Many people believe that martial arts is a specific sport. But really, its just an umbrella term that describes a group of combat sports, many of which originated as forms of self-defense or attack dating back hundreds or even thousands of years.
While hundreds of different systems or styles of martial arts have been developed throughout history, most of these combat systems share a single purpose: to physically defeat ones opponent and defend against threats.
How they go about accomplishing this is where the martial arts differ…
- Some focus on striking, using various kicks, punches, knees, elbows , and blocks to pummel the opponent into submission.
- Others focus on grappling, where they attempt to take the opponent to the ground in order to establish a dominant position and end the fight by applying a submission hold.
- Lastly, there are those hybrid styles that combine elements of striking and grappling, creating a more balanced set of combat skills.
Here is a list of some of the more popular martial arts that are still practiced today, as well as their origins and styles:
Established: Thailand – 16th Century
Style: Striking and clinching. Known as “the art of eight limbs,” it makes use of the fists, elbows, knees and shins.
Established: Brazil – 20th Century
Style: Grappling, Joint Locks, Chokeholds and Submission Holds. Promotes the idea that a smaller, weaker person can prevail over a bigger, stronger, heavier opponent by using leverage and taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds.
Established: Japan – 14th Century
Style: Striking. It uses punches, kicks, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open-hand techniques.
Established: Korea – 20th Century
Style: Striking. Emphasizes speed and power by focusing on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques.
Established: Japan – 16th Century
Style: Joint Locks, Chokeholds, Submission Holds, Close Combat. Used to defeat an armed and armored opponent using only a short weapon or no weapon at all, it is based on the principle of using an attacker’s energy against him, rather than directly opposing it.
Established: Israel – 20th Century
Style: Hybrid. Originally developed as a self-defense system for the Israel Defense Force (IDF), it’s known for its focus on real-world situations emphasizing threat neutralization, simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers and aggression.
Established: Japan – 20th Century
Style: Throwing and pinning. Used to defend oneself while also protecting the attacker from injury, techniques consist of entering and turning movements that redirect the opponents momentum and a throw or joint lock.
Established: Ancient Greece – 7th Century BC
Style: Punching. The four basic punches include: the jab, cross, hook and uppercut.
Established: France – 19th Century
Style: Striking. Uses the hands and feet as weapons by combining elements of boxing with kicking techniques, such as the roundhouse kick and the piston-action kick.
Established: Japan – 19th Century
Style: Grappling, Throwing and Pinning. The objective is to take the opponent to the ground using either a throw or a takedown, and either subdue the opponent with a pin, or force them to submit with a joint lock or a choke.
Established: Great Britain – 19th Century
Style: Grappling, Throwing and Pinning. The objective is to throw and pin your opponent to the mat, resulting in an immediate win. Use of the legs is allowed for both offense and defense.
Established: France – 19th Century
Style: Grappling, Throwing and Pinning. Use of legs are restricted, placing an emphasis on throws since wrestlers cannot use trips to take an opponent to the ground, and cannot avoid throws by hooking or grabbing the opponent’s leg. Holds below the waist are also forbidden.