The world of martial arts is vast and dates back thousands of years. There are multiple combat disciplines that have derived from practicing self defense, and competitive fighting soon followed and took many forms.

The term “combat sport” refers to a martial art form that has been adapted and regulated for use in a competitive atmosphere, one that emphasizes safety while also being able to effectively showcase an impressive arsenal of fighting skills. Combat sports are often called martial sports.

Studying and practicing martial arts works wonders for the body and mind, and learning self defense and discipline are never bad things. It also provides people with innumerable health benefits, especially when training for competitive reasons. Martial arts competitors operate differently than casual practitioners, especially those who do not train at all. Competitive fighting has been popular for a long time and takes many forms, with some being a lot more brutal, primal, and dangerous than others.

Below is a list of some of the most commonly practiced martial arts from around the world. 

Judo

Judo was founded in Japan in 1882 by Kanō Jigorō. It is designed so smaller people are able to get a larger opponent to the ground. The objective in judo is to score points via takedowns using trips or hip throws and pinning them or submitting them with choke holds or joint locks. Using an opponent’s own weight and momentum against them is the essence of judo. There is no striking in judo; punches and kicks to an opponent are against the rules.

Judo is an Olympic sport and tournaments are held year round in many countries around the world. The sport was first demonstrated by Jigorō at the 1932 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California. It was added as an official event by the International Olympic Committee in 1960 and was first contested during the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. 

A few major health benefits of judo are that it improves a person’s balance, quickness, and reaction time. 

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian jiu jitsu, a derivative of judo, is a martial art that focuses on grappling, or ground fighting. The objective is to administer joint locks and chokes so that an opponent submits, or “taps out,” to the pain. In 1904, Jigoro’s top student, Tomita Tsunejirō sent a man named Mitsuyo Maeda to various countries around the world to spread the gospel of judo. He arrived in Brazil in 1914, and several members of the Gracie family began taking interest. After spending time learning the discipline in Japan, they moved back to Brazil in 1925 and adopted their own style of the martial art. 

The sport was popularized in 1993 after Royce Gracie, who weighed 180 pounds, used Brazilian jiu jitsu to submit his opponents in the inaugural sport combat tournament Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), all of whom were much bigger and more athletic than he was. Since then, it has grown and evolved exponentially to become one of the most popular sports in the world. Young children, older adults, and everyone in between have taken an interest in Brazilian jiu jitsu because it is something that anyone can enjoy. 

Brazilian jiu jitsu is a major component of competitive mixed martial arts (MMA), but there are no punches or kicks that are thrown. It is designed so that a smaller person is able to defend themselves against a larger opponent using leverage and their own momentum against them and administering a seemingly innumerable combination of chokes and joint locks. Tournaments are held throughout the year all over the world and are divided into weight classes and experience levels. A competitive suit called a gi is usually worn, but no-gi classes and tournaments have increased in popularity as well. 

One major reason for Brazilian jiu jitsu’s popularity is that it provides a person with invaluable health benefits. One of those benefits is an increase in a person’s endurance. Brazilian jiu jitsu is a sport that requires fast-paced movements and trying to maneuver the other person’s body weight. These types of movements ensure that a person’s heart rate remains elevated 

Another one is a reduction of mental health problems. Stress, anxiety, depression, and many more can affect anyone at any time. Brazilian jiu jitsu helps people forget about their problems for a few hours because intense focus is needed in class for a person to improve their game.

A third benefit of practicing Brazilian jiu jitsu is that people experience weight loss and an increase in their metabolism because they are burning so many calories and toning their bodies by continually moving around their opponent’s body weight. 

A fourth benefit is an improvement in a person’s critical thinking skills. Brazilian jiu jitsu is called human chess because both people are working to solve a puzzle by taking advantage of a defensive vulnerability in their game. 

A fifth benefit is that people from all walks of life and backgrounds participate, which means that it creates an environment of like-minded people who develop mutual respect for each other. It fosters a trusting environment where people realize that they have more in common than they initially thought.

Karate

The classical martial art of karate originated in the Ryukyu Islands which lie off the southern coast of Japan during the 15th century. After Japan annexed the islands in 1879, the islanders began practicing and teaching karate in mainland Japan as they began migrating with hopes to find better jobs. 

