Martial Art Styles

KaratekaSince humans first began roaming the earth, conflicts have been an inevitable part of life. They usually originate from conflicts based on differences of opinion or a struggle for power. As a result, people used primitive tools to fight one another, sometimes killing each other in the process. But as we continue to evolve, we also have a desire to get better at these conflict-resolution methods, and we developed martial arts to address these problems.

Unarmed martial arts

Traditional unarmed martial arts are broadly classified by application and intent. They can focus on grappling, strikes, or both. Hybrids cover both fields. Many historical martial arts incorporate melee weapons. Europeans, for example, are noted for their use of polearms and blades. Chinese martial arts, meanwhile, frequently incorporate weapons. There are many reasons to train in these styles. Below is a brief introduction to some of the most popular unarmed martial arts.

Most of these unarmed fighting systems have evolved in different regions of the world, with some influenced by other cultures. Some of them rely on different parts of the body, such as elbows and knees, and incorporate locks, grabs, and throws. In some of the more violent styles, bites, gouging, and strangling are common. In order to learn unarmed martial arts, you need to have a good knowledge of human anatomy and movement.

Martial Arts


Orientalism is a cultural misrepresentation. While it has its roots in the attempts of Western culture to honor Eastern traditions, it has also taken shape in non-Western cinema, particularly in Hindi-language films. Orientalism is an unhelpful cultural misrepresentation because it seeks to make Eastern culture seem more attractive and more relevant to the West. It is a fundamentally flawed and dangerous ideology, and it has no place in martial arts.

To Said’s work is the intellectual underpinning of this obsession with Orientalism, which he views as a form of cultural power grounded in the immediacy of the world. The discipline of Orientalism shaped Said’s identity, and he still feels the effects of this ‘knowledge’ today. But the argument for Orientalism’s importance cannot be dismissed easily.

Zen Buddhism

The philosophy of Zen Buddhism is closely related to that of martial arts, and it has influenced martial arts practitioners throughout history. It is a philosophy that emphasizes training and experience over faith and theology, and it shares many core principles with other great religions. For example, Zen holds that the highest fulfillment comes from the benefit of all beings. By practicing Zen, martial artists learn how to benefit all creatures. This philosophy is not new to martial arts, and it is an important part of the modern martial arts practice of many practitioners.

The relationship between Zen Buddhism and martial arts has been popularized by several books, such as Taisen Deshimaru’s ‘Zen and the Art of Archery’ (1948) and Joe Hyams’ ‘Zen in the Martial Arts’ (1979). In addition, films featuring Shaolin “kung fu” Buddhist monks have also become popular. However, not everyone is aware of this connection.

Martial Arts Styles

Martial arts have developed into numerous styles and forms, each with unique techniques, philosophies, and histories that have been shaped by various cultures around the world. Below is an expanded list of different martial art styles, representing a diverse range of combat systems from across the globe.

This list represents just a fraction of the myriad martial arts practiced around the world, each contributing to the global tapestry of martial traditions and offering practitioners a unique way to cultivate physical skill, mental discipline, and cultural appreciation.


Aikido is a Japanese martial art form known for its philosophy of non-aggression and non-resistance. Rather than meeting force with force, practitioners of Aikido aim to redirect an attacker’s energy using throws and joint locks, guided by the principles of harmony (ai), spirit (ki), and the way/path (do). Developed by Morihei Ueshiba in the early 20th century, Aikido emphasizes fluidity of movement, balance, and coordination. This art seeks not only to defend against attacks but also to reconcile with and neutralize the aggressor without causing unnecessary harm. Aikido is often seen as more than a physical discipline; it is a path to spiritual growth and personal transformation, promoting peace and reconciliation both in oneself and in the world. Read more about Aikido


