Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a variety of reasons: self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, entertainment, as well as mental, physical, and spiritual development.
Although the term martial art has become heavily associated with the fighting arts of eastern Asia, it was originally used in regard to the combat systems of Europe as early as the 1550s. An English fencing manual of 1639 used the term in reference specifically to the "Science and Art" of swordplay. The term is ultimately derived from Latin, and means "arts of Mars," where Mars is the Roman god of war. Some authors, most notably Donn F. Draeger, have argued that fighting arts or fighting systems would be more appropriate on the basis that many martial arts were never martial in the sense of being used or created by professional warriors.
Although the earliest evidence of martial arts comes from ancient China, the true roots of martial arts is difficult to reconstruct. Inherent patterns of human aggression which inspire practice of mock combat (in particular wrestling) and optimization of serious close combat as cultural universals are doubtlessly inherited from the pre-human stage, and were made into an "art" from the earliest emergence of that concept. Indeed, many universals of martial art are fixed by the specifics of human physiology and not dependent on a specific tradition or era.
Specific martial arts traditions become identifiable in Classical Antiquity, with disciplines such as Shuai Jiao, Greek wrestling or those described in the Indian epics or the Spring and Autumn Annals of China.