Martial Arts…What are they?

Martial arts. You’ve seen it in movies, right? Or maybe you’ve seen the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The most popular league of elite mixed martial artists in this day in age. Well I am here to tell you that martial arts has been around for a long long time… it’s ancient!



What does martial arts mean?

‘Martial’ is defined as being related to war. The word martial itself was obtained from ‘Mars’ who was an ancient Greek god known to be the ‘God of war’! Then the word ‘art’ is described as the way humans express themselves. So in a nutshell, martial arts is the way we as humans express ourselves in the art of combat!

Martial arts teaches people discipline. Both physically and mentally. Helping us break barriers we never thought we’d be able to overcome.

Martial arts enables an individual to defend themselves. Whilst also being able to attack someone who may be out to cause them harm. This includes our own limbs such as our hands for punches and legs for kicks.

Other martial arts also allow weapons such as nun chucks and swords!

 Make sure to check out this video! Bruce Lee describes his own views on what martial arts are. Check out how Bruce Lee showed our values throughout his life! With the Bruce Lee- MILITAR MINDSET post (coming soon…)!


History of martial arts

Martial arts has been around for centuries. Many people tried to create their own style of combat. Finding out what techniques they believed to be most efficient in the art of war. It is commonly held that martial arts originated in Asia. With places like China and India forerunning the creation of martial arts. In fact during the time 600 BCE, both countries were trading with each other. It is believed both countries shared their martial arts knowledge in this period.

The oldest martial art known to us is ‘kalaripayattu’, which originated in India. This literally means the ‘art of the battlefield’! Dating back to around 3 BCE! Martial arts has been around for a great length of time with many different forms of martial arts being created throughout the years. Even to this day new forms of martial arts are being created. More recently the likes of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Krav Maga have emerged!


Types of martial arts

There are many different styles within martial arts. No single style can define it. Many well-known styles include Karate, Kung Fu, Taekwondo and Muay Thai. Each martial arts style puts emphasis on different things. For example, Muay Thai focuses on the striking element whereas Brazilian Jiu Jitsu focuses purely on grappling and submissions. We have gone through some well-known martial arts and have provided you with some brief descriptions and a background on each one:



Originating from the island of Okinawa in Japan. Karate is predominantly a striking martial art. Using kicks, punches and open hand strikes such as chops. The main influences behind karate were Chinese martial arts (especially Fujian White Crane, a form of Kung Fu) which were brought to the Ryuku Islands in Okinawa. Many Chinese people were moving here as China and Japan had developed strong trade relations. They would first refer to this as ‘Te’.

Originally being called the ‘Chinese Hand’, the Okinawan masters decided to change the name to Karate which means ‘empty hand’. Reinforcing that Karate is a martial art in which no weapons are used. Karate prioritises self-defence and counter striking opponents. There are many different styles of Karate including Shotokan, Goju-ryu Kyokushin and many more.

Check out this video for a brief explanation on Karate!


Kung Fu

Kung Fu (also known as Wushu) is the name given to Chinese martial arts. There are many different styles within Kung Fu as it is an overall term given to Chinese martial arts. It is thought that the founder of Shaolin Kung Fu was the Indian Buddhist priest Bodhidharma. He travelled to China to meet the Emperor at the time, teaching the Chinese the religion of Buddhism. When he met the monks, he realised they were weak due to reading scripts all day, partaking in no physical exercises. He taught them physical movements to build up their strength. This eventually developed into a self-defence martial art, known as Shaolin Kung Fu.

Kung Fu can be translated to ‘achievement through hard work’. Due to there being so many different styles, some prioritise different aspects. For example some may focus on punching within a close distance whereas some focus on kicks and leg work from a longer distance. Another famous style of Kung Fu is Wing Chun, which is the martial art Bruce Lee was taught!

 Watch this video to learn more about Kung Fu!



Jujitsu is a Japanese martial art. Jujutsu was developed by samurais on the battlefield when they would find themselves unequipped with no weapons or horse and had to fight unarmed. When wars were no longer happening and there was peace, Jujutsu developed into a martial art that could be used by all.

The first recorded use of Jujutsu was in 1532 when Hisamori Teneuchi created the first Jujutsu school in Japan. Jujutsu focused on grappling when being in close distance with someone else. Jujutsu translates to the ‘gentle art’! It did also include some strikes. Jujutsu has helped to inspire and develop martial arts such as Judo and Aikido. Brazilian-jiu-jitsu was also derived from Japanese Jujutsu.

