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Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, practiced for multiple reasons such as physical fitness, mental and spiritual development, self-defence, law enforcement, competition, as well as entertainment.

Although it has become commonly associated with those in Eastern Asia, it was originally used to refer to the combat systems of Europe dating back to the early 1550s. The term is derived from Latin, and means “Arts of Mars”, the Roman god of war. However, there are many conflicting theories and opinions concerning the origins of martial arts. The commonly known Martial arts began in ancient Asia, including China, India, and Japan. In both China and India, artefacts dating back from 2,000 to 4,000 years have been found bearing paintings of people striking possible martial arts poses. Qigong, one of the oldest systems that is considered a martial arts, is believed by some historians to be more than 5,000 years old, originating in ancient China.

Martial arts can be categorized in a variety of criteria, such as armed or unarmed martial arts, by application or intent.

Unarmed martial arts can be further broken down into those which deal with grappling, such as Judo, Sumo, Wrestling; or those dealing with Strikes, such as Boxing, Taekwondo, and Karate.

Some martial arts also involve religion and spirituality. Many different schools and techniques have been founded, disseminated, or practiced by monks or nuns.

Throughout Asia, meditation may be incorporated as part of training especially in countries influenced by Hindu-Buddhist philosophy, where the art itself is mostly used as an aid to attaining enlightenment.

Martial arts in certain cultures are also performed in dance-like settings, such as War Dances to invoking fear or evoking ferocity, or simply just a performance art. Such martial arts usually involve music with especially strong percussive rhythms.