What does the name “martial arts” bring to mind?

For many, it is fighting and whatever form that takes.

To others, it evokes oriental mysticism with people dressed in strange clothes doing strange things with their bodies.

And, to many, their vision of it is based on movies which depict a lot of acrobatics and stage fighting.

But are any of these views correct or do justice to something practised by millions throughout the world in over 350 different styles?

People in the west are most familiar with Karate, Judo and Tai Chi.

But there are many others: Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Kung Fu, Capoeira, Jujitsu, Kendo, Iaido, etc.

Also, each country seems to have produced some form of martial art. Japan has the most, though many of its styles can be traced back to India and China.

Each should be explored for the practicalities as well as whether they are practised from a martial or artisans point of view. Are they predominantly influenced by a sport or arts perspective? health or self defence? what element did the spiritual component have on this development?

But, to start with, a very simplified view starts with categorizing martial arts into three main areas: striking, grappling and weapons.

The striking arts would include Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Muay Tai.

Grappling and throwing arts would be Judo, Jujitsu, Sumo and Aikido.

Weapons training would be Iaido, Kendo, Archery and Fencing to name a few examples.

This does not mean Karate does not have grappling nor Jujitsu does not have strikes. It also does not mean weapons aren’t practised. What it does mean is the primary focus lies within either striking or grappling or weapons.

There are as many similarities as there are differences in the approach and goals for each style.

Over the next while, I will be taking a look at what the Yukon is offering in the martial arts. I will be asking people why they practise and support it. I will be talking with many of the founders in the Yukon movement and try to sort through the hype and get at the core.

We will also look at what influences a person’s decision to join and what does the future hold for many of these styles.

I have had the good fortune to have trained in a variety of styles with many very good martial artists within the Yukon and throughout the world. I hope to present a clearer picture of what martial arts is really about and the benefits it can have on individuals as well as society.

Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts over 38 years and trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at toddhardymla@gmail.com.