy with that of the opponent.
It is important to note in all such delineations that aspects of many arts, if not most, can fall within both camps, regardless of which way the defining line is viewed (Striking vs. Grappling or Power vs. Energy/Balance). Most arts have features on both sides of any such dividing line.
Those traditional martial arts which train armed combat often encompass a wide spectrum of melee weapons, including bladed weapons and polearms. Such traditions include eskrima, silat, Kalarippayattu, kobudo, and historical European martial arts, especially those of the German Renaissance. Many forms of Chinese martial arts also feature weapons as part of their curriculum.
Sometimes, training with one specific weapon will be considered a style of martial arts in its own right. This is especially the case in Japanese martial arts with disciplines such as kenjutsu and kendo (sword), bojutsu (staff), and kyudo (archery). Similarly, modern Western martial arts and sports include modern fencing, stick-fighting systems like canne de combat or singlestick, and modern competitive archery.
Traditional Korean martial arts place emphasis on the development of the practitioner’s spiritual and philosophical development. A common theme in most Korean styles, such as taekkyeon and taekwondo, is the value of “inner peace” in a practitioner, which is stressed to be only achieved through individual meditation and training. As with most other East Asian martial arts, the Koreans believe that the use of physical force is only justified through defense.
Japanese styles, when concerning non-physical qualities of the combat, are strongly influenced by Zen philosophy. Concepts like “empty mind” and “beginner’s mind” are recurrent. Aikido, for instance, can have a strong philosophical belief of the flow of energy and peace fostering, as idealised by its founder Morihei Ueshiba.
Health and fitness benefits
Training in martial arts imparts many benefits to the trainee, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Through systematic practice in the martial arts a person’s physical fitness may be boosted (strength, stamina, flexibility, movement coordination, etc.,) as the whole body is exercised and the entire muscular system is activated. Beyond contributing to physical fitness, martial arts training also has benefits for mental health, contributing to self-esteem, self-control, emotional and spiritual well-being. For this reason, a number of martial arts schools have focused purely on therapeutic aspects, de-emphasizing the historical aspect of self-defense or combat completely.
According to Bruce Lee, martial arts also have the nature of an art, since there is emotional communication and complete emotional expression.
Information excepts taken from the Websters Dictionary and Wikipedia