According to the Wikipedia, “Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a number of reasons: as self-defense, military and law enforcement applications, mental and spiritual development; as well as entertainment and the preservation of a nation’s intangible cultural heritage.”
The origin of martial art is not very clear. Even though the common notion is that the fighting arts originated in Eastern Asia, it goes back to the combat systems prevailing in Europe as early as the 1550s. The term “martial” is derived from Latin and means “arts of Mars”, popularly known as the Roman God of War.
Martial arts can be broadly classified into unarmed and armed combat.
- Unarmed Combat – This is again classified into a number of categories. The first is “strikes” which consists of punching, boxing and karate and kicking like Taekwondo and Kung-Fu. The second is “grappling” which includes the art of judo, sumo wrestling, Jujutsu, Sambo, Wrestling and Aikido.
- Armed Combat – Armed combat martial arts comprises of using a range of weapons from bladed weapons to pole-arms. This tradition has been historically followed by European martial arts especially during the period of the German Renaissance. A few disciplines of martial arts are related to a specific weapon only such as kendo with sword and kyudo with arrows. Similar example from European martial arts history has fencing with swords.
It is wrong to assume that martial art is combat oriented, whether it is in armed or unarmed form. There are other aspects to it too. It is sometimes health oriented with training being imparted in a few side disciplines such as medicinal practices, bone-setting and other forms of traditional medicine. Then there is the spirituality oriented martial arts which are linked to religion with monks and nuns being great exponents of this feature of martial art. Meditation is one of them and an amalgamation of Hindu and Buddhist philosophies is even said to help attain enlightenment through martial arts.
These are some of the basics to know about the great sport of martial arts.