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The word 'martial' is derived from the name of Mars, the Roman god of war. Any practitioner of martial arts is referred to as a martial artist.
How to define what exactly martial arts are? Put simply, martial arts represent systems of different practices and traditions of training for combat. Although when they were originally designed the purpose was probably to use them in real combat, today they may be studied for various reasons including, fitness, self-defense, sport, meditation, mental discipline, character development, and building self-confidence.
That there is but one universal goal of any martial art, and that is to defeat a person physically, or to defend oneself from physical threat. There are many different forms and styles of martial arts and almost each style has unique characteristics that make it different from others.
In addition to all the physical advantages you will get practicing a martial art, it should also make you more confident. You just have to choose the best form of martial arts for you.

Different types and styles

A list of all existing martial techniques would be extremely long; we will name just the most commonly practiced today. 

These include:
Karate: Definitely one of the most popular martial arts worldwide. Today it is practiced by people of all ages, even children. It isn't particularly hard to learn, and as one and progresses, different colors of belt are achieved, all up to the black belt.
Aikido: Also a very popular martial art, aikido is significantly different from karate. First developed in Japan, its main and only purpose is self defense. A practitioner is never an attacker. Today, it is commonly used for recreational purposes by all generations.
Kendo: This technique is mainly focused on using a sword. While the previous two martial arts were practiced by civilians, kendo was originally used by trained soldiers. Today, kendo is a popular martial art, practiced competitively in Japan.  
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: This is another defensive-minded martial art. It doesn’t allow the use of weapons, and mainly focuses on ground fighting. It became widely popular in the 1990s.  

Martial arts and dancing

Sometimes, there is a thin line between a martial art and simple dancing. Certain martial arts in various cultures are much more similar to dancing then to fighting. The primary purpose of this dancing was to evoke ferocity in preparation for battle or showing off skill. In most cases music featuring a strong rhythm is included. 
Some of the most popular “dancing” martial art are:
  • Sabre Dance - depicted in Khachaturian's ballet Gayane
  • Dannsa Biodag - Scotland and Scottish sword dances
  • Hula & Lua - from the traditions of indigenous Hawaiian people
  • Maasai moran (warrior age-set) dances
  • Aduk-Aduk - Brunei
  • Ayyalah - Qatar
  • Panther Dance - Burmese Bando with swords 
  • Gymnopaidiai - ancient Sparta
  • Haka - New Zealand
  • Khattak Dance - Afghanistan
  • Capoeira - Brazil
  • Vallja Rugoves - Albanian dance with swords

History of Martial Arts

The history of martial arts around the world is rather complex. As mentioned before, in the beginning all martial arts were created with one purpose - fighting and physical defense. Development of most of them was related to military development. The preservation of some martial arts requires many years of teaching because the only way it is transmitted is via a good instructor on single generation of students. 
Oldest roots of martial arts are dating from ancient China, practiced there for thousands of years. Also, many if not most Asian styles have had at least some influence from martial arts originating in China, India, or both. Martial art also existed in classical European civilization, most notably in Greece.

Martial Arts Styles

Some of the most popular groups of martial arts are:
  1. Japanese-Style Martial Arts: Most are focused  on self defense, often including a universal way of helping the body create spiritual harmony. Combat isn't always the primary goal.
  2. Korean-Style Martial Arts: Used previously by Korean soldiers, and created mostly to be used in battle.
  3. Phillippino-Style Martial Arts: Unlike the previous two, these styles are usually based on the usage of weapons such as short sticks. 
  4. Chinese-Style Martial Arts: These wildly variable styles are used for both exercise and self defense purposes.

Martial arts equipment

Required equipment basically depends upon which type of martial art you will choose.
Almost all forms of martial arts require different accessories, but common ones include:
Uniforms: Almost all martial arts require some kind of special clothing or uniform. Karate practiced in a white kimono, which comes in two different sizes for both males and females. Taekwondo is practiced in uniforms quite similar to those used for karate, with some exceptions: the upper parts of the suits have a V-neck which comes in two different colors. Other martial arts such as Kung Fu and Tai Chi require completely black uniforms. Some also require boxing shorts as well as inner elastic gloves or standard boxing gloves.
Protective Wear: Sometimes a special uniform simply isn't enough to keep you safe during the practice of a martial art. In such cases the participants are also obligated to equip protective wear such as a head guards, special kinds of gloves, shin pads, etc. 
Weapons: Although traditional martial arts involved usage of several possibly lethal weapons such as knives, swords and different daggers, things have changed with time. In modern, well organized martial art schools, there is no chance that someone could be hurt. Only imitations of real weapons are used, as well as some wooden weapons such as sticks, short daggers, and the like.

Martial arts and weight regulation possibility

Obesity is definitely the disease of the modern age, characterized by high levels of fat in the body. Obese people have a high risk of developing various other diseases, such as like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Practicing some form of martial arts for about 20 minutes a day helps burn the excess fat in the body. The same effect can be achieved by exercise, such as light jogging, running, or aerobics. 
Martial arts involve a variety of techniques, and almost all of them include a lot of physical exercise. That’s why its best for a potential candidate to be physically fit. However, even if the candidate isn't fit, fitness can be acquired during training. Besides physical advantages, martial art training it will also improve your self-confidence and willpower.