Learn more about the origins of Jujutsu through this video!



Aikido is also a Japanese martial art that was founded in the 1920’s by Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba studied previous martial arts in Japan such as Jujutsu to help him develop Aikido. Ueshiba wanted Aikido to be more than just a self-defence martial art. He has also made spiritual training as important as the physical training. Aikido trains both the mind and body. Aikido can be translated to ‘the way of harmonious spirit’. Weapons such as swords are incorporated in the martial art. It also includes throws and submissions. They do not use kicking in Aikido nor do they use many hand strikes.

Check out this video to learn more about Aikido! 



Hapkido is a Korean martial art. Both Hapkido and Aikido are very similar as both founders studied Daito-Ryo Aiki Jiujutsu. The main difference is that Hapkido uses more offensive techniques. Choi Yong Sool founded Hapkido, teaching his first class in 1948 to his first student Seo Bok-Seob. Hapkido is described as a style that is used to defend a person against someone attacking them no matter what their style is. Using an opponent’s weight and leverage against them.

Hapkido can be rendered in English to ‘the way of coordinating energy’. There is emphasis on controlling the opponent, using circular motions and redirecting force in Hapkido. Both strikes and grappling techniques such as throws and submissions are used. Weapons are also used in Hapkido too.

Watch this video to see how a Hapkido practitioner describes the art!



Judo is a Japanese martial art that was created in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. Judo was inspired by different styles of traditional Japanese Jujitsu. Kano was a frail individual who wanted to become stronger. He trained under Yanosuke Fukuda at the age of 17. Four years later at the age of 21, he created Kodokan Judo! Judo officially became an Olympic sport in 1964 after the 1940 Tokyo Olympics was cancelled due to World War II. Judo is a Japanese term that translates to the ‘gentle way’. This refers to the aim of Judo which is to use an opponent’s strength against themselves. It consists of grappling techniques involving throws, groundwork and submissions.

Give this video a watch to learn more about Judo!


Muay Thai

Muay Thai (also referred to as Thai Boxing) originated in Thailand. It is the national sport of Thailand. The origins of Muay Thai are unclear as when Thailand was invaded by the Burmese, many relics of Thai history were destroyed. Muay Thai is also referred to as the ‘art of eight limbs’ This refers to the body parts used in Muay Thai which are the hands, elbows, shins and knees. Muay Thai is a striking martial art which also uses clinching and sweeps.

It is believed to have been influenced by Muay Boran (the term given to the unnamed Thai martial arts). In Muay Thai the body is described to be used as a ‘weapon’. The Thai army would train in Muay Thai to prepare themselves for battle. Muay Thai is seen as an aggressive fighting style. In Muay Thai, fighters are looking to counter whatever combination is thrown their way from their opponent. Leading to a very fast paced and upbeat contest!

Check out our ‘What is Muay Thai?’ blog post to find out more.

Give this video a watch to learn some amazing facts about Muay Thai! 


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) 

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (also known as Gracie Jiu Jitsu) originated in Brazil (as shown in the name!). It was inspired by martial arts such as Judo and Jiu Jitsu. Mitsuo Maeda was one of Kano’s (the founder of Judo) best students. He moved to Brazil. Maeda was well known for his ‘Newaza’ which was his ground game in Judo. He taught this to Carlos Gracie who taught this to his brothers Oswaldo, Gastao Jr, George and Helio. Helio struggled to do some of the Judo techniques due to his small stature. He adjusted the techniques so no matter what size you were, anyone could do the techniques.

BJJ was founded by the Gracie brothers. The martial art grew in prominence when Royce Gracie won UFC 1. His skinny figure tricked everyone, when he won the tournament! The Gracie’s wanted to show the effectiveness of BJJ, which they were able to do. BJJ is a grappling martial art consisting mainly of groundwork and submissions. It. has become very popular for people wanting to train in mixed martial arts.

 Watch this video to learn more about Jiu Jitsu!



Taekwondo originated from Korea. There are reports that Taekwondo has been around for thousands of years. But the Taekwondo we are now familiar with is majorly credited to General Choi Hong Hi and his work in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Whilst he was a general in the army, he started to teach the soldiers this new martial art. Tours around the world were held demonstrating Taekwondo, which helped to grow the martial arts popularity.

