martial arts, various forms of self-defense, usually weaponless, based on techniques developed in ancient China, India, and Tibet. In modern times they have come into wide use for self-protection, as competitive sports, and for exercise.
Jujitsu teaches skills that enable one to overcome a bigger, stronger opponent. A popular style of jujitsu is aikido, which uses wrist, elbow, and shoulder twists and graceful falls; it is noncompetitive and incorporates various spiritual concepts. Judo, a Japanese sport created in 1882, makes use of jujitsu principles. Other popular forms of martial arts include kung fu, karate, and taekwondo, all of which emphasize blows with the feet and the side of the hand, and kendo, in which leather-covered bamboo "swords" are used. Judo and taekwondo are Olympic sports. Capoeira, a dancelike Brazilian discipline whose movements are performed to rhythmic music, is gaining in popularity.
The traditional Asian martial arts emphasize allowing ki (cosmic energy; also known as chi) to flow through one's body. This belief in ki connects the martial arts with t'ai chi ch'uan, a meditationlike discipline that emphasizes slow, graceful body movements. The most popular form of individual exercise in China, t'ai chi is often performed publicly in large groups; it has been claimed to reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.