There are four distinct characteristics that separate Martial Arts from other forms of sport/activities.
- The first characteristic has to do with the word Martial, basically, for a sport/activity to be considered a martial art, it needs to make sense that the activity could be used by warriors in a battle. In today's world, this could be adjusted to be considered use within any life threatening situation caused by another person. Basically it needs to allow you to defend yourself.
- A martial art requires a system of practice. Techniques need to be documented and structured. There needs to be a systematic way to learn the art. Typically this is done with an experienced teacher in a dedicated training space. Students are usually ranked based on skill, experience and dedication.
- A major characteristic of any martial art is that is creates an opportunity for mental and spiritual development. If what you are doing does not offer you the potential to develop a mental fortitude or sense of spiritual development, many believe it is not considered a martial art.
The last and most important element is that Martial Arts are built upon a deep Heritage. Historical elements define and highlight the unique style of each art. Very deep traditions and legacies are very important to the cultures that birthed their own unique disciplines.