A block print from the Bubishi.

Martial arts are systems of codified practices and traditions of training for combat. Today, martial arts are studied for various reasons including combat skills, sport, fitness, self-defense, self-cultivation (meditation), mental discipline, character development and building self-confidence.

A practitioner of martial arts is referred to as a martial artist.


Worldwide there is a great diversity of martial arts. Broadly speaking, martial arts share a common goal: to defeat a person physically or to defend oneself from physical threat. In many martial arts, training goes beyond fighting to include personal, mental, and spiritual development.

A common characteristic of martial arts is the systemization of fighting techniques. One common traditional method of training, particularly in the East Asian martial arts, is the form or kata (also called poomse, ch'ůan t'ao, kuen, tao lu, hyung, or tuls). This is a set routine of techniques performed alone, or sometimes with a partner.

Martial arts may focus on one or more of these areas:

Some martial arts, particularly the traditional Chinese martial arts, also teach side disciplines such as bone-setting, Qigong, acupuncture, acupressure (Tui na), and other aspects of traditional Chinese medicine. Traditional Indian martial arts also teach aspects of traditional Indian medicine as side disciplines.

The martial arts, though commonly associated with East Asian cultures and people, are by no means unique to this region. For example, various Dravidian (South Indian) martial arts, such as Kuttu Varisai, Varma Kalai and Kalari Payattu, were developed in ancient Thamizhakkam. Savate was developed from Chausson and English boxing. Capoeira's athletic movements were developed in Brazil by slaves based on skills brought with them from Africa. English boxing was developed from bare-knuckle boxing.

Many martial arts also strive to teach moral values and provide guidance for children who join the ranks of those learning the art. Many arts require those who achieve black belt or the equivalent to take an oath restricting their use of their knowledge. Martial artists are also trained in mental and emotional discipline.


Each martial art has its own history and goals. Some focus on tournament competition, while others focus on self-defense, preparing for war, or the preservation of an ancient tradition.

The history of martial arts around the world is complex. Most groups of people have had to defend themselves at some time and have developed fighting techniques for that purpose. However, many of those techniques have been rendered technologically obsolete over the centuries. Even at an individual, rural level, the threat to the safety of a group of people is now more likely to come from modern weaponry such as automatic rifles than from men with swords. Furthermore, the preservation of a martial art requires many years of teaching at the hands of a good teacher to pass on the art for a single generation. So it is relatively unlikely that a particular martial art would survive and become popular in today's culture, and each art that has done so has a unique history.

Martial arts in AsiaEdit

Martial arts - Fragrant Hills

Practicing martial arts is still a popular pastime in modern China.

For more details on this topic, see List of Asian and Pacific Martial Arts

Early historyEdit

The teaching of martial arts in Asia has historically followed the cultural traditions of teacher-disciple apprenticeship. Students are trained in a strictly hierarchical system by a master instructor: Sensei (先生) in Japanese; in Chinese 老師, (Wade-Giles) Lao Shih, (Pinyin) lǎo shī (lit., old master); Cantonese Sifu; 師父 Mandarin (Wade-Giles) Shih fu, (Pinyin) Shī fù (lit., the master-father), 사범님 Sah Beom Nim (Korean), Guru in Sanskrit and Hindi, Kallari Gurukkal (Malayalam). The instructor is expected to directly supervise their students' training, and the students are expected to memorize and recite as closely as possible the rules and basic training routines of the school.

In a Confucian influenced martial art, students with more seniority are considered older brothers and sisters; those with less seniority as younger brothers and sisters. Such clearly delineated relationships are designed to develop good character, patience and discipline.

Some method of certification can be involved, where one's skills would be tested for mastery before being allowed to study further; in some systems, especially in China, there may not have been any such certifications, only years of close personal practice and evaluation under a master, much like an apprenticeship, until the master deems one's skills satisfactory. This pedagogy, while still preserved and respected in many traditional styles, has weakened to varying degrees in others and is even actively rejected by some schools, especially in the West.

Along with East Asia, martial arts were also studied in India, Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, South America, and almost every other corner of the Earth. This in turn led to further exploration of disciplines from China, Korea, and Japan for their historical and cultural value. In India, Indonesia and Malaysia, a tremendous diversity of colourful martial arts of various styles with ancient origins flourishes.

