Martial arts describes a wide range of cultural combatant techniques that have been integrated in many facets of human existence. Long before any gun could fire or sword strike down a man, people have used their own bodies as weapons for millenniums. Even as far back as Ancient Egypt, scenes within their art and writing system of hieroglyphics depict organized fighting techniques, especially between two people, that is very much like the competitive martial arts we see today.
Throughout history, warfare has evolved to incorporate very technologically advanced equipment. Soldiers have vision in the night time, sensors detect land mines, and supersonic missiles are shot down mid flight. Firearms are only one of the many tools modern soldiers use in the field. And still, every military integrates martial arts in their training programs because it is the foundation every soldier needs to be ready for deployment.
Becoming a soldier, though, is only one occupation of the many to choose from in the world, but most surprisingly, store clerks, history teachers, and even corporate leaders may practice martial arts rigorously. For many individuals spread among all demographics, the practice of combatant art forms serve more than just a fighting purpose. There is as much emphasis on body training as there are mental training, as well as spiritual growth.
A great example of an alternative reason for undertaking martial arts is self defense. A typical well rounded citizen does not spend their time scanning the streets for a fight. But needless to say, thousands of people every year are harmed because of the small criminal population in society. Through even basic training in self defense, several people have successful fought off attempted thievery, rape, and bullying.
Since martial arts was designed for application in all facets of daily life, other people have used it to maintain a mental discipline. To master any skill or craft, it requires constant high levels of devoted time, attention, and of course practice. The will, though, to continue training develops a mental strength of discipline that can only benefit a practitioner. Even for self defense measures, the successful physical execution will require the same commitment on a mental level.
If you're searching for an activity that is fun, useful, and in all ways beneficial, then martial arts should be your first consideration. Any practitioner, both beginner and grand master levels, can attest to the everyday benefits derived from martial arts training.