Say "martial arts" and most people start talking about karate, katanas, and ninja ... or kung fu (or the old Kung Fu TV series) ... or Bruce Lee. Non-Asiaphiles will share their views on such sports as boxing and fencing ... or no-holds-barred fighting ... or good old rasslin' ("Pro wrestling is real!"). And Europhiles will bring up pankration in ancient Greece, English "Masters of Defence," and the deadly truth about the rapier, pausing only to lament that Europe gets short shrift with martial-arts fans - or to recruit you as a live-steel reenactor.

Sport vs. combat, unarmed vs. armed, movies vs. reality, Asia vs. everywhere else -the truth about the martial arts can be confusing. Who's right? The answer is "All of the above."

GURPS Martial Arts examines the fighting arts of the world, or at least a good-sized sample chosen from the past three millennia. It doesn't let fiction color reality or realism stand in the way of a good story - such decisions are left to the GM. Of course, because many martial arts originated with the warriors who carved out the world's great empires, and the best-kept records are those of the Asian and European powers, there is an almost inevitable bias toward the fighting styles of those regions. But Martial Arts does its best to venture outside that territory; to balance the historical with the modern; to give equal time to combat, sport, and art; and, especially, to dispel myths.

The biggest myth laid to rest is that the martial arts aren't appropriate for every genre and setting - that they only belong in historical games and those based on action movies. Martial Arts definitely supports cinematic games -of the Hollywood, Hong Kong, and Tokyo varieties - while also presenting historically accurate styles, but it doesn't assume a genre or a setting. You can use it to give fantasy warriors the depth of knowledge and ability that spells give wizards .. or for hand-to-hand combat in a gritty modern technothriller ... or for futuristic swashbuckling with force swords.

So grab your katana, rapier, or iklwa - or just bandage your knuckles. Say a prayer to Allah, scream a kiai, or psyche yourself up with a little shadowboxing. You won't know who's out there until the arena door opens - but with Martial Arts, you'll be ready!


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