When we think of martial arts, many of us envision iconic styles like karate, taekwondo, or judo.
However, you may be surprised to learn that there are over 180 different martial arts practiced worldwide.
Each of these martial arts comes with its unique techniques, cultural heritage, and philosophy.
In this article, we will explore some of the famous martial art styles, the less know style as well as the complete list of the over 18+ martial art styles.
Famous Martial Arts Styles
Arguably one of the most well-known of all martial arts, it features some impressive movements of powerful punches, kicks, and blocks.
Karate originates from Japan in the early 20th century, where the Japanese word “karate” translates as “empty-handed”.
The practice of karate centers around self-defense and combat.
However, the philosophy of karate extends beyond the studio, where one will embrace working on principles such as discipline and respect, replicating this in everyday life as well as in martial arts practice.
Taekwondo is considered one of the most popular martial arts in the world.
Originating in South Korea, Taekwondo has gained global recognition and a significant following.
It is known for its dynamic and high-flying kicks, as well as its emphasis on speed, agility, and precision.
MMA is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, with millions of fans around the globe.
The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is the most popular MMA promotion, and its events are regularly among the most-watched sporting events in the world.
There are several reasons for MMA’s popularity. First, it is a very exciting sport to watch.
The fights are often fast-paced and action-packed, and there is always the possibility of a knockout or submission. Second, MMA is a very diverse sport.
Fighters come from all over the world and bring with them a variety of different martial arts styles.
This makes for a very exciting and unpredictable mix of techniques.
Third, MMA is a very accessible sport. There are gyms and training centers all over the world where people can learn how to fight.
This has made MMA a very popular choice for people who are looking for a challenging and rewarding workout.
There are many different styles of Chinese martial arts and Kung Fu has been adopted as an umbrella term for all of these forms, some ancient and some more modern.
It’s a popular style of martial art that has gained notoriety through film and television, where some famous practitioners include Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Jet Li.
Judo is one of the more modern forms of martial arts, which means it has therefore been influenced by other forms that have come before it.
It is a popular competitive sport in Australia and worldwide that demands both great mental discipline as well as physical prowess to overcome an opponent.
The practice of Judo can involve techniques that allow participants to lift and throw opponents onto their backs, leveraging their strength against them.
Once on the ground, they are then able to control their opponent by pinning them down and applying different techniques such as joint locks and chokeholds until their opponent submits.
A modified form of the Japanese martial art adapted by the Gracie family in 1925, the Brazilian version sees participants attempting to gain superior positioning over their opponent through the use of holds, chokes, joint manipulations, and locking of joints.
Boxing is one of the oldest and most popular sports and martial art styles in the world, with a long and rich history.
Boxing has been around for centuries, and it has been a part of the Olympic Games since the first modern Games in 1896.
Boxing is a very physical and demanding sport. It requires a high level of fitness, strength, and skill.
Boxers must be able to take a punch and dish one out as well. Boxing is also a very strategic sport.
Boxers must be able to read their opponents and develop a game plan to defeat them.
Boxing is a popular spectator sport.
Millions of people around the world tune in to watch boxing matches on television. Boxing is also a popular betting sport.
People all over the world place bets on boxing matches.
Hailed as the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand, Muay Thai (aka Thai Boxing) dates back to the 13th century and was developed as a form of close combat.
It is a full-contact sport that requires fighters to defeat their opponents by utilizing kicking, cinching, and hitting techniques as well as an element of grappling, where striking your opponent requires strong physical and mental discipline.
It is another martial art that uses the body as a weapon for fighting.
Less-Known Martial Arts
Here are some less-known martial arts:
Also known as Sanshou, it is a Chinese martial art that combines striking, grappling, and throws. It is a full-contact sport that is often compared to kickboxing.
Also known as Arnis or Kali, it is a Filipino martial art that focuses on stick fighting. It is a very practical martial art that is often used for self-defense.
It is a Brazilian martial art that combines acrobatics, dance, and music. It is a very flashy martial art that is often seen as more of a performance art than a fighting style.
It is a Russian martial art that focuses on self-defense and grappling. It is a very effective martial art that is often used by law enforcement and military personnel.
