Martial Arts Tea Ceremony is an ancient fighting style. The basis of this style stems from the seiza position one adopts when performing the Japanese tea ceremony, and it is considered highly improper to leave it. The combatants must move and fight entirely from the seiza position. As a consequence, practitioners develop very strong toes, allowing them to push along the ground at considerable speed and even jump from place to place through toe-power alone. The style is one of those to appear that does not involve direct hand to hand combat and uses its own specific weaponry. This takes the form of tea ceremony tools and implements adapted to combat use, from poisonous herbal teas to using spoons as throwing darts or ladles as bludgeoning weapons.
Martial Arts Tea Ceremony is more fleshed out in the anime version of Ranma ½, with four full-length episodes dedicated to it, whereas it appeared in only one story in the early manga. Because of this, the anime also presents the nature of the style in a different fashion to the manga.
The manga presents relatively little background information on the style. What is revealed is that there are at least two schools: the Daimonji School and the Miyakoji School. The plotline of the manga story revolves solely around Ranma Saotome and Akane Tendo unwillingly becoming involved in the efforts of Sentaro Daimonji, heir to the Daimonji School, to thwart his wedding to Satsuki Miyakoji (because he mistakenly believes that she is a monkey).
In the anime, the style of Martial Arts Tea Ceremony owes its origins to the days of the samurai, when a nameless eccentric samurai with a great passion for tea ceremony combined it with fighting skills to create a ritualized but deadly style. It flourished for a brief period of time, but over the years it dwindled and died out (the implicit supposition is that it has something to do with the increasing modernization/Westernization of Japanese culture). Eventually, the style was practiced by only two schools: the Daimonji School and their bitterest rivals, the Miyakoji School. The Miyakoji earned the enmity of the Daimonji because, while the Daimonji School was staunchly Orthodox, the Miyakoji had survived by championing the Unorthodox variant of Martial Arts Tea Ceremony, allowing them to stand up and fight during matches. The rivalry ended with the Miyakoji apparently going extinct due to running out of money, but they continued to survive to the modern era as a "Shadow School".
According to the anime, as well as the current heirs, Sentaro and Satsuki, the major figures of each house are a family matriarch (the grandmothers of Sentaro and Satsuki) and a triad of female elders, each named for a triple card combination of Hanafuda. For the Daimoji School, these elders are Matsu (Pine Tree), Take (Bamboo) and Ume (Plum Blossom), while the elders of the Miyakoji School are Ino (Boar), Shika (Deer) and Cho (Butterfly).