Different Types of Martial Arts From Around the World

We know that martial arts date back thousands of years to Ancient China. Meaning, over the years many different types of martial arts were born. Unfortunately, there are some martial arts that are no longer practiced.

We’re going to take a look at some of the more common types of martial arts in this article. If you prefer obscure martial art forms check out our weird martial arts article.

Martial arts refer to combat techniques developed using the same system with a similar tradition. Each art is honed and made popular by the people it influences. Skill, knowledge, and other talents such as creative thinking is what makes a fighter stand out. Some of the greatest martial artists include:

  • Masahiko Kimura.
  • Jigoro Kano.
  • Royce Gracie and Helio Gracie.
  • Bruce Lee.
  • Chojun Miyagi
  • Gichin Funakoshi

The 19th century marks the beginning in the history of hybrid martial arts. This is the period when modern sports developed out of ancient fighting and self-defense systems. The various skills and techniques of traditional combat are practiced for a number of reasons. Such include; self-defense, defense force, and law enforcement. Other applications include – leisure, physical, psychological, and religious development. While even others, use martial arts as a technique of attaining spiritual growth.

The main practised styles of martial arts include:

Detailed Look at Multiple Types of Martial Arts

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a type of martial arts that involves a combination of techniques that comprise of boxing, wrestling, karate, aikido, and judo.

The art is a fighting and military self-defense developed by the Israel security and Defence Forces.

Krav Maga was founded by Imi Lichtenfeld, an ancient Hungarian-Israeli experienced street fighter who commonly practiced as a boxer and wrestler in defense of the Jewish quarter against fascist groups in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, during the mid-to-late 1930s.

Krav Maga Defensive Martial Art


Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and a combative sport that emphasizes fast kicking; jumping spinning kicks and head height kicking technique. Striking is only allowed above the waist height.

It was developed by the Korean martial artists during the 1940’s -1950’s competition in martial arts which comprised of Chinese martial arts, karate, and indigenous Korean traditions; Taekkyon, Gwonbeop, subok.

Taekwondo Sparring

Kung Fu (Wushu)

Kung Fu is one of the most commonly known Chinese ancient martial arts. But, it comprises various styles such as Tai Chi and Shaolin temple.

It originated from a hunting and defense method that was used over 1.7 million years ago and later on introduced overseas by Bruce Lee, a Chinese-American Kung Fu master.

Some of the Shaolin physical exercises involve a Five Animals mimicry or training methods. These animals include Snake, Tiger, Leopard, Crane, and Dragon.

Other additional animals broadly used are the tiger, the monkey, the snake, and the mantis. This technique was inspired by ancient Chinese philosophy, legends, and religions.

Kung Fu Training in Street


Jiu-Jitsu is a self-defense martial art and a competitive contact sport that usually involves a one-on-one combat. Jiu-Jitsu was first developed and modified in the 1920s in Japan.

Another form of this martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) has become increasingly popular over the past few decades. Whichever you practice, you need an affordable gi when starting out.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training teaches a weaker and smaller person to defend themselves successfully against a bigger, heavier, and stronger opponent by using leverage and weight distribution to take the fight to the ground.

It focuses on ground fighting, grappling, and submission holds to force the opponent into submission via joint locks or chokeholds.

As well as practicing with a partner, some people may want to purchase a grappling dummy for extra training at home.

Jiu Jitsu Fighters


Karate mainly involves the typical knee strikes, punching, elbows and kicking that incorporates open hand techniques.

Karate developed from the indigenous Ryukyuan martial arts of the Ryukyu Kingdom under the influence of Kung Fu.

The art was practiced mainly for sports in which the ultimate aim was to deflect and control attacks that come directly in front of you. A karate practitioner is called a karateka.

People Practicing Karate on Beach

Muay Thai

Muay Thai also often referred to as “Thai Boxing and the art of eight limbs”. It is a combat sport that includes clinching methods as well as the use of elbows, knees, kicks, and punches.

