Last updated: April 17, 2019
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Martial Arts


Martial art is a term refers to a system of codified practices and traditions of training for combat. A group of diverse activities that have evolved from ancient fighting skills said to be developed in Asian countries. These are studied for various reasons including combat skills, fitness, self-defense, sports, mental discipline, self cultivation, character development and building self-confidence.

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Martial arts as they are practiced today represent a wide range of concepts, objectives, styles, techniques, and procedures. The present day adaptations vary considerably and include the graceful slow movements of tai chi, the spectacular power punching of the highly trained karate expert, formalized reenactment of hand-to-hand sword fights, the stylized routines of aikido, practical methods of self-defense, and sport judo. Among teachers of the martial arts, attitudes range from extreme, rigid traditionalism to accommodation to concepts of contemporary physical education. Martial artist is referred to a practitioner of martial arts.

The practice of martial arts varies widely, and my focus on one or more of these following areas:


a) Kicking – Capoeira, Savate, Taekwondo, Taekkyon

b) Punching – Boxing, Shao-lin Long Fist, Wing Chun

c) Other strikers (e.g. knees, open-hand, elbows) Karate, Muay Thai


a) Pinning Techniques- Wrestling, Judo

b) Throwing – Glima, Judo, Shuai jiao, Jujutsu, Sambo

c) Joint Lock – Aikido, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Hapkido, Malla-yuddha


a) Traditional Weaponry- Gatka, Fencing,Silambam, Kendo

b) Modern Weaponry- Extrima, Jukendo, Jogo do Pau

Current usage limits of the term “martial arts” to the Asian styles of both weaponless and armed fighting, but it would be equally appropriate to refer to boxing, wrestling, archery, fencing, and other modern sports as martial arts because they also derive from ancient battle skills.

In the principal martial arts, all fighting methods can be classified according to their use of relatively small group of general techniques: weaponless blows struck with the hands and arms (fingertips, fists, palms, edge of hands, elbows, forearms, and the like) and feet and legs ( toes, bottom and side of feet, knees, heels); throwing and tripping techniques; immobilization, bending and twisting of the joints (holds, locks, levers, escapes); use of “found” weapons (sticks, stones) or use of crafted weapons (sword, lance spear dagger, staff). Some martial arts emphasize a single aspect of fighting skills, and others utilize material from several or all of the categories mentioned above.

The following are some of the common martial arts practices worldwide especially in some parts of Asia, where it was said to be originated.


Karate (Japanese: “empty hand”), a martial arts discipline employing kicking, striking, and defensive blocking with arms and legs. Emphasis is on concentrating as much of the body’s power as possible at the point and instant of impact. Striking surfaces include the hands the ball of the foot, heel, forearm, knee and elbow. All are toughened by practice blows against padded surfaces or wood. Pine boards up to several inches in thickness can be broken by the bare hand or foot of an expert. Timing, tactics, and spirits, however, are each considered at least as important as physical toughening.

In sporting karate and sparring in training, blows and kicks are stopped short, preferably within an inch of contact. Sporting matches commonly last about three minutes to a decision, if neither the contestant has scored a clean “killing” point in the estimation of the judges. Contests of form (kata) are also held, in which single competitors perform predetermined series of movements simulating defense and counter attack against several opponents. Performances are scored by a panel of judges, as in gymnastics.

Karate evolved in East Asia over a period of centuries becoming systemized in Okinawa in the seventeenth century, probably by people forbidden to carry weapons. It was imported into Japan in the 1920’s. Several schools and systems developed each favoring somewhat different techniques and training methods. Karate like other Asian martial arts disciplines, stresses mental attitude, rituals of country, and complex ranking system (by color belt).


Judo (from Chinese: gentle way) is a system of unarmed combat, now primarily a sport. Sporting judo rules are complex; the objective is to throw the opponent cleanly, or pin him, or master him by applying pressure to arm joints or to the neck. Techniques are generally intended to turn an opponent’s force to one’s own advantage rather than to oppose it directly. A ritual of courtesy in practice is intended to promote an attitude of calm readiness and confidence. The usual costume is a loose jacket and trousers of strong white cloth. White belts are worn by novices and black by masters, with intermediate grades denoted by colors. Kano Jigoro (1860-1938) collected the knowledge of the old jujitsu school of Japanese samurai and in 1882 founded his Kodokan school of Judo, the beginning of the sport in its modern form. By the 1960’s, Judo association had been establishes in most countries and affiliated to the International Judo Federation with headquarters in Paris. Judo was included in Olympic Games competition in the first time at Tokyo in 1964. World Judo Championship for women began in 1980.


