The term martial art is used to describe a wide variety of physical activities. Nowadays, anything that involves some type of human fighting is called a martial art. The martial arts may be compared to auto racing. There are many types of auto racing, including NASCAR racing and Formula One racing.
NASCAR stock cars are basic, steel cars with massive engines. They are simple machines that compete by using brute force. The cars are tough and the drivers are tough. Drivers compete by banging their cars into each other and forcing their way to the front. They race on dry, oval tracks where they bump into each other and the retaining walls. At the end of a race, even the winning car is dented and ratty looking. Stock car drivers are usually "good old boys" with limited educations.
Formula One cars are complicated pieces of machinery, made from exotic materials with small technologically advanced engines. The cars are fragile, and, although not fragile, the drivers are refined. Drivers compete by using skill and finesse, rarely touching other cars. They race on winding road courses in any weather. At the end of a race, the cars, and drivers, are usually as pristine as when they began the race. Formula One drivers are usually "gentlemen" with higher educations.
Although NASCAR and Formula One are both ways to race automobiles, they are very different in their approaches to racing. One is basic, brutal, and in your face; the other is complicated, beautiful, and refined. The same may be said of the various systems of the martial arts.
Some martial arts are basic, brutal, in your face fighting systems whose only goal is to beat down the opponent. Other martial arts are complicated, beautiful, and refined fighting arts whose goal is the perfection of human character. Some martial arts, such as Brazilian Jujitsu or Mixed Martial Arts, claim to be the real deal, the best way to beat any opponent. They seek fights and feel fulfilled when they are in a fight, whether they win or not. They train to bang it out with opponents and see who is left standing at the end. Other martial arts are just that, they are martial ARTS. They are a way of life. They train to achieve perfection in fighting skills. They have the skills need to win in an actual fight but they have the philosophy that, if an actual fight occurs, you have failed in your art.