Martial artsMartial arts are systems of codified practices and traditions of training for combat. Martial arts are studied for various reasons including combat skills, fitness, self-defense, sport, self-cultivation (meditation), mental discipline, character development and building self-confidence. A practitioner of martial arts is referred to as a martial artist.
OverviewWorldwide, there is a great diversity and abundance of martial arts. Broadly speaking, martial arts share a common goal: to defeat a person physically or to defend oneself from physical threat. There is also a deep sense of spirituality within some martial arts. Each style has different facets that make them unique from other martial arts.A common characteristic of martial arts is the systemization of fighting techniques. One common method of training, particularly in the Asian martial arts, is the form or kata (other names may be used in specific styles). This is a set routine of techniques performed alone, or sometimes with a partner.
Martial arts vary widely, and may focus on one or more of these areas:
- Punching - Boxing, Shao-Lin Long Fist, Wing Chun
- Kicking - Capoeira, Savate, Taekwondo, Taekkyon
- Other strikes (e.g.Elbows, knees, open-hand) - Karate, Muay Thai
- Throwing - Glima, Judo, Jujutsu, Sambo
- Pinning Techniques - Wrestling, Judo
- Joint lock - Aikido, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Hapkido, Jujutsu, Malla-yuddha
- Traditional Weaponry - Fencing, Gatka, Silambam, Kendo
- Modern Weaponry - Eskrima, Jukendo, Jogo do Pau
The arts listed are examples that make extensive use of that area, it is not an exhaustive list of arts or necessarily the only area covered by the art.
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 from places like India and Southeast Asia also teach side disciplines ayurveda and yoga.
The martial arts, though commonly associated with East Asian cultures, are by no means unique to this region. For example, Native Americans have a tradition of open-handed martial arts that includes wrestling. Hawaiians also have historically practiced arts featuring small and large joint manipulation. Savate is a French kicking style developed by sailors and street fighters. Capoeira's athletic movements were created in Brazil by slaves based on skills brought with them from Africa.
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 may also receive specific instruction in mental and emotional discipline.
The history of martial arts around the world is complex. Most groups of people have had to physically defend themselves at some time and have developed fighting techniques for that purpose. Development of many martial arts was related to military development, but many of those techniques have been rendered technologically obsolete over the centuries. In the modern day, most populations would be more likely to face adversaries wielding firearms than me lee weapons during battle. Furthermore, the preservation of a martial art requires many years of teaching at the hands of a good instructor to pass on the art for a single generation. Given these circumstances, not all martial arts from a particular era have been passed down to following generations
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: Sifu (師傅) in Cantonese; Shih fu (師父) (Wade-Giles), Shī fù (Pinyin) (lit., master-father) in Mandarin; Guru in Sanskrit, Hindi, Telugu and Malay; Sensei (先生) in Japanese; Sa Bum Nim (사범님) in Korean; Kallari Gurukkal in Malayalam; Asaan in Tamil; and Achan in Thai. 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.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 intended to develop good character, patience and discipline. In the warrior Kshatriya caste of South Asia, organised martial traditions were studied as a part of the Dharma (duty) of the caste. The senior teachers were called Gurus and taught martial arts at gurukuls to the shishyas (students).
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, there may not be 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.
Many if not most Asian styles have had at least some influence from martial arts from China, India or both. It is often the case that both countries have left their mark especially in Southeast Asia and the Himalayan region. In Indonesia and Malaysia for example, a large number of arts under the umbrella term of Silat are practiced. It is difficult to pin down the origin of these arts, which have much in common with Yoga, Qigong, Yiquan and many forms of Chinese and Indian martial arts. Dharmic iconography figures prominently in contexts to these arts highlighting the influence of Dharmic religions. They have both internal and external qualities illustrating the influence of styles from other parts of Asia.
Throughout Asia martial arts were practiced as can be seen in the art, history and current traditions in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam and the Philippines. In many countries local arts like Te in Okinawa, Kenjutsu and Ju-Jutsu in Japan, and Taekyon and Soobak in Korea - 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 Tae-kwon-do.
The Western interest in East Asian Martial arts dates back to the late 19th Century AD, due to the increase in trade between America with 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.
Edward William Barton-Wright, a railway engineer who had studied Jujutsu while working in Japan between 1894-97, was the first man known to have taught Asian martial arts in Europe. He also founded an eclectic martial arts style named Bartitsu which combined jujutsu, judo, boxing, savate and stick fighting.
As Western influence grew in East Asia a greater number of military personnel spent time in China, Japan, and Korea. Exposure to martial arts during the Korean war was also significant. Gradually some soldiers saw the value of Eastern martial arts and began training in them.