It is an Indian martial art that is one of the oldest martial arts in the world. It is a very comprehensive martial art that teaches
All Martial Arts Styles (Complete List)
Below is a list of all martial arts practiced worldwide.
Juego de maní
Emerson Combat Systems
Gouging (fighting style)
Jeet Kune Do
Jailhouse rock (fighting style)
LINE (combat system)
Marine Corps Martial Arts Program
Special Combat Aggressive Reactionary System
10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu
Bangladeshi martial arts
Chinese martial arts
Shaolin Kung Fu
Indian martial arts
Indonesian martial arts
Japanese martial arts
Korean martial arts
Tae kwon do
Hap ki do
Aka (Burmese martial arts)
Filipino martial arts
Vietnamese martial arts
Canne de combat
French School of Fencing
Qwan Ki Do
German School of Fencing
Ancient Greek boxing
Italian martial arts
Republic of Ireland
Irish martial arts
Russian martial arts
Combat pistol shooting
Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling
English Longsword School
Historical fencing in Scotland
World War II combatives
Martial Arts Scope
In terms of scope, martial arts vary widely and may focus on a specific area or combination of areas, but they can be broadly grouped into focusing on strikes, grappling, or weapons training.
Below is a list of examples that make extensive use of one of these areas;
This is not an exhaustive list of all arts covering the area nor is it necessarily the only areas covered by the art but are the focus or best-known part as examples of the area:
- Punching – Boxing (Western), Wing Chun
- Kicking – Capoeira, Savate, Taekwondo
- Other strikes (e.g. Elbows, knees, open-hand) – Muay Thai, Karate, Shaolin Kung Fu
- Throwing – Glima, Judo, Jujutsu, Sambo, Shuai Jiao
- Joint lock – Aikido, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Hapkido
- Pinning Techniques – Judo, Wrestling
- Traditional Weaponry – Fencing, Gatka, Kendo, Silambam, Kali
- Modern Weaponry – Eskrima, Jogo do Pau, Jukendo
Many martial arts, especially those from Asia, also teach side disciplines that pertain to medicinal practices.
This is particularly prevalent in traditional Chinese martial arts which may teach bone-setting, qigong, acupuncture, acupressure (tui na), and other aspects of traditional Chinese medicine.
Martial arts are commonly associated with East Asian cultures but are by no means unique to Asia.
Throughout Europe, there was an extensive system of combat martial arts, collectively referred to as Historical European martial arts that existed until modern times and is now being reconstructed by several organizations, while Savate is a French kicking style developed by sailors and street fighters.
In the Americas, Native Americans have a tradition of open-handed martial arts, that includes wrestling and Hawaiians have historically practiced arts featuring small and large joint manipulation, a mix of origins occurs in the athletic movements of Capoeira that were created in Brazil by slaves, based on skills brought with them from Africa.
How Many Martial Arts Can You Learn?
As a general rule, a person can learn and master 3 to 5 different martial arts thoroughly. And many advanced students are capable of learning two or three martial arts simultaneously. However, beginners should start with one and not add additional martial arts for at least 2-3 years.
And, of course, there’s not really a limit. But it can be hard to master all of them if you’re trying to learn 10.
The effectiveness of learning different martial arts depends on the student’s time constraints and ability to recover from training. A particular martial art may be practiced in 2 to 3 hours of training each week.
These martial disciplines are sometimes related, and other times they are entirely unrelated. Some people want to practice in various similar styles, and some prefer total diversity.
The world of martial arts is incredibly vast, encompassing over 180 different disciplines from various cultures.
Whether it’s the grace and precision of kung fu or the explosive power of Muay Thai, each martial art offers its unique benefits, techniques, and philosophies.
Exploring different martial arts not only provides physical fitness and self-defense skills but also offers an opportunity to delve into the rich tapestry of human culture and history.
So, whether you’re a martial arts enthusiast or a curious observer, there’s always something fascinating to discover within the expansive world of martial arts.
Hi, my name is Godwin. I am a passionate martial artist with black belts in Taekwondo and Karate. I have over 15 years of martial art experience. I created this platform to enable me to help you learn martial art the right way.