19 Popular types of martial arts for fitness and combat skills.

Types of martial arts


Since the evolution of humans, we have worked on various systems to keep ourself and families protected from external threat. Martial art is a systematized art of fighting that has been practiced for centuries. 

Different types of martial arts were developed in different regions around the world for a number of reasons such as self-defense, physical combat, sports, self-expression, discipline, and fitness. 

In fact, the word ‘martial’ derives from the name Mars, who was the Roman god of war.

Martial arts is not a unified style of combat, instead, it was developed differently by all the communities around the world for the purpose of self-defense and discipline. 

While some martial arts techniques are developed to fight wars, others are developed to enhance fitness and meditativeness. Let’s discuss them all. 

They are created to not only be deadly but also to further enhance true human body potential. First, let’s understand the styles of martial arts.

Categorization of Martial Arts

Martial arts can be divided into six basic categories, some of the styles are long-established and have been practiced for centuries others are just hybrid forms of the old versions to suit the modern requirements. 

Let’s get to know the 6 styles of martial arts. 

  • Striking martial arts: It’s one of the most common styles of combat in modern times, the style is developed to strengthen the self-defense and combat techniques. This style involves wide ranges of punches, kicks, blocks, knees, elbows, anything that can knock the opponent down. 
  • Grappling based: One of the most underrated styles that not many people prefer, it’s one of the best one to one combat techniques that you can learn. The grappling technique focuses on dominating the opponent through submissions or lockdowns. 
  • Takedown style: This is a kind of fusion of both the above striking and grappling techniques. Takedown styles were developed to use the energy and inertia of the opponent to take them down. Takedown discipline uses the force of the attack rather than coming against it.
  • Weapon based: You won’t find such martial arts training institutes nearby. Weapon bases martial arts were primarily created to train the warriors to improve their fighting skills. 
  • Low impact or soft martial arts: More focused on breathing techniques, fitness, and meditative mind. These styles were not designed to attack anyone but to bring stillness and peace within self. Still, these martial art techniques can be effectively used for self-defense.
  • Hybrid martial arts: A style that meets modern demand. Finding a martial arts class that teaches authentic art is a little hard to find, most of the modern classes are more inclined towards teaching several martial arts styles together. Mixed martial arts is a popular form of martial arts where you learn different styles all together to improve combat readiness. 

Popular Types of Martial Arts 

There are more than 180 types of martial arts styles available but most of them were confined to the regional level and others became globally popular. 

Let’s get to know the most popular types of martial arts. 


Grip strength benefits

Origin: earliest evidence of boxing rules date back to Ancient Greece, where boxing was established as an Olympic game in 688 BC. 

Style: Striking Martial arts


Boxing is one of the most recognized sports that does not need any introduction. Boxing is a combat sport in which two people hurl punches at each other for a predetermined amount of time. Its one of the best sport to stay combat-ready. 

Learning boxing can also add monetary aspect to your training since it is considered one of the major sport. 


Origin: Brazil

Style: Striking Martial Arts


Do you remember the scene of Undisputed 3: Redemption (2010) when Boyka fight with that Brazilian fighter? Yes, that fighter was doing Capoeira. 

Capoeira is one of the most graceful martial arts technique which usually looks like people dancing. It’s actually a martial arts-infused dance that got really popular in present times because of being featured in multiple movies. 


Origin: Japanese martial arts style

Style: Striking Martial Arts


Karate was one of the most famous martial arts before the 2000s but other martial arts techniques diminished its presence.  

Karate focused on punches, hand/elbow strikes, knee strikes, and kicks. Major Karate styles include the following:


Origin: It has got many different roots, but formally introduced during the 1950s by Japanese karateka named Tatsuo Yamada, a new sport that combined karate and Muay Thai 

Style: Striking Martial Arts


This is my personal favorite. It includes aggressive punches, kicks, blocks, and evasive maneuvers. Some other kickboxing styles may also allow knee strikes, elbow strikes, clinching, and even takedowns or throws. 

Krav Maga

Origin: Israel

Style: Hybrid Martial Arts


It’s one of the most lethal forms of martial arts which is developed to inflict as much pain as quickly as possible. 

This non-sports form of martial arts has been extensively used by Israeli Defense Force. Krav Maga’s unofficial slogan is “Hurt them real bad and then get away”.

Kung Fu

Origin: China 

Style: Striking Martial Arts


Although there a presence of multiple Kung fu styles but its primarily a Striking style that was discovered to defend against enemies. 

Its martial art that utilizes kicks, arms, and even weapons to defend against the enemy. Kung Fu has a large variety of sub-styles like: Shaolin, Long Fist, Eagle Claw, Monkey Style, Wing Chun, Hung Gar, Choy Li Fut, etc. 

Muay Thai

Origin: Thailand 

Style: Striking Martial Arts


Its also called “the art of eight limbs” – since it involves hands, legs, elbows, and knees. 

Muay Thai is known for its intense fights and highly conditioned fighters. These martial arts techniques came into limelight when Muay Thai athletes began taking part in world level kickboxing competitions and other mixed rules matches.  

Tae Kwon Do

Origin: Korea

Style: Striking Martial Arts


Taekwondo consists of the following Korean words; Tae “to strike with the foot”, Kwon “to strike with the hand” and Do “the way”.

It’s one of the few martial arts styles that compete in the Olympics. 

A style that is known for spectacular kicks. 


Origin: Japan

Style: Strike and Grappling


Over four centuries ago in northern India, Buddhist monks developed a technique of self-defense while on their journey to spread the words of the buddha. Why do they need to develop a fighting skill? The world that wasn’t always kind to roaming peoples. 

