In the past few decades the phrase martial arts has been used more as a reference to the entire Asian fighting styles such as Kung-Fu, Karate and Taekwondo. However, the fact is that martial arts refers to the whole body of fighting styles from Pankration to modern kickboxing. The words martial means war and arts mean style and or form. Thus, together the name suggests it can be any form or style of warfare.
Martial arts have been developed throughout the course of history in different countries as a fighting style or a form of recreation or as serious pursuit where life and limb depends on the perfection of the art. Buddhists monks from China’s Henan Province or more specifically the Shaolin temple have been credited with the fighting style of Shaolin Kung-Fu which was devised to safeguard their unarmed centers of studies and to protect the lives of those who lived and studied there from the invading bandits. Indian Brahmins from the state of Kerala have been closely involved with the practice of the ancient martial art form of Kalaripayattu and then everyone knows about the popular Japanese martial art of Karate which was developed on the islands of Okinawa.
The following article briefly discusses some of the best martial art forms across the world. Martial arts is also encouraged among younger people because they are an excellent way of infusing physical fitness as well as discipline among children. Since martial arts in the modern society is used more as a form of self-defense, especially when someone is unarmed and surrounded, only those forms which generally offers a lot of scope for learning unarmed combat have been selected for this discussion. Martials arts, in the military, however, have been used more as an aggressive form of combat. They include methods to attack and injure the opponent, often fatally.
Developed by the Okinawan Anko Itosu, the word Karate also means “empty hand”. Thus the martial art form of Karate is what it suggests, fighting without weapons. Karate is a very powerful form of self-defense and even offence and includes a lot of spear-type thrusting movements using the legs and the hands. Karate involves a lot of technique where an attacker’s forward movement is deflected and a counter punch or kick is landed on the chin or the belly or the groin to immobilize and or fatally injure him. A lot of the attacker’s natural movement forward is used against him in Karate. For example if an attacker is attacking head on with a sharp weapon, a little side step will take the defender to the right and avoid the sharp edge. The next act will be a retaliatory attack that will land a quick punch straight below the breastbone to knock the wind out of him. With him falling over lunging forward the entire chin and the head is now vulnerable to a final hit to knock him out for good.
Chinese Kung-Fu is an umbrella term for hundreds and thousands of fighting styles that have existed for well over 5000 years, (the earliest known reference has been from the times of the Yellow Emperor). More recently, Kung-Fu has been popularized by methods devised and practiced at the original Shaolin temple, the Southern Shaolin temple and the Wudan Mountains. Chinese Kung-Fu has been immortalized on the silver screen by such famous practitioners such as Bruce Lee, Jet Li and of course Jackie Chan. It involves a series of fighting styles that involves kicking, arm movements, blocking combined with fierce speed that can often out-smart other forms of martial arts. Silver screen star Bruce Lee used a form of Chinese Kung-Fu known as Wing Chun. He did complain that it was too slow for his liking and did not think of it as an effective form of self-defense. He later went on to develop his own style known as Jeet-Kune-Do. A famous fight between Wong Jack Man, a Chinese martial arts exponent and teacher based in San Francisco, confirmed the effectiveness of this fiery form of Kung-Fu.
Taekwondo is a Korean martial arts form. It also involves some elements of Karate which was developed on the islands of Okinawa. Taekwondo involves a lot of physical strength and strong movements both with the legs and arms. Strong thrusting movements that make full-contact with the opponent and unlike the soft contact moves of Judo it demands a lot or power and energy. Taekwondo has been an Olympic sport since 2000 and remains today as one of the most popular forms of martial arts in the world.
This is a fighting form that was devised by the Japanese Samurai. Although the Japanese Samurai was devastating with his Katana (Long Sword) they devised a method to be just as deadly when unarmed or disarmed. Jujitsu was thus born for the purpose of providing the Japanese Samurai with a way out in hand to hand or close combat situations where he does not have a Katana in hand (which is kind of rare in Samurai culture as the Samurai and his Katana is like body and soul). Jujitsu is known as a soft art, but the fact is that the grappling and locking movements together with the smashing throws and quick jerks can be as effective in close-combat as anything else that has been discussed here. Jujitsu requires minimum force and it is more about using the flow of the attacker’s movement against him, carefully implementing the locks and then immobilizing him.
A deadly combination of kicks, knee-jabs and punches, kickboxing and its variation Muay Thai or Thai Kickboxing is an effective fighting technique that is ideally suited for the streets rather than the fighting ring. It can be compared to the ancient martial art of Pankration, however, the later was more violent form with nearly no rules. Kickboxing is very effective as a self-defense art as it involves using everything you have got in terms of your body. You can use any part of your body and try to knock the opponent out. Kickboxing is a brutal method that discourages proponents of this form from using fancy kicks or moves like in Kung-Fu or Taekwondo. The attack should be quick, directly to a pressure point or weak or vulnerable area and the objective is to put the attacker out of the fight as quickly and as decisively as possible. As a self-defense form this is thus an effective method. It is also quick to learn though very demanding to perfect. Kickboxing involves painstaking and often brutal training methods that involve conditioning the body to take a considerable amount of pain and yet not be discomforted by it.
Apart from the obvious advantage of getting trained in a lethal hand-to-hand combat technique that you can bank on in times of need, training in any of the above martial art forms is an excellent way to reduce fat and get the body type that you always admired on the silver screen.