Fighting has been a part of every country’s culture ever since 3697 BC. Whether defending themselves or as a cultural belief, martial arts is there.
Maybe you’ve watched action movies that used various martial art moves and questioned yourself, what are the different types of martial arts?
Where did these martial art types originate? What do they specialize in? Are they all street effective? Let’s find out.
What are the different types of martial arts?
Different styles of martial arts includes MMA, Boxing, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, Taekwondo, Kali, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Wrestling Aikido, Kung Fu, Jeet Kune Do, Kendo, and Krav Maga.
There are different martial art types across the world. Each country has its own style; for example, the Philippines have Kali, Thailand has Muay Thai, and Korea has Taekwondo.
Below is a list comprising famous and not-so-well-known martial arts types that are still widely practiced. What are your favorite martial arts? Dive in; you might find them below.
1. Mixed Martial Arts
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) combines all martial arts into action. It’s the jack of all trades of martial arts. In MMA, you can use Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, MuayThai, and more.
MMA has become a sport nowadays. The largest MMA organization where athletes can fight for a living is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, more famous as UFC.
MMA is the youngest sport on this list. It was established in 1993. Several fighters, such as Conor McGregor and Georges St-Pierre, became famous as the sport grew.
Boxing is one of the most well-known combat sports. It involves the use of your two hands to strike. Punching is associated with head movement and footwork to evade attacks.
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Boxing is probably the easiest to learn on this list despite being one of the biggest combat sports. This is because everyone with hands can throw a good punch.
With this, only add a few months of dedicated, proper Boxing training, and you can call yourself a Boxer. Some famous Boxers are Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, and Andy Ruiz.
Judo is a close-quarter combat martial art that originated in Japan. In Judo, you’ll learn to grab and throw your opponents to the ground. You can also choke your opponents.
You can easily interchange Judo and Jiu-Jitsu because they both wear a Gi. You can differentiate the two with their moves. It’s more on throws such as the Judo Hip-throw.
Judo is included as one of the combat sports in the Olympics. Some greatest Judo practitioners to step on land are Kanō Jigorō, Yasuhiro Yamashita, and Yasuhiro Yamashita.
Some people even consider this martial art to be good against striking martial arts because of the ease in tripping people off their feet.
For example, Judo can be very effective against Muay Thai in the right scenario.
Jiu-Jitsu involves a lot of takedowns, chokes, and locks to win. Jiu-Jitsu originated in Japan; however, the famous style is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) which originated in Brazil.
Jiu-Jitsu is one of the most practical martial arts you can learn for self-defense. In Jiu-Jitsu, you can learn to manhandle guys more significantly than you with proper technique.
A lot of Jiu-Jitsu practitioners have transitioned to MMA. Some of them are Shinya Aoki(One FC), Charles Oliveira(UFC), and Tom DeBlass(Bellator.)
Karate is a martial art that focuses on the utilization of kicks with some punches. In Karate, you’ll throw your strike with immense speed to be elusive from counterblows.
Karate will definitely be the answer when asking kids about martial arts because of the movie Karate Kid. It’s globally famous because of that movie. Moreover, Karate has 9 belts, white (lowest) to red (highest).
There are unique styles of Karate, too, like Kenpo Karate which has been used by UFC fighters.
Some world-renowned Karate martial artists are Lyoto Machida and Stephen Thompson. There’s also a fast-rising Karate fight promotion called Karate Combat. It’s like the UFC of Karate.
By practicing this art, you’d definitely create a ton of mobility in your hips and limbs, but Karate can be challenging for your joints, so it’s important to keep injury free with mobility training.
Taekwondo is the national martial art of Korea. Taekwondo is similar to Karate, focusing on lighting fast kicks and punches combined with a wide stance.
Almost every Asian rich child has experienced being enrolled in a Taekwondo class. That’s how widely accepted Taekwondo is in Asia compared to other parts of the world.
Taekwondo doesn’t only offer combat sport. Practitioners also do Poomsae; it is more of a choreographed showcase of synchronized Taekwondo maneuvers done by multiple practitioners.
As this art relies on kicks and isn’t very defensive, Taekwondo doesn’t stand up well against BJJ or other grappling styles.
Kali is the national martial arts of the Philippines. It’s also known as Arnis or Eskrima. In Kali, practitioners use a long bamboo stick as their primary weapon.
Some modern Kali academies use other weapons such as long staffs, swords, or nun-chucks. This gives a good variety and a sense of innovation to the old martial art style.
For some slight historical knowledge, Kali was used by the Filipino ancestors to free the Philippines from the slavery brought by the Spaniards hundreds of years ago.
8. Muay Thai
Muay Thai is a martial art that originated in Thailand. In Muay Thai, you’ll use a variety of moves such as elbows, knees, and heel sweeps to defeat your opponents.
Muay Thai is also called Thai Boxing. Similar to Boxing, Muay Thai is also done in a roped ring. Muay Thai fighters also use the same kind of gloves that Boxers use.
One of the biggest organizations that offer Muay Thai fights on the international level is One Championship. Some famous Muay Thai athletes here are Rodtang Jitmuangnon and Jonathan Haggerty.
Kickboxing is simply Boxing combined with kicks. However, as the sport grew, other people allowed the use of knees, making it similar to Muay Thai.
Unlike Muay Thai, Kickboxing fighters are not allowed to sweep and catch some kicks. Kickboxers also use a glove with thinner padding for extra flexibility.
Kickboxing is one of the foundations of MMA. Some famous Mixed Martial Art fighters with high-level Kickboxing skills are Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira.
Wrestling is a martial art that first started in ancient Greece. Wrestlers’ main goal is to tackle or take their opponent down to pin them by all means possible.
