Martial Arts is a broad term that is used to describe all combat systems. While they started as a means of self defense or law enforcement, these days they can be practised purely as a form of exercise. Most references to Martial Arts are referring to the styles that originated in South East Asia, especially China, although there are many other ancient fighting techniques from across the globe.
Martial Arts incorporate a element of mental training, since mental strength is obviously required in a combat situation. However this is taken to a deeper level by some practises, where movements are carried out with ‘intent’ – the mind is trained to direct energy to a particular point to enhance it’s effectiveness, such as increasing power in a strike.
There is also the pursuit of inner peace that is very much a part of martial arts training. Ironically, trained fighters are some of the most peaceful people you will find and anyone with aggressive intent is strongly discouraged from expressing that anger. Negative emotions are considered detrimental to energy flow which can result in poor physical and mental health.
Practises that focus on building muscular strength are known as ‘external’ martial arts, whereas those that deal with training the mind with intent are known as ‘internal’ styles. Many incorporate both for a truly powerful system of training. You should expect contact in any form of martial arts, even the mildest ones that focus more on internal training (e.g. Tai Chi), as you are encouraged to practise with and read the actions of other practitioners for certain exercises in order to build your intuition and awareness levels.
Martial Arts training has many benefits that include an increase in confidence, an heightened awareness of things happening around you and an abundance of energy. It also teaches discipline and respect. We recommend looking at the different styles to see which one may suit you, although many practitioners will find themselves delving into other styles during the course of their training.