Indian martial arts are very diverse and as old as the culture and civilization of the country. The ancient epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata contain references to the Malla-yuddha (war fighter) style of wrestling [1] and possibly Vajra Mukti (diamond fist). A number of ancient and sophisticated martial arts were developed in South India, including Kuttu Varisai (empty hand combat), Varma Kalai (the art of vital points) and Adithada (kickboxing) in Tamil Nadu, and Kalari Payattu (way of the arena) in Kerala. Indian martial arts was influential in various Indianized kingdoms of Southeast Asia, as well as Tibet. Some scholars claim that Indian martial arts was also influential in China and Japan (see Bodhidharma, Shaolin kung fu: The legend of Bodhidharma, and Disputed history of Kalarippayattu).

In Indonesia, a large number of arts under the umbrella of Silat may also include Kateda and Sindo. Kuntao styles are found across this region. It is difficult to pin down the origin of these arts, which are claimed to be indigenous but nonetheless have much in common with Kalari Payattu, Qigong, Yiquan, and possibly Shaolin Wushu. They have both internal and external qualities so perhaps could be seen as an original hybridisation of other arts, the origins of which are lost in the mists of time.

Modern historyEdit

The Western interest in East Asian Martial Arts dates back to the late 19th Century, due to the increase in trade between America and China and Japan. Relatively few Westerners actually practiced the arts, considering it to be mere performance. Many of the first demonstrations of the martial arts in the West were performed by Asians in vaudeville shows, which served to further reinforce the perception of the martial arts as dramatic performance.

As Western influence grew in the East a greater number of military personnel spent time in China, Japan, and elsewhere. Gradually some soldiers began to see the value of Eastern martial arts and began training in them.

William E. Fairbairn, a retired police officer from the International Zone of  pre-WWII Shanghai and at the time a leading Western expert on Asian fighting techniques was recuited during World War II by the British Secret Service to teach U.K., U.S. and Canadian Commando and Ranger forces an truncated form of  Jujitsu known as Defendu; he later wrote Get Tough!, a classic military treatise on hand to hand combat. Fairbairn became friends with the American  OSS officer Rex Applegate, who in turn incorporated Defendu methods into his book Kill or Get Killed.

With large numbers of American servicemen stationed in Japan after World War II, the adoption of techniques and the gradual transmission of entire systems of martial arts to the West started. It was in the 1950's, however, when this exportation of systems really began to gain momentum. Large groups of US Military personnel were taught Korean arts (Taekwondo) during the War with North Korea, and many of these brought their training home and continued to practice and teach after their demobilization. By the 1960's, the Japanese arts like Karate and Judo had become very popular. The early 1970s saw martial arts movies, due in part to martial artist Bruce Lee, cause the rise in popularity of Chinese martial arts.

This exportation of the martial arts led to such styles as sport karate, which became a major international sport, with professional fighters, big prizes, television coverage, and sponsorship deals.

The later 1970's and 1980's witnessed an increased media interest in the martial arts. Thanks in part to Asian and Hollywood martial arts movies and very popular television shows like "Kung-Fu" and "The Green Hornet" that incorporated martial arts moments or themes.

Martial arts in EuropeEdit

NAMA Akrotiri 2

Boxing was practiced in ancient Greece

Martial arts with historical roots in Europe do not exist to the same extent as in Asia. Boxing as well as forms of wrestling have endured. European martial arts have mostly adapted to changing technology and are truer to the English meaning of that phrase, so that while their descendants still exist, martial arts are focused on things like flying helicopters and infantry tactics for riflemen. These are generally not referred to as martial arts.

Martial arts existed in classical European civilization, most notably in Greece where sport was integral to the way of life. Boxing (pygme, pyx), Wrestling (pale) and Pankration (from pan, meaning "all", and kratos, meaning "power" or "strength") were represented in the Ancient Olympic Games. The Romans produced Gladiatorial combat as public spectacle based on a more martial sport.

Some traditional martial arts have been preserved in one form or another. For example, boxing, wrestling, archery, savate and fencing were preserved by being made into sports; of course this has changed the practice significantly.

Some forms of historical fencing have survived, and many groups are working to reconstruct older European martial arts. The process of reconstruction combines intensive study of detailed combat treatises produced from 1400-1900 A.D. and practical training or "pressure testing" of various techniques and tactics. This includes such styles as sword and shield, two-handed swordfighting, jousting and other types of melee weapons combat.

Another aspect of the reconstruction effort involves more historically recent martial arts and combat sports, such as those practiced during the 1800s and 1900s. A partial list would include bare-knuckle boxing, Bartitsu, quarterstaff, fencing according to late 1800s rules, etc.

Unarmed European martial arts that have survived in active form include English boxing, Olympic wrestling, and French savate. Some weapon systems have also survived as folk sports and as self-defense methods, including stick-fighting systems such as Jogo do Pau of Portugal, and the Juego del Palo style(s) of the Canary Islands.

