Top 10 Most Popular Martial Arts in the UK

capoeira male and female

There are many forms of martial arts in the world and many of them are popular among fans and combat trainers in Britain.

These arts have numerous clubs scattered across the United Kingdom, making it easy for anyone to find, learn, and practice them.

Now, here are the 10 most popular martial arts in the UK.

#1. Boxing

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Boxing has been part of the national landscape for more than 150 years.

The popularity of boxing in the United Kingdom is no surprise since it is the birthplace of boxing as it is known today.

Marquess of Queensberry which originated in London in 1867 set the standards for modern boxing.

Although interest in boxing in the UK is not as strong as it used to be, it remains one of the most popular martial art sports in the UK.

Statistics show that around 775,000 people participated in the sport in the UK in 2020.

This is roughly 1 in 85 people across the UK.

Although this statistic includes boxing fitness classes, it still shows that boxing has hugely impacted people and has become more mainstream.

Sadly, the number of participants dropped to around 403,400 participants in 2021. However, boxing remains the martial art to beat.

Besides, there are at least 1000 boxing clubs in the UK, which further emphasizes the sheer popularity of the sport in the region.

Boxing is not only popular with men but also with women, with over 400,000 women involved in boxing from 2018-2019.

#2. Mixed Martial Arts

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Mixed martial arts (MMA) is sometimes referred to as cage fighting, no holds barred (NHB), or ultimate fighting. It was originally referred to as Vale Tudo.

It is a full-contact combat sport based on striking, grappling, and ground fighting, which incorporates techniques from different combat sports from around the world.

Mixed martial arts in the United Kingdom have grown rapidly thanks to UFC promotions.

According to 2021 statistics, around 5,500 people are looking to get into MMA monthly in the UK.

More interesting is the fact that the sporting body “UFC” has 1.45 million monthly searches in the UK.

Irishman, Conor Mcgregor is the most popular fighter in the UFC, generating 389,000 searches on average per month in the UK.

#3. Karate

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In the UK, statistics have shown that there are over 3,000 searches every month of people looking for karate classes, with London having the most searches for karate’.

Karate is an unarmed martial-arts discipline that employs striking, kicking, and defensive blocking with arms and legs. 

Karate became very popular in the 80s when there were lots of movies promoting this Japanese martial art.

It is still a popular martial art today even in the UK, and you can easily find Karate schools spread across the United Kingdom.

#4. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a self-defense, martial art, and combat sport that focuses on both grappling and ground fighting.

This form of fighting has its roots in Kodokan Judo which has been taught by highly regarded people including Takea Yono and Mitsuyo Maeda amongst others.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the UK has become significantly popular (especially in London) in recent years, mainly due to the large-scale success of Mixed Martial Arts and UFC in the region.

This popularity of BJJ especially in London has led to several tournaments being hosted by the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts in just a few years.

Today, a large number of gyms offering Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training can be found across the UK.

#5. Shaolin Kung Fu

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Shaolin Kung Fu is a popular worldwide martial art that is taught across the UK, even in schools and universities.

In 527 A.D., Kung Fu was founded at the Shaolin temple, a Buddhist monastery.

It was designed to improve the health, strength, and vitality of the monks.

Over millennia, Chinese martial arts have spread across the country and evolved.

To the untrained eye, Kung Fu and Karate practices appear to involve the same kicks and strikes.

Aside from physical development, both martial arts also emphasize spiritual development.

Nevertheless, there is one clear differentiation between Karate and Kung Fu.

Karate movement is characterized by stiffer, stop-and-go movements, whereas Kung Fu movement is characterized by more flowing, circular movements.

Therefore, Kung Fu movements performed in succession may appear as one long flowing routine.

On the other hand, Karate strikes and kicks performed in succession are easier to distinguish from one another.

#6. Muay Thai

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Muay Thai, sometimes referred to as Thai boxing is a Thailand combat sport that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques.

This art is known as the “art of eight limbs”, as it is characterized by the combined use of fists, knees, elbows, and shins.

In the UK, Muay Thai is one of the fastest growing sports, and it is proving to be the most exciting sport of the new millennium.

Approximately 80,000 men, women, and children participate regularly in this sport in the UK alone.

There are only a few places outside Thailand that produce Muay Thai talent like the UK with some world-class athletes emerging from the art of eight limbs since the late 1970s.

These Muay Thai practitioners have become fan favorites both at home and abroad, and possess the skills to take on the world’s toughest competitors.

Their collections of championship belts are what also set them apart from the rest of the pack.

#7. Judo

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Developed by Japanese polymath Kano Jigoro in 1882, judo is based on traditional combat fighting.

The sport was originally designed by Kano to aid people’s physical and mental well-being.

Since the 1800s, judo has become an acceptable combat sport making its very first appearance at the Olympic Games in 1964 in Tokyo.

To defeat an opponent, judo uses different techniques such as pins, joint locks, chokes, and throws.

Judo has developed in Britain over approximately sixty years and has about 47,000 registered Judo participants.

Despite this number, many still consider it a minority sport in the UK.

The numbers are not small but it is when compared to France, a similar-sized population with over 600,000 participants.

Overall, judo remains a popular martial art locally.

#8. Taekwondo

2 taewkodo player training
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Taekwondo which roughly translates to ‘the way of the foot and fist’ is a Korean form of martial art that emphasizes technique over physicality.

In addition to improving balance, flexibility, strength, stamina, and perceptual awareness, it can be a helpful tool for self-defense.

Taekwondo is enjoyed by approximately 50,000 people of all ages and abilities in the United Kingdom, and there are hundreds of Taekwondo clubs in London and other cities across England, Scotland, and Wales.

Taekwondo clubs are now easier to find than ever.

#9. Kickboxing

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In the UK and around the world, kickboxing has become one of the most popular Martial Arts training methods.

People of all ages seem to enjoy kickboxing.

In a short amount of time, this art can get people kicking and punching with some power.

Kickboxing takes several basic techniques from a traditional martial art style and streamlines them.

It is a relatively new concept of martial art that has only been around since the 1970s.

#10. Capoeira

2 Capoeira players
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Capoeira is a Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, dance, acrobatics, music, and spirituality.

It is known for its complex and acrobatic maneuvers which often involve hands on the ground and inverted kicks.

Capoeira emphasizes flowing movements rather than fixed stances, and the ginga, a rocking step, is usually the focal point of the technique.

Capoeira is a popular choice for both men and women in the UK largely because this martial art style is so much fun to learn.

You need to be as quick as lightning to learn this old skill.


Here you have it, the 10 most popular martial arts in the UK. What do you think about this list?

Please feel free to comment below if think a particular martial art deserves to be on this list.

Read: Top 10 Most Popular Martial Arts in Australia

Read: Top 8 Most Popular Martial Arts in China

Read: Top 11 Most Popular Martial Arts in Japan

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