Arnis, a martial art originating from the Philippines, stands out for its distinctive focus on weapon-based combat, particularly the use of sticks and blades. Also known as Eskrima or Kali, Arnis has deep historical roots, reflecting the archipelago’s rich martial heritage. The art emphasizes practical self-defense techniques, incorporating fluid and efficient movements with sticks, knives, and other bladed objects. Arnis practitioners develop a keen sense of timing, coordination, and precision through intricate drills and sparring exercises. Remarkably, Arnis seamlessly integrates weapon techniques with hand-to-hand combat, making it a versatile and comprehensive martial art. The philosophy underlying Arnis is not only about mastering a formidable form of self-defense but also fostering discipline, respect, and cultural identity. As a testament to its effectiveness, Arnis has gained international recognition, attracting practitioners worldwide who seek its practical and adaptable approach to martial arts. Read more about Arnis


Boxing, often referred to as “the sweet science,” is a martial art and combat sport with a rich history dating back to ancient civilizations. It requires a high level of athleticism, including strength, speed, agility, and endurance. At its core, boxing revolves around the skilled application of punches, footwork, and defensive maneuvers such as slips, weaves, and blocks. Boxers must master the intricate dance of striking while avoiding their opponent’s attacks, honing not only their physical capabilities but also their strategic and mental acuity.

The sport is governed by strict rules which define legal strikes, equipment, weight classes, and match durations. Beyond its competitive aspect, boxing is practiced for fitness, self-defense, and discipline, teaching practitioners resilience, respect, and the importance of meticulous technique and preparation. It is a martial art that celebrates the power and potential of the human body in one-on-one combat. Read more about Boxing

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a ground-based martial art that focuses on grappling, with a particular emphasis on submission holds involving joint locks and chokeholds. Originating from Judo and traditional Japanese Jujutsu, BJJ was further developed in Brazil by the Gracie family and other martial artists. The core philosophy of BJJ is that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage, technique, and body positioning.

It teaches practitioners to control their opponents by taking the fight to the ground and applying techniques to force an opponent to submit. Training often includes live drilling and sparring, referred to as “rolling,” which allows students to practice against resisting opponents. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not only a competitive sport but also a vital component of self-defense and mixed martial arts (MMA). Its effectiveness in real combat scenarios has contributed to its growing popularity across the globe. Read more about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music to form a unique and culturally rich practice. Emerging in the 16th century within the African slave communities in Brazil, Capoeira was developed as a way for slaves to disguise their training of combat and self-defense with rhythmic movements and music. It is characterized by fluid acrobatic play, feints, takedowns, and extensive use of ground movements as well as kicks and headbutts.

The game of Capoeira is often played within a circle called a ‘roda,’ accompanied by live music—most notably the berimbau, a single-string percussion instrument—as well as clapping and singing. Its practitioners, known as ‘capoeiristas,’ engage in a dialogue of movement, attempting to outmaneuver and outsmart their opponents without necessarily aiming to injure. Reflecting a rich heritage, Capoeira is not only a sport but also an expression of culture, art, and social interaction, and has been recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. It teaches its practitioners strength, flexibility, rhythm, and strategy, making it a holistic approach to physical and mental fitness. Read more about Capoeira


Hapkido is a comprehensive Korean martial art renowned for its philosophy of achieving harmony in self-defense. Characterized by a diverse array of techniques that include joint locks, pressure points, throws, and dynamic striking methods, Hapkido is designed to equip practitioners with the skills necessary to neutralize threats effectively. Rooted in the principles of harmonious movement, circular motion, and adaptability, it emphasizes using an opponent’s energy and momentum against them. This principle makes Hapkido accessible and effective for individuals regardless of size or strength. As a result, it appeals to those seeking practical self-defense skills, as well as those looking to cultivate discipline, confidence, and a deeper understanding of martial arts. Read more about Hapkido

Jeet Kune Do

Jeet Kune Do, often abbreviated as JKD, is a hybrid martial arts system and life philosophy founded by the legendary martial artist Bruce Lee in 1967. The name translates to “The Way of the Intercepting Fist” in Cantonese, reflecting its emphasis on efficiency, directness, and simplicity in combat. JKD is not considered a traditional martial art but rather a philosophical framework for developing a personal martial arts journey. It incorporates techniques from various disciplines such as Wing Chun, boxing, and fencing. Lee’s concept was rooted in the idea of having no style as style and being formless, allowing practitioners to adapt to any combat situation they might encounter.