Other martial arts were made into sports that we no longer recognize as combative, such as some kinds of gymnastics, where the pommel horse is called a horse because it simulates a horse; the art comes from the necessity of a cavalryman to be able to change positions and fight effectively from the back of a horse. More ancient origins exist for the shot put and the javelin throw, both weapons utilized extensively by the Romans.

Martial arts in the AmericasEdit

The native peoples of North America had their own martial training which started at childhood. Many Native American men considered themselves warriors and trained to use the bows, knives, blowguns, spears, and warclubs. War clubs were the preferred martial weapon because Native American warriors could raise their social status by killing enemies in single combat face to face. Warriors honed their archery and war club skills through lifelong training. According to early historical accounts, they demonstrated impressive skill in using war clubs and were favorably compared to European fencing masters.

The European colonists (and later, Asian immigrants) brought over their own martial arts such as boxing, fencing and wrestling.

In 1831 James (Jim) Bowie survived a duel (Vidalia Sand Bar Fight) turned brawl, where he killed one assailant and severly wounded another despite himself being shot, stabbed, and bludgeoned.  Bowie's use of a large knife in this encounter rather than a pistol or sword made popular the Bowie knife. Due to the sensationalism of American newspaper reports, the Bowie knife soon became the most popular personal blade being sold in the US. Schools of Bowie fighting quickly sprung up across the country, which probably drew from European influences and possibly drew from native influences.

Capoeira, with roots in Africa, is a martial art originating in Brazil that involves a high degree of flexibility and endurance. It consists of kicks and sweeps, although modern Capoeira has incorporated punches and arm strikes.

Another Brazilian martial art is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The pre-war years saw many Japanese people emigrate to Brazil, some of whom were proficient in Judo. Carlos Gracie and his brother Hélio Gracie adopted this system of fighting and refined it into a more comprehensive groundfighting system. The system, known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, has become a popular martial art and proved to be extremely successful in mixed martial arts competitions such as the UFC.

Martial arts internationallyEdit

Every village and tribe around the world had a few trained fighters who passed on their knowledge; however, it is difficult to pass on a fighting system, so almost all of these have been lost as their practical relevance has declined. A few have nonetheless survived for one reason or another, and a very few of those have seen a recent boom in popularity, perhaps related to the world music phenomenon or more simply because the internet has thrown them open to the world. Examples of this are Capoeira and some related arts in Cuba, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago, which were preserved partly through their relationship with Candomblé, Santería, Vodun, and other syncretic religions. Of these, only Capoeira has risen to worldwide prominence.

Boxing, Fencing, Judo, Wrestling and Tae Kwon Do are the martial arts that are contested in the modern Olympic Games.

The 2003 movie Whale Rider featured several scenes involving Mau rakau, a traditional martial art of the Māori people. It involves the use of the taiaha, a 2-handed fighting staff.

Martial arts also developed among military and police forces to be used as:

  • arrest and self-defense methods. One example is Krav Maga, a self-defense system developed by the armed forces of Israel. Another example is San Shou developed for Chinese armed forces and Kombato developed for the Brazilian armed forces.
  • lethal tactical arts for use in close quarter combat warfare, i.e. Military Martial Arts e.g. UAC (British), LINE (USA)

Other combatives systems having their origins in the modern military include Chinese San Shou, Soviet Bojewoje(Combat) Sambo, Indian ACCS Advanced commando combat system and Israeli Krav Maga.

Martial arts on the modern battlefieldEdit

As modern warriors continue to refine tactics and techniques utilizing modern weaponry such as handguns and rifles, old concepts seem new again. A good example of this is point shooting which relies on muscle memory to more effectively utilize a firearm in a variety of awkward situations, much the way an iaidoka would master movements with his or her sword. This is now a central part of infantry and special forces weapons training. The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) is an integrated martial art designed for and executed by all U.S. Marines.

Other combatives systems having their origins in the modern military include Chinese San Shou, Soviet Bojewoje(Combat) Sambo (martial art), Indian ACCS Advanced commando combat system and Israeli Krav Maga.

In addition to these new forms, traditional hand-to-hand and spear techniques continue to see use. Examples of this include Combatives and bayonet jousting techniques, both taught by the U.S. Army. As urban combat and close quarters combat become increasingly the norm, the former is likely to see more use this century than last, and while the bayonet may seem a relic of history to many, the weapon has seen use by the British Army as recently as the invasion of Iraq [2].

