Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Elayne. Elayne Wonders, “What is Martial Arts” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Elayne!

Do you like action movies? Some of our favorites are movies in which incredible athletes fly across the screen in a flurry of fists and feet, seemingly unaffected by the laws of physics. We especially love to see a bare hand slice through the air to chop a wooden board in half like it was made of cardboard.

Reading these words, a few different things might come to mind. Karate. Jujitsu. Kung Fu. Tae Kwon Do. All of these would be appropriate, of course, since that's what we're talking about in Wonderopolis today: martial arts!

So what are martial arts? It's a very broad term that encompasses many different types of activities. Often, we think of self-defense techniques developed in and associated with Asian countries. In reality, though, it includes just about any kind of fighting technique, especially those that focus on hand-to-hand (and foot!) combat.

Some of the most popular martial arts are Karate, Aikido, Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu, Judo, Kenpo, Kung Fu, and Hapkido. In addition to teaching basic fighting techniques, martial arts also usually focus heavily on mental discipline, as well as the search for enlightenment.

Martial arts require dedication and practice. Through regular repetition of hand and foot movements, kicks, blocks, and punches, martial arts students increase their physical strength and mental toughness.

Tae Kwon Do, for example, can be translated as “the way of foot and fist." More than just kicking and punching for the purpose of fighting, Tae Kwon Do students also focus on the health of the body and the mind, through increased flexibility and mental discipline.

Martial arts aren't always about the kicks and punches, though. Aikido, for example, teaches students to use an opponent's own energy to toss aside or gain control of the person.

Many people throughout history have helped to develop the martial arts. Itosu Anko, for example, is often known as “the Grandfather of Karate" for developing the simplified forms that have allowed millions of young students around the world to experience Karate.

Royce Gracie, who weighed less than 180 pounds, changed martial arts forever by winning several of the earliest Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC) tournaments. He used his skill at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which was invented by his father, against much bigger opponents.

One of the most famous martial artists of all time was definitely Bruce Lee. Many people know Bruce Lee from his acting in movies and television shows, but he was also known for helping to develop the martial arts he practiced. In fact, he invented his own unique style of martial arts, known as Jeet Kune Do.

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