Taekwondo means the ‘way of the foot and the fist’. Influences of Taekwondo include Taek Kyon and Karate. It is a striking martial art with an emphasis on fast combinations using mainly kicks but also punches. Kicks include spinning techniques and usually aiming for the head. There are many videos online of Taekwondo practitioners doing some crazy kicks!

Check out our ‘What is Taekwondo?’ blog post to find out more.

Check out this short documentary about Taekwondo! 


Krav Maga 

Krav Maga is a self defence system developed for and used by the Israeli military service. The martial art was formed in the 1930’s by Imi Lichtenfeld. It is regarded as one of the most useful martial arts for street combat situations. In Hebrew, Krav Maga can be translated to ‘close combat’. This sums up the martial art as it is all about how to fight someone within close proximity.

Even though it is mainly a striking martial art, there are elements of grappling in it. Techniques have been derived from martial arts such as Aikido, Boxing, Karate, Wrestling, Jujitsu and Judo. Krav Maga has no rules as it is seen to be a martial art all about protecting yourself. This includes aiming for opponents’ weak spots such as the eyes, groin and throat.

 Learn more about Krav Maga by watching this video!



Capoeira is a Afro-Brazilian martial art which involves music, dance and various acrobatics. Its creation was first reported around the 16th century in Brazil. This was at a time when slavery was still sadly present in Brazil. The slaves would disguise their martial arts through dancing! It was abolished for a certain period of time in Brazil but is now regarded as one of the official sports in Brazil! It was developed as a self-defence martial art.

Mestre Pastinha is credited for preserving the style of ‘Capoeira Angola’. Mestre Bimba has been credited for developing the ‘Capoeria regional’ style. Although Capoeira is originally a martial art, it has also developed into somewhat of a dance people enjoy to watch too!

 Check out this Capoeira demonstration!


Tai Chi 

Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art. There are reports that Tai chi has been around for thousands of years. However, in the 1600s records show that a military officer by the name of Cheng Wangting put together what he learnt from previous learnings to create ‘Tai Chi Chuan’. The fundamentals of Tai Chi are based on the Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Taoism emphasises the importance of a natural balance in all things including spiritually and physically. It is also believed that a Chinese monk, called Zhang Sanfeng, had witnessed a crane defending itself from the attack of a snake. The combination of Taoism and what the Chinese monk witnessed, is what is believed to have created Tai Chi!

There are five key styles in Tai Chi: Chen, Yang, Wu, Sun and Hao. All styles have their own priorities in regard to different movements and aspects. Tai Chi consists of different movements and breathing techniques that all flow together. Allowing both the mind and body to stay connected. Tai Chi Chuan can be translated to ‘supreme ultimate boxing’! Although Tai Chi was originally made to be a self-defence martial art, it is widely popular and now used as a health exercise! The slow movements and breathing exercises used in Tai Chi are good for your health! Check out the NHS guide on Tai Chi.

Learn more about Tai Chi from a Tai Chi master in this video!


Mixed martial arts (MMA)  

Mixed martial arts (also known as MMA) is a hybrid style using different martial arts. People who train for many years in multiple martial arts are known as mixed martial artists. They are able to embed various martial arts together. MMA competition was first reportedly held in 1985 in Japan. Here people from different martial arts background compete against each other to see who the better fighter is. It wasn’t till UFC 1 in 1993 that MMA competition started to gain popularity.

MMA has continued to grow since then and is continuing rise in fame. Styles that have been used in MMA training have been martial arts such as Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling and boxing. MMA encourages people to train a mix of martial arts in order to become a better overall mixed martial artist. People also train in mixed martial arts outside of competition. As it helps them both physically and mentally.

Watch this video to learn more about MMA!


Famous martial artists

There have been many great martial artists over the years that have helped to develop martial arts across the world. Here we will look at just some of the most influential:


Jigoro Kano

Jigoro Kano is considered one of the most iconic people in Japanese martial arts. He carried out Jujutsu demonstrations across the world (jujutsu was on a decline before this). It was after training in Jujutsu that Kano developed his own martial art in Judo. Removing the unnecessary techniques, he believed were in Jujutsu.

Judo became a national sport in 1910 and eventually an Olympic sport in 1964. This was all a part of Kano’s vision, for Judo to be a martial art, practiced and used by all. Nowadays it is reported that millions of people across the world practise Judo!