Karate uses strikes involving punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. It is tangential to Muay Thai but differs because it uses quick in-and-out strikes that involve linear movements and focuses on different targets of an opponent. The techniques were specifically designed for self defense and not to render an opponent or attacker unconscious. 

Full contact is not allowed in most competitions and each strike to specific areas is worth a certain amount of points. Tournaments are regulated by the World Karate Federation. The goal is to strike quickly to score points instead of using full force to knock out an opponent. 

Practicing karate carries several health benefits. Training and warmups consist of a lot of stretching, calisthenics, and weight lifting. These types of exercises improve a person’s endurance, circulation, and coordination. 

Kickboxing

Kickboxing is a full-contact martial art that uses fast and heavy strikes using fists and legs. Boxing gloves are worn and usually weigh between 8 and 14 ounces, depending on the fighter’s preferences. 

Forms of kickboxing have been recorded as early as ancient Greece and even ancient India, but the term “kickboxing” only originated in 1960s Japan. A decade prior, the Japanese started mixing boxing with karate and began holding competitions. The Professional Karate Association held the first world championship tournament in 1974. It has become one of three major components of MMA along with jiu jitsu and wrestling. 

A typical non-championship professional kickboxing match lasts for 3 three-minute rounds. Mouthpieces are required and the fighters are not allowed to strike with elbows or knees or when their opponent gets knocked to the ground. The winner of a fight is determined by three judges if there is no knockout (KO) or technical knockout (TKO) victory. There are many different kickboxing promotions all over the world with fights being held all year long. 

The sport has risen in popularity since the early 1990s when the UFC featured fighters from many different fighting disciplines. Cardio kickboxing centers around improving endurance and participating in hitting and kicking the punching bag. There is no sparring in cardio kickboxing, and for that reason, it has started appealing to a broader demographic.

There are immense health benefits that come with consistent kickboxing training. People’s mental health has been shown to improve due to the feel-good endorphins released during aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Balance and coordination are improved due to the constant drilling. Weight loss comes from burning so many calories per training session, and confidence arises from sparring.

Kung Fu

Kung fu is an ancient Chinese martial art dating back to the Zhou dynasty (1111–255 BC). It carries a spiritual element that is based on concentration and self discipline. There are many variations of kung fu, such as Shaolin, tai chi, and Wing Chung. Some are designed for the use of weaponry but most of them focus on hand-to-hand combat. Each kung fu variant uses its own striking techniques, but they are all rooted in the practice of administering attacks using speed and deception. 

Sport kung fu is known as Wushu, and was developed in 1959 as a way of standardizing the martial art for competitive purposes. The International Wushu Federation (IWUF) was later developed in 1990 and is responsible for recognizing the results of all Wushu tournaments around the world. The IWUF is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) but is still not an official event in the Olympic games. The World Wushu Championships (WWC) are held every two years and take place in a different country each time. 

The IWUF categorized kung fu into two different styles. The first is Taolu, which is a solo, pre-choreographed movement demonstration in front of judges. There is often music being played as the performers showcase their techniques of speed, power, and flexibility. Taolu is also separated into two different categories that use weapons and no weapons. When no weapons are used, the martial artist uses multiple acrobatic and quick movements to demonstrate self defense against attackers. When weapons are used, they are categorized into long and short weapons using swords, spears, and bo staffs. 

Dual events are also held in Taolu competitions, where two or more people choreograph fight scenarios that are similar to what is seen in traditional kung fu and martial arts films. 

The second categorization is Sanda, which is a form of full-contact, one-on-one, hand-to-hand combat competition. Boxing gloves and mouthpieces are worn. It holds a very similar style to MMA except the opponents do not engage in grappling once they are taken down to the ground. Five judges score the bouts and points are awarded based on successful strikes to an opponent. Each round is two minutes long, and a winner is decided based on who wins two out of three rounds. A fighter loses if they are knocked out once or pushed out of the competition area twice.

Practicing kung fu has many health benefits associated with it. Physical exercise is a great way for a person to strengthen their cardiovascular system and the fast movements associated with kung fu do wonders in improving speed and coordination. It requires a lot of discipline which inevitably leads to a healthier way of living.

Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed martial arts, or MMA, is a sport that combines a multitude of martial arts disciplines, with kickboxing, wrestling, and jiu jitsu being the most commonly practiced among its participants. Competitions take place either in a cage or a ring. Fighters are allowed to punch, elbow, kick, and knee their opponents, hold them against the cage, and take them to the ground using judo and wrestling techniques. Any kind of martial arts discipline is allowed, but the three that have stood out to be the most effective are Muay Thai, wrestling, and Brazilian jiu jitsu. 

The violent yet popular sport of MMA first came to prominence on November 12, 1993, in Denver, Colorado, when the first UFC no-holds-barred tournament was held to determine which martial art was superior to all others. The one-night event featured eight martial artists from different backgrounds. There were no weight classes and the winner of each fight moved on to fight in the next round.

The only fighter to not have a background in a striking discipline such as kickboxing or taekwondo was a small-framed Brazilian, who weighed 180 pounds, named Royce Gracie. He came from a family who adopted their own style of judo and Japanese jiu jitsu and was specifically selected by them to compete that night. Even though he was not the superior fighter in the family, they chose him because they were so confident that, despite his size deficiency, their adaptation of jiu jitsu would carry him through the tournament. 

Gracie ended up submitting all three of his opponents to win the tournament, shattering the myth that the biggest, meanest, and strongest guy in a fight would always emerge victorious. His victory catalyzed an interest in MMA in general and jiu jitsu specifically. UFC events at the time were still considered taboo and the sport was facing an almost insurmountable hurdle for acceptance. Events were banned in most states and were even banned on pay-per-view (PPV). Senator John McCain, after taking money from certain boxing commissions, referred to the sport as a form of “human cockfighting.”

The sport of MMA was almost dead until the UFC placated the state athletic commissions by adding a few rules and weight classes to make the sport safer, more competitive, and more palatable to its niche audience members. This led to other organizations emerging across Europe and Asia, such as RINGS, DREAM, and PRIDE Fighting Championship. The sport quickly rose to prominence in Japan, where the best fighters in the world competed for PRIDE. Back in the United States, however, the UFC was struggling to attract viewers and was close to filing for bankruptcy until the promotion was bought by the Fertitta brothers, two casino executives, and their business partner Dana White for $2 million. Today, it is estimated that the UFC is worth $9 -10 billion. 

Zuffa, the UFC’s new ownership label, imported many fighters from the PRIDE roster, taking advantage of the Japanese organization’s decline due to its corruption and ties to organized crime. MMA became the fastest-growing sport in the world less than a decade later, with many regional, national, and international promotions holding state-sanctioned fights that take place every weekend and all year long. 

MMA training has been shown to have innumerable health benefits, but it also carries some major risks as well. Despite the violent nature of competition, the MMA community largely comprises kind and humble people, creating a positive environment and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Many fighters have credited their love for MMA or one of its component disciplines as the reason why they were able to turn their lives around. It also teaches people how to remain calm during intense situations so they are able to more easily figure out how to make moves that give them tactical advantages. Along with the intense workouts that build up a person’s speed, power, and coordination comes weight loss and muscle gain. 

The sport does have its downsides, but a lot of the risk involved is contingent on the intensity of sparring sessions. Since the entire body is the target in some way, MMA fighters run the risk of suffering concussions, broken bones, torn ligaments, and ruptured organs. 

Wrestling

Wrestling is one of the oldest martial arts in the world, dating back at least 15,000 years when cave drawings were depicted in France. Like many other martial arts, wrestling has multiple variants of competitive styles. These include sumo, catch, submission, Greco-Roman, freestyle, and many more that are practiced in different cultures throughout the world. The goal of a wrestling match is for the wrestler to pin his opponent to the mat for a certain amount of time to score points. Takedowns occur when a wrestler successfully uses trips, hip throws, and other techniques against his opponent. 

It was part of the first modern Olympic Games that were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896 and has been part of every Olympic Games since 1904. Traditional wrestling is incredibly popular in North America and Europe and is practiced by children and adults of all ages. Tournaments usually take place from early Autumn to late Spring. 

Wrestling improves a person’s confidence by learning fast-paced moves that are advantageous during an altercation on the street. It increases their endurance and reflexes and strengthens their mental fortitude. Wrestlers learn the importance of discipline as they have to remain close to competition weight the entire season.

Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that utilizes punches and kicks but places a heavy emphasis on different types of kicks, such as spinning back kicks, head kicks, and jumping kicks. It was developed in the 1950s as a derivative of Chinese karate and a few ancient Korean martial arts. It first debuted in the 1988 Olympic Games that took place in Seoul, South Korea, and a full-contact version called Gyeorugi has been part of the Olympic Games since 2000. Taekwondo is the national martial art of South Korea, and the Korean Taekwondo Association (KTA), founded in 1989, is the oldest governing body of the sport.

The objective of a taekwondo match is for the fighter to points by attacking his opponent using punches and kicks. The athletes wear a competitive uniform called the dobok. Additionally, competitors need to wear headgear, a mouthpiece, and protective gear covering from their torsos to their toes. Practitioners are awarded different colored belts as they progress, ranging from white being the most inexperienced to black being the most experienced. People who practice and participate in taekwondo competitions are able to greatly improve their flexibility, strengthen their coordination, sharpen their agility, and increase their endurance levels.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is the official martial art of Thailand. The sport is thought to have originated from the Siamese army in Thailand in the late 16th century. The practice became so popular due to its practicality that people in the country began holding bare-fisted competitions in the 18th century. In the 19th century, competitors began wrapping their fists with hemp rope in order to protect their hands and mitigate the risk of them getting shattered on an opponent’s cheekbone. Fighters began strategically wrapping their hands so that knots from the hemp ropes would inflict more damage, which led to stricter safety rules and regulations after someone died during competition. In the early part of the 20th century, fighters began wearing boxing gloves while competing. There is no other protection used in the professional ranks other than a mouthpiece and groin protector.

Muay Thai is known as the “science of eight limbs” because it incorporates the usage of fists, elbows, knees, and shins to inflict damage on an opponent. Fights take place in a ring that is similar to what is seen in boxing and kickboxing. A signature and effective kick that is not seen in kickboxing and other striking sports is called the teep kick, where a fighter quickly thrusts the ball of their foot into an opponent’s face or midsection. Another signature move is the Thai clinch, where a fighter cups the back of their opponent’s head with both hands in a way that renders them ineffective while still being able to land knee strikes to the head and body.

The sport experienced an exponential rise beginning in the 1980s. Thanks to the introduction and regulation of MMA in the early 1990s, Muay Thai is now viewed as one of the most effective striking arts and is an integral part of an MMA fighter’s arsenal. Fights are held all year long and take place all around the world. Professional fights consist of 5 three-minute rounds. Scoring takes place with a ten-point must system, meaning that the winner of each round automatically receives ten points. The other fighter automatically receives nine if the round was competitive, eight if it was not that competitive, and a point is deducted if either fighter is knocked down. Winners are determined by points if either fighter fails to knock out their opponent.

Muay Thai fighters and practitioners generally lead healthy and happy lifestyles. It greatly improves their confidence levels as well as their endurance and physical attributes. The skills do take a lot of time and dedication to master, but slow and steady progress is still progress nonetheless.

Boxing

Boxing is one of the oldest in the world next to wrestling. The sport is said to have originated in Ethiopia around 8,000 years ago and its influence gradually spread throughout Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Balkans. In 668 BCE, it became an event in the ancient Olympic Games and has always been part of the modern Olympic Games that began in Athens, Greece, in 1896. 

The art has taken many forms and different rules have been implemented throughout millennia around the world. In Ancient Rome, fighters began using leather wraps to protect their knuckles which was a precursor to the gloves that are worn today in traditional bouts. Today, boxing competitors typically use gloves that weigh between 12 and 16 ounces, although 8- and 10-ounce gloves are used in certain situations. There has been a revitalization of bare-knuckle boxing over the past few years, where competitors have the option of wearing basic hand wraps or no protective gear at all over their knuckles. 

Professional and amateur boxing matches take place year round. Although the rules and standards are much different at the amateur level, professional boxers do not wear headgear, only gloves, a mouthpiece, and groin protectors. The rounds are three minutes long with a minute break in between. Professional boxers usually begin their career fighting over the course of four rounds and gradually work their way up to six, eight, ten, and even twelve rounds. 