Comparisons between martial artsEdit

The comparison between martial arts can be based on the goals, teaching methods, and the techniques of different fighting systems. Such comparisons tend to be controversial when there is a lack of format in which a direct and objective comparison is possible. In addition to physical combat, many martial arts have spiritual or philosophical aspirations, such as the various Chinese, Japanese and Korean martial arts that emphasize traditional Confucian teaching methods. Some systems are sports-oriented, such as Judo, Tae Kwon Do and Wushu, and have their own distinct set of rules which are incompatible with other systems. Some are described as "reality-based", with a focus on self-defense, including American Kenpo, Wing Chun, Jeet Kune Do, Defendo, Kapap, Kombato, and Angeles Eskrima. As different martial arts often have differing goals, it is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of various martial arts based on one general standard or method.

However, many martial arts claim to be effective fighting disciplines within a particular context, such as unarmed combat between two fighters, self-defense against multiple attackers, use of specific weapons, escaping from those seeking to harm or capture the practitioner, and so on. While some of these claims are sometimes difficult to assess, an objective evaluation of practitioners may be achieved within context. For instance, regardless of background, those sharing a common interest in hand-to-hand fighting may engage in sparring using a mutually accepted set of rules in order to determine who is a better fighter. An example of a martial arts tournament that attempted to answer the question of "which fighting system is the best" using as few rules as possible was the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the early 1990's. Organizations such as the UFC have since evolved due to the rise of mixed martial arts.

Mixed martial arts or MMA is an eclectic, modern form of martial arts cross-training. Followers of this practice believe that no traditional fighting system is strictly better than all others, and that by being competent and well-trained in multiple areas, one can become a better fighter overall. Due to this movement, tournaments such as the UFC and Pride Fighting Championships have evolved to emphasize more on competition between individuals and less on competition between specific systems, as virtually all participants in these events have become knowledgeable in multiple systems. While MMA is currently seen largely as a form of sport competition with organization-specific rules, it can also be considered a school of thought in which the practitioner may incorporate any useful martial art technique into their personal training.


Numerous criteria have been devised to classify different fighting systems, though many of these criteria are either controversial or overly generalized. For example, while some Chinese systems have traditionally been classified as either "internal" or "external", these notions require concepts such Qi, Central Power, Prana and Kei which are not necessarily applicable to all systems internationally. Another category is the notion of "hard" versus "soft", which asks whether a system relies on using force and power to defeat the opponent or, instead, on avoiding attacks and applying leverage: the Shotokan school of karate may be perceived as using a "harder" approach than Judo does. However, many systems have both hard and soft aspects and do not always fit into either category; a Judo practitioner still uses full physical strength when throwing opponents in competition. Another set of similar concepts is "striking" versus "grappling": does the art focus on punching and kicking, as in boxing and Taekwondo, or on clinching and holding, as in wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? While some systems may consist of mostly striking or mostly grappling, various arts such as Ninjutsu, Sambo or San Shou, among many others, often utilize both areas in conjunction. Muay Thai, for example, is studied primarily as a striking art, yet it makes frequent use of the grappling technique double collar tie.

Technical aspectsEdit

Fighting is a highly complex discipline. In the past, soldiers such as Greek hoplites, Roman Legionary (Roman legion), Mongolian cavalrymen, Manchu bannermen, European knights and Japanese samurai usually spent lifetimes studying all relevant aspects of unarmed fighting and fighting with basic weapons, honed by real, close-quarters combat resulting in fatalities. While soldiers today are still trained in these areas, due to the characteristics of modern warfare, unarmed fighting is often practiced now by civilians in sport-like and less lethal fashions. Modern militaries are typically trained in only the most basic of hand-to-hand combat skills. Practitioners today generally study a limited number of fighting aspects within specific martial art systems, with the exception of certain Asian military special forces, such as one of Taiwan's hostage rescue squads, specialized in hand-to-hand combat in confined spaces. Nonetheless, many practitioners would like to have some skill in more than one context, and most arts include some study of many aspects. In certain systems, in-depth study of certain aspects is not begun until a practitioner has been training for many years.

