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Types Of Martial Arts: 13 Popular Forms of Combat Fighting

Martial Arts

Last Updated on May 17, 2024

Learning martial arts delivers a plethora of benefits. It increases self-confidence while also letting you learn the fundamentals of self-defense. Not to mention, it is a good full-body workout that can help improve your agility, strength, and flexibility. It is also good for your mental stamina, and even social skills. 

With its many advantages, many of you are probably interested in trying martial arts. 

Nonetheless, there are too many options, so you might end up overwhelmed. 

If you are clueless about the many types of martial arts, read on and I will walk you through some of the most popular. 

13 Different Types Of Martial Arts

Whether your goal is physical and mental development or to learn a fighting skill, you can never go wrong with martial arts. 

The question is, "Which one is the best?"

They are all great, and the decision is deeply personal. 

To help you decide, here is a quick list of martial arts that you should know. Be like Chuck Norris or Bruce Lee by mastering these different fighting styles. 

1. Aikido 

A type of modern Japanese martial art, Aikido is a comprehensive system that includes a combination of joint locking, throwing, pinning, and striking techniques. 

Learning Aikido also requires familiarization with using a traditional Japanese weapon, which can be a sword, knife, or staff. 

Aikido is different than most styles in the sense that it takes the attack of another person and neutralizes it through a non-violent method. This will let you fight while being concerned for the safety of the attacker as well. 

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2. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

While it is a type of Brazilian martial art and street fighting, Brazilian jiu jitsu is highly influenced by Japanese and South American styles. 

In Japanese, jiu means gentle while jitsu means art, so its name translates to gentle art. It is gentle because it is non-violent. 

The central theme of this grappling martial art is controlling your opponent in such a way that he or she will submit. You will be wrestling your opponent on the ground since it is easier to control another person in a low position. 

Fun Fact: If you are interested in knowing more about this fighting style, then research Muay Thai vs BJJ for a comparative review.

3. Capoeira

Capoeira is more than just a martial art. It is an Afro-Brazilian cultural practice that combines singing and dancing with fighting. 

In capoeira, players will form a circle, and in the center, two players will fight. Meanwhile, the people around the circle will clap, chant, sing, and play instruments. 

More than being an artistic fighting style, capoeira is also about showing mutual respect between participants. Plus, it is a great form of social integration since it is a group activity. 

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4. Judo 


Physical prowess and mental discipline are two of the most important things for anyone who would like to learn judo. 

A Japanese martial art style, it is a derivative of different techniques that have been used for centuries by feudal and samurai warriors.

Judo means "the gentle way" in English, which speaks much about the principle of this combat sport. It involves grappling maneuvers to immobilize the opponent. 

5. Kendo 


If your goal is to learn martial arts for the sake of self-defense, then kendo is not for you. 

Established in the 18th century, Kendo is a sword-fighting Japanese martial art. You most likely do not carry a sword with you most of the time, so you cannot use it to defend yourself from an attacker. 

In combat, players are wearing protective gear in target areas and will be armed with bamboo swords. Unlike judo and most combat sports, kendo does not have classes. This means competitors are not separated based on their size or weight. 

6. Krav Maga 

Krav Maga is a Hebrew word that means contact combat. It was initially taught to the members of the Israeli Army. In the 1970s, it was embraced even by civilians. 

While the main goal is survival, Krav Maga is one of the different types of martial arts that teach aggression and efficiency as well. You will learn punching, grappling, and kicking techniques. 

Krav Maga also has a reputation for being a deadly martial art style. It is a non-sport, and hence, many people do not care about the rules and will instead focus on winning. 

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7. Kung Fu 

Kung Fu
Kung Fu

One of the most forms of martial arts from China, kung fu is an unarmed combat fighting style with a spiritual dimension. It is a skillful fight with emotional or intellectual involvement. 

Historically, kung fu is practiced by leaders of the government. It teaches not just fighting but also values like morality, humility, patience, and respect. 

