A war campaign is an excellent place for the martial arts, obviously. The PCs needn't belong to a national army - mercenaries are common throughout history. During global conflicts, such as the World Wars, "adventurers" on the fringes of major theatres or in minor theatres might choose sides on the basis of personal gain, not national allegiance. In smaller struggles, soldiers of fortune can nearly always find employment.
World War II is especially fertile ground for a Martial Arts game. Japanese officers carry swords and have martial-arts training in the form of Aikijutsu (p. 149), Jujutsu (pp. 166168), Kenjutsu (pp. 173-175), or Kendo (pp. 175); their enlisted underlings practice Jukenjutsu (p. 197). Allied commandos learn Fairbairn Close Combat Training (p. 182-183p). Burmese, Filipino, and Indonesian guerrillas fight the Japanese with guns, sticks, and swords. Many 20th-century style originators lived through and fought in WWII.
In modern games, guns dominate warfare. Why drop your rifle to punch and kick if a three-round burst can settle the matter more effectively? The martial arts are still part of the military experience, though - from basic training for green recruits to advanced arts reserved for special-operations forces. The more elite the troops, the more opportunities they have to learn and use martial arts. A "silencer" isn't perfect, it merely makes a gun less noisy . . . but a stealthy, well-trained man with a knife can remove a sentry without a sound - at least in a cinematic campaign!
Good examples of war-themed martial-arts fiction are The Duellists, which chronicles a private duel during wartime, and The Three Musketeers (the novel and many movies), which includes intrigue, private squabbles, and a siege. David Gemmell's Legend features a Weapon Master and other larger-than-life martial artists at war. The Seven Samurai follows mercenaries in a small, private war.
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