Some aspects of fighting include:

  • Long-range unarmed fighting. In this situation, things happen relatively slowly (hundreds of milliseconds), giving participants time to react to visual stimuli. This allows powerful strikes as well as subtle feints to be performed.
  • Short-range unarmed fighting. In this situation reaction time is such an important factor that visual stimuli are not very useful, and practitioners must learn to react to tactile stimuli. Strikes are still possible but reactions must become reflexes, making feints more difficult.
  • Grappling. In this situation participants are wrestling each other attempting to get the other in a submission or weak spot for striking. Leverage and physical strength become very important. If not forbidden by rules, biting, pinching and spitting can be very effective at this range.
  • Armed fighting. Fighting with weapons can be rather different from unarmed fighting, both because strikes can become much more destructive and because weapons can drastically increase the reach of a practitioner. Of course, each weapon and each range requires its own techniques, but a cleverly designed teaching system can take advantage of similarities to simplify the study.
  • Moral, emotional, and physical development. The dedication and practice required to acquire skill in a martial art can be very beneficial to the character of a practitioner - and in learning to defeat an attacker. Some martial arts systems focus on these effects, and emphasize techniques and training that encourage this development.
  • Fighting against a single opponent. Both traditional duels and most modern sparring matches pit one expert fighter against another, with some set of rules, and after a battle, declare a victor. This has a number of different effects; for example, footwork can be simplified as a practitioner rarely needs to turn quickly. On the other hand, one can expect one's opponent to be about as skilled as oneself.
  • Fighting against multiple opponents. Some martial arts systems focus on being able to deal with multiple opponents simultaneously. In order for this to be possible, normally the opponents must be assumed to have less skill than the practitioner. This has technical effects as well, including tight, careful footwork to allow rapid turning, as well as rapid disabling of opponents in order to move on.
  • Fighting without injuring the opponent. Many systems are suggested for police or security work; as such, there is a certain amount of effort devoted to minimizing the damage a practitioner inflicts on an opponent. Disarming, locking and controlling techniques are emphasized in this situation over the simpler striking techniques which disable or kill.
  • Avoidance of fighting. Some martial arts systems are strongly oriented towards practical self-defense, and so some emphasis is placed on defusing or avoiding violent situations rather than fighting.

Rank systemsEdit

Since the early 20th century, martial arts such as Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and Judo have ranked their students according to a belt system. In the martial arts that use a belt system, the lowest ranking belt is usually white, and the highest ranking belt is usually black, which can extend to the 10th degree or higher. The arrangement of the intermediate colored belts varies. Sometimes the white belt is said to symbolize innocence and purity, and the black belt to symbolize the collection of all colors of experience. In most martial arts that use a belt system, there are multiple degrees of black belt called Dans. Even when a black belt has been achieved, training in the art is not complete. In many schools the black belt denotes more the beginning of training than the end of learning.

It is thought that when uniforms were being introduced in the early martial arts, that white belts were used to keep the suit from becoming cumbersome. Through years of outdoor training the belt became ingrained with dirt, the longer the training the more experience, and the "Blacker" the belt became. The colour of the belt ranged from light (white - beginner) to dark (black - Teacher/Master). It was also thought to be a chalice of the wearer, that holds all their knowledge, and to wash it off was thought to take away the knowledge gained while wearing the belt. Others assert that this explanation is merely a popular myth, considering standards of cleanliness commonly upheld in such training establishments (see black belt (martial arts) )

Traditionally in the Chinese systems, no ranks were used other than teacher, senior student, and junior student. Many western kung-fu schools now use a system of sashes, similar in practice to the Japanese belt system.

Other martial arts may use a system of titles.

Testing and competitionEdit

In general, testing or evaluation in some form is important to martial art practitioners of many disciplines who wish to determine their own level of skill in specific contexts. Students within individual martial art systems often undergo periodic testing and grading by their own teacher in order to advance to a higher level of recognized achievement, such as a different belt color or title. The type of testing used varies from system to system but may include forms or sparring. Sparring can generally be divided into light- or medium-contact, and full-contact variants. Both forms and sparring are commonly used in martial art exhibitions and tournaments. Some competitions pit practitioners of different disciplines against each other using a common set of rules.

Light and medium-contact sparringEdit

Sparring in some martial arts may involve a point-based system of light- to medium-contact sparring in a marked-off area where both competitors are protected by foam padding; particular targets are prohibited, such as face and groin, and certain techniques may be also prohibited. Points are awarded to competitors on the solid landing of one technique. Again, master-level judges start and stop the match, award points, and resolve disputes. After a set number of points are scored or when the time set for the match expires (for example, three minutes or five points), and elimination matches occur until there is only one winner. These matches may also be sorted by gender, weight class, level of expertise and even age. Some critics of these point sparring competition note that this type of training teaches students to pull their punches or not throw combination attacks as the fighting is frequently stopped by judges to award points or declare fouls. This disruption alters the flow of actual combat and enforces what some see are the bad habits of not following through on attacks, lowering your guard, and relying on tactics that may score points but lack the power to disable or hurt an actual attacker.

