Martial arts (the term of which comes from Mars, the Roman god of war) are methods of combat without the use of firearms.
They include a vast repertoire of techniques, such as punches, kicks and strikes with knees and elbows, throws and projections (used in stand-up fighting) in addition to locks, holds and chokes (usually used for ground fighting).
Some fighting systems use striking techniques, others grappling techniques or both. Some others also use traditional weapons such as stick or sword.
Although in many cultures martial traditions exist, it is in the Far East where they experienced a greater degree of evolution (many Chinese martial arts also include notions of medicine in their teachings). It is common for many of them to include the Japanese word 'do' (way) or 'jutsu' (technique) in their names.
Martial arts are used mainly for self-defense, fitness, police or military training, sports or to help in the formation of personality. Several fighting styles aim at improving the individual character of human beings, based on ethical principles (among which is Budo).
practicing Karate worldwide (including all styles),
making it the most popular martial art.
Photo By: Cpl. Rebecca A. Lamont
Martial arts also are also divided among the external styles and the internal styles.
The external martial arts focus on the training of the external parts of the body, searching to develop muscular strength and working with fast movements. The internal martial arts possess generally slow movements and their focus are the internal parts of the body, with breathing exercises to help generate and circulate the Qi energy in a controlled manner.
The practice of martial arts brings several benefits, both physical and mental. However, some cares should be considered.
It is recommended to consume carbohydrates before a training to provide energy, and to drink during intervals when practicing for more than one hour.
Protective equipment should be worn. Injuries (dislocation, disruption of ligaments or fractures) may occur, especially in competitions. Even wrestlers can injure their ears through contact with the ground, ending up with cauliflower ears.
External martial arts help to lose weight (one hour of Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or MMA can burn up to 700 kcal) and to work muscle groups such as glutes, biceps, triceps, abdomen, shoulders, back and calf, while internal martial arts work especially with internal organs.
Martial arts enhance also physical conditioning (both muscle as cardiovascular), flexibility, breathing, posture, reflexes and motor coordination.
The concept of balance reduces the risk of falls, especially for seniors.
Martial arts promote greater patience, self-control and discipline, which allows to reduce aggressiveness. They may help to rehabilitate delinquents.
The place where people use to train a martial art is called 'Dojo' (which means "the place to search the way").
The dojo concept is adopted by most martial arts from the Far East. It is seen as the home of the practitioners, where they use to bow before entering or starting a fight but also where they go to concentrate and clear their mind.
Formerly, it indicated the hall in the temple where monks practiced Zen Buddhism meditation.
The dojo obeys certain direction rules:
• Kamiza refers to the south facing side. It is usually decorated with some objects (portrait, calligraphy) showing the discipline taught. The instructor usually sits with his back to kamiza.
• On the opposite side is shimoza where students are seated in order of their graduation. The most graduated are on the left of the instructor (east side) while the beginners are on the west side.
This orientation features a symbolic side: sitting opposite to the south, the instructor reflects the sunlight, which is the knowledge that he must convey. The highest graduated are on the side of the rising sun, which means that they know the essential principles of their discipline while the beginners are in the shadow.
Another tradition is to place the guests on the side of the beginners: this to prevent any spy for having access to advanced techniques.