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 U.S. military personnel were taught Korean arts (Taekwondo) during the Korean conflict, and many of these brought their training home and continued to practice and teach after their demobilization. By the 1960s, Japanese arts like Karate and Judo had become very popular. In the early 1970s, martial arts movies, in particular those of martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, furthered the popularity of 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. This also lead to the creation of modern martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a derivative of Kodokan Judo, extended and influenced by the no holds barred combat traditions of Brazil; it has been highly effective in mixed martial arts competitions around the world।The later 1970s and 1980s 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", "Martial Law" and "The Green Hornet" that incorporated martial arts moments or themes. Jackie Chan and Jet Li are prominent movie figures who have been responsible for promoting Chinese martial arts in recent years
Martial arts with historical roots in Europe do not exist today 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 so that while some traditional arts still exist, military personnel are trained in skills like flying helicopters and marksmanship. These skills do not fall under the common use of the term, but may still be considered "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.
Some traditional martial arts have been preserved in one form or another. For example, boxing, wrestling, archery, and fencing were preserved by being made into sports; of course this has changed the emphases of these arts significantly. Notably, savate still has a very strong following in modern-day France.A number of historical fencing forms 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. This reconstruction effort and modern outgrowth of the historical methods is generally referred to as Western martial arts.
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. Some weapon systems have also survived as folk sports and as self-defense methods. These include 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 the pommel horse event in gymnastics. The pommel horse is called as such 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 his mount. More ancient origins exist for the shot put and the javelin throw, both weapons utilized extensively by the Romans.
In the AmericasThe native peoples of North America had their own martial training which began in 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 favourably compared to European fencing masters.
In 1831 Jim Bowie is reputed to have won a duel, killing three bandits with his soon-to-be-famous 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.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an adaptation of pre-World War II Judo and jujutsu, created by Carlos Gracie and his brother Hélio, it was restructured it into a comprehensive sport with a large focus on groundwork.
As of 2003, over 1.5 million US citizens practice martial arts.
Every village and tribe around the world had a few experienced 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, 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.
Martial arts also developed among military and police forces to be used as:
- arrest and self-defense methods. Examples include; Krav Maga a self-defense system developed by the Special armed forces of Israel, San Shou developed for Chinese armed forces, Kombato developed for the Brazilian armed forces, and Rough and Tumble (RAT), originally developed for the South African special forces (Reconnaissance Commandos) (now taught in a civilian capacity).
- tactical arts for use in close quarter combat warfare, i.e. Military Martial arts e.g. UAC (British), LINE (USA)
Other combative systems having their origins in the modern military include Soviet Bojewoje (Combat) Sambo.
Martial arts on the modern battlefield
Some traditional martial concepts have seen new use within modern military training. 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.
In addition to these new forms, traditional hand-to-hand, knife and spear techniques continue to see use in composite systems. Examples of this include the US Army's Combatives, the Israeli army trains krav maga, the US Marine Corps's Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), and Chinese San Shou.
Unarmed dagger defenses identical to that found in the fechtbuch of Fiore dei Liberi and the Codex Wallerstein were integrated into the U.S. Army's training manuals in 1942.  Eskrima knife systems are favored today.
William E. Fairbairn, a Shanghai policeman and a leading Western expert on Asian fighting techniques, was recruited during World War II by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to teach Jujutsu to UK, U.S. and Canadian Special Forces. The book Kill or Get Killed, written by Colonel Rex Applegate, became a classic military treatise on hand-to-hand combat. This fighting method was called Defendu.
Testing and competitionIn general, testing or evaluation is important to martial art practitioners of many disciplines who wish to determine their progression or 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 sparring
Point sparring is a form of sparring that uses a point-based system of light- to medium-contact sparring in a marked-off area. A referee acts to monitor for fouls and to control the match, while judges mark down scores similar to boxing. Typically, particular targets are prohibited (such as the face and groin), certain techniques may be forbidden, and fighters are required to wear protective equipment on their head, hands, chest, groin, shins and/or feet. Competitors score points based on the solid landing of a single technique as judged by the referee, whereupon they will briefly stop the match, award a point, then restart it. Judges also help regulate the match 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), the match is ended. In a tournament format, winning fighters advance to final rounds until there is only one winner. These matches may be sorted by gender, weight class, level of expertise and even age.
Some critics of point-sparring feel that this method of training teaches habits that result in lower combat effectiveness than in continuous, full-contact sparring. Point sparring can teach competitors 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.