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What Is A Martial Art?

We all know martial arts legends like Jackie Chan or Jean-Claude Van Damme. However, martial arts aren’t just contained in the movie screen. With many practitioners using martial arts in both a professional and amateur way, sports have become more and more popular in recent years.

With martial arts even being used by celebrities such as Chris Hemsworth and Idris Elba, martial arts can be used by almost anyone, however, they require a lot of skill and dedication.

In this article, we will discuss what martial arts actually means, What different types of martial arts there are, the difference between combat sports and martial arts as well as other questions too.

What does the Word ‘Martial Art’ Mean?

Master S.H. Yu suggests that:

‘although the word “martial” has linguistic roots in the Latin word “Martialis” (which refers to the God of War in Roman mythology). Upon closer inspection of the Chinese character “mu” that is translated into the word “martial,” a different conclusion arises.

The Chinese character “mu” literally means “to stop fighting” or “to put down weapons.” The word “arts” in martial arts points to skill, expression of beauty or creativity. The combination “martial arts” may be interpreted to mean ending conflict skillfully. Peace is the ultimate goal of the martial arts.’

With the term ‘martial’ meaning of or relating to fighting or war, it is no wonder that martial arts are associated with fighting and violent action. Martial arts has an origin in ancient combat techniques used in war too. However, depending on the different forms of martial arts used, they use different types of combat styles. These can be moves like kicks, punches, and throws, however, they can also involve some form of weaponry at the same time like swords, bows, and arrows or even other types of weapons too.

Martial arts is known to be an ‘art’ for a reason. With many practitioners boosting their strength, agility, balance, power, and even flexibility, it is a very varied practice and requires a significant amount of skill.

However, many martial arts practitioners also incorporate both mental and spiritual components too. Many martial arts work to control mental endurance, resilience, and concentration too.

What Different Types of Martial Arts Are There?

There are many different kinds of sports that are labeled under the ‘martial arts’ umbrella. Below we cover most of the most popular types.

Karate: The term ‘karate’ originated in Okinawa, Japan, and was created with many Chinese influences in mind. ‘Kara’ refers to China (originally) and ‘karate’ to Chinese hand.

Karate usually covers many styles of self-defense such as kicks, punches, and open-handed chops too. Karate has different levels of ranking, with belts being used to show the differences. As we all know, the black belt is considered the highest-level of expertise.

Jujitsu: This type of martial art mostly utilises grappling which means that there is a lot of body contact and involves strangle-type holds to bring your opponent to the floor. Jujitsu was developed in both China and Japan and uses the attacker’s momentum to restrain.

There are other forms of jujitsu too, such as Brazillian jujitsu which mostly relies on choking the opponent and continuing the fight on the ground from there.

Aikido: Much like jujitsu, aikido is Japanese martial art. The term means “the way for harmony” or “unification of your spiritual energy”.

This type of martial art doesn’t use any form of kicking and uses mostly turning motions and pushing movements combined with joint locks against opponents.

Judo: Again, this form of martial art originated in Japan and is based on grappling exercises which emphasises throwing and pinning opponents to the ground. This means that the martial art is much like both jujitsu and aikido with a focus on grappling.

Hapkido: This type of martial art involves using weapons within the fight. Originating in Korea, the main weapons which are used during hapkido are belts, ropes, and canes too. However, bodily moves are also used, mostly kicks, joint locks, throws, and hand strikes (although these are usually focused on the body’s main pressure points).

Kung Fu: This is a very well-known form of martial art. Kung Fu combines many different types of fighting styles, using acrobatic elements too. Some of these are flips, jumps, and even high kicks too.

Kung Fu is usually divided into two different schools: Arm Work and Acrobatics. Again, Kung Fu can be either taught to be used in an aggressively forceful way or using the attacker’s force against them.

Capoeira: Originating in Brazil, this martial art was actually developed by Angolan slaves. The fighting style is dance-like as the Brazillian slaves had to disguise the self-defense techniques as dancing. It is a very acrobatic martial art, focusing on flips, punches, and kicks.

Krav Maga: This is also a very well-known martial art. Developed by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), the term krav maga actually means “battle combat” in Hebrew. This type of fighting style focuses on hand-to-hand combat as well as grappling, wrestling, and had strikes too.

Krav maga has a focus on utilising environmental aspects too. These can be anything from a tree branch or a garbage can lid and can be used to defend against an attacker.

Taekwondo: One of the oldest forms of competitive martial arts in the world, Taekwondo focus on kicking, although hand strikes, joint locks, throws, and punches are also used. To learn more about Taekwondo read our article ‘What are the levels in Taewondo?’ here.

Tai chi: This type of martial art is also known as tai chi chuan. Tai Chi originated in China and can be fought with either weapons or no weapons. It involved choreographed slow-motion postures and fluid movements.

What Types of Weapons Are Used in Martial Arts?

Some forms of martial arts, as detailed above, utilise weapons in their practice. There are some training weapons that are usually formed from wood and foam. These types of weapons are ideal for training purposes. Wooden and foam weapons are great to work out how to develop the essential skills you will need for martial arts.

However, there are many other types of weapons made from metals and other materials that can be used that aren’t used as practice weapons. Some of these weapon types are things like Competition Sword or the Wing Chun Butterfly knives. These types of weapons are mostly used in ancient Japanese martial arts.

Below is a list of some different types of weapons used in martial arts:

  • Nunchaku
  • Bo Staff Jo
  • Escrima
  • Sai
  • Bokken
  • Tonfa
  • Kama
  • Swords
  • Knives
  • Weapon Cases
  • Wooden Weapons
  • Metal Weapons
  • Graphite Weapons
  • Foam Weapons
  • Plastic Weapons
  • Rubber Weapons

And more!

However, it’s always a good thing to have safety precautions in mind when using weapons during martial arts training. Weapons are obviously dangerous and should be used with caution.

What Is The Difference Between Martial Arts And Combat Sports?

There is quite a confusion when it comes to the differences between martial art and combat sport. However, both of these are very different both in terms of origin and what they actually mean too.

As detailed above, martial arts are known as the ‘art of war’ in which the goal of the fight is to defeat the enemy fighter in any way possible. Martial arts are both used in terms of survival in a fight as well as being a way of life at the same time. Martial arts are often founded in eastern traditions and the teachings, knowledge, and styles are passed down from generation to generation.

However, combat sports on the other hand are a regulated type of fighting., there are usually competitions in combat sports as well as rules and breaks that have to be adhered to. this is in order to ensure that the opponent in the fight does not become seriously injured in any way.

Martial arts often require a mental form too, focusing on spirituality and meditation as well as emotional control too. However, in combat sports, these mental elements are often seen as secondary to the fighting styles or are even totally absent in teaching.

Is Kickboxing A Martial Art?

Kickboxing uses many techniques that are derived from various martial arts, but kickboxing is classed as a combat sport as it is competitive fighting as opposed to a self-defence.

Muay Thai (Thai boxing) also known as the “art of eight limbs” is considered both a martial art and a combat sport as it was originally developed to be used by the Thai army and now it has become very popular competitively around the world.

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