The Art of Eight limbs is a staple of the Mixed Martial Arts kind of fighting, which originated from Thailand in the mid-18th century. It was seen as a brutal and frantic sport but as a result of various safeguards today, Muay Thai has changed into a fun sport for leisure worldwide.

Muay Thai fighter shorts are one of the things that make them unique from other martial arts fighters. While boxers wear long shorts that go past the knees, and MMA fighters wear skin-tight shorts because of the grappling, Muay Thai fighters wear short, loose shorts made from satin.

Muay Thai Fighters in Ring


Hapkido is a type of martial art that employs both long-range and close-range self-defense techniques.

The use of leaping kicks and percussive hand strikes at longer ranges; strain peak strikes, mutual locks, and throws at nearer combating distances, are mostly used.

Hapkido uses techniques such as joint locks, grappling, throwing kicks, punches, and other striking attacks. The hapkido training also teaches the use of traditional weapons, including the sword, rope, knife; and short and middle-length stick.

It often involves a round motion, redirection of force, and control of the opponent.

Man Performing Hapkido High Kick


Aikido loosely translates to “the way of harmonious spirit”. It is primarily a self-defense martial art form that originated from Japan. It was created by Morihei Ueshiba, commonly referred to as Osensei by Aikido practitioners.

The martial art creator wanted to make sure that their attackers are not injured during self-defense as the majority of aikido does not involve striking but also includes joint locks. It is often practiced by the 7th-degree black belt! Holder and a movie star Steven Seagal.

Aikido is practiced by both men and women, like most martial arts. We also have a list of the best martial arts for women too.

Aikido Fighters


Judo was created in 1882 by ProfessorJigoro Kano as a mental, physical and moral teachings in ancient Japan. It has evolved into a modern combat and a very competitive sport.

The main technique used is either takedown or throwing the attacker to the ground and forcing them to submit with a choke or joint locks. The use of defense weapons, strikes and thrusts by hands or feet during self-defense is also part of judo but are against the rule in practice or competitions. A judo practitioner is commonly referred to as judoka.

Judo Fighters Hold

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Mixed Martial Art is a rapidly growing extreme combat sport in which two people fight by the use of a wide range of techniques. These techniques involve kicking, striking and grappling, borrowed from various combat sports and martial arts worldwide. Several mixed martial arts contests took place throughout Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan in the early 20th century. The name mixed martial arts was first documented in a review of the first Ultimate Fighting Championship event in November 15th 1993 by Howard Anthony Rosenberg an America television critic.

New forms of the competition are being held, such include the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the US and the PRIDE in Japan. They are commonly referred to as mixed martial arts events. The original UFC was fought with minimal rules.

Two MMA Fighters in Cage


In summary, various forms of martial arts are majorly used in exhibition and Tournament competitions. Besides that some traditional Martial concepts have been used in advanced military training to utilize a firearm in awkward situations and self-defense effectively.

Martial arts have numerous health benefits moreover and can help you get in the right shape. Although, that’s not that aim.

The techniques in these sports, require discipline, a certain amount of patience and attention to detail. It takes a special kind of determination to be a real martial artist. Martial arts are dangerous and is therefore advisable to always be cautious during practice. Guidance from an experienced martial artist is also of great importance.

Martial Arts FAQs

How many types of martial arts are there?

There are hundreds of martial arts forms out there. It’s hard to say a precise number as some dying martial arts are being revived. For sure, there are more than 170 though.

What is the most deadly martial art?

Many people claim that Krav Maga is the most deadly martial art. We agree that it is one of the most deadly, in fact, it was created by the Isreal Defense Forces (IDF). Saying that, BJJ is also very deadly once perfected, along with other martial arts.

What type of martial arts should I learn?

It’s good to learn about multiple martial art forms before deciding which to learn. You need to ask yourself what you want to achieve with learning a martial form.

What is the oldest Martial Art?

Kalaripayattu is usually cited as the oldest martial art as it can be traced back 3000 years. However, as we know martial arts originated in Ancient China Kalaripayattu most likely isn’t the oldest.

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