Martial arts are codified combat practices which are practiced for self-defense, tournaments, entertainment as well as physical and spiritual development, an exercise.
Martial art is very much associated with eastern Asia’s fighting styles, however, it was originally used in combat systems of Europe in early 16th century. From an English fencing manual of 1639, the term was used in reference to swordplay. The term is derived from Latin meaning "arts of Mars," and Mars is the Roman god of war.
A variety of forms and sparring styles are used in martial art tournaments and exhibitions. In the mixed martial arts competitions, practitioners of different disciplines fight against each other using a common set of rules. Rules for sparring can vary according to art and organization but are generally classified into light-contact, medium-contact, and full-contact reflecting the amount of force used on an opponent.
Light and Medium Contact
The amount of force that is used to hit an opponent is restricted under the light and medium contact. For light sparring the usual skill is 'touch' contact such as a punch should be pulled as soon as or before contact is made. In medium-contact or semi contact, the punch is no longer pulled but not hit with full force. Since the aim is not to knock out an opponent and the amount of force used is restricted, a point system is used in competitions.
A referee acts to monitor for fouls and to control the match, Particular targets are prohibited, certain techniques are forbidden like groin hits or head butting. Fighters are normally required to wear protective equipment on their head chest, hands, groin, or feet. The aikido uses a similar training method equivalent to light or medium contact.
In fencing and Taekwondo, competitors score points based on the landing of a strike or single technique as judged by the referee. The referee will stop the match, give a point, and restart the match. Sparring continues with the point marked by the judges. Light contact is advisable for children and beginners. Medium contact can be used for those aspiring to move to full contact.
In full contact sparring or competition strikes are no longer pulled but thrown with full force. It has tactical differences from light and medium-contact types. Some experts consider full contact to be a requisite in learning a real unarmed combat.
The aim of a full contact competitive match is either to knock out the opponent or to force the opponent to surrender. Scoring under this type becomes secondary and used only if no clear winner has been established by other means. Examples of these competitions are the UFC 1, Pancrase, and Shooto.
Schools of martial arts have grounds where these exercises are regularly conducted. However, many gyms of today offer their facilities and amenities by hosting some of these tournaments or providing regular trainings. An example of this would be the Chiswick gyms in the London area.
Evaluation or testing is important to martial art practitioners who wish to assess their skill level progression. In order to advance to another recognized level, students of martial arts are graded by their teachers to assess their skills. Martial Arts develops the mind too as the practitioner needs to be alert all the time of the styles of the opponent. Sportsmanship is enhanced and overall agility improved.