Martial arts are arts of combat or self-defense.
The training of Starfleet personnel in the martial arts was first displayed in Star Trek: The Original Series. During the run of the series, most human crew members would often use martial arts to subdue opponents, leading to the plot device of the "space karate chop" where an adversary could be rendered unconscious by a single blow to the base of the neck. Designed as a quick means to eliminate enemies (and avoid lengthy fight scenes), producers later admitted the concept as unrealistic and "silly", thus leading to more realistic combat scenes in later television series and films. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story)