The 12 main types of martial arts

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Many of the people who read these lines do some kind of contact sport. Boxing, karate, judo, aikido… these are names that are quite popular today, many of which have a long history and tradition.

They are part of the so-called martial arts, sports and artistic disciplines based on fighting and usually with a deep base philosophy.

There are many different types of martial arts that exist. Of all the existing ones, throughout this article we are going to see some of the most popular and well-known.

What is a martial art?

Before going into reviewing some of the different types of martial arts, it is pertinent to make a brief mention of what exactly we understand by martial art.

We call martial arts the set of fighting and combat procedures and methods that have been developed throughout history and that have been forging different styles based on principles, codes and aesthetics.

In general, we are facing a ritual and simulated combat in which there is no purpose to generate severe damage: most of them are aimed at maintaining their own integrity and defending themselves efficiently, with the least possible energy expenditure and trying to generate the least damage. possible in the opponent, at the same time that it is in line with the philosophy and vision of the world that it offers.

Although they were born mainly as fighting styles dedicated to being able to fight and defend against aggression and rivals, many of these modalities are considered an art and a sport that involves much more than mere movement and combat but also the assumption of values, in addition to Give proper respect to both oneself and the rival combatant.

Most of them have a long tradition and have an origin in antiquity or are derived from the ways of fighting of ancient peoples and cultures, although different modalities have also developed over time.

Main types of martial arts

There are many different types of martial arts that exist in the world, born from different cultures and perspectives regarding life, conflict and the use of energy. Many martial arts are practiced only with the body itself, but there are also various modalities that use weapons (some of the best known today are those that are practiced with different types of sword, although there are also modalities with a bow, mace or staff) .

Among this great diversity, below we will see some of the best known types of martial arts.

1. Karate

One of the best known martial arts, karate has its origin in Japan (specifically in present-day Okinawa) and is characterized by the use of punches, slaps, kicks and blocks firmly and with force in order to defeat the opponent with a few strokes.

This martial art integrates values ​​such as respect and courtesy, being important to show it through various types of greetings. It also seeks to improve the level of body alignment, the tightening of the body and the ability to connect with it.

2. Judo

This type of traditional martial art of Japanese origin is characterized by the fact that, unlike other disciplines in which the blow is prioritized, in judo the main combat mechanism is the grip. In this sense, in judo the strength and weight of the opponent are absorbed in order to defeat him.

This discipline, although spectacular, is not particularly aggressive and is more focused on defense: it focuses on using the opponent’s own strength against him to destabilize and knock him down. Even so, it requires a training of the whole body and it is a very technical sport, also incorporating keys. submissions and chokes.

3. Kung-fu

An ancient Chinese martial art and one of the best-known ancient martial arts, kung-fu is a discipline that is usually direct contact in which melee is used from punches, kicks, grabs, movements and different movements acrobatic to maintain inner balance when training and also for self defense. Its origin is found in the Shaolin monks, who created it so that the monks could defend themselves.

Kung-fu starts from a Buddhist and Taoist philosophical base that aims to teach the value of effort and others such as humility, trust, will, justice, perseverance, courage and honesty. Kung-fu has a large number of variants, of which among the best known are the Shaolin or those linked to different animals.

4. Boxing

One of the best known sports disciplines is boxing. It is a martial art in which you only fight with your fists and in which great force is applied in each blow. Although the best known version is English, in reality there are several variants spread across various cultures, one of the oldest of which comes from Ethiopia.

It is practiced inside a ring, and despite having a reputation for being violent, when practiced in a truly sporting way it contributes to favoring values ​​such as discipline, endurance (not only physical, but also with regard to adversity) and respect for the opponent. It also helps channel emotions.

5. Jiu-jitsu

Japanese martial art (although some of its origins are Indian) which comes from the ancient Buddhist monks, and is characterized by being a gentle and not very aggressive style of combat that focuses on controlling and deflecting the opponent’s attacks, in addition to take advantage of his attack to immobilize the opponent.

It is generally focused on the use of locks, dodges, throws, takedowns and some punches. Although it is generally practiced with bare hands, there are variants in which different types of weapons are used.

6. Capoeira

Capoeira is a martial art from Brazil, specifically from the former African slaves, who developed this discipline of self-defense as resistance to the harsh oppression and situation they lived by combining combat techniques, dance and various acrobatics.

It was a way of conserving different cultural elements, in addition to a disguised way (the fact that it resembles a dance would make it less suspicious) of practicing a style of combat among the enslaved population. This style of martial art is fast and highly technical, as well as requiring a lot of skill and agility. The movements use both arms (the use of fists is not frequent) and legs, and include both attacks and defense. It also favors flexibility and attention to the opponent’s movements from angles that are not frequent in other disciplines.

7. Muay Thai

Martial art of Thai origin and a certain danger, since it uses techniques with lethal potential. Focused on direct melee contact, this discipline tends to seek a quick defeat of the opponent with strong and powerful blows. In this discipline the use of all the extremities and most of the body is allowed.

It is considered an extreme type of fighting, and is illegal in some countries.

8. Krav Maga

This discipline of martial arts has become popular and known relatively few years ago, but this is one of the martial arts with the greatest lethal potential. It is a fighting and defense system used by the Israeli Defense and Security forces, which focuses on unarmed combat indoors. Krav magá specializes in trying to provide combat tools in extreme situations and in which we could be at a disadvantage, even if we are facing different opponents at the same time or if they carry weapons.

Despite the fact that the type of blows taught in this discipline can be dangerous, the truth is that it is oriented towards personal defense in dangerous situations and is oriented towards a proportional use of force in relation to the attack we suffer. It also favors attention to the environment and preparation for possible attacks.

9. Kendo

Also called Japanese fencing, this martial art from the Japanese country is characterized by specializing in fighting with bamboo swords.

In this martial art both contestants must covered by armor, and part of a conceptualization of combat and a philosophy similar to that of the ancient samurais. Only attacks on the forearm, trunk, head and throat are allowed.

Discipline and self-control are practiced, and it aims to foster the ability to cope with adversity.

10. Aikido

Another great but relatively recent Japanese martial art (born less than a century ago) that has emerged based on different traditional disciplines and that focuses on hand-to-hand self-defense in fast combat situations, in preference to defeating the opponent without hurting him. or leave him in a humiliating situation that does not allow him to attack. It also allows you to defend yourself in situations of numerical inferiority or against opponents with greater physical strength.

Luxations, projections and throws are some of the types of actions that are most often used in this martial art.

11. Taekwondo

Martial art of Korean origin. In general, the use of kicks and blows with feet and legs is prioritized, although hands and elbows are also used (although to a lesser extent, and in some variants their use is less). It is a direct contact martial art in which one hits at a greater distance precisely due to the priority use of the legs. At the defensive level, dodging is prioritized, although blocks with the upper extremities are also incorporated.

12. Fencing

Although in some circles it is not considered a martial art per se, fencing is a combat discipline focused on sword fighting (specifically with foil or saber).

Although sword fighting is something that different peoples and cultures have developed throughout history, fencing as it is now known has Spanish origin. In sports, both rivals wear protections and fight until one of them manages to reach one of the other’s key points, moving forward and backward in a straight line.

Bibliographic references:

Clements, J. (2006). “A Short Introduction to Historical European Martial Arts”. Meibukan Magazine (Special Edition No. 1): 2 – 4.
Svinth, J. R. (2002). A Chronological History of the Martial Arts and Combative Sports. Electronic Journals of Martial Arts and Sciences.