JKD practitioners are encouraged to study various combat systems and absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is uniquely their own. The art emphasizes fluidity, the ability to switch tactics and movements mid-fight, and an understanding of the rhythm of combat. Jeet Kune Do also involves mental training to cultivate awareness, express oneself honestly through fighting, and apply these philosophies to everyday life. Despite Bruce Lee’s untimely death, his martial arts ideology continues to influence and inspire martial artists worldwide. Read more about Jeet Kune Do

Jiu Jitsu

Jiu-Jitsu, or traditional Japanese Jujutsu, is a martial art that primarily focuses on close combat for defeating an armed or unarmed opponent with minimal effort. It employs joint locks, throws, and strikes to subdue the adversary, emphasizing principles such as yielding to an opponent’s force, balance, and leverage. Developed during the feudal era of Japan by the samurai warriors as a method of defense when weapons were unavailable or ineffective, Jiu-Jitsu is one of the oldest martial arts. Its techniques form the basis of many modern martial arts and combat sports, including Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).

Practicing Jiu-Jitsu not only equips individuals with self-defense skills but also fosters discipline, respect, and a continuous improvement mindset. It is a complex art, offering a deep well of knowledge in both physical techniques and the philosophical aspects of combat and self-mastery. Read more about Jiu Jitsu


A basic course in Judo includes physical and mental training as well as social skills. Students learn valuable social skills and develop lasting friendships. In addition to physical training, judo students learn important social values like justice, loyalty, humility, and politeness. They also learn the art of social behavior in an informal setting. Judo instructors stress the importance of Jujutsu principles such as leverage, efficiency, and mutual welfare.

Judo was founded in 1882 by Dr. Jigro Kano. The name means “gentle way” in Japanese. Originally, it was a type of mixed martial art that emphasized safety and full physical activity for top conditioning. It is taught on special mats for comfort and safety. Judo also requires spiritual training. The earliest records of Judo show that Kano practiced the art for three years. Read more about Judo


One of the oldest fighting systems in existence, it includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry, and healing methods.

Kalaripayattu, regarded as one of the oldest fighting systems in existence, traces its roots to the ancient traditions of Southern India. This martial art encompasses a holistic approach to combat, featuring a diverse range of techniques such as strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms (known as “katas”), weaponry, and even healing methods. Practiced in specially designed training arenas called “kalari,” Kalaripayattu is deeply ingrained with elements of Indian philosophy, yoga, and the understanding of vital energy points known as “marma.” The art places a significant emphasis on flexibility, agility, and the synchronization of mind and body. The use of various traditional weapons, including swords, staffs, and flexible weapons like the urumi, adds to the art’s complexity. Beyond its martial aspects, Kalaripayattu encompasses therapeutic practices for physical well-being, making it a comprehensive system that extends beyond combat into the realms of self-discipline, cultural preservation, and mind-body harmony. Read moreabout Kalaripayattu


There are many benefits of learning an Introduction to Karate. This type of martial arts training has been known to reduce the need for behavioral medication for children and teens. It helps them learn self-control, stretches their attention spans, and builds confidence. Many karate masters attribute many of the principles of karate to their spiritual practices. Moreover, many of the principles of karate are based on psychology, kinesiology, and physics. For example, one of the concepts of karate is “ki,” or “inner life force.” This energy is said to be controlled, manipulated, and focused to increase a person’s power.

The development of karate can be traced to the time when weapons were forbidden for common people to carry. The people who cultivated karate were always looking for ways to perfect everything, including their physical capabilities. Unlike other martial arts, karate teaches students virtues that help them avoid trouble. The benefits of this character development are seen in all areas of their lives, including children’s behavior in school and adult’s efficiency at work. Parents become more patient and understanding with their children, and the world around them becomes a better place. Read more about Karate


Kenpo, also known as “Kenpō” or “Kempo,” is a term used for several Japanese martial arts that have evolved over the centuries. Derived from Chinese martial arts, specifically the Chinese term “Quan Fa” (fist technique), Kenpo incorporates a diverse array of strikes, kicks, locks, throws, and restraints. The style emphasizes speed, fluidity, and direct lines of attack, with quick hand techniques often delivered in rapid succession. American Kenpo, one of the most well-known derivatives founded by Ed Parker, integrates modern principles of motion and self-defense scenarios into its curriculum.