Aikido (Japanese: “way of spiritual harmony”) is a self-defense system that resembles the fighting methods of jujitsu and judo in its use of twisting and throwing techniques and it’s of turning an attacker’s strength and momentum against himself. Pressure on vital nerve centers is also used.

Aikido was developed to subdue, rather than maim or kill as in jujitsu and karate, but many of its movements can nevertheless be deadly. This especially emphasizes the importance of achieving complete mental calm and control of one’s own body to master an opponent’s attack. As in other Oriental martial arts, the development of courtesy and respect is an integral part of aikido training.

The basic skills of aikido probably originated in Japan in about the nineteenth century. In the early 20th century they were systemized in their modern form through the work of the Japanese martial-arts expert Ueshiba Morihei. There are no offensive moves in aikido. As taught by Ueshiba, it was so purely defensive an art that no direct contest between practitioners was possible. Later a student of Ueshiba, Tomiki Kenji, developed a competition style (known as Tomiki aikido) that incorporates aikido techniques. A competitor attempts to score points by swiftly touching an opponent with a rubber or wooden knife, and other tries to avoid and disarm the attacker. The two alternate in wielding the knife.

Tai chi chuan

Tai chi chuan, commonly called tai chi, is a graceful, gentle exercise widely performed by men, women, and children in China. It has become popular in other countries, where it is practiced in conjunction with meditation or body awareness. The movements of tai chi are related to those of kung fu, but they are stylized and slow. Few persons claim that tai chi has self-defense applications, but some insist that it can be used for self -defense by exceptional individuals.


Sumo, one of the oldest Japanese martial arts, is highly stylized form of wrestling. Wearing only fringed loincloths, the giant wrestlers, averaging 300 pounds in weight, win the match by pushing, slapping, or throwing an opponent out of the contest area or by causing any part of his body, above and including the knee, to touch the ground. Matches begin and end with an elaborate ceremony and are very popular in Japan. Champion sumo wrestlers are celebrities.


Jujitsu (Japanese: gentle art) is a method of fighting that makes use of few or no weapons and employs holds, throws, and paralyzing blows to subdue an opponents. It evolved among the warrior class (bushi or samurai) in Japan from about the 17th century. Designed to complement a warriors’ swordsmanship in combat, it was necessarily ruthless style, with the usual object of warfare: crippling or killing an antagonist.

Jujitsu techniques of hitting, kicking, kneeing, throwing, choking, immobilizing holds, and use of certain weapons. Central to these systems was the concept ju, from a Chinese character commonly interpreted as “gentle” – gentle, however in the sense of yielding to an opponent’s direction of attack while attempting to control it. Also involved was the use of hand or tough parts of the body (e.g. knuckles, fists, elbows, and knees) against an enemy’s vulnerable point. Jujitsu declined after the fall of the Japanese feudal government in the mid 19th century, but many of its concepts and methods were incorporated into such modern fighting arts as judo, karate, and aikido.

Nin jitsu

Nin jitsu, sometimes translated “ the art of invisibility,” is commando-like training in hand-to-hand combat. Techniques include the use of small, thrown weapons; night movements; surprise tactics; and endurance.


Kyudo, a Japanese archery, has completely evolved from a battle skill, as has Western archery, by eliminating human targets. In kendo, a Japanese style of sword-fighting, the safety of the participants is ensured through the use of protective clothing and by substituting no lethal weapons for the originals. Bamboo and wooden implements represents the sword; present-day kendo is rarely practiced with live blades. Though other styles of sword-fighting are practiced in Japan, none is as widely known as kendo. A highly specialized Japanese martial art; ihai-jutsu is the art of quick drawing the sword. In battle, the fastest draw might determine the outcome of an encounter. Ihai-do is a stylized, four-part ritual consisting of the drawing action, the cutting action, the shaking action ( to represent shaking the blood off the blade), and the action of returning the sword to the sheath.

In some styles of martial arts, curved-blade swords, lances, sickles, dirks, tridents, and other sharp and cutting weapons are used. Others used short and long sticks and staffs, chains, metal spikes, and hand-held and thrown objects.

Aside from the weapons used in practicing martial arts, colored belts are also important to martial artist. Colored belts indicate the student’s level of skill; Colored-belt ranking was originated in judo. There is no universal system of belt ranking. Generally, a white belt is for beginners, a brown belt is for intermediate grades, and the black belt indicates a high level of skill. Hundreds of belt color systems are used throughout the world.

