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Martial Arts

Martial arts get their name from Mars, the god of war. People who practice martial arts, or martial artists, learn combat, endurance, sportsmanship, confidence and concentration. While most martial arts are Asian in origin, the first martial arts may have actually come to Asia across the Silk Roads from India.


Aikido means "the Way of harmonious spirit" in Japanese. It is a martial art that focuses on the flow of energy. A martial artist must redirect and harness their opponent's energy, defending themselves and protecting their opponent from harm at the same time. Some martial arts focus on harming the attacker, here the aikido artists "neutralizes" them, or makes them powerless.


There are martial arts outside of Asia. The Brazillian martial art of capoeira is a ritual dance and fighting technique that descended from African slaves. In the 16th and 17th century, Brazil ended up getting about 40% of the slaves shipped from Africa. There, they developed this fighting style that is accompanied by singing and music as a way to keep their culture alive.


Judo arose from another Japanese martial art, Jujutsu in the late 19th century. It is more like wrestling than other martial arts, even though the name "judo" means "gentleness" and "softness." The point is to force an opponent out of the ring with a series of punches and kicks. It became a male Olympic sport in 1964.


Jujutsu techniques were first used by Japanese Samurai warriors. It's difficult to injure a warrior wearing full body armor, so jujutsu techniques focus on pinning, locking and trapping an opponent. It's a very popular practice. By 1600 A.D. there were over 2,000 jujutsu schools in Japan alone.


Karate developed from Chinese and Japanese martial arts. It is primarily a hitting or "striking" art. Just like judo, karate depends a lot on the athlete's "kokoro" or attitude. Another thing that karate has in common with judo is the belt ranking system, which goes from white belt to black belt. The philosophy of karate involves keeping a pure mind.


Kendo, or "the way of the sword" in Japanese, is Japanese fencing. Kendoka, or those who practice Kendo, use shinai, special swords to engage in combat. Kendo is different from European fencing because the swords are used differently. Kendo is also loud because Kendoka shout and stamp their feet whenever they strike their opponent.

Kung Fu

In China, the term "kung fu" actually refer to "the study of a skill" and doesn't have to be related to martial arts. In the Western world, the term kung fu has come to mean many different styles of Chinese martial arts. When people are kung fu in the Chinese meaning, or when they study a skill, they must have time, motivation and self-discipline to do it right.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai or Thai boxing is the official sport of Thailand. It is called "the science of eight limbs" because, in addition to arms and legs, the hands, shins, elbows and knees are used to strike the opponent. Western boxing uses two "points of contact," the hands, so Muay Thai is more complex. This is a very popular spectator sport in many Asian countries.


Sumo wrestlers, or rikishi, live one of the most controlled lives in the world. They live together, work together and sleep together in large dormitories. From their dress right down to ritual dances, rikishi are controlled by ancient Japanese traditions. Their famous bulk also means that rikishi have their life expectancy cut by almost ten years.


Taekwondo is the national sport of South Korea and is Korean in origin. It trains both the mind and the body. The famous martial arts task of breaking boards with your hand is a perfect example, because mental strength leads to physical strength. Unlike other martial arts, taekwondo teaches a lot of kicking moves instead of hitting moves.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is one of the gentle martial arts. It is used primarily for wellness, longevity and meditation, the combination of mind and body health. You might see people practicing Tai Chi in groups in the park, especially if you're traveling in its country of origin - China. Classic Tai Chi moves are slow and controlled, to increase endurance and circulatory health.


Like your PE class? If you lived in China, you would probably have to study wushu, a very popular Chinese martial art. Unlike Karate, Wushu is actually a martial art that teaches self-defense instead of fighting techniques. An entirely new sport, modern wushu, was invented when the People's Republic of China came into power.