Kenpo’s philosophy often involves concepts of adaptability and practicality, aiming to equip its practitioners with skills to defend themselves effectively against various attacks. Training in Kenpo can encompass self-defense techniques, forms (known as “kata”), sparring, and weapon training, all designed to develop the practitioner’s physical abilities and mental acuity. The art is highly respected for its comprehensive approach to self-defense and its ability to be tailored to suit individual needs and situations, reflecting a blend of traditional values and contemporary applications. Read more about Kenpo

Krav Maga

The name Krav Maga is derived from the Hebrew word retzev, which means “continuous motion.” This technique refers to the simultaneous defense and attack of an attacker. Combined with the use of pressure points, it is designed to neutralize an attacker. An effective Krav Maga practitioner is equipped to react to any situation. Those who train in this art are prepared for anything that may come their way, from a home invasion to an attack from an unknown attacker.

If you’re new to Krav Maga, an introduction to the form is a great place to start. There are free seminars that will teach you the fundamentals of Krav Maga and self defense techniques. These seminars are taught by a professional Krav Maga instructors who in some cases have been practicing this style of combat for more than 30 years. Instructors, such as Danny Zelig, will teach you techniques that show just how effective this style of combat is in self-defense. Read more about Krav Maga

Kung Fu

Kung Fu is a martial art and exercise that incorporates a spiritual element. It is practiced primarily in unarmed combat and requires self-discipline and self-control. The term “Kung Fu” is synonymous with Karate, but is also used to refer to the preparation of the mind for skillful endeavors. Despite its wide diversity, Hung Fu is for everyone, regardless of physical capability, age, or background.

The ancient Chinese philosopher and martial artist Oogway, who travelled the world, came to China and settled in the Valley of Peace. After seeing his reflection in the Wu Dan Mountain pool, he was moved by the beauty of nature and the plight of the oppressed. Oogway began meditating and practicing the art next to the pool, seeking harmony through focus on the mysteries of nature. From this point on, he formed the Kung Fu system. Read more about Kung Fu

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that integrates techniques from various martial arts disciplines, including boxing, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, karate, Judo, and others. It rose to global prominence in the early 1990s with the advent of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which showcased the effectiveness of combining different fighting styles in unrestricted competition.

MMA matches are conducted in a ring or a fenced area known as a cage, where competitors blend striking, grappling, and ground fighting tactics to gain advantage over their opponents. The sport demands an extraordinary level of versatility from its athletes, who must be proficient in both offensive and defensive maneuvers across multiple martial arts disciplines. Fighters train rigorously to develop their skills and physical conditioning, making MMA a demanding test of human endurance, skill, and strategy. The evolution of rules, weight classes, and safety measures has helped MMA gain widespread popularity and recognition as a legitimate sporting event while also fostering a professional and amateur scene worldwide. Read more about Mixed Martial Arts

Muay Thai

Muay Thai, often referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs,” is a striking martial art and combat sport that originated in Thailand. This nickname reflects the use of punches, kicks, elbows, and knee strikes, thus utilizing eight points of contact, as opposed to two points (fists) in boxing and four points (hands and feet) used in other more regulated combat sports. With its roots deeply embedded in Thai culture and history,

Muay Thai has evolved from battlefield techniques to a sport celebrated for its rigorous training, discipline, and technical prowess. Fighters are known for their toughness, agility, and the powerful, precise strikes they can deliver. A typical Muay Thai bout is accompanied by a traditional music ensemble that matches the rhythm of the fight, adding to the cultural richness and atmosphere of the event. The practice of Muay Thai goes beyond physical conditioning, as it also instills values of respect, honor, and perseverance in its practitioners. It has gained international recognition and has become a staple discipline for many competitors in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) due to its effectiveness in stand-up fighting. Read more about Muay Thai


Ninjutsu, commonly associated with the historical ninja or shinobi of Japan, is a martial art shrouded in mystery and steeped in the techniques of espionage, guerrilla warfare, and unorthodox combat methods. Developed during the feudal era of Japan, it was more of a collection of practices that were used by the shinobi who acted as agents of irregular warfare—engaging in tasks such as espionage, sabotage, infiltration, and assassination.

