Martial arts (literally meaning arts of war but usually referred as fighting arts) are systems of codified practices and traditions of combat. Martial arts all have similar objectives: to physically defeat other persons or defend oneself or others from physical threat. Some martial arts take a great deal of their underlying theory from beliefs systems. Most specifically, Buddhism, and in Asia have been practiced in harmony with others, such as Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism or Shinto while others follow a particular code of honor. Martial arts are considered as both an art and a science. Many arts are also practiced competitively, most commonly as combat sports, but competitions may also take the form of "forms competition."
The term martial arts refers to the art of warfare (derived from Mars the Roman god of war) and comes from a 15th-century European term referring to what are now known as historical European martial arts specifically to what is today known as Historical Fencing, but is now most commonly associated with Asian fighting styles, especially the combat systems that originated in East Asia. The term both in its literal meaning however, and in its subsequent usage may be taken to refer to any codified combat system, regardless of origin, a practitioner of martial arts is referred to as a martial artist. Martial arts have originated and evolved in various cultures at various times. In the Americas, Native Americans have traditions of open-handed martial arts such as wrestling, while Hawaiians have historically practiced arts featuring small and large-joint manipulation. A mix of origins is found in the athletic movements of Capoeira, which African slaves developed in Brazil based on skills they had brought from Africa.
While each style has unique facets that differentiate it from other martial arts, a common characteristic is the systematization of fighting techniques. Methods of training vary and may include sparring (simulated combat) or formal sets or routines of techniques known as forms or kata. Forms are especially common in the Asian and Asian-derived martial arts.
Variation and scope
Martial arts vary widely, and may focus on a specific area or combination of areas, but they can be broadly grouped into focusing on strikes, grappling, or weapons training. Below is a list of examples that make extensive use of one of these areas; it is not an exhaustive list of all arts covering the area, nor are these necessarily the only areas covered by the art but are the focus or best known part as examples of the area:
- Punching: Boxing (Western), Wing Chun, Jeet Kune Do
- Kicking: Capoeira, Savate, Taekwondo
- Other strikes: Karate, Muay Thai, Kung Fu, Choi Kwang Do
- Throwing: Glima, Jujutsu, Sambo, Judo
- Joint lock/Submission holds: Aikido, Jujutsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Hapkido, Judo, Chin Na
- Pinning Techniques: Wrestling, Judo, Shuai Jiao
- Traditional Weaponry: Eskrima, Fencing, Gatka, Kendo, Kyūdō
- Modern Weaponry: Jukendo
Many martial arts, especially those from Asia, also teach side disciplines which pertain to medicinal practices. This is particularly prevalent in traditional Chinese martial arts which may teach bone-setting, qigong, acupuncture, acupressure (tui na), and other aspects of traditional Chinese medicine. Martial arts can also be linked with religion and spirituality. Numerous systems are reputed to have been founded, disseminated, or practiced by monks or nuns. For example, gatka is a weapon-based Indian martial art created by the Sikhs of the Panjab region of India and theKshatriya caste of Hindus also have an ancient martial art named Shastra vidhya. Japanese styles like aikido, have a strong philosophical belief of the flow of energy and peace. The Martial Arts are considered both an art for its dynamics of body movement as well as a science for its systematic application in relation to anatomy, physics, philosophy, hoplology and criminology.