Style Collage 400x405Merriam-Webster defines martial art as: any of several arts of combat and self-defense (as karate and judo) that are widely practiced as sport. defines martial arts as: any of the traditional forms of Oriental self-defense or combat that utilize physical skill and coordination without weapons, as karate, aikido, judo, or kung fu, often practiced as sport.

Wikipedia defines martial arts as: codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a variety of reasons: self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, entertainment, as well as mental, physical, and spiritual development.

Of the three choices above the definition that comes closest is the one from Wikipedia. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to quantify and explain in one or two sentences what martial arts is and what martial arts in general represents. In my opinion the cold concise and summarized descriptions available to us really are unable to define the full scope of what martial arts actually are or what a martial art is.

Most systems seem to start with the intention of carrying out specific tasks as an end result. A quick, precise or graceful movement, an exact strike, a redirection of force at the proper moment or a mental fortitude to push the physical beyond the norm. Once you get beyond that original intention you are left with the process of getting to that end result. Have I lost you yet?

The idea of martial arts, any specific art or system goes far beyond any single intention, because the process to achieve that final result, such as throwing a powerful punch, executing an accurate kick or being able withstand someone's attack, becomes a whole new adventure. It’s really a study course on yourself, your physical body, and your mental capability.

This is where those short descriptions, like those at the begining of this article, end up lacking substance and depth. Learning about yourself, your body, its capabilities, and it's limitations can really change your life in many ways. To find how you can utilize the strengths of your physical self and mental self to accomplish precise and intentional movements which carry intentional affects outward to the environment is like researching and then writing a "how to" manual on you.

None of us came with an owner’s manual when we were born, so most of us will go through life never understanding what our bodies can do. Martial arts practice really exposes those capabilities, sometimes, in awesome fashion. But first an individual must embark on a self-discovery mission which calls for self-discipline, confidence, perseverance, and a good attitude.

Martial Arts Interaction 400x279The practice of many martial art systems requires interaction with other practitioners, and this in turn requires the ability to do so in a respectful manner. So, immediately the study demands respect for others. To begin you must discipline yourself to commit, to continue and to keep your personal behavior and attitude in-check. You must build the confidence to fail so you can eventually succeed and you must develop perseverance in order to not give up over the long haul.

As the practitioner progresses, the art becomes more and more integrated into their life. Thought patterns and behavior might change, physical movement can be refined and the individual’s character could be built up. It’s really quite remarkable to experience these changes first hand. I am of course speaking through personal experience and not theory. Martial arts is way more than a set of systems or a system of movements, it’s the study of oneself with the intention of accomplishing both physical and mental goals.

Check out some of the styles of martial arts and their origins here.

Read how kids benefit from martial arts here.

Learn why women should get involved in martial arts here.

Find out when the best time to start martial arts is here.


  • Aikido – From Japan: a martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (often referred to by his title 'O Sensei' or 'Great Teacher').
  • Bokator - Cambodian: meaning "pounding a lion" is a martial art that includes close hand-to-hand combat, ground techniques and weapons.
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu - (BJJ) is a martial art, combat sport, and a self defense system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting.
  • Capoeira - Brazil: (pronounced Capo-wa-ra) is a Brazilian art form and self-defense; with strong aerobic and dance elements.
  • Eskrima - Philippines: meaning "skirmish" - a mostly weapons-based fighting style that combines punches, kicks, takedowns and joint lock techniques with stick and sword or knife fighting techniques.
  • Gatka – India: meaning: “a three-hand span stick, a club, an Indian club or a mace” Gatka is the martial art of the Sikhs, and is tied in with the religion
  • Hapkido - Korea: meaning "the way of coordinating energy", "the way of coordinated power" or "the way of harmony" is a discipline of coordination, a way of strengthening the mind and
  • Judo - Japan: meaning "the gentle way" - derived from the ancient Japanese martial art called Jujitsu (also referred to as Jujutsu or Jiu-jitsu), an ancient system of hand-to-hand combat practiced by
  • Ju Jitsu - Japan: meaning "gentle art" is a martial art founded on the ancient Japanese system of combat and self-defence without weapons, and the basis for many modern forms of
  • Karate – Japan: meaning "empty hand" - began as a training practice for monks in the ancient Orient.
  • Kendo - Japan: meaning "Way of The Sword" is a style of fencing derived during the Meiji period in Japan (1868-1912), from the two-handed sword fighting techniques of the samurai.
  • Krav Maga - From Israel: meaning "close combat or contact combat" A practical and tactical system which teaches how to prevent, deal and overcome all kinds of violence and attacks.
  • Kung Fu - China: "skill achieved through hard work" An extremely disciplined, powerful martial art where strength is built in low stances and powerful blocks.
  • MMA - America: meaning "mixed martial arts" is a full contact combat sport that allows the use of both striking and grappling techniques, both standing and on the ground, including boxing,
  • Muay Thai - Thailand: meaning "science of eight limbs" born on the battlefields of the 15th century, during the legendary clashes between Thai (or Siamese) armies and their bitter rivals, the
  • Ninjutsu - This is a tough one, most documents or records I found simply point it to being the study of the historical arts of the Ninja covert agents or assassins
  • Pankration - From Greece: meaning "all powerfull" - a mixed martial art of ancient Greece that was first introduced into the Olympic Games in 648 B.C., at the 33rd Olympiad.
  • Sambo - Russia: meaning "self defense without a weapon" - Created at the instigation of Vladimir Lenin during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918 to improve the hand-to-hand combat skills of the military
  • Savate – France: Savate takes its name from the French for old boot(heavy footwear used to be worn during fights) and is actually an amalgam of French street fighting techniques from
  • Shurikenjutsu - Japan: meaning "sword hidden in the hand techniques" is a general term describing the traditional Japanese martial arts of throwing shuriken, which are small, hand-held weapons used primarily by
  • Silat - Malaysia: meaning "to fight or to fight in self-defense" said to have developed based on human observation and imitation of animals including the monkey, eagle and tiger.
  • Sumo – Japan: Originally known as "sumai", meaning struggle, sumo began around 20 B.C. as military combat. Sumai used most of the modern sumo techniques, plus a variety of strikes.
  • Taekkyeon - Korea: is a martial art with a dance-like appearance in some aspects.
  • TaeKwonDo - Korea: "The way of the hand and foot" - a modern martial art from Korea that is characterised by its fast, high and spinning kicks.
  • Tang Soo Do - Korea: meaning "China Hand Way" Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial art which teaches empty hand and foot fighting, fighting forms, self-defense, and weapons. Tang Soo
  • Wing Chun - China: meaning "spring chant" is the name of a system of martial arts developed in southern China approximately 300 years ago. It is a form of self-defense utilising