Full-contact fightingEdit

"Full-contact" sparring or fighting is often pursued by martial art practitioners who are interested in realistic unarmed combat. The phrase may refer to several aspects which differentiate it from light and medium-contact sessions. It may simply be a general lack of protective gear. For example, Kyokushin is a variant of karate that requires advanced practitioners to engage in sparring while wearing no more than a groin guard for protection. It may refer to a full variety of permitted attacks and contact zones on the body, excluding a small and limited number of forbidden techniques such as biting, finger breaking, groin striking or attacking the eyes, bestowing significant fighting freedom upon the competitors. The phrase could also refer to the use of full force in order to disable the opponent, either by knock out or direct submission of defeat. There is often a lower emphasis on scoring points, assuming a point system exists; points, judges and time limits were not used in the early UFC events, whose outcomes were determined only by the inability to continue. Due to these factors, full-contact matches tend to be more aggressive in character. Vale tudo, meaning anything goes in Portuguese, is a definite form of full-contact fighting. Nearly all MMA events, including UFC, PRIDE, Pancrase and Shooto, use full-contact rules, although recently the use of small protective gloves and other safety rules have been added. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo do not allow striking but are full-contact in the sense that full force is applied during grappling and submissions. Some versions of Sambo are full-contact.

Some practitioners believe that physically defeating the enemy, as opposed to winning a sport match by rules, is the only important matter in hand-to-hand combat. Some of them treat martial arts only as matters of self-defense or life-and-death situations. As such, these people may prefer not to participate in most types of rule-based martial art competition (even one such as vale tudo), electing instead to study fighting techniques with little or no regard to competitive rules or, perhaps, ethical concerns and the law (the techniques practiced may include attacking vulnerable spots such as the groin or the eyes). Nonetheless, others maintain that, given proper precautions such as a referee and a ring doctor, full-contact matches with basic rules could serve as a useful gauge of one's overall fighting ability, encompassing broad categories including striking, grappling and finishing hold.

Martial arts as sportEdit

Slam from armbar

Mixed martial arts is a modern combat sport in which a wide variety of martial art techniques are allowed

On the subject of competition, martial artists vary wildly. Practitioners in some arts such as Boxing, Taekwondo, Judo, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu often train for sport matches in those arts, whereas those in other arts such as Aikido, Wing Chun and Kapap generally spurn such competitions. Some schools believe that competition breeds better and more efficient practitioners, and gives a sense of good sportsmanship. Others believe that the rules under which competition takes place have removed the combat effectiveness of martial arts or encourage a kind of practice which focuses on winning trophies rather than the more traditional focus of combat effectiveness, or in East Asian cultures, of developing the Confucian person, which eschews showing off (see Confucius, also renaissance man.)

As part of the response to sport martial arts, new forms of competition are being held such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the U.S. or Pancrase and the PRIDE in Japan which are also known as mixed martial arts (or MMA) events. The original UFC was fought under very few rules allowing all martial arts styles to enter and not be limited by the rule set. Similarly an early promotion, called Vale Tudo in Brazil was No Holds Barred (NHB) as well.

Some martial artists also compete in non-sparring competitions such as breaking or choreographed techniques poomse or kata.

Martial arts and danceEdit

As mentioned above, some martial arts in various cultures can be performed in dance-like settings for various reasons, such as for evoking ferocity/pumping adrenaline in preparation of battle or showing off skill in a more stylised manner.

Examples of such war dances include the gymnopaidiai from ancient Sparta, New-Zealand's Haka, the Sabre Dance depicted in Khachaturian's ballet Gayane, the Maasai "jumping" dance, Brunei's Aduk-Aduk, Qatar's Ayyalah, the Indian Kalarippayattu, Chhau, and Huyen Lallong, Indian/Pakistani/Afghan Khattak Dance, Brazil's Capoeira (and many other African and diasporic combat styles), and Scotland's Dannsa Biodag.


Template:Main Tricking, a combination of martial arts and gymnastics, is a popular form of martial arts to the newer generation of martial artists. This new style uses flips and twists, as used in gymnastics and dance, and combines it with hand movements and kicks, as used in martial arts. Some "tricksters" (those who practice and perform tricking) have combined breakdancing with tricking and martial arts.