From within the various forms of the martial arts there is considerable variation in the requirements for promotion from the lower to the higher grades. Belt degrees are sometimes awarded at the discretion of the teacher. In some styles of karate, belt degrees are awarded for perfection of technique, demonstrated in kata, or the formal, rehearsed series of actions considered by some to be the purest form of karate. In such a school, the black belt could be earned through solo performance and would have no bearing on competitive skill. In other styles of karate, the black belt might be earned only by winning a series of matches, culminating in successful contest against high-ranking opponents in tournament competition.


There are conflicting accounts of the development of the martial arts. Records show that grappling, stick-fighting, spear, and lance techniques, and other hand-to-hand methods of assault and defense (for combat and for personal protection) were practiced in many parts of the world at least 20 centuries before the birth of Christ. There is evidence that various fighting specialties came to be known in China by way of India and Tibet and that Tibetan and Chinese monk used forms of unarmed fighting for physical fitness and to defend themselves against bandits. From China, the knowledge of fighting skills spread to other Asian countries, arriving finally in Japan. Japanese forms of the martial arts are now the best known and most widely practiced.

Some martial arts schools associate themselves with the values of bushido (Japanese, “way of the warrior”). They romanticize and glorify fighting and the spiritual refinement that results from perfect obedience to authority. They allege that bushido is superior to religion and other moral teaching because it permits immediate punishment of evil. Followers of other schools of the martial arts dissociate themselves from the vigilante concept of punishing evil and assert that martial art training is solely for self-mastery and not for mastery of others.

Japanese styles of martial arts frequently have a suffix jitsu (or jutsu) or do. Thd jitsu implies the development of the martial skill, whereas the do implies an activity whose objective is not warfare but promotion of the spirit underlying the activity. Thus kenjitsu  is the art of swordsmanship for battle;  kendo is swordsmanship practiced to develop the warrior spirit.


The early history of martial arts, in Asia, the teaching has followed the cultural traditions of teacher-disciple apprenticeship. Students are trained by their master instructor in a strictly hierarchical system. Instructor is expected to directly supervise or look their students’ training while the students are expected to memorize and recite as closely as possible the rules and basic training routines of the school.

Martial arts styles in Asia are influenced by martial arts from China, and India. This is why that both countries left their mark especially in Southeast Asia and the Himalayan region. In Asian countries, like Indonesia and Malaysia, for example, a large number of arts under the umbrella term of Silat are practiced. Pin pointing the origin of these arts is somewhat difficult, in which have much in common with Oigong, Yiquan and many forms of Chinese and Indian martial arts.

Throughout the Asia, martial arts were practiced as it can be seen in the art, history and current traditions in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines. In many countries, local arts like Kenjutsu and Ju-jutsu in Japan, Taekyon and Soobak in Korea, and Te in Okinawa, mixed with other martial arts and evolved to produce some of the more well-known martial arts in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries like Karate, Aikido, and Taekwondo.


In Europe, martial arts existed in classical European civilization, most notably in Greece where sport was integral to the way of life. During the Ancient Olympic Games, boxing (pygme, pyx), wrestling (pale) and pankraton (from pan, meaning “all”, and kratos, meaning “power” or “strength”) were represented. Gladiatorial combat were produced by Romans as public spectacle.

Some of the traditional martial art in Europe have been preserved in one form or another e.g. boxing, wrestling, archery, and fencing, preserved by being made into sports. Many groups are working for the reconstruction of older European martial arts. The process of the reconstruction, combines the intensive study of detailed combat treatises produced from 1400-1900 A.D., and practical training or “pressure testing” of various techniques and tactics. Some of the styles included are styles as sword and shield, two-handed sword fighting, jousting and other types of melee weapons combat. The reconstruction effort and modern outgrowth of the historical methods generally referred to as Western Martial Arts.


The native people of North America had their own martial training which began in childhood. Many of these Native American men considered them warriors and trained to use bows, knives, blowguns, spears and war clubs. These war clubs were preferred martial weapon because Native American warriors could raise their social status by killing enemies in single combat face to face. The warriors honed their archery and war club skills through lifelong training.

Another kind of martial arts, Capoeira, is martial arts with roots in Africa originated in Brazil, involved a high degree of flexibility and endurance. It consists of elbow strikes, kicks, head butts, and sweeps. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial arts adopted during the pre-World War II. Today, many Americans do practice martial arts, and as we can see through televisions and live performance like mixed martial arts competition such as the UFC and PRIDE.







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