What is Martial Arts?

The term is thrown around a lot so lets explore what it actually means.

Lone Warrior

That is a good question. And a commonly misunderstood one. The term martial art is normally associated with the fighting arts of Eastern Asia, such as kung fu (Pinyin gongfu), judo, karate, and kendō. However, originally the phrase referred to the combat systems of Europe from as early as the 1550s.

The term comes from the Latin phrase “arts of Mars”, with ‘Mars’ being the Roman god of war. Over the years many people have argued that fighting arts or fighting systems would be more appropriate as martial arts were never “martial” in the sense of being used or created by professional warriors.

Around the world, some of the more popular martial art systems are Karate, Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu, Judo, Kenpo, Kung Fu, Krav Maga, Brazillian JiuJitsu and Hapkido. They don’t just teach basic fighting techniques, but also usually focus on mental discipline and the search for enlightenment.

In today’s world, the phrase Martial Arts is made up of two distinct concepts. Martial referring to fighting and physicality and Arts representing the spiritual and artistic expression of movement. What makes Martial Arts so interesting is the blend between what is inherently a violent concept with passivity and art.

Martial arts – armed and unarmed – are found in many cultures around the world. Many styles practiced in New Zealand are descended from the Asian martial arts being introduced from China, Japan, Thailand or Korea.

The Martial aspect means it is great to study if you want to learn self-discipline, fighting skills and fitness. You will learn striking skills, joint locks, grappling, movement, weapons, and throws. You will be able to defeat others through a variety of different striking concepts utilising punches, kicks, knees, elbow, locks, and throws.

The Arts develop your spiritual wellbeing. It provides for mental acuity, coordination, expression, and meditation. Various cultures around the world have developed their fighting systems that can be performed in dance-like settings, such as for evoking ferocity in preparation for battle or showing off particular skills in a more stylized manner. Many such martial arts incorporate music to move with due to the rhythmic nature of the movement.

Depending on the system you are taking one of these concepts is going to have a stronger influence than the other. Both will be present but some systems have a lean towards the fighting system whether that be for street orientation or sports-focused while others lean more to the spiritual artist expression side. They both have their place and usefulness. You can then further break these groups down in what would be defined as Hard or Soft styles depending on the level of training and ferocity of the system. It comes down to what you are looking for and what is the best fit for you.

Ultimately, the human body can move only in a certain number of ways and 99% of the population on the planet move and react the same. Martial arts can give you the physical and mental tools to be able to be aware, react and defend yourself in different scenarios whether they be a physical altercation or the need to focus and push through life’s challenges.