Types of Martial Arts

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There are many types of martial arts styles extant in the world today, with new styles and hybrid fighting techniques being developed all the time. The most well-known and popular types of martial arts styles derive primarily from Japan and China. Karate, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and Aikido are all Japanese forms and all of them emphasize defense rather than offense as well as hand to hand combat over weapons training. Kung Fu is a broad term encompassing all the Chinese martial arts, of which there are many, and emphasizes both armed and unarmed combat techniques.

Karate: Karate, the most recognizable of all the different types of martial arts, has a long and complicated history stretching back to the 1300s when Chinese martial arts forms began to make an appearance in the Japanese islands. In Ryukyu, the new forms were incorporated into the local, traditional martial arts forms, with the end result being Karate, a martial arts form that uses strikes, (open-handed, elbow, and knee), punches, and kicks. Using both offensive and defensive techniques, Karate is an excellent form of self-defense, and has spawned a vast array of regional variations over the years.

Jiu Jitsu: One of the oldest types of martial arts, Jiu Jitsu originated in Japan in the 1530s and has since evolved into one of the most practiced and respected martial arts forms in the world. Jiu Jitsu is based on the principle of using an assailant’s energy to their disadvantage. The other hallmark of Jiu Jitsu is the use of weaponless techniques to fight armed opponents, a strategy that necessitates close combat and the use of moves like locking, pinning down, or throwing your opponent. Jiu Jitsu practitioners do use short weapons like daggers, but in main part fight unarmed. Jiu Jitsu’s popularity has led to numerous derivative types of martial arts, the most famous of which are Judo and Aikido.

Judo: Judo is perhaps one of the most famous types of martial arts to come out of Japan, and is certainly the most well-known of the many derivative martial arts forms to come from Jiu Jitsu. Judo has a fascinating history, having been developed in Japan in the 1880s at a time when the long-held cultural traditions of the country were undergoing seismic change. After century upon century of isolationism and entrenched xenophobia, Japan in the late 1800s had begun to seriously Westernize. The old ways, including the martial arts forms of the Samurai such as Jiu Jitsu had fallen out of favor. It was in this climate of rampant Westernization that Judo was developed, as a revival of the martial arts form of Jiu Jitsu, using the same basic fighting techniques, but with a revised philosophy that emphasizes martial arts as a way of life rather than simply a set of fighting techniques.

Aikido: Developed in the 1920s and 1930s, Aikido is one of the many types of martial arts that derives from Jiu Jitsu, and like Jiu Jitsu and Judo, it emphasizes the use of throws, locking movements, and turning movements. Unlike its forebears, however, Aikido has an unusual philosophy, aimed at defending oneself while simultaneously protecting your attacker from serious injury. Thus, practitioners of Aikido will use their opponent’s movements against them by turning into their movements and using simple throwing and pinning moves to immobilize them. As effective as Jiu Jitsu and Judo, Aikido is considered a low strength martial art, meaning that you don’t have to be built like a tank to become proficient at it.

Kung Fu: Of all the different types of martial arts to come out of Asia, Kung Fu is perhaps the least understood. Most people believe that Kung Fu is a distinct martial arts form like Judo or Aikido but that could not be further from the truth. Kung Fu is actually a broad, catch-all term that refers to all Chinese martial arts. There are many different styles of Kung Fu, distinguished by region, founding philosophy, sect, and school with a great deal of overlap between these categories. Kung Fu martial arts forms use a variety of hand to hand combat techniques, including strikes, punches, and kicks as well as a variety of weapons – the particular combination of techniques differs from style to style.

Tae Kwon Do: One of the most practiced types of martial arts in the world today, Tae Kwon Do is a Korean martial arts form that has gained international recognition due to its inclusion as an Olympic sport. Initially developed in the 1950s in the context of Korean military training, Tae Kwon Do uses a number of close combat self defense techniques such as grabbing, throwing, pinning, and joint locking an opponent. Tae Kwon Do also incorporates more overtly aggressive techniques such as punches, high and low sweeping kicks, and active blocking movements. Unlike the other types of martial arts discussed so far, Tae Kwon Do is not exclusively based on a philosophy of self-defense – it is as much about offense as it is about defense.

Krav Maga: Developed in the 1930s, Krav Maga is one of the most famous types of martial arts in the world, known for both its efficacy and ruthlessness. Unlike many of the more traditional Asian martial arts, Krav Maga has as its main aim the immediate resolution of any dangerous situation with a combination of sharp, hard attack tactics aimed at sensitive body parts like the neck, eyes, torso, and genitals, as well as defensive moments. Krav Maga has been criticized for its brutality, given that students learn how to disarm and even kill their opponents in a few swift moves. However, this system of fighting was developed for the Israeli army and for use in dangerous life or death situations. And Krav Maga does not advocate murder – rather, the goal is to keep away from potential danger by recognizing it and avoiding it. But if you are pulled into a fight, using Krav Maga techniques will help you end it quickly and with finality, which, as harsh as it seems, is a guaranteed way to ensure your own safety.

Kickboxing: The most popular and practiced of all the hybrid types of martial arts, kickboxing is thought to derive from a combination of karate, traditional European boxing, and Muay Thai, all of which are combat sports. Developed during the 1950s and 60s, kickboxing is loosely defined as any form of combat martial arts that incorporates both kicking and punching techniques. There are many styles of kickboxing including the hybrid styles developed in the West and various traditional martial arts styles that are classified as such. Examples of the latter include Sanda, Muay Thai, and Indian boxing.