Kung fu is not a single type of Chinese martial art. Instead, it is a combination of different traditional techniques, which include Wing Chun and Shaolin Kung Fu. 

8. Karate 


No doubt, karate is amongst the most popular martial arts fighting styles. 

Kara means empty while te means hand. The loose translation of Karate in English is fighting with empty hands. Hence, it does not include the use of any weapon. 

This Japanese martial art is divided into three parts. The first is kihon, which includes strikes, blocks, and kicks. The second is kata, which is the art form of karate targeted toward improving balance, agility, coordination, and speed. The last element is kumite or sparring. 

9. Mixed Martial Arts 

Mixed Martial Arts
Mixed Martial Arts

As the name implies, it does not refer to a single type of martial art. Instead, it is a combination of different fighting methods. If you watch the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Mixed Martial Art is what they are practicing. 

Mixed Martial Arts is a full-contact sport that is based on three key elements – striking, grappling, and ground fighting. 

It includes different fighting styles, such as boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, karate, kickboxing, taekwondo, and wrestling. 

Fun Fact: Get to know some of the better-known MMA combatants by researching short UFC fighters! You'd be surprised that height isn't all that matters with this full-contact sport.

10. Muay Thai 

Muay Thai 
Muay Thai 

The national sport of Thailand, Muay Thai is also called the art of eight limbs. It uses eight body contacts, which mimic weapons used in a war. 

It is a form of stand-up combat sport that relies on kicks, knees, punches, and elbows. The fight is mostly a combination of kicking and boxing. 

Today, Muay Thai has grown in popularity. Many people would spend weeks in Thailand just to learn the basics of this contact sport. 

Fun Fact: Muay Thai is often compared with another martial arts form! You can learn about this by researching Muay Thai vs Boxing.

11. Sumo 


Another popular form of unarmed combat, sumo is one of the many martial arts types that originated in Japan. It is the country’s national sport. 

The rule of a sumo fight is straightforward – the first player with a body part aside from the feet to touch the ground or exit the ring loses. 

Sumo does not have any class or category. This means that anyone can fight anyone, regardless of weight. As a result, weight gain often forms part of the formal training for this popular martial art. 

12. Tae kwon do 

Tae Kwon Do
Tae Kwon Do

One of the most systematic types of martial arts in Korea, tae kwon do is more than just physical fighting. The training teaches you how to enhance life and spirit through your body and mind. 

Tae means foot or leg. Kwon means fist or fight. Meanwhile, do means discipline or the way. 

More than just using your fists and feet, this Korean martial art teaches calmness. You must know how to put your fists under control. 

13. Tai Chi 

Tai Chi
Tai Chi

Wrapping up this list of martial arts is tai chi, which is known not only for being an art of self-defense but also for its relaxing benefits. 

Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that has grown to be a graceful exercise. Described as meditation in motion, it is effective for stress reduction. 

Other health benefits include improving flexibility, increasing stamina, lowering blood pressure, enhancing the immune system, and improving overall well-being. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the first martial art in the world? 

The world’s first martial art is Kalaripayattu. It is native to Kerala, a state in southern India. It is believed to have been practiced since 1000 BCE and has been the basis of many of the popular Asian martial arts forms. 

Kalaripayattu translates to “practice in the arts of the battlefield". This fighting style is a combination of different elements, which include body exercise, stick fighting, sword fighting, and bare hand exercise. 

What are the deadliest martial arts? 

Some of the deadliest martial arts in the world are silat, kung fu, taekwondo, Muay Thai, karate, and Krav Maga. Many of them focus on violence instead of spirituality. For instance, Krav Maga’s unofficial slogan is “hurt them real bad and get away,” which shows how dangerous and deadly it can be depending on the skills of the person.  


Take your fighting skills to the next level! Learn different martial arts types, including those mentioned above. From karate to tae kwon do, there is a long list of fighting styles that will not only help boost your self-defense skills but also enhance your physical, mental, and spiritual health. 

Are there other martial arts styles that you would like to add? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts! 

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