20 Famous Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

“Unveiling the World’s Traditional Martial Arts”

In this piece, we are going to discuss “Famous traditional martial arts from around the world” that are not only enjoyable to study but also extremely beneficial to one’s development as a martial artist. Read on to learn more about the rich tapestry of martial arts that our planet has to offer, regardless of whether you are an experienced practitioner or just looking to dip your toes into this world of discipline and self-improvement. If the former applies to you, then keep reading.

If traditional martial arts interest you, you might also enjoy traditional sports from other cultures. Our interesting article Popular Traditional Sports From Different Cultures talks about a number of sports that are very important in different cultures.

20 Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World That Are Fun and Rewarding to Learn

Martial arts have always been popular, across borders and cultures. In a unique way, they combine getting fit, learning self-defense, and learning about other cultures. A lot of people learn traditional martial arts every year, whether they are experienced practitioners or people who want to try something new. These arts are fun to learn and very rewarding. In this article, we’ll talk about 20 traditional martial arts that will not only keep you fit but also help you learn more about yourself and experience personal growth.

1. Karate

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

Although the name “karate” means “way of the empty hand,” it is a very focused style of traditional martial arts from around the world that comes from Japan. Self-discipline and personal growth are very important to it.

key Aspects: Karate

Origin:Japanese island of Okinawa.
Meaning:The term “Karate” means “empty hand” in Japanese.
Techniques:Using hands and feet.
Philosophy: Discipline, respect, and self-improvement.
Belt System:Colored belt ranking system to signify skill level and progress.
Training Methods:Sparring, and self-defense techniques.
Styles:Shotokan, Goju-Ryu, and Wado-Ryu.
Global Popularity:Karate is practiced worldwide and is an Olympic sport with a strong following.

2. Taekwondo

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

The high, lightning-fast kicks and kinetic movements that are characteristic of taekwondo have made the art famous. It is beneficial to one’s physical fitness as well as one’s self-confidence and ability to defend oneself.

key Aspects: Taekwondo

Origin:South Korea
Meaning:“The way of the foot and fist”
Techniques:High, fast kicks, and dynamic movements
Philosophy:Focus on self-discipline and respect
Belt System:White, Yellow, Green, Blue, Black, Dan (Black Belt)
Training Methods:Poomsae (forms), Sparring, Breaking techniques
Styles:ITF (International Taekwondo Federation), WTF (World Taekwondo Federation)
Global Popularity:Among the most practiced martial arts worldwide

3. Muay Thai

Muay Thai is a combat sport that is also known as Thai boxing. It is distinguished as a combat sport by its use of powerful strikes and clinch techniques. It is an excellent method for enhancing the cardiovascular endurance.

key Aspects: Muay Thai

Meaning:“Art of Eight Limbs” – Utilizes fists, elbows, knees, and shins.
Techniques:Strikes, clinch work, powerful kicks, and knee strikes.
Philosophy:Focuses on discipline, respect, and mental toughness.
Belt System:Muay Thai typically uses an armband system instead of belts.
Training Methods:Pad work, sparring, bag work, and shadow boxing.
Styles:Muay Thai has various styles, including traditional and sport-oriented.
Global Popularity:Highly popular worldwide, with a strong following in Asia, Europe, and North America.

4. Kung Fu

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

Kung fu is a form of Chinese martial arts that has a long history and can be practised in a number of different ways. It places an emphasis on fighting techniques as well as mind-body coordination.

key Aspects: Kung Fu

Meaning:“Skill achieved through hard work”
Techniques:Strikes, kicks, blocks, forms, weapons
Philosophy:Balance, harmony, self-improvement
Belt System:Varied, often no standardized belts
Training Methods:Forms (katas), sparring, conditioning
Styles:Hundreds, including Shaolin, Wing Chun
Global Popularity:Widely practiced worldwide

5. Judo

Judo, which is frequently referred to as the “gentle way,” places an emphasis on throws and joint locks. It teaches the art of turning an opponent’s energy against them, which is an extremely powerful tactic.

key Aspects: Judo

Meaning:“The Gentle Way”
Techniques:Throws, joint locks, pins, and groundwork
Philosophy:Emphasizes maximum efficiency and mutual welfare
Belt System:White, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, black
Training Methods:Randori (sparring), Kata (pre-arranged forms)
Styles:Kodokan, Kosen Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Global Popularity:Widely practiced and recognized worldwide

6. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

The ground fighting moves and submissions that are taught in BJJ are very well known. It’s a form of martial art that focuses on building mental toughness and flexibility.

key Aspects: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Meaning:“Gentle Art” or “Soft Art”
Techniques:Ground-based grappling and submissions
Philosophy:Emphasis on leverage and technique over strength
Belt System:White, Blue, Purple, Brown, Black (with degrees)
Training Methods:Sparring (rolling), drilling, positional training
Styles:Various schools and lineages
Global Popularity:Widely practiced worldwide, growing rapidly

