5 Most Effective Japanese Martial Arts (Ranked)

The story of martial arts will be incomplete without the mention of Japan, a country that is home to some of the best martial arts in the world.

Unsurprisingly, some of these arts are not only popular but also highly effective for practical applications such as self-defense.

Now here are some of the most effective Japanese martial arts.

What Is the Most Effective Japanese Fighting Style?

#1. Jiu-Jitsu

This is undoubtedly the most effective and practical martial art of Japanese origin.

Jujutsu also known as ju-jitsu and jiu-jitsu is a Japanese martial arts system of close combat (unarmed or with a minor weapon) that can be used offensively or defensively to subdue or kill one or more armed or weaponless opponents.

This art uses just a few weapons (or no weapons at all) and involves holds, throws, and attacks that paralyze an enemy.

Jujutsu was developed around the 17th century in Japan by the warrior class, and it was designed to complement a warrior’s use of a sword during combat.

Different techniques from the different styles of jujutsu have over the years been adopted by many combat sports and martial arts such as Aikido, Judo, Sambo, Mixed martial arts, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Jiu-Jitsu is a highly effective martial art for self-defense since it doesn’t rely on chance, luck, and physical power but depends more on calculated technique and skill. 

In a self-defense context, Jiu-Jitsu is more effective than any of the martial arts on this list because of its very effective takedown variants.

#2. Judo

Developed in Japan by Jigoro Kano, this art is considered among the country’s first organized, official martial arts.

Jigoro Kano’s name became huge in the martial arts world due to this, and he went on to help found many formal Martial arts teaching centers, helping Judo reach international fame. 

This art primarily comprises throws, locks, sweeps, and everything related to grappling.

Grappling is an innately human method of fighting as it involves the arms and hands including grasp and hold making it more natural than striking martial art styles such as taekwondo. 

If you double down on this fighting method, it will undoubtedly create a practical martial art.

However, doubling down on one aspect of human fighting ability may be a mistake when used for self-defense or street fights.

In this case, judo doesn’t include any striking technique, which is also very important during street fights and self-defense needs. 

#3. Ninjutsu 

Ninjutsu isn’t quite new in the modern world. It’s synonymous with the word “ninja,” which represents a group of heroes with self-defense tactics. 

Ninjutsu developed in a certain period in Japan (feudal Japan) and made a seamless transition into the modern era. 

There are not so many Ninjitsu schools around as most people know this skill from videos online. But what you see on YouTube is just the tip of the iceberg.

The art isn’t all about sword fights or fast moves. Ninjutsu is a complete art. It involves the usual footwork, strikes, griping, kicks, and punches you see in most martial art movies. 

Overall, Ninjitsu is a powerful self-defense tool.

However, like every art, there are different variations of Ninjitsu, and all come with their skillset.

The technique and equipment you will need to execute each style will be different. 

Taijutsu is one unique style, and it has to do with unarmed fighting. You will have to use your body to your advantage and defend yourself in dangerous situations.

This is where you learn the art of punching, griping, and striking. 

Kenjutsu and Sou-jutsu are much more dangerous techniques. It involves sword and spear fighting, respectively. 

It takes years to master both Sou-Jutsu and Kenjutsu due to their complexity.

The truth is both were mainly used in the contemporary era, especially on war fronts. Modern Ninjitsu has to do with taijutsu and a bit of disarming skills. 

This is done to meet the demand of the modern world, which is aimed at self-defense.

Secondly, it’s hard to find teachers who are good with Sou-Jutsu and Kenjutsu. For this reason, most programs you will attend will be geared towards Taijutsu. 

#4. Karate

In Japanese, karate means “empty hand.”

The technique involves punches, kicks, strikes, and blocks for both offensive and defensive purposes.

Karate focuses on direct and fast movement, as well as the exploitation of weaknesses in opponents.

Karatekas train every part of their bodies as a weapon to deliver powerful blows to their target.

The purpose of this practice is to train the concentration of a strike on a single point of contact.

Karate is governed by the World Karate Federation, which helped make it an Olympic sport.

During the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the Okinawa martial art was included in Olympic participation for the first time in history.

According to the World Karate Federation, there are 100 million practitioners around the world.

This shows how immensely the sport has grown since its inception.

#5. Aikido

aikido players fighting

The Aikido martial art, founded by Morihei Ueshiba in the twentieth century is a fighting style that is peaceful in nature.

It is considered the most peaceful martial art in the world.

The founder Ueshiba was quoted saying “To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.”

Aikido is a Japanese martial art whose techniques include throwing, joint locking, striking, and pinning, along with training in traditional Japanese weapons such as the sword, staff, and knife.

In traditional Aikido, promotions aren’t earned by beating an opponent; they are earned through understanding basic exercises and techniques, which become more demanding or difficult as rank increases.

The goal in Aikido is to work in cooperation with their partners (opponents), employing effective techniques against an energetic and realistic attack, yet blending with the attack and redirecting its energy back to the attacker.

Techniques are also practiced against kicks, punches, strikes, single-handed or two-handed grabs from the front or rear, chokes, multiple-person attacks, and weapons attacks.

Each of these methods aims to resolve conflict in a non-lethal, non-disruptive, yet effective manner.

Aikido also has a strong spiritual side based on neo-Shinto philosophy and practice. 

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