A martial art is a formalized school of hand-to-hand combat. Many such arts originated in different parts of Asia, though some western schools have evolved from their roots. Numerous martial arts have appeared in video games over the years; fighting games in particular commonly include characters with knowledge in a variety of arts and disciplines.
A popular striking art, karate originated in the Ryukyu Islands, now part of Japan. It is an all-around discipline that teaches a variety of hand-to-hand techniques from punches and kicks to grapples, elbow and knee strikes. The specific technical focus of training differs from school to school. It is also among the most popular of martial arts to be depicted in video games, dating back to titles such as Karate Champ and Karateka. ("Karateka" is in fact the word for one that practices karate.)
Of characters that practice the art, two of the most popular are Ryu and Ken from the Street Fighter series, though with the obviously fantastic twist of being able to perform acts such as throwing fireballs. A popular misconception is that the two are practitioners of Shotokan karate, leading characters that fight in a similar manner to Ryu and Ken to be labeled as "Shoto-clones."
Another art of Japanese origin, aikido is a defensive martial art that emphasizes grapples and throw techniques. The art is comprised of a variety of grapples which are used to take an attacker's balance or momentum and turn it against them as they are thrown. In video games, the art is not commonly seen outside of the fighting genre, where it has appeared in titles such as the Virtua Fighter and King of Fighters series.
Because of its nature as a defensive art, aikido-centric characters such as Kasumi Todoh and Aoi Umenokouji have counterattacks designed as specials. The player performs the input for the techique in order to catch the opponent as they perform their own attack, as which point they launch into the counter.
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art which, while containing a variety of hand strikes, emphasizes kick attacks. The variety of kicks employed include basic front, roundhouse or sidekicks to the torso, quick, arcing strikes to the head and powerful axe kicks to the head, shoulders, or collarbone. The art has appeared in titles ranging from fighting games such as the King of Fighters series, Tekken series, and The Bouncer.
Because of its national origin, most taekwondo practitioners as depicted in video games, such as Baek Doo San, Kim Kaphwan and Juri, are Korean. Examples of practitioners of other nationalities are rare, though Kou Leifoh is one example.
A martial art created by African slaves taken to Brazil by the Portuguese. Heavily influenced by music and dance, capoeira is highly acrobatic; its primary attacks are quick, powerful twirling kicks. The style is rarely seen in video games, and for the most part has been confined to the Tekken series, in which it is practiced by Eddy Gordo and Christie Monteiro.
A traditional Japanese wrestling sport in which two competitors attempt to push one another out of the ring or make each other touch the ground with any body part other than the bottoms of their feet. Sumo wrestlers adhere to diets that maintain heavy body mass in order to make themselves more difficult to be moved.
Unintended as a combat art, sumo wrestling is rarely depicted with accuracy outside of simulations such as Super Sumo Wrestling 2002. Sumo practitioners such as E. Honda of the Street Fighter series and Ganryu of Tekken typically use techniques that exist outside of traditional sumo practice.
One of the most heavily fantasized and romanticized of the martial arts, ninjutsu originated from stealth, combat and survival techniques used by spies during Japan's warring states era. The male practitioners of such training are commonly referred to as ninja, while female practitioners are known as kunoichi.
Ninjutsu, as depicted in video games, is often seen as a magical art in which the practitioners may do anything from teleport and create illusions to engaging in superhuman acts of speed and swordplay. Games that predominantly feature ninjutsu include the Ninja Gaiden franchise, headlined by Ryu Hayabusa, Virtua Fighter, represented by Kage-Maru, and the BlazBlue series, represented by Bang Shishigami.
A sport with ancient roots, its most recent and popular incarnation grew out of Europe. It is a fighting style in which competitors are limited to the use of their fists to attack. A boxer's objective is to knock out his or her opponent by landing enough blows to the opponent's body and head to take them down, or to last through the end of the match and score enough points to be declared the victor.
As a sport, boxing has been well-represented in games ranging from the Fight Night series to Punch-Out!!. As a fighting art, it has been represented games such as the Street Fighter and Tekken series. Steve Fox uses a boxing style that mixes quick jabs with powerful blows, while Balrog is a much more vicious fighter that favors heavy hits and otherwise sport-illegal techniques such as headbutts.
A fighting sport that combines punches, kicks, and other strikes. A particularly popular variant of kickboxing is Muay Thai, which originated in Thailand and makes heavy use of kicks that strike with the shin of the leg. The style is heavily associated with a pair of Thai characters from the Street Fighter series, Sagat and Adon, as well as the Tekken character Bruce Irvin and King of Fighters staple Joe Higashi.
Jeet Kune Do
A martial art devised by Bruce Lee based on direct, powerful attacks combined with fluid motions. It emphasizes simple, straight-forward attacks over flashy techniques to promote effectiveness with an economy of movement.
Because of Jeet Kune Do's ties to Bruce Lee, games that feature the art often feature characters that are obviously inspired by him, if not thinly veiled clones of him. The character Fei Long not only physically resembles and fights like Lee, but is even similarly portrayed as an actor in martial arts films. Bruce Lee's official likeness has also been used for a small number of games, such as Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.