Mitsuyo Maeda

Mitsuyo Maeda was one of the greatest judokas taught by Jigoro Kano himself. He was the teacher of the Gracie brothers who then went onto create Brazilian-jiu-jitsu from his teachings. Maeda would also regularly challenge people from different martial arts backgrounds.

He was one of the first documented mixed martial artists of the modern-day area. Standing at around 5ft6 and around 150 pounds, Maeda wasn’t the most intimidating figure! But he sure knew how to fight! He went all over the world to places like America, the United Kingdom and Belgium to compete against the elite martial artists of each country. Popularising both judo and martial arts in general all over the world.


Royce Gracie

Royce Gracie is well known for competing in the first ever UFC. Using the martial art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu created by his father Helio and his uncles (Carlos, Oswaldo, Gastao Jr and George). Even though he didn’t look capable of much facing the likes of Ken Shamrock. He shook everyone by putting on a masterclass performance and defeating all. Showing no matter how big you are, Brazilian jiu-jitsu works for all.

This caused there to be a lot of attention attracted to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, with many people wanting to practice it. It is now one of the key martial arts trained when training for mixed martial arts competitions.


Gichin Funakoshi

Funakoshi is widely regarded as the ‘father of modern-day karate’. He is the founder of one of the four major styles of karate, ‘Shotokan’. He followed the teachings of Anko Itosu and Anko Asato. In 1922 he brought karate to the mainland in Japan. Funakoshi was involved in the name change from ‘toudi’ (which means Chinese hand) to ‘karate’ (which means empty hand) to help it gain more popularity taking away the Chinese links in the name. He would teach karate at numerous different universities and create many different unions to unite all karateka. He founded the first Shotokan dojo in Tokyo in 1936.


Choi Hong Hi

As stated before, Choi Hong Hi is known to be the one of the founders of Taekwondo in the 1940s. Choi went to Japan to study karate in 1937. Whilst in Japan he was drafted against his will into the army. He tried to escape to join the Korean liberation army. Unfortunately, he was caught and jailed. He was released from jail and became one of the founders of the South Korean army. It was here he taught his solders the new martial art. They would perform presentations across the world popularising Taekwondo. In 2000, Taekwondo officially became an Olympic sport!


Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali is regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time. He presented a unique style in the ring which inspired many of the generations to come. Ali popularised boxing and brought it to the mainstream media with his character and the big fights that he put on for the people. When he thought Joe Frazier in the ‘fight of the century’ in 1971, there were hundreds of millions of people tuned into the fight across the world!

Ali also inspired people outside of the ring helping to fight against racism. Muhammad Ali even crossed into other martial arts when he fought Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki in 1976, which was a very bizarre fight! Make sure to check out how Muhammad Ali has embedded the MILITAR MINDSET!

Check out our Muhammad Ali- MILITAR MINDSET video which is a part of our Icon Series on YouTube!


Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was a movie star sensation and an avid martial artist. Lee helped to popularise martial arts in the western world. With his movies he showed his martial arts ability on the movie screens bringing in a mainstream audience. Lee is also regarded as one of the founders of mixed martial arts. After his well-known duel with Wong Jack Man in 1964, he realised there were improvements to be made in his fighting style.

Of the back of this Lee created his own martial art ‘Jeet Kune Do’ which includes a hybrid of martial arts. A mixed martial art practice. Jeet Kune Do translates to ‘the way of intercepting the fist’. When talking about his new martial art, Lee infamously said ‘be like water’ and that his style is the ‘way of no way’! We have written a separate blog on Bruce Lee and how he has embedded the MILITAR MINDSET!

Check out our Bruce Lee- MILITAR MINDSET video which is a part of our Icon Series on YouTube!


Benefits of martial arts

Martial arts has many benefits to us. Both physically and mentally. We will go through just a few key reasons to how martial arts can help you:


Improves your endurance, strength and balance

Due to the physical demands of martial arts, it improves one’s physical ability. All martial arts will provide this as they all have physical exercises that you must do. On a regular basis this will increase your strength and improve your stamina. Making you feel fitter and healthier in the process. All martial arts also have stances which you must abide by. Improving your balance and efficiency of striking/grappling to improve your performances.

For example, in boxing you stand with your stronger leg behind your weaker leg, allowing you to use your hips when extending your arms to exert full power into your punches. Many people do martial arts simply to improve their physical health as well as the competition side which can be an aspect of most martial arts.

Improves your mental health

Most martial arts teach you to keep a peaceful mind. When training in martial arts you must be focused. Therefore, you are taught to clear your mind and focus purely on the martial art you are learning. Due to the nature of martial arts, a lot of the time you will go past the boundaries you assumed you had.

