“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.
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.|
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
|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
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|
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
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
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
|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|
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|
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
|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|
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|
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
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
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|
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|
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
|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|
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
|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|
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
|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|
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|
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
|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|
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.