The skills of ninjutsu included stealth movements, survival techniques, tracking, and the use of various weapons and tools like the shuriken (throwing stars) and the kusarigama (chain-sickle). Unlike many traditional martial arts that focus on direct confrontation, Ninjutsu embodied the strategic art of achieving an objective in ways that were often covert and indirect. In modern times, Ninjutsu has been popularized through films, books, and pop culture, though the authenticity of what is taught under this name can vary widely. Some martial arts schools include elements of these historical techniques, offering training that purports to connect to the ancient ninja traditions, focusing on self-defense, physical fitness, and sometimes incorporating the broader Samurai teachings and philosophy. Read more about Ninjutsu


A martial art developed for the Soviet military, combining Judo and wrestling techniques, focusing on quick takedowns and aggressive grappling.

Sambo, a martial art and combat sport, originated in the Soviet Union and was indeed developed for the military. The term “Sambo” is an abbreviation of the Russian words “SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya,” which translates to “self-defense without weapons.” It was created in the early 1920s by the Soviet Red Army to improve their soldiers’ hand-to-hand combat skills. Two individuals, Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov, played pivotal roles in the development of Sambo.

Sambo incorporates elements of judo and traditional Russian folk wrestling styles, blending throws, ground control, and submissions. The system emphasizes practicality and efficiency in real-life combat situations. It includes both sportive and self-defense aspects, making it a versatile martial art.

Over the years, Sambo evolved into a competitive sport with standardized rules and techniques. It gained international recognition, and today, it is practiced worldwide, both as a martial art and as a sport with various competitions, including the World Sambo Championships. The martial art’s roots in military training continue to influence its focus on practical self-defense techniques and strategic thinking. Sambo’s development for the Soviet military underscores its practical and effective approach to hand-to-hand combat, making it a valuable martial art with a fascinating history. Read more about Sambo


Also known as French kickboxing, Savate employs controlled kicking techniques and is characterized by its elegance and precision.

Savate, a French martial art with roots dating back to the 19th century, is a unique and elegant combat sport known for its emphasis on precise kicks and footwork. Also referred to as French Kickboxing, Savate originated in the streets of Paris as a form of self-defense practiced by sailors and street fighters. Combining elements of traditional French street fighting with English boxing techniques, Savate practitioners utilize a combination of punches and high kicks executed with specialized footwear. What distinguishes Savate is its focus on maintaining a graceful and strategic approach to combat, blending agility, timing, and precision. Over time, Savate evolved into a formalized sport with set rules, competitions, and international recognition. As a martial art, Savate’s emphasis on both offensive and defensive techniques, coupled with its historical roots, contributes to its appeal among martial artists and enthusiasts seeking a well-rounded and culturally rich combat experience. Read more about Savate


A collective term for indigenous martial arts from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, Silat is known for its flowing moves and weapon-based techniques. Silat holds a rich and diverse history steeped in cultural significance. Known for its fluid and dynamic movements, Silat encompasses a wide range of styles and techniques that vary across different regions and ethnic communities.

Characterized by its emphasis on both armed and unarmed combat, Silat practitioners incorporate intricate footwork, strikes, joint locks, and throws into their training. What sets Silat apart is its integration of spiritual and philosophical elements, fostering a holistic approach to self-defense. With roots deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, Silat not only serves as a means of physical combat but also as a form of cultural expression, connecting practitioners to their heritage. As Silat gains recognition on the global stage, its unique blend of artistry, tradition, and combat effectiveness continues to captivate martial arts enthusiasts worldwide. Read more about Silat


Sumo is a revered and ancient sport native to Japan, often considered the national sport of the country. It is a form of full-contact wrestling where the objective is straightforward: wrestlers, known as sumotori or rikishi, must either push their opponent out of the circular ring (dohyō) or force some part of their body other than the soles of their feet to touch the ground. Sumo wrestlers are identifiable by their significant mass and the ceremonial attire they wear during competition, most notably the mawashi, which is a heavy silk belt wrapped around their waist.