Boxers are known to be in the best shape of any athlete. The sport requires that athletes be in prime physical shape, which is why training camps are notoriously long and arduous. People who train in boxing see their coordination, speed, and punching power dramatically increase. Their confidence levels are high and their resting heart rates are low. Those who understandably do not want to experience getting punched in the face have found solace and enjoyment in cardio boxing classes and participating in speed drills.

Fencing

The oldest document outlining the concept of swordsmanship dates back to the year 1270, called the Royal Armouries Ms. I.33, and has its roots in central Germany. The contents of the treatise dealt with combat situations for military personnel. In 1763, Italian instructor Domenico Angelo moved to London and began teaching the English aristocracy a sport version of fencing. Angelo established basic rules of posturing and footwork that are still the basis of modern fencing, but his methods of attack and parrying have since evolved into more effective forms. He also introduced the health benefits that came with the nascent sport and used that as an effective marketing strategy.

The first competitive fencing tournament took place in 1880. Conducted by the British Armed Forces, the bouts were fought between soldiers and military officers. Soon after the event, official sport fencing organizations began forming in the last couple of decades of the 19th century, mostly in Europe and the United States. Fencing was featured as an event at the first modern Olympic Games that took place in Athens, Greece, in 1896 and have been part of the Games ever since. 

The three main disciplines in fencing are based on different types of swords used, which are called foil, épée, and saber. Each weapon carries its own rules and strategies and protective equipment covers the entire body. Points are scored whenever someone successfully stabs their opponent and are recorded using fresh paint or ink that is on the end of the sword. Other, more modern, versions of protective equipment are equipped with electronic sensors that register when a successful hit has been administered.

Fencing tournaments are held all year long, with serious competitors participating in one or two tournaments per month. Championship events are held by several major organizations across the world.

The sport of fencing is very beneficial for a person’s overall health. Fencers need to have the reflexes of a cat and the speed of a mongoose in order to dodge and deflect an opponent’s attacks. In order to be able to remain elusive in a consistent manner, high endurance is a necessary development.

Lethwei

Lethwei is a Burmese (present-day Myanmar) martial art that is similar to Muay Thai but is significantly bloodier and more violent. The use of gloves is illegal and fighters are only permitted to wrap their hands with hemp, tape, or gauze if they choose, while many others prefer no hand protection at all. Striking with the hands, elbows, knees, and shins are all permitted. While Muay Thai is colloquially known as the “science of eight limbs,” Lethwei is known as the “science of nine limbs” because it permits the use of headbutting an opponent, a move that is not practiced or allowed in most other martial arts around the world.

The sport can be traced back to its earliest form in the 12th century. Traditional matches featured two opponents from any background or social status. They were fought in sand pits without protective equipment (minus the optional hemp hand wraps) and lasted until one of the fighters was either knocked unconscious or could no longer continue fighting. 

Myanmar fighter Kyar Ba Nyein, after competing in boxing during the 1952 Summer Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, was instrumental in establishing rules and regulations for lethwei in order to make it more palatable to an international audience. Although it remained popular in Southeast Asia, Lethwei struggled to gain international recognition until 1996, when the Ministry of Sport collaborated with two other Lethwei organizations to host the Golden Belt Championship to help promote the sport to international audiences. 

In 2015, a dark match (non-televised bout) was fought in the Singapore combat sports promotion ONE Championship, and in 2017 began televising Lethwei matches. In 2019, the first Lethwei match was aired live on UFC Fight Pass.

Aside from Lethwei’s bloody competitions, practicing the sport provides participants with health benefits that are commonly found in Muay Thai and other fast-paced striking sports. This includes an increase in a person’s endurance, heightened reflexes, and improved coordination.

Sambo

Sambo is a Russian martial art that has its roots in the early days of the Soviet Union. It was founded by Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov after their two styles began emerging in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Spiridonov’s martial arts expertise landed him a position at the Dynamo Sports Club which was founded by the Soviets in 1923. His left arm was severely injured from a bayonet attack while serving in World War One and he was forced to adapt his fighting style so that he could continue to effectively train martial arts. As a teacher, he began demonstrating his new style to the many military and security members who attended the clubs. 

