late 14c., "warlike, of or pertaining to war," from Medieval Latin martialis "of Mars or war," from Latin Mars (genitive Martis), Roman god of war (see Mars). The sense of "connected with military organizations" (opposed to civil) is from late 15c. and survives in court-martial. Also, occasionally (with a capital M-), "pertaining to or resembling the planet Mars" (1620s). Related: Martially. Martial law, "military rule over civilians," first recorded 1530s. Martial arts (1909) as a collective name for the fighting sports of Japan and the surrounding region translates Japanese bujutsu.
also court martial, "court of military or naval officers to try cases of desertion, mutiny, etc.," 1650s (plural courts martial), originally martial court (1570s), from court (n.) + martial (adj.). Word-order changed on the model of French cour martiale. As a verb, from 1859. Related: Court-martialed. Middle English had court-spiritual "ecclesiastical court" (late 15c.).
also kung-fu, 1966, a generalized Western term for Chinese martial arts, from dialectal Chinese kung fu, a term said to refer to any skill acquired through learning or practice.
c. 1400, palestre, "ancient Greek gymnasium," from Old French palestre (12c.) and directly from Latin palaestra, from Greek palaistra "gymnasium, public place for exercise under official direction," originally "wrestling school," from palaiein "to wrestle, survive a wrestling match," which is of unknown origin (see discussion in Beekes) + -tra, suffix denoting place. The noun palē "wrestling" is a back-formation from the verb. Palestral "pertaining to wrestling or martial games, athletic" is attested from late 14c.
Brazilian dance-based martial arts form, by 1922, from Brazilian Portuguese. Said to be from Tupi ka'a "forest" + pau "round," referring to the scrubby areas in the Brazilian interior where fugitive slaves would hide.
Capoeira: second growth of vegetation after land has been cleared. Also applied to kind of basket made of native grass; also to the Brazilian equivalent to jiu-jit-su; genuine capoeira adepts have remarkable muscular control. The term capoeira is also applied to a certain dance. [L.E. Elliott, "Brazil Today and Tomorrow," New York" 1922]
Middle English pleiere, from Old English plegere "one who takes part in pastimes or amusements," agent noun from play (v.). Stage sense of "performer of plays, actor," also "one who performs on a musical instrument" are from c. 1400. Meaning "contestant in field or martial games" is from early 15c.; of table games, late 14c. As a pimp's word for himself (also playa), attested from 1974 (sexual senses of play (v.) go back to 13c.). Player-piano is attested from 1901.