7. Krav Maga

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

The Israeli military was responsible for the development of the martial art known as Krav Maga. It is intended for use in self-defense scenarios that occur in the real world.

key Aspects: Krav Maga

Meaning:“Contact Combat”
Techniques:Practical self-defense techniques
Philosophy:Focuses on real-world scenarios
Belt System:Limited or no belt system
Training Methods:Emphasizes instinctive responses
Styles:No strict styles; adaptable approach
Global Popularity:Widely practiced for self-defense

8. Capoeira

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

The Brazilian martial art, dance, and music known as capoeira is a one-of-a-kind combination of these three elements. It teaches self-defense while simultaneously improving your agility, flexibility, and rhythm.

key Aspects: Capoeira

Origin:Brazil, developed by African slaves
Meaning:A martial art that blends dance and music
Techniques:Acrobatic kicks, spins, and sweeps
Philosophy:Promotes community, self-expression, and respect
Belt System:Typically uses cordões (cord system)
Training Methods:Emphasizes roda (circle) practice and music
Styles:Various regional styles with unique elements
Global Popularity:Gained popularity worldwide, vibrant global community

9. Hapkido

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

The Korean martial art of Hapkido combines a variety of techniques, including joint locks, throws, and strikes. It is appropriate for people of varying ages and degrees of physical ability.

If you want to learn more about Hapkido, a traditional Korean martial art that focuses on self-defense techniques. Visit to know more about Hapkido

key Aspects: Hapkido

Origin:South Korea
Meaning:“The way of coordinated power”
Techniques:Strikes, joint locks, throws, and pressure points
Philosophy:Non-aggressive self-defense, harmony, and flow
Belt System:Colored belt ranking system (similar to Karate)
Training Methods:Focus on circular movements and redirection
Styles:Diverse styles and variations within Hapkido
Global Popularity:Moderate global popularity as a martial art

10. Eskrima

Fighting with sticks and blades is the primary focus of Eskrima, a form of Filipino martial art that is also known as Arnis and Kali. Self-defense is not only possible but also effective with this method.

key Aspects: Eskrima

Meaning:Martial art using sticks, blades, and empty hands
Techniques:Stick fighting, blade techniques, trapping, and disarming
Philosophy:Focuses on practical self-defense and adaptability
Belt System:Various systems, but some use a ranking system
Training Methods:Partner drills, forms, sparring, and weapon training
Styles:Eskrima has numerous regional and individual styles
Global Popularity:Gaining popularity worldwide for its effectiveness

11. Shotokan

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

Karate’s Shotokan style is renowned for its powerful stances and blows, making it one of the most popular forms. It is a wonderful way to improve one’s self-control and physical fitness.

key Aspects: Shotokan

Meaning:“The way of the empty hand”
Techniques:Emphasizes powerful strikes and strong stances
Philosophy:Focuses on discipline, respect, and self-improvement
Belt System:Utilizes a colored belt system to denote rank
Training Methods:Includes kata (forms), kumite (sparring), and basics
Styles:Shotokan is a specific style of Karate
Global Popularity:Highly popular worldwide, with millions of practitioners

12. Wing Chun

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

The Chinese martial art known as Wing Chun is particularly well-known for its effectiveness in close-quarters combat. Many people who are interested in effective self-defense choose to study it.

key Aspects: Wing Chun

Origin:China, developed in the southern province of Guangdong
Meaning:“Eternal Spring” or “Beautiful Spring”
Techniques:Focuses on close-range combat, trapping, and strikes
Philosophy:Efficient and direct movements, economy of motion
Belt System:No formal belt ranking system; typically uses sashes
Training Methods:Chi Sao (sticky hands), wooden dummy, forms, sparring
Styles:Multiple lineages, including Ip Man and Wong Shun Leung
Global Popularity:Widely practiced around the world, especially in Asia

13. Tai Chi

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

Tai chi is a martial art that is practised at a slow, flowing pace and emphasises relaxation, balance, and the cultivation of one’s own internal energy. It is perfect for achieving overall well-being.

key Aspects: Tai Chi

Meaning:“Supreme Ultimate Fist”
Techniques:Slow, flowing movements for health and self-defense
Philosophy:Emphasizes balance, harmony, and relaxation
Belt System:Typically, Tai Chi doesn’t have a belt system
Training Methods:Focuses on form practice, meditation, and breath control
Styles:Yang, Chen, Wu, Sun, and Hao are popular styles
Global Popularity:Widely practiced for its health benefits and martial applications

14. Sambo

Sambo is a combat sport that originated in Russia and is a hybrid of Judo and wrestling. It is famous for its grappling on the ground and its submissions.

key Aspects: Sambo

Meaning:“Self-defense without weapons”
Techniques:Throws, submissions, ground control
Philosophy:Practical self-defense and combat efficiency
Belt System:Various systems, including colored belts
Training Methods:Sparring, drills, strength and conditioning
Styles:Sport Sambo, Combat Sambo
Global Popularity:Growing worldwide interest

