Martial arts are systems of codified practices and traditions of training for combat. While they may be studied for many reasons, martial arts share a single objective: to defeat a person physically or to defend oneself from physical threat. In addition, some martial arts are linked to spiritual or religious beliefs and philosophies such as Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Shinto or Confucianism while others have their own spiritual or non-spiritual code of honor. Many arts are also practiced competitively most commonly as combat sports, but may also be in the form of dance.
In popular culture, the term martial arts often specifically refers to the combat systems that originated in Asian cultures. However, the term actually refers to any sort of codified combat systems, regardless of origin. Europe is home to many systems of martial arts, both living traditions (e.g. jogo do pau and other stick and sword fencing and savate, a French kicking style developed by sailors and street fighters) and older systems collectively referred to as historical European martial arts that existed until modern times and are now being reconstructed by several organizations. In the Americas, Native Americans have a tradition of open-handed martial arts, which includes wrestling, and Hawaiians have historically practiced arts featuring small and large joint manipulation. A mix of origins occur in the athletic movements of capoeira, a practice that was created in Brazil by slaves and was based on skills brought with them from Africa.
While each style has unique facets that make it different from other martial arts, a common characteristic is the systematization of fighting techniques. Methods of training vary and may include sparring or forms (kata), which are sets or routines of techniques that are performed alone, or sometimes with a partner, and which are especially common in the Asian and Asian-derived martial arts.
The word martial derives from the name of Mars, the Roman god of war. The term martial arts literally means arts of war. This term comes from 15th-century Europeans who were referring to their own fighting arts. A practitioner of martial arts can be referred to as a martial artist.