Different types of martial arts exist, each of which has a unique purpose in combat. Some of these styles have been around for centuries, while others were developed in more modern times. What all these styles have in common is that they teach their followers a form of fighting and allow these individuals to defend themselves when necessary. These martial arts are also divided into different sections such as battle, grappling and takedown styles, giving people a chance to learn a number of different disciplines along the way. I’m going to look at some that are arguably more in the sports arena than martial arts these days.


Boxing is one of the most famous martial arts in the world due to its popularity as a sport. It is believed that boxing started in 688 BC during the Olympic Games in Greece, as evidenced by records showing people hitting each other during that time. Boxing was also popular in Rome during the same period, with fighters wearing primitive forms of gloves and content often ending in death. The sport declined in popularity after the fall of Rome until the 1700s, when it became important in England. This popularity continued and new rules were introduced to make it more of a sport. Thus, hitting a downed opponent was prohibited, as well as low blows. Finally, the rules of the Marquess of Queensberry were introduced which outlined the ring, the use of gloves and many other rules that are still used today.


Full Contact Kickboxing evolved from Thai-Boxing and other martial arts influences, the first bouts being seen in the early 1970s.  Today, however, it seems to be lighter contact, with a great emphasis on scoring points at light fast attacks.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai originated in Thailand sometime between 1238 and 1377, as it was prevalent during the Sukothai era. There are a few different aspects of Muay Thai, including kicks, punches, knees, and elbows. A clinch is also used by many practitioners as a way to expose an opponent to these attacks. Gloves are used by fighters and a good kickboxer can dodge several blows efficiently. This is a relatively new sport as it used to be used for self defense purposes but it has become very popular in a short time in various places around the world.

brazilian jiu jitsu

One of the most popular grappling arts in the world is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is mainly based on ground fighting, although it also includes takedowns. Submissions are the main weapon used in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as practitioners can choke an opponent or manipulate or break joints using pressure. This is a very effective form of self-defense because experts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lie very comfortably on their backs, which allows them to defend themselves in a variety of situations. The guard position is particularly effective, as it is used to prevent an attacker from dealing you damage.


Wrestling is often recognized as the first martial art, as its origins date back to humans, as cave paintings depicting the sports date back as much as 15,000 years. More modern versions of the sport have been around since about 1100 AD, when it started appearing in Europe. Wrestling generally involves takedowns and ground fights, although several forms exist. Separate martial arts such as Judo and Sambo are based on wrestling as they also include throws and knockdowns. Catch wrestling is a subsection of the sport that includes submission and was popular in the early days of mixed martial arts. Wrestling is also a sport in the modern Olympics, using Greco-Roman and freestyle forms. The sport continues to be very popular around the world and American colleges and high schools often have wrestling teams that compete against each other. It should be noted that despite its similar name, professional wrestling bears little resemblance to amateur wrestling as amateur wrestling is a legitimate sport.


Japanese sport – Developed by Jigoro Kano of Ju-Jitsu, in fact it was originally known as Kano Ju-Jitsu. Nowadays it’s all about competition, it is translated as the Gentle Way, although often the soft side seems to be forgotten and a lot of power is used. A sport that aims to bring your attacker to the ground with throws or trips and then roll around to immobilize your opponent with locks or pins. Good for fitness, can be good for flexibility.


A Russian martial art, which is split into 3 different areas, it has a pure sports side, which, although demonstrated at the Olympics, was not recognized by them. Many similarities with Judo. It also has a practical side of self-defense, looking at defense techniques, finally it has Sambo combat using techniques of both the above and its own, and applying its own nasty twists.


Sports, Virtually Everywhere – Full Contact Kickboxing evolved from Thai-Boxing and other Martial Arts influences, the first bouts being seen in the early 1970s. Today, however, it seems to be lighter contact, with a great emphasis on scoring points on light fast attacks.


Karate is an ancient martial art that uses open hand strikes, punches, elbows, kicks, and knees to gain an advantage over an opponent. Practitioners are also taught to block incoming strikes and perform proper breathing techniques to remain successful. In addition to hitting, some forms of karate include throws and submission holds. This gives practitioners the opportunity to defend themselves in any position, which is the end goal of the martial art.