15. Silat

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

The term “silat” refers to a collection of different types of South-east Asian martial arts. It is famous for its fluid movements as well as its lethal strikes.

key Aspects: Silat

Origin:Southeast Asia
Meaning:Self-defense and martial art
Techniques:Strikes, joint locks, throws, weapons
Philosophy:Emphasis on fluidity and adaptability
Belt System:Often based on colors, varies by style
Training Methods:Forms (Jurus), sparring, self-defense
Styles:Numerous regional and cultural styles
Global Popularity:Gaining recognition worldwide

16. Jujutsu

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

Throws, joint locks, and strikes are the primary focuses of Jujutsu, the ancestor of both Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It prepares you for a variety of different self-defense situations.

key Aspects: Jujutsu

Meaning:“Gentle Art”
Techniques:Throws, joint locks, strikes
Philosophy:Using an opponent’s force against them
Belt System:Yes (varies by school/organization)
Training Methods:Kata, Randori (sparring), drills
Styles:Various (e.g., Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Traditional Jujutsu)
Global Popularity:Widely practiced worldwide

17. Kalaripayattu

A traditional Indian martial art known as Kalaripayattu incorporates striking, kicking, grappling, and the use of weapons. It will introduce you to the diverse cultural traditions of India.

key Aspects: Kalaripayattu

Origin:Kerala, India
Meaning:“Art of battlefield”
Techniques:Strikes, kicks, weaponry
Philosophy:Emphasizes discipline and control
Belt System:Typically no belt system
Training Methods:Extensive physical conditioning
Styles:Northern and Southern styles
Global Popularity:Growing interest worldwide

18. Savate

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

Traditional boxing is combined with kicks delivered with the feet in the combat sport of savate, also known as French Kickboxing. It is both sophisticated and functional at the same time.

key Aspects: Savate

Meaning:“Old Shoe” (refers to the footwear used)
Techniques:Kicks and punches
Philosophy:Emphasizes agility and precision
Belt System:Typically uses colored belts similar to Karate
Training Methods:Focuses on footwork, striking, and sparring
Styles:Savate is primarily practiced in two styles: Savate Boxe Française (French Kickboxing) and Savate Defense (Self-defense)
Global Popularity:Growing popularity globally, especially in Europe and parts of Asia

19. Pankration

Wrestling and striking were both elements of the ancient Greek martial art known as pankration. It is significant historically, and it has been a factor in the development of modern combat sports.

key Aspects: Pankration

Origin:Ancient Greece
Meaning:“All Powers” or “All Abilities”
Techniques:Combines wrestling and striking techniques
Philosophy:Emphasizes physical and mental development
Belt System:Typically, there’s no belt ranking system
Training Methods:Intensive physical conditioning and sparring
Styles:Traditional Pankration and Modern Pankration
Global Popularity:Limited popularity, mainly in Greece

20. Fencing

Traditional Martial Arts from Around the World

Traditional martial arts are the basis for fencing, which is now more commonly practised as a sport. It is a form of strategic martial arts that focuses on teaching accuracy and strategy.

key Aspects: Fencing

Origin:Europe, with roots in swordplay
Meaning:Competitive sport involving swordplay
Techniques:Thrusts, parries, and footwork
Philosophy:Precision, strategy, and mental focus
Belt System:No belt system; rankings based on skill
Training Methods:Drills, sparring, and conditioning
Styles:Foil, epee, and sabre
Global Popularity:Popular in Europe, Asia, and the Americas

It’s important to understand the basics of traditional martial arts and also to value cultural traditions in a broader sense. The article Notable Cultural Traditions of Indigenous Peoples tells about the diverse and rich history of indigenous groups around the world. It’s very interesting to learn about the beliefs, traditions, and ways of life that have made these cultures unique. Learn about the links between traditional martial arts and different cultures in general.

It’s not just about fighting; martial arts are a way to learn about yourself, be disciplined, and grow as a person. The 20 traditional martial arts we looked at here show how different and interesting the world is. There is a martial art for everyone, whether you like the technical side of Taekwondo, the graceful side of Kung Fu, or the useful side of Krav Maga. So, start your martial arts journey today. You’ll gain not only physical strength but also mental toughness, confidence, and a deep respect for the cultures that have been the source of these arts.


Which martial art is the most effective for self-defense?

Personal preferences and the current situation are just two examples of the variables that affect a martial art’s effectiveness for self-defense. Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are well-known for their usefulness in real-world self-defense situations.

Can anyone, regardless of age or fitness level, learn martial arts?

Yes, people of all ages and fitness levels can participate in martial arts. Many styles provide beginner-friendly classes as well as flexibility to meet individual needs.

Is traditional martial arts still relevant today?

Absolutely! Traditional martial arts teach valuable lessons in self-control, discipline, and physical fitness, making them relevant for personal growth and well-being in today’s world.

Originally posted 2023-10-05 01:55:17.


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