The aim of this article is to describe the mechanisms of the genesis and functioning of martial arts from the historical point of view, as a product of continuous exchange of knowledge, on both regional and international levels. The article responds to contemporary trends in the research of martial arts. It is not strictly focused on any geographical area or historical period; rather, it attempts to outline the general facts applicable to most combat systems of the world, by taking into account the similarities of various techniques. For this purpose, the focus of the author is mainly on modern Japanese martial arts. However, the article is also based on the traditions of European martial arts’ masters, which are well known to us, as well as on the worldwide historical development of martial arts.