This style of fighting made its way to Japan where it was more refined to be called Japanese Jujutsu. 

Japanese Jujutsu uses the attacker’s momentum to be used in favor of the practitioner, this technique is highly beneficial in close combat situations. Japanese samurai used this technique to defend their opponent in closed combat when they couldn’t use any other weapon. 

Jujutsu methods include striking, throwing, joint locks, weaponry, and grappling. The goal of the Jujutsu is to disarm the opponent and knock him down. 


Origin: Japan

Style: Takedown Style Techniques


Judo is another famous martial arts style derived from Japanese Jujutsu. 

Judo also uses the momentum of the attacker to throw him down, this martial art is more into grappling and throwing the opponent. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Origin: Brazil

Style: Grapple


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, also known as BJJ, has gained its current popularity through the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) first, second, and fourth winner, the legendary Royce Gracie. 

BJJ was originally derived from the Judo which is a derivative of Japanese Jujutsu. 

Japanese Jujutsu and its derivatives were unknown to the western world until 1914 when Kodokan Judo master Mitsuyo Maeda (1878-1941) came to stay at the household of Brazil’s Gastao Gracie. Gracie helped the Japanese master with some business matter, in return, Maeda taught Gastao’s eldest son, Carlos, the art of judo. Later, Carlo taught the art to other family members and his younger brother Helio. Helio realized the fast that Judo favors the stronger and larger fighter which motivated him to develop a derivative of Maeda’s technique that could save the smaller fighters over brute force methods of Judo. That’s how Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu came into existence. 

Getting started in BJJ is hard and can be a little intimidating. Finding the right school, instructor and class is everything when it comes to getting started in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Another common question that gets asked is: “what BJJ gear do I need?”. Luckily, MMA-Today has all the information that you need. Read how to find the perfect BJJ Gi that fits your gender, age, and height or the best BJJ belt for Gi training and gradings.

Russian Sambo

Origin: Russia

Style:  Takedown Style Techniques


Russian Sambo does not have a long history like Asian martial arts, its a self-defense system that was formulated by Vasili Oshchepkov (karate and Judo trainer for Russia’s elite Red Army) in the early 1900s. Sambo has been known to be derived from several different martial arts styles. 

Fedor Emelianenko played a big role in bringing Russian sambo into the limelight, Fedor Vladimirovich Emelianenko is a Russian heavyweight mixed martial artist, sambist, and judoka, currently competing for Rizin Fighting Federation and Bellator MMA. 

Russian Sambo includes disarming techniques, grappling, striking, elbow locks and other defense techniques. It has been widely used by Russian forces to deal with adversities. 


Origin: Japan

Style: Grappling and Wrestling


Sumo wrestling doesn’t need any introduction. Rules are simple: the wrestler who first exits the ring or touches the ground with any part of his body besides the soles of his feet loses. Sumo wrestling hardly lasts longer than seconds.


Origin: China

Style:  Low Impact Martial Arts


Also known as “The eight trigram palm”, it’s a powerful internal martial art that uses the combination of strikes, joint locks, and throws.  

It’s a non-aggressive martial art technique that was developed to improve mental health and body balance. This technique teaches the practitioner to divert the opponent’s aggression and energy against him. 

Baguazhang is often characterized by flowing forms of martial arts that help in bringing stillness and awareness towards inside (mind) and outside (movements). 

Tai Chi: 

Origin: China

Style: Low Impact Martial Arts


A martial art that is designed to relieve stress and bring calmness. 

Tai chi is an internal martial art that focuses more on breathing techniques. 

Although it’s not the best martial art for self-defense but has been practiced by millions as a form of meditation. The slow movements of Tai chi are known to improve balance and relieve stress. 


Origin: Philippines 

Style: Weapons Based Style, Offensive Striking techniques


An offensive martial art technique that has been used by special forces to bring down armed opponents. 

Kali is basically a weapon-based fighting technique which pays emphasis on transitioning from weapons to bare hand fluidly (since you may lose your weapon during a fight). Elements of kali include weapons fighting, striking, grappling, throwing/ takedowns and Biting as well. 


Style:  Hybrid Fighting Style


Mix martial arts or MMA is a hybrid martial arts that involve a variety of martial arts styles. Matches go through various scenarios like Stand-up strike fights, Throwing, Grappling, Submissions, etc. 

The beauty of MMA is, it doesn’t confine the athlete to choose a particular fight style, they can come from different training backgrounds and evaluate their fighting skills. MMA fighters are trained to fight both on the ground and on their feet. 

Another important aspect that makes these fighters special is their high level of body conditioning.  



Origin: India

Style:  Weapons Based Style


Ghatka is an Indian martial art that focuses on fighting with various weapons, especially swords. 

Ghatka originated in Punjab in the 15th century by the Sikhs. Although this ancient martial art was developed to defend countrymen from invaders, it’s still practiced in some provinces of Punjab.

Typical Gatka weapons include a variety of swords, spear,  chakram (circle-based weapon), metal claws, etc.

Kalaripayattu– Kerala

Indian martial arts

Origin: India

Style: Weapons Based Style


It’s said to be one of the oldest styles of martial art that is still practiced in the southern part of India. The existence of Martial arts in India for over 3000 years can be proved by the mention of martial arts in the Vedas. 

It’s a weapon-based fighting technique that was developed to be used on battlefields, good footwork techniques play an important role in Kalaripayattu. 

Kalaripayattu includes strikes, kicks and a wide range of weapons (especially swords). 

Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always. 

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