Fine arts are arts that are concerned with beauty or that appeal to one’s taste. The term relates to a limited number of visual art forms, including painting, sculpture, and printmaking. Many still use the term to indicate a traditional perspective on the visual arts, often implying an association with classic or academic art.
The word "fine" does not relate to the quality of an artwork; it refers to the purity of the art’s discipline. This definition tends to exclude visual art forms, such as craftwork or woodworking. Today, the term ‘visual art’ is considered more inclusive and includes the many mediums in which high art now occurs.
Fine arts being viewed as distinct from applied arts is mostly due to a conflict in Britain between the followers of the Arts and Crafts Movement and early modernists. The craft supporters sought to apply socialist principles to the arts by including the commonplace crafts of the masses, while the modernists sought to keep the arts exclusive, esoteric, and elitist.
The term fine art is often used outside of the arts to indicate someone has perfected an activity to a very high level of skill. For example, one might say, "Bruce Lee brought the gung-fu to the level of a fine art."
The fine arts are considered elegant and refined; they are considered the arts of the educated and sophisticated upper class. The martial arts are considered crude and unrefined; they are considered the craft arts of the middle and lower classes. For example, you must dress in your finest and keep quiet while watching a ballet performance, but you can dress as you choose and yell all you want at a forms competition. Although the gap between martial arts and the fine arts seems large, the martial arts have much in common with the fine arts.
Just as an actor must memorize the script or the dancer must train and in memorize the choreography, a martial artist must memorize and train in the intricate techniques of forms or patterns. Creativity in an art is achieved through rigorous discipline, conditioning, repetition, and fluency of the nuances of the art. What makes a violinist different from a fiddle player are the nuances in their style of performance, such as bowing pressure and finger movements. What separate a martial artist from a street fighter are the nuances in their style of performance, such as the control of striking power and body movements.
A form or pattern is similar to a musical arrangement. A form has set movements and techniques that must be performed in a set order, just as a musical score has set notes. A martial artist may make minute changes in the tempo or force of a pattern to make the performance better than other performances of the same pattern, just as a musician may make small changes to the performance of a score to make the arrangement unique.
A martial artist must undergo a transformation to embody the martial art as a way of life just as the way an actor must immerse him or herself in a character so the audience is convinced by the performance. When a martial artist has perfected a pattern, when the artist performs the pattern, the audience is convinced the artist is actually in a fight.
Rhythm and timing are essential to musicians playing together. Without this coordination, the resulting music would be confused noise. The same coordination is required when two martial artists spar. When both opponents fight with coordinated timing and rhythm in their maneuvers, a sparring match is a work of art. If one of the opponents is out of sync with the other, the match is merely a brawl.
Acting does not start until the script has been memorized and the actor has transformed into a character that is able to speak the lines as if they were spontaneous conversation. A pianist, who plays from a written score, is a piano player. However, when a pianist plays a score from memory, the score becomes a part of the player, the soul of the player comes through in the music, and the player becomes an artist.
For a martial arts practitioner to become a martial artist, the performance of patterns and fighting techniques must flow from the soul with a higher state of consciousness. When this occurs, the performer becomes an artist in the fine art of a martial art.