The martial arts are more than just a system of combat techniques and the practice has been around for over 4,000 years. Martial Arts were probably started as a ritual aspect for some eastern religions.
Today’s practice of martial arts can be thought of as a path to being a better person. It’s about much more than punching or kicking. Most martial arts schools expect their students to adhere to certain tenets: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control and strength of spirit. These characteristics are much more important than executing the perfect flying side kick.
In fact, all martial arts emphasize non-violence. The skills are only to be used to defend or to counter attack and practitioners are trained to only use the force necessary to end a fight. Along with the fighting skills that are learned the martial artist must also learn responsibility.
There are many different schools of Martial Arts. Most often they are differentiated by the area in which they were developed: China, Japan, Okinawa, Korea, Indonesia, and even Brazil, amongst many others. Each region has produced several different forms of martial arts. Chinese martial arts, for example, include: Tai Chi Chuan (one of the oldest) , Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee’s discipline) and Kung Fu (one of the most famous with over 400 varying styles). Japanese martial arts include: Judo (which is a grappling and throwing) and Akido (which is strictly self defense). Korea brings us Hapkido and Tae Kwon Do. And, of course, the martial arts include a vast array of weapons fighting systems, such as: Bo Staff, Nunchucks, Swords, Escrima Sticks – to name only a few.
All have their own unique style and many martial artists become fluent in many different styles. That’s what you are seeing on TV now with the Ultimate Fighters – mixed martial artists who practice many different styles and work to combine them effectively.
Anybody, regardless of age or physical condition, can participate in the martial arts and succeed. The practice of martial arts has many benefits. The obvious one is that you learn how to defend yourself. Also, you improve both physical and aerobic conditioning by developing strength, agility, endurance and flexibility. The martial arts also teaches character, builds self-confidence, promotes self-discipline, improves focus, helps relieve stress, and is just plain fun.
The practice of the martial arts isn’t for everyone – because it is challenging to mind, body and spirit. But, as with all worthwhile endeavors, the journey is the most important part of the process, and understanding and achieving personal balance is the goal.
Keys to the successful practice of martial arts include: belief in your school and instructor, staying fit, commit to mastering your martial art, be willing to endure hard training and commit to always doing your best. This all contributes to making you a more peaceful, productive and better human being.
Updated April 8, 2013