Martial arts is a term that was first used to refer to European combat systems, but today is used to describe a wide range of fighting styles from all around the world. The term martial arts can best be defined as a system of codified combat practices that focus on striking and self-defence. Many people practice martial arts for varying reasons, most for physical exercise, others to learn self-defense, and some who do it for the challenge of competition.
A lot of types of martial arts are formed around weapons. Weapons are typically taught to students after learning basic strikes and self-defense maneuvers; however there are some forms of martial arts that focus on a single weapon, and that in itself is the only discipline taught. For example, fencing is a variation of sword fighting and those who have mastered it are commonly referred to as swordsman. Other weapons that are taught to martial arts students include nunchucks, sais, bostaff, Eskrima sticks, and kamas.
For the most part, martial arts, whether practiced for personal gain, physical fitness, or to compete, is considered to be a combat sport. Regardless of the discipline, martial arts at its most basic form is merely attacking an opponent and defending against their strikes. There are many types of martial arts that go beyond the combat aspect and teach students medicinal knowledge, such as using plants for healing a wound or having and understanding of human anatomy for setting a broken bone back in place.
Many Chinese and Japanese forms of martial arts teach Zen principles, these so-called non-physical qualities of combat help students to focus on using wisdom to out strategize their opponent. Meditation is not uncommon either, and is taught to students to help gain a clear mind, or “empty mind” as Zen practitioners would call it.