Oshchepkov was born on the far eastern Russian island of Sakhalin and became an orphan as a young boy. After the Treaty of Portsmouth ended the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 and the 50th parallel north split the island in two, he suddenly found himself in Japanese territory and was later sent to the island of Honshu by the seminary to receive further training in Judo under the tutelage of its founder, Kano Jigoro. In 1918, Oshchepkov was teaching judo to Russian police officers in Vladivostok. The following year, he began working for the Siberian Army and the Japanese government as a translator and established connections to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, better known in history as the Bolsheviks. 

His connections proved to be fruitful, and in 1929 he became an instructor at the Russian State University of Physical Education, Sport, Youth and Tourism. It was here where he analyzed the testimony of Soviet soldiers about weaknesses in their combat styles and merged his Judo knowledge to make a system more applicable in combat situations. The two systems soon began to merge and eventually formed what is now known as Sambo, which was officially recognized as a sport by the Soviet Union in 1938.

Sambo has multiple disciplines. The most popular are sport Sambo and combat Sambo. Competitors wear a top gi, wrestling shorts, and four-ounce gloves, with some competitions requiring headgear. There is a belted ranking system similar to that of judo or jiu jitsu. The moves incorporate different types of throws, punches, kicks, and grappling techniques. Points are scored on a scale of 1 – 4 depending on takedowns, landings, and positioning. Winners are determined either by whoever has the most points at the end, garners a lead of 12 points, executes a “perfect” throw, or a submission such as a choke or joint lock. The sport is not an official event at the Olympic Games but it is recognized by the committee as an official sport. 

Sambo is great for those who are wanting to learn practical and effective ways of self defense while getting in shape. Participants often experience muscle growth and weight loss along with increased metabolism and endurance.

Sanda

Sanda is China’s official kickboxing sport that was developed by the Chinese military. It is a full-contact sport with a system derived from judo, western boxing, and other practical combat techniques. Sanda allows for the use of throws, punches, kicks, wrestling, grappling, as well as knees and elbows in certain forms of competition. Since the sport closely resembles wushu kung fu in many aspects, the sport is also commonly referred to as Wushu Sanda.

The ancient Chinese used to hold fighting competitions on an elevated stage with no ropes or walls called Lei Tai fights. No rules were observed, weapons were used, and fighters sometimes fought to the death. The Chinese nationalist party Kuomintang began developing Sanda as a sport during military exercises in the late 1920s. 

Points in Wushu Sanda are scored when a fighter successfully executes a throw or clean strike to the head or body. Some competitions are still held on lei tai platforms, and fighters receive points if they knock their opponent off the platform. Winners are determined by either knockout or total points. Amateur fighters are subjected to more safety rules than professionals. Headgear is worn (mouthpieces and groin protectors are mandatory for all levels), and knee and elbow strikes are illegal.

Wushu Sanda competitions occur all year long with various championship tournaments held in several countries, including China and the United States. Each bout is scheduled for 3 two-minute rounds with a minute of rest in between. The fight is stopped before the third round begins if a fighter clearly won the first two. It is not an Olympic sport but the IWUF is recognized by the IOC.

The health benefits from Sanda are similar to those found in MMA and other high-paced fighting systems. Sanda fighters remain disciplined and focused so they can perform at optimum levels, which creates a sense of meaning and a way to escape the stressors and turmoil of everyday life. Increased metabolism and endurance also play huge roles in a Sanda fighter’s mental and physical health.

What is Martial Arts as a Sport?

Almost every martial art practiced around the world was either developed for self-defense purposes or for military effectiveness. Since people are inherently competitive, they began holding friendly in-group competitions to determine who could execute the techniques of their respective martial art the best. These practices eventually led to the implementation of certain safety rules since some of the techniques were considered too dangerous for friendly competition. Today, many types of martial arts competitions are held all over the world. 

How to Choose the Right Martial Art for You?

Choosing the right martial art largely depends on your personality and fitness preferences. Some people choose martial arts because they want to learn self defense or simply get in great shape, while others have the aim of competing at the amateur or professional level. If you fall into the first two categories, then you will have a broader selection of martial arts from which to choose. There is a lot of crossover appeal, though, so choosing one specifically for self defense does not mean that competing is out of the question if you later decide to try. 

Karate, taekwondo, and kung fu are good places to start if you are wanting to get in shape and practice basic self-defense techniques. Competitions are not held as frequently as other martial arts but still provide good training and discipline to practitioners. 

Boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilian jiu jitsu have increased in popularity over the past couple of decades due to the exponential rise in MMA. Training in these martial arts will definitely get you in shape, and they also provide you with more overall options for competing and learning practical self defense. 

How to Learn Martial Arts?

There is a simple process to starting a martial arts journey, and it begins with doing research to see which type of discipline interests you the most. From there, locate a school and call the instructor to inquire about the class schedule. Schools do let people observe classes, which is an option first if you are still skeptical. If you decide to try it, keep an open mind about what works for you and what does not. The first one may not be the right one for you and it might be the one you fall in love with. It is important to remain dedicated and give yourself several months to learn the concepts before making a decision to quit or move somewhere else. Watching videos and reading martial arts books are other great ways to improve your knowledge.

What are the types of Martial Arts?

There are many different types of martial arts that are practiced all over the world. Some have been phased out of existence while others have spawned the creation of highly effective combat methods. 

In Africa, a few traditional martial arts include Istunka, Lutte Traditionnelle, and Dambe. 

In Europe, there are multiple offshoots of boxing and wrestling. 

Asia has a wide array of martial arts, including Kalaripayattu, Pencak silat, Bokator, Choy Gar, and Krabi–krabong. 

In North and South America, a few traditional martial arts are Vale Tudo, Wen-Do, Bajan stick-licking, and Tire machèt. 

Which martial art is the most popular in the world? 

Until a few decades ago, karate or kung fu were probably the most recognizable martial arts worldwide. Over the past couple of decades, however, the sport of MMA has quickly become known as “the fastest-growing sport in the world.” MMA used to mainly be practiced in scattered places in the United States, Brazil, and Eastern Europe but has now spread to every corner of the globe with gyms opening up in cities and towns all over the world. 

Brazilian jiu jitsu is a major component of MMA, and it is on a current trend to surpass MMA in popularity, mostly due to strikes being illegal. Participants in jiu jitsu fall in love with the sport for many reasons, most notably for the sense of community, practicality, and health benefits it gives people.

What is the least dangerous combat sport?

Two of the least dangerous martial arts still in practice today are tai chi and aikido. Tai chi teaches students various ways of displacing an opponent’s center of gravity. There is a heavy emphasis on meditation and the basic philosophy of tai chi is to resist using force directly against force.

Aikido focuses on redirecting an attacker’s momentum and only retaliating using equal force. There is a strong focus on reacting whenever an attacker grabs a person by the wrist, which is an unrealistic move in any type of street altercation. 

Which Martial Art is good for a beginner?

Boxing is a great martial art for beginners because there are only six total punches that are typically thrown in boxing. Straight punches, hooks, and uppercuts from both hands along with learning basic footwork and head movements are everything that boxers practice. It can remain as simple or become as complex as the person training wants it to be.

Which martial art is the most challenging to learn?

Any martial art takes time and dedication to master. None of them are easy, but there are some that are a lot more complex than others. One of the most challenging martial arts to master is fencing because it requires lightning-fast linear movements and a quick reaction to an attack. It is much more difficult to block or dodge a sword than it is a punch or a kick. Heavy protective gear is required while practicing and competing, otherwise, there would be a lot fewer fencers than there are today.

Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu considered challenging to learn?

While Brazilian jiu jitsu is one of the most popular martial arts, it is also one of the most difficult to learn because there are so many different variables in grappling situations. Brazilian jiu jitsu has been rapidly evolving since there are no limitations to which techniques are applied and practiced. It is a pragmatic system centered around basic fundamental body movements that are used to escape bad positions and maintain good ones, but the options available from there are endless. 

One of the most challenging aspects of Brazilian jiu jitsu is learning how to properly breathe and remain calm at all times, when to exert a lot of energy, and when to conserve it. Another is becoming familiar with body mechanics and recognizing when to use leverage over strength.

What is the difference between Karate and Kung Fu?

Karate and kung fu are two of the most recognizable martial arts. While they do share some similarities of being disciplines that focus on quick-strike attacks, there are some distinct differences between them. Karate emphasizes fast punches delivered using linear movements. Kung fu, on the other hand, uses similar strikes but delivers them in ways that are more lateral and circular. Kung fu also has multiple variants where weapons are used, and the discipline is more spiritual based

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