We call ourselves martial artists when we study swordsmanship. Often without thinking about what this means, it's even hidden in HEMA. Historical European Martial Arts. But what does the art part of this all really mean.
From a technical perspective you could say in our case it is the ability to do what we want to others without having it done to ourselves. However I find it more useful to understand art as a whole. If you understand the whole the specific is obvious. This also helps answer the question of why I study swordsmanship.
A work of art is not simply the transmission of meaning through symbols.
The art itself occurs in the interpretation of something with a flexible meaning, or no specific meaning at all.
The artist creates, selects (or in some cases a combination of both) some symbol to represent the idea they have, or a feeling they want to convey, and people interpret it differently depending on their own personal experience.
Sometimes they repurpose existing symbols or objects and present them in a way that opens them up to new interpretations. Our brains are pattern recognition machines, so adding additional information, even if that's only the context, sets our brains on a hunt for meaning.
Sometimes entirely new symbols are created out of bits of other symbols combined together, sometimes by happy accident.
So if meaning is flexible, and interpretation itself is the artistic act, then where do art interpreters and critics fit in?
Interpreters and critics help us navigate the different terrains of meaning. They don't tell us the only valid interpretation just as a map doesn't tell you the only way through a territory. But they do help us to find our own way and explore the meanings for ourselves.
I've chosen to represent art as a picture here, but looking at art in this light allows for the interpretation of dance, martial arts, painting, music... really anything that you choose to see as a symbol for something other than the utilitarian purpose it may serve.
So I encourage you, go out and create art.