When we say Wrestling, it’s not WWE. Wrestling is a martial art that’s done on a mat. It’s not staged and doesn’t include jumping from 10 feet above the air.
Some high-level Wrestlers transition into professional fighters and succeed. Daniel Cormier, Chad Mendes, Frank Mir, and Rampage Jackson are good examples.
Aikido is a Japanese martial art that focuses on throwing, joint locks, and striking your opponent. It’s pretty much the Mixed Martial Arts of ancient Japan.
Aikido teaches you to use your opponent’s overall body momentum to convert a successful throw. However, some say that Aikido is impractical in real-life situations. I say it depends.
A famous action star named Steven Seagal uses actual Aikido moves in his renowned action movies. He is a 7th Dan Black Belt in Aikido.
12. Kung Fu
One of the most famous martial arts styles for all ages because it’s used during action movies. Kung Fu originated from China during the Zhou dynasty (1111–255 bc).
Kung Fu has been the reason why other youngsters try martial arts for the first time. This is because of the Chinese movies by Jackie Chan and Jet Li.
Kung Fu is a collection of different styles. Some good examples of Kung Fu styles are Wing Chun, Shaolin, Monkey style, Drunken Kung Fu, and more.
13. Jeet Kune Do
Jeet Kune Do is a Chinese martial art that is mainly adapted to the teachings and philosophy of Bruce Lee. It involves kicks, punches with speed, and good movement flow.
Jeet Kune Do is present in all of Bruce Lee’s movies. A famous move from Jeet Kune Do is the finger jab, where you’ll land a jab with your fingertips.
Jeet Kune Do, often called JKD and is believed to be effective during a street fight because of the practicality and speed of its move set.
Kendo is a weapon-based martial art from Japan. In Kendo, you will use a long katana-like stick that will act as your primary weapon for attack and defense.
Kendo and Fencing have an excellent resemblance to the armor they use. Kendo is different from Fencing. Fencing uses a thin metal sword with a round end.
In Kendo, fighters aim to hit their enemy on specific body parts such as the head, torso, etc. Performing a successful hit corresponds to a point.
15. Krav Maga
Krav Maga is considered the most dangerous martial art in the world. Krav Maga is used by various Military groups worldwide due to its diverse and practical move sets.
Krav Maga has no professional or amateur tournaments because it is dangerous. Krav maga teaches bladed weapon handling, body throwing, lethal hand-to-hand combat strikes, and more.
Krav Maga is not made for competition; its moves are developed for soldiers and civilians to defend themselves from real bad guys.
Common questions about different types of martial arts.
Due to the vast number of martial arts present, it’s unavoidable for different questions to arise from the public’s curiosity. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions.
How many types of martial arts are there?
It is believed that more or less 170 practiced martial arts are scattered around the planet. Most originated from Asian countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, China, Japan, and Korea.
However, there’s a chance that various tribes and ethnic groups have some undiscovered style of martial arts.
How many types of Chinese martial arts are there?
There are a total of 4 discovered Chinese martial arts: Baguazhang, Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Shuai Jiao. These main variations are further subdivided into dozens of styles. A good example is Kung Fu’s monkey style, Drunken style and more.
Baguazhang is an internal style of martial arts. It is very similar to Tai Chi. It involves various breathing techniques and meditative drills.
Kung Fu is a martial art divided into styles such as Shaolin, Long Fist, Eagle Claw, and Monkey Style.
Shuai Jiao is a Chinese martial art focusing more on the stand-up game. In this type, martial artists learn to strike and throw punches and kicks.
What are the types of martial arts used in the Philippines?
There are six recorded martial arts used in the Philippines. These are Kali, Sikaran, Dumog, Kinamutay, Panantukan and Yaw Yan. Each of these martial arts focuses on unique styles that specialize in different aspects of fighting.
Kali is a weapon-based martial art. In Kali, martial artists will use a long bamboo stick called ‘baston’ to attack and deflect strikes from the opponent.
Sikaran is like the Taekwondo of the Philippines because, in Sikaran, you will mainly use kicks to attack your enemy.
Dumog is the Wrestling of the Philippines. In Dumog, you aim to put your opponent to the ground by slamming, throwing, or tackling. On the ground, you can choke, pin or strike your enemy.
Kinamutay and Panantukan is Philippines’ way of dirty Boxing. In both of these styles, eye pokes, groin shots and pinching are allowed to inflict as much damage to your enemy as possible.
Yaw Yan is also called the ‘Sayaw ng Kamatayan’ or Dance of Death. Yaw Yan’s move set is very similar to Muay Thai. Practitioners can use kicks, knees, elbows, and punches.
What is the deadliest martial art type?
The deadliest martial art is believed to be Krav Maga. Krav Maga is a martial art involving handling blades, disarming any weapon, striking, throwing, and much more. It is also used by the various military task forces in different countries.
Due to it being the most dangerous martial art in the world, Krav Maga doesn’t have any tournaments for everyone’s safety.
What martial art is the best for street fighting?
The most effective martial art in a street fight is Mixed Martial Arts. If you know MMA, you have a significant advantage because you can handle fighting while standing up or on the ground. In short, you’re versatile.
However, if you find yourself an opportunity to run from trouble, do it. Even the greatest Mixed Martial Artist in the world would not stand against a man with a gun or a knife.
What martial art is the hardest to learn?
Every martial arts type has its level of difficulty you need to conquer learning it. However, the most complicated martial art to learn is probably Mixed Martial Arts. In MMA, you’ll learn as many martial arts as you want and combine them depending on the situation that you’re in.
In MMA, you could get overwhelmed by many possibilities. In other martial arts, you only have to focus on one specialty.You’ll have to be alert for takedowns and ground and pound in MMA, but it will help you become a better fighter.
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Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.