Martial arts are systems of codified practices and traditions of training for combat. Today, martial arts are studied for various reasons including combat skills, fitness, self-defense, sport, self-cultivation (meditation), mental discipline, character development and building self-confidence. A practitioner of martial arts is referred to as a martial artist.
Worldwide there is a great diversity of martial arts. Broadly speaking, martial arts share a common goal: to defeat a person physically or to defend oneself from physical threat. Within some martial arts there is a deep sense of spirituality. Each style has different facets that make them unique from other martial arts.
A common characteristic of martial arts is the systemization of fighting techniques. One common method of training, particularly in the Asian martial arts, is the form or kata (also called poomse, quan dao, kuen, tao lu, hyung, juru or tuls). This is a set routine of techniques performed alone, or sometimes with a partner.
Martial arts may focus on one or more of these areas:
Striking - (e.g. Krav Maga, Boxing, Muay Thai, Karate, Kung Fu, Wing Chun)
Kicking - (e.g. Taekwondo, Capoeira, Savate, Kung Fu, Sikaran) Throwing
Body Throwing - (e.g. Jujutsu, Judo, Aikido, Hapkido, Shuai Jiao, Sambo) Immobilization
Pinning Techniques, Hand Trapping, Weapon Disarming - (e.g. Naban, Varma Kalai, Wrestling, Jujutsu)
Grappling - (e.g. Jujutsu, Shuai Jiao, Mallayuddha, Aikido, Glima) Weaponry
Traditional Weaponry - (e.g. Kenjutsu, Gatka, Kapu Kuialua, Mau rakau, Fencing)
Modern Weaponry - (e.g. Kapap, Eskrima, Jogo do Pau)
Some martial arts, particularly the traditional Chinese martial arts, also teach side disciplines such as bone-setting, qigong, acupuncture, acupressure (tui na), and other aspects of traditional Chinese medicine. Traditional Indian martial arts also teach aspects of traditional Indian medicine as side disciplines.
The martial arts, though commonly associated with East Asian cultures, are by no means unique to this region. For example, Native Americans have a tradition of open-handed martial arts that includes wrestling. Hawaiians also have historically practiced arts featuring small and large joint manipulation. Savate is a French kicking style developed by sailors and street fighters. Capoeira's athletic movements were created in Brazil by slaves based on skills brought with them from Africa.
Many martial arts also strive to teach moral values and provide guidance for children who join the ranks of those learning the art. Many arts require those who achieve black belt or the equivalent to take an oath restricting their use of their knowledge. Martial artists may also receive specific instruction in mental and emotional discipline.