It’s my favorite, as you’d expect, it’s a Japanese martial art, that’s been around for a long time, hard to pinpoint its exact origins, but can be traced back to Samurai and way before that. Includes everything, pretty much, punches, biting kicks, knees, eye gouge, pressure points, everything needed to win a fight. Attacking isn’t something ju-jitsu involves as much as some other arts, partly because of its history, this was a battlefield art, to be used when the weapons were lost, but since your opponent would usually wear armor, hitting them wasn’t the best option , but throws, locks, chokes, strangulations all play a part. The level or grade at which you receive some of these classes is strongly determined by the school you attend. Over the past few years, and I mean ten to twenty, there has been a growing revival in Ju-Jitsu,  but largely focused on the sporting side, due to the massive success of the likes of the Gracies, but there are those of us who are also likes to cover everything else, the things that sports rules usually keep you from learning. In short, if you want a good all round martial art, one that is very practical, this is a good one.


Another Japanese art. In general terms, quite a modern art founded by O-Sensei Morihei Oeshiba, this is an art essentially derived from Ju-Jitsu, more focused on the safe disconnection, makes heavy use of circular movements, very good at using an attacking force against them. There are many “soft” schools, the “flowery” kind, although they have their place, they represent something different from the original. If you’ve ever been thrown by someone who really knows what they’re doing in Aikido, it’s not soft and it works. I always thought people just jumped and went with the throws like Kotegai and to some degree they do, but that’s because if they don’t handle it a little bit, they lose their pulse. A good flowing art, hard on the joints, especially wrists and knees, very traditional.


A Japanese art, usually slow and controlled, involves drawing the sword from the sheath, striking or cutting the opponent, removing blood from the blade, and returning the blade to the sheath. Many ceremonies, I’ve had it described as an art of control freaks, I hasten to add that this was said by a 2nd Dan in Iaido!

kung fu

A Chinese art, which takes many forms or styles, widely used in movies, can be very showy, but can also be effective if done right. It has become very popular in the last ten years, thanks to movies with Jet Li, Jackie Chan and then big tours of the Shaolin Monks where people were amazed by the things they do. Good for fitness, flexibility, if done very well can be a good self defense.

Wing Chun

A Chinese martial art, legend has it that it was created by Yim Wing Chun, and it is excellent as a close combat art. Good at self-defense at close range. Good on the trapping distance where a lot of art is let down.

Pencak Silat

An Indonesian collection of martial arts, when seen or tried, some moves can be very similar to some forms of Kung Fu.


A Philippine art, centered on stick and sometimes swords. Most of the modern Escrimas you see tend to focus around the stick work, very fast and impressive when done right. Good for attention.

Krav Maga

An Israeli art, focused on close-quarter work, looking at neutralizing any threat as fast and hard as possible and getting out of there, used by Israeli special forces, uses anything and everything to win at all costs. Filthy, but effective, a good principal being pushed here is whatever you do, you keep moving forward, once you start attacking you keep going, and I was surprised how many people struggle with this concept.

tai chi

A Chinese art, although nowadays it tends to focus on the healing, gentle non-impact style, it is worth remembering that it is still a martial art, and as such, movements, when used correctly taught and applied, still exist to actually cause harm. Although this side more and more seems to be diluting and possibly getting lost. At least in the West. Good for people who are less mobile, looking at the discipline and health benefits.

Jeet Kune Do

Bruce Lee’s art. Say no more! Actually, based on Wing Chun, Kung Fu, it was then developed to include other areas, to try to make a “complete” art. So the “Trapping Distance” Wing Chun covers takes better than most others, and develops it and adds extras from other areas. Pretty much the most modern art I’ve listed here, by far. A good all round art.


Korean martial art. Worth noting again that real Taekwondo is not what you see in the sport like the Olympics, I watched a few matches and turned the TV on! Proper Taekwondo is still a martial art, most of the clubs you will find today will focus on the sports side. Light, fast and high kicks, as already mentioned, were usually focused on competitions, round forms or sparring with point scores. Good for fitness and flexibility.