Providing mental discipline as you must train hard and be patient in order to see improvements in your martial arts ability. It gives you a positive mindset as you must overcome problems such as learning hard new techniques in order to become a better martial artist. Martial arts such as Tai Chi use breathing exercises which have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression.

Improves your self-confidence

Regularly training in martial arts is proven to boost your self-confidence. Due to the persistence and effort you must put in to becoming a better martial artist. When milestones are met, you feel a sense of achievement. For example, if you are doing Brazilian-jiu-jitsu and promoted to a higher belt, you will be confident in your ability as your teacher has recognised your improvements (Brazilian jiu-jitsu is very tough and usually takes people around 10 years of consistent training to get a black belt!).

This is throughout all martial arts as the more time and effort you put in, the more developments you will see in your martial arts skills. This is highly benefitable for both adults and children, but especially for children as they are young and developing. For a child to be able to focus and master a martial art, it will provide them supreme confidence for anything they choose to do!

Improves your focus and attention

Martial arts provides people with great attention to detail and can improve your focus massively. All martial arts have a high emphasis on the techniques you use. Most martial arts will want your techniques to be perfect. Enabling you to improve your attention to detail as you constantly develop.

For example, in Taekwondo you must perform a poomsae, which must be performed at the best of your ability with no mistakes. Taekwondo practitioners must constantly practice on their poomsae in order to move to the next belt. This improves both focus and attention as you must focus to make sure you are doing the right movements and you must be attentive in regard to your technique. These are very important skills to have in general life to. Having the ability to have good focus and attention to detail will allow you to perform to the best of your ability in whatever you do.

Check out this video to see how martial arts can benefit you in everyday life!


How to get started with martial arts

It’s simple! I have provided you with a basic overview of some of the most popular martial arts that are practised worldwide. Whatever interests you the most, be sure to do some more research on it and check it out! There will be videos online of people practising all the martial arts mentioned.


What types of clothes to wear when practising martial arts

Don’t worry about what to wear when training in martial arts, we have you sorted! One of our main goals here at Militar is to provide people with clothing that will inspire and motivate them to achieve their goals. Especially anything martial arts related, as that is our key goal and one of our passions! Of course, for most traditional martial arts you will be required to wear uniforms such as a Gi (we are not producing these yet but if there is demand in the future…).

But for your first lesson you will not be required to wear this. Wearing a militar t shirt and shorts or track-pants will be just fine for your first lesson (clothing coming soon)! Our clothing is more suited to mixed martial arts where no uniforms are required and you wear what you want! Great examples of this would be for martial arts such as boxing, kick boxing, Muay Thai and no Gi Jiu-jitsu.


How to find a martial arts class

Once you have familiarised yourself with the different martial arts and chosen which one you would like to try out. Finding a class is easy! Search online for the martial art and find a place nearby to you. Most martial arts classes now have an online presence now that we are in the digital era. Check out any reviews and videos they may have, as this will provide you more on their classes. Contact them if they have any online contact details if you would like to beforehand, or just turn up and see it for yourself!

When attending your first martial arts class, you will be glad to know that the first lessons are usually free. This is to enable the person to get a feel for the class and to see whether it is the right fit for them. Attending your first class can be intimidating as this will be the first time you have step foot into the class. Be assured that most classes are full of genuine good people depending on what gyms you go; most gyms have good principles in place. Talk to other members of the class and learn more about the martial art and what they learn specifically from the classes.

Some gyms will prioritise competitions, therefore, may be more aggressive in their way of training. When training for competitions the importance of being in a strong physical and mental state is vital. This may not be the place for you as you may just want to train for your own benefits, whatever they may be. You may also go to a boxing class and feel that a striking martial art is not for you. Then there is the possibility of trying a grappling martial art like Brazilian Jiu-jitsu or a more meditative style like Tai Chi.

Basically the point is you will never know what you like until you do it! Make sure you try out different martial arts if you don’t find the right fit the first time.  There is a martial art out there for absolutely everyone that you can definitely benefit from!

Thank you for reading this post! If you have any questions regarding this post or martial arts in general feel free to contact us.

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We have gone through martial arts in general in this post. In our next few posts on the Martial Arts Series, we will cover individual martial arts. Make sure you subscribe to our blog to keep up to date with the latest posts!



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