Martial arts (Eastern)

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Martial arts are codified systems of both armed and weaponless, or empty-handed,1 skills intended to develop and increase proficiency in combat.

Martial arts have arisen in nearly all cultures, both through cultural transmission and independently, with some form of codified martial art, either historic orcurrent, identifiable in virtually every culture around the world today. The scope of martial arts is vast, and, in some sense, defies a complete categorization. Despite the universality of offensive and defensive combat techniques when discussing martial arts, it is typically used in reference to the Eastern forms of combat training, which is the focus of this article.



It is not possible to categorical define the point of origin for the development of martial arts. From an evolutionary standpoint, it is most likely that early Homo Sapiens, and possibly his predecessors, struck upon useful techniques for hunting that eventually evolved into defensive and offensive methods applied to clan or tribal fighting. The introduction of tools probably led to the development of early weaponry.

Historically, the first codified system of martial arts is usually attributed to H'uang Ti (sp), of China. The Yellow Emporer, as he was known, is said to have chronicled and organized the various practices that were characteristic of Mongolian wrestling, that today we know as San Shou.

As noted, the catalogue of martial systems is vast. Here, we will look at some of the more well-known styles, categorized by region. For more extensive information on any particaulr style, see the page devoted specifically to that style.


Northern China
Southern China
Notable Family styles
Modern styles



Mainland Japan


Southeastern India






Goal of studying a martial art

The goal of martial arts study is two-fold. First, and most obvious, it is to increase fighting skill, whether that skill refers to armed or unarmed combat. The second, more esoteric, goal is what the Chinese refer to as dar tse te (pr., dar t-say tee), or to create a better person; physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Martial arts in combat

On the battlefield

Personal self-defense

See also


1 Karate, a Japanese combat form that is one of the most ubiquitous in the world gets its name from the combination of two words, kara. meaning empty, and te, meaning hand.