Martial Arts Definition

Martial Arts are the various forms of self-defense, usually weaponless, based on techniques developed in ancient China, India, and Tibet. In modern times they have come into wide use for self-protection, as competitive sports, and for exercise. Jujitsu teaches skills that enable one to overcome a bigger, stronger opponent. A popular style of jujitsu is aikido, which uses wrist, elbow, and shoulder twists and graceful falls; it is noncompetitive and incorporates various spiritual concepts. Other popular forms of martial arts include kung fu, karate, and tae kwon do, all of which emphasize blows with the feet and the side of the hand, and kendo, in which leather-covered bamboo “swords are used. All styles emphasize allowing ki (cosmic energy) to flow through one’s body. This belief in ki connects aikido with t’ai chi ch’uan, a meditationlike discipline that emphasizes slow, graceful body movements. The most popular form of individual exercise in China, t’ai chi is often performed publicly in large groups; it has been claimed to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Judo, a Japanese sport created in 1882, makes use of jujitsu principles. Capoeira, a dancelike Brazilian discipline, is gaining in popularity.


Pronunciation: ‘mär-shl

Function: adjective

Etymology: Middle English, from Latin martialis of Mars, from Mart-, Mars

Date: 14th century

1 : of, relating to, or suited for war or a warrior

2 : relating to an army or to military life

3 : experienced in or inclined to war : WARLIKE

– / adverb

Martial Arts

The term “martial art” is used in (at least) two different ways. This can be confusing. Some dictionary definitions only make things worse.

The dictionary definition handy at the moment defines a martial art as “Any of several Oriental arts of combat or self-defense, as karate, judo, or tae kwon do, usually practiced as a sport.”

Typically this group uses “Martial Art” in one of two ways:

1) The first definition is a generic one, which defines a “Martial Art” as the study of any kind of combat and/or self-defense techniques.

This definition includes non-oriental arts like boxing. This definition includes both those arts practiced primarily as a sport, and those arts practiced primarily for self-defense. This definition includes those arts that emphasize only physical technique. This definition also includes those arts that emphasize a philosophical or mental aspect in addition to physical techniques. In its broadest usage, this definition includes learning how to drive a tank or drop bombs out of a plane as a Martial Art. This explains the somewhat facetious references you will see to “Gun Fu”, the martial art of learning how to use firearms (implying, as the dictionary definition does, that a martial art must be oriental to be legitimate).

2) The second definition is much narrower, and draws a distinction between a “Martial ART” and a “Martial WAY”. To offer a gross simplification:

A martial art is the study of an art that emphasizes only physical techniques. Perfection of technique is the primary concern. A martial way emphasizes the study of both physical techniques and a philosophical or mental aspect as well. Perfection of the self is the primary concern. The emphasis on this distinction is very clear for those arts that have Japanese names. Typically, Japanese martial *art* style names end in “jutsu”, such as “jiu-jutsu”, “aiki-jiujutsu”, or “ken-jutsu”. Typically Japanese martial *way* style names end in “do”, such as “ju-do”, “aiki-do”, or “ken-do”.


Pronunciation: ‘ärt

Function: noun

Etymology: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin art-, ars — more at ARM

Date: 13th century

1 : skill acquired by experience, study, or observation

2 a : a branch of learning: (1) : one of the humanities (2) plural : LIBERAL ARTS b archaic : LEARNING, SCHOLARSHIP

3 : an occupation requiring knowledge or skill

4 a : the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also : works so produced b (1) : FINE ARTS (2) : one of the fine arts (3) : a graphic art

5 a archaic : a skillful plan b : the quality or state of being artful

6 : decorative or illustrative elements in printed matter

synonyms ART, SKILL, CUNNING, ARTIFICE, CRAFT mean the faculty of executing well what one has devised. ART implies a personal, unanalyzable creative power . SKILL stresses technical knowledge and proficiency . CUNNING suggests ingenuity and subtlety in devising, inventing, or executing . ARTIFICE suggests technical skill especially in imitating things in nature . CRAFT may imply expertness in workmanship .

Martial Arts

A martial art is any skill that can be applied in warfare. The word martial means “military.” So, a martial art is a military art. Most people don’t really consider that when they think of the martial arts. The first things that usually come to mind are leaping, kicking, punching, blocking, inverting elbows, twisting necks, throwing, and sword fighting. That is a very narrow view of the martial arts, though. Did it occur to you that horsemanship, javelin throwing, archery, spear fighting, halberd fighting, wrestling, knife fighting, rifle, shotgun, and pistol shooting, demolitions, logistics, and battle strategy are all martial arts? Anything that a soldier might do in battle is a martial art.

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