Notable styles of martial artsEdit

  • Adithada, an ancient South Indian martial art which is the earliest form of kickboxing. Disciples of Adithada are trained in using bare knuckles, feet, knees, elbows and forehead.
  • Advanced commando combat system, an Indian system of Military Close Combat focussing on Close Quarters Battle techniques & tactics for military.
  • Aikijujutsu is a Japanese martial art which dates back to the samurai. It has been suggested that Aikido evolved from this style.
  • Aikido is a Japanese martial art which evolved from Jujutsu and Kenjutsu.
  • Amateur wrestling emphasizes throws and controlling opponent's movement, both while standing up and on the ground, and positioning. Notable styles are Greco-Roman wrestling and Freestyle wrestling.
  • American Kenpo is a martial art developed by Ed Parker from Chinese and Japanese styles he studied in Hawaii.
  • Baguazhang is an internal Chinese martial art that trains in distinctive circular footwork patterns and is also known for training with unusually large weapons at advanced levels in some schools.
  • Bando is the official Burmese Fighting System that includes techniques of throws, holds, locks, chokes, foot-sweeps, etc. Several Bando sub-systems include Lethwei, Naban and Banshay which includes stick fighting, sword fighting, knife fighting, spear fighting, etc.
  • Bartitsu is an eclectic self-defense system combining the basics of Tenjin-Shinyo Ryu Jiujitsu, Shinden-Fudo Ryu Jiujitsu, early Kodokan Judo, the Vigny system of stick fighting, classical boxing and savate.
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a much modified version of some original Japanese jujutsu schools, based on and closely related to Judo but with even greater emphasis on ground fighting. Sometimes referred to as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu after its founders.
  • Catch wrestling forms the base of many modern martial arts including shoot wrestling, shootfighting, shooto and Japanese professional wrestling style of puroresu. This form of wrestling emphasizes ground fighting, submissions, throws and fighting from multiple positions.
  • Capoeira is a survival-oriented dance-fight-game originally developed in the 16th century by Angolan slaves in Brazil. It emphasizes kicks, dodging, take downs, and mental training. This mental training can include trickery, an awareness of the opponent, and understanding of rhythm.
  • Eskrima, a Filipino Martial Art that focuses on blunt and bladed weapons.
  • Fencing (the European Olympic style), exists now almost entirely as a sport.
  • Hapkido is a Korean martial art with kicks, punches, joint manipulation, locks, and throws that is said to have developed from Aikijutsu. Many of its techniques are similar to those of Aikido.
  • Hung Gar made famous by Avatar: The Last Airbender is a form of matial arts with strong stances and rooting in the ground.
  • Hwarangdo is a Korean martial art that was created in its modern form by Dr. Joo Bang Lee and his brother, Joo Sang Lee. This martial art teaches and encourages fighting and defense techniques, religious training, intellectual enhancement, and artistic pursuits. It has an extensive history, and a very involved technique structure.
  • Hybrid martial arts, systems which combine multiple arts: military combatives, Advanced commando combat system, Jeet Kune Do, and Har-Ki Martial Arts. See also: mixed martial arts.
  • Jeet Kune Do, meaning 'Way of the intercepting fist', was developed by Bruce Lee, one of the most famous martial artists of the 20th century. This is not actually a specific martial arts style, but a collection of concepts from arts such as Wing Chun and other styles that focuses on constant adaptation.
  • Judo means gentle way, ('Do' means 'Way of'), a Japanese martial art and sport that consists of techniques from many jujutsu schools. Striking (atemi-waza) and some dangerous throws are forbidden in competitions, but are still present in training and sparring.
  • Jujutsu is a general Japanese term encompassing mostly unarmed martial arts with strikes, throws, grappling and locks and those using small weapons.
  • Kajukenbo a combination of Karate, Jujutsu, Kenpo, and Chinese Boxing founded in 1947 in Oahu, Hawaii by a group of instructors.
  • Kalari Payattu, a martial art from Kerala, South India. It combines self defense, religion and elements of "martial dance", and has a strong association with the Ayurveda healing system.
  • Kapap is a modern martial art, derived from the distinctive fighting style of the Israeli Haganah and the modern day IDF. The style is purely focused on practical combat skills and eschews competitions beyond occasional 'fight club' nights, wherein practitioners can free-form spar with protective padding.
  • Karate meaning 'Empty hand' (originally called Te meaning 'Hand'), is perhaps the most popular martial art in Japan and the West. It is Okinawan in origin and has several sub styles including Kyokushin, Ashihara karate, Kempo, Shotokan, Shotokai and Wado Ryu. Combat tactics taught include striking, blocking, and kicking.