Matches are steeped in tradition, beginning with purification rituals involving salt and accompanied by Shinto rites, reflecting the sport’s religious origins. The bouts themselves are typically brief but intense, showcasing immense strength, strategy, and agility. Rikishi adhere to a strict training regime and diet, aimed at cultivating both physical power and mental discipline. Sumo’s professional structure is highly hierarchical, from the lower ranked wrestlers to the esteemed rank of Yokozuna, a grand champion who exemplifies not just prowess in the ring but also the dignity and honor befitting the sport’s cultural legacy. Despite its ancient roots, Sumo continues to captivate audiences today, standing as a testament to the enduring appeal of traditional sports in the modern era. Read more about Sumo.

Tai Chi

An Introduction to Tai Chi can help you get a better understanding of this ancient form of exercise. This gentle system of postures and movements is believed to have meditative qualities and improve physical, mental, and emotional health. This form of exercise is practiced by people of all ages and abilities, including those with chronic pain, back injuries, and other health issues. It is also a great way to relieve stress and improve your mood. Tai Chi can be a great way to improve your balance and agility, but it is also effective at treating certain health conditions.

An Introduction to Tai Chi combines elements of Qigong and Yang-style Tai-Chi. The Shibashi Set One exercise is a gentle Qigong exercise, and the Yang-style Tai Chi 8-Form exercise is a form of Tai Chi that is suitable for beginners and experienced practitioners. It improves agility, energetic vitality, and is suitable for everyone. The class is held via Zoom. To participate, participants must wear comfortable clothes and be willing to practice the gentle movements.


The Women’s College of the University of Denver offers a class called “Introduction to Taekwondo.” The class is geared towards increasing the physical, cognitive, and affective attributes of women. Students in the class will learn about the contributions of women in the development of martial arts. They will be taught the basics of the art, including the importance of observing the proper poomsae, which will lead to the right confrontation.

The word “Taekwondo” is derived from a Korean word which means “fist”. This language is used when referring to the art, and it is fittingly descriptive of the style. The art has evolved from its traditional roots in Korea, and has become a worldwide sport. It combines martial arts, physical activity, and self-defense techniques. The training emphasizes the development of the mind and the development of a defensive mindset.Read more about Taekwondo


The history of Okinawa-te can be traced back to 1609 when the Satsuma clan invaded the island, forcing it to become a puppet state of Japan. The Satsuma clan imposed many restrictions on its citizens, including a ban on the use of weapons. This ban continued until 1879, when Okinawa was declared a prefecture of Japan. As the island remained a part of Japan, Okinawa-te was developed. Since Okinawa-te is an unarmed art, it has developed secrecy and was passed down in secret.

Okinawa-te was derived from karate and other ancient martial arts. The ancient Okinawans developed Okinawan martial arts for self-defense. The Okinawans also used weapons sparingly, and the result was the emergence of Okinawa-te. The style evolved in a series of variations, and became known as Okinawa-te.

Wing Chun

Wing Chun is a traditional Southern Chinese Kung fu martial art that is widely known for its quick arm movements and strong leg work. This close-range system prioritizes efficiency, directness, and practicality in combat, making it well-suited for self-defense situations where space is limited. Developed during the Qing dynasty, Wing Chun’s most famous legend involves a woman named Yim Wing Chun who, according to folklore, refined the martial art to use an assailant’s force against them, allowing a smaller person to defeat a larger, stronger opponent.

A central concept in Wing Chun is the “center line” theory, which suggests that guarding and controlling the center line of both the practitioner’s and the opponent’s bodies is crucial to achieving dominance in a fight. The martial art also employs training exercises like “chi sau” (sticking hands) to help students develop sensitivity to their opponent’s movements and intentions. Wing Chun gained international recognition in part due to Bruce Lee, who initially trained in the style before developing his own Jeet Kune Do. Today, Wing Chun continues to be practiced and taught worldwide, celebrated for its unique approach to self-defense and its contribution to the broader landscape of martial arts. Read moreabout WIng Chung