The 3 Facets of Martial Arts You May Not Know

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Introduction to Martial Arts, Part 1

The term martial arts can be defined as an art of combat that combines codified fighting techniques with philosophy, strategy, and cultural traditions. A martial art may be an offensive art for combat or a defensive art for self-defense. It may also be practiced to promote health and fitness, as a means of personal and spiritual development, and as a form of sport or entertainment. Martial arts can be performed both with and without weapons.

Styles of martial art

There are many different styles of martial art practiced throughout the world. Generally, however, they can be categorized into three broad types: traditional martial arts, sport-based martial arts, and weapons-based martial arts.

The traditional martial arts-such as jujutsu, which was used by Japan’s samurai warriors, or La Scuola della Spada Italiana (the Italian School of Swordsmanship)-evolved from battlefield training syllabuses. Employed in combat situations, these arts had the sole goal of equipping a practitioner with the skills and techniques necessary to kill or incapacitate the enemy. Sport-based martial arts, on the other hand, incorporate training regimes that prepare a practitioner for sporting competitions rather than solely life-threatening situations. Muay Thai, Western boxing, judo, mixed martial arts, and tae kwon do are prime examples. Weapons-based arts concentrate specifically on the use of weapons. The techniques learned here can then be applied in either traditional battlefield arts or in sporting competitions. Kendo, bataireacht, and escrima are all examples of weapons-based arts. Depending on the style of martial art, the school, and the individual teacher, varying amounts of emphasis will be placed on each of these aspects, with some martial arts combining elements of all three.

Ancient arts, modern myths

Fighting and humankind’s need to dominate and defend is as old as life itself. Our ancestors’ survival instincts undoubtedly sowed the seeds for the development of martial arts. Primarily methods of cultivating effective battlefield techniques, and first codified to ensure high-quality and consistent teaching across the troops, many of the martial arts practiced today have a surprisingly long history, which is believed to span approximately 5,000 years. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, they are not solely defined by the traditions of the East. While extensive archeological evidence points to the millennia-old practice of martial arts in China and India, many other nations and cultures can make similar claims. In Egypt, for example, tombs dating from approximately 2000 BCE show that stick-fighting arts were highly evolved, and the ancient full-contact art of pankration is thought to have already been considered an ancient sport at the time of its first appearance at the ancient Olympics in 648 BC.

A global phenomenon

In more recent times, the Olympic movement has further championed both Eastern and Western martial arts. Greco-Roman wrestling and fencing, for example, featured at the first modern Games in 1896, while Western archery, boxing, judo, and tae kwon do made their inaugural appearances in 1900, 1904, 1964, and 2000 respectively. The Asian Games can add karate and wushu to the list of martial arts practiced at the highest level.

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