  • Kateda is a martial art which claims ancient Tibetan origins, but may be a more recent variation of Indonesian Silat and/or several Kuntao arts. It employs unarmed punches and kicks and has features in common with Sindo, Yoga, Qigong and possibly Shaolin.
  • Kenjutsu is the Japanese martial art of using a Japanese sword in combat. Kendo evolved from this style.
  • Kendo is the Japanese sport of sword fighting, using bamboo swords (shinai) and protective armour made almost purely by bamboo and heavy knit cotton.
  • Kuk Sool Won is a systematic study of a variety of Japnese-influenced Korean fighting systems. It is known for its wide variety of techniques and weapons.
  • Kung Fu, or more precisely "wushu", refers to the many diverse Chinese martial arts, some of which include: Shaolin, Shuai Chiao, Wing Chun, Zui Quan, Taijiquan, Xingyiquan, Yiquan, Lau Gar, Hung Gar and many more. The Chinese words kung fu can be used to describe one's skill in any discipline, not just martial arts.
  • Kuttu Varisai (empty hand combat), an ancient martial art from Tamil Nadu, South India. The fists, elbows, feet and knees are used, as well as various animal forms, including tiger, elephant, snake, eagle and monkey stances. Grappling, throws, hits and locks are also used, as well as Luohan techniques, breathing exercises and pressure point attacks.
  • Mixed martial arts or MMA, the combat sport which combines practical aspects of many (or all) useful martial arts, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and wrestling, among others. The emphasis is on actual combat and freestyle competition with few rules, as opposed to theoretical philosophy. Well-known MMA organizations include PRIDE and UFC. The term MMA may also refer to the fighting style associated with MMA competition.
  • Muay Thai, a Thai martial art, a famous style of kickboxing.
  • Ninjutsu is a Japanese style said to have originally been practiced by Ninja; this martial art combines traditional attacks with scout style survival and elusive moves.
  • Nonviolent Self-Defense is similar to a soft martial art but with no strikes. It is used primarily for physical crisis intervention in mental health and law enforcement.
  • Pradal Serey is the Cambodian style of kickboxing.
  • Sambo is the wrestling form developed in Russia. Sambo is deeply influenced by judo, catch wrestling, jacket wrestling, collar and elbow wrestling etc. Sambo allows joint locks, though chokes are not allowed in sport Sambo wrestling.
  • Shaolin Kung Fu is a Martial Art which combines the use of unarmed fighting, various weapons and use of "Animal Forms", fighting styles copied from animals in nature, such as tigers, snakes or cranes.
  • Shorinji Kempo is a Japanese martial art emphasizing Buddhist principles of self-reliance and the use of force only as a last resort. Students learn both hard techniques (strikes, throws) and soft techniques (joint locks, holds).
  • Silat is an art from the Malay World and has regional variations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, among others.
  • Sindo is a modern variation of Indonesian Silat, which combines Western practical self defence with combat martial art, Silat and internal martial arts.
  • Sipkwondo is a modern hybrid martial art based off Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing and Grappling.
  • Systema is an art of Russian origin. This style employs no pre-defined moves, kata, rankings, or sport application. Rather, Systema works from the basis of breathing, relaxation, posture, and movement, utilizing all aspects of human ability.
  • Tai Chi Chuan, the different styles of which are a Chinese martial art practiced nowadays by many people for health maintenance.
  • Taekyon, a traditional Korean martial art, probably stemming from Subak.
  • Taekwondo is a modern Korean martial sport, with literal meaning "the way of the hand and foot". Along with Judo, one of only two Asian martial arts to make it into the Olympic Games.
  • Tang Soo Do (also "tangsudo", which means 'way of the Chinese hand') is a traditional Korean martial art descended from Karate, which remained outside the merging of Korean styles into a national sport in 1961. Its most famous proponent is Chuck Norris.
  • Vajra Mukti (diamond fist), one of the oldest martial arts in India, dating back to the Vedic civilization of Northern India.
  • Varma Kalai (the art of vital points), an ancient martial art from Tamil Nadu, South India. Though it emphasizes self defence, it also emphasizes targeting various vital points throughout the human body. It has a strong association with Varma Cuttiram (the Tamil science of medicine).
  • Western martial arts (WMA) or "European martial arts" consist mainly of fighting techniques developed in Europe. They include everything from unarmed combat to grappling ("ringen") to weapons practices with a great variety of weapons such as the longsword, various types of staves and polearms, daggers, sword and buckler, to more specialized weapons such as the rapier.
  • Wing Chun (Ving Tsun or Wing Tsun), a Chinese martial art known for its no nonsense effectiveness made famous by its legendary student, Bruce Lee.
  • Xingyiquan (Hsing I Ch'üan), Form Intent Boxing, a Chinese internal martial art famous for its fighting prowess.

Further resourcesEdit

See alsoEdit