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10 Types of Martial Arts Compared

Whether you’re considering signing your child up for a martial arts class or you want to study the martial arts for self-defense, it can be confusing to choose between the various martial arts styles. While some disciplines are more popular than others, it’s possible to find Chinese martial arts, Japanese martial arts, Korean martial arts, and many others.

To help you understand your choices, we decided to compare 10 different types of martial arts. Here’s what you need to know.


Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art that focuses on self-defense. The primary focus is on blocks, joint locks, and throws instead of on kicks and punches. It is not considered aggressive and is not a competitive sport. 

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is primarily used in competitions and focuses on grappling. Like traditional Jujitsu, it is ideal for smaller people because it enables them to use leverage against a larger opponent. It is sometimes taught as a self-defense method and many women prefer it because it can give them an advantage if they need to fight an attacker.


Judo is a traditional Japanese martial art that was established in 1882. It uses a combination of jujitsu with mental discipline and uses an opponent’s momentum and energy against them. Typical Judo techniques include takedowns and submission holds.


Traditional Japanese Jujitsu was originally developed for the Samurai and teaches students to use grappling in real-life combat situations. It combines elements of Aikido, Judo, and Karate. Like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it is a good discipline for people who want the ability to defend themselves against a larger opponent.


Karate’s origins go back centuries. It was originally known as te and is a traditional Chinese martial art that made its way to Japan. Karate is a standing martial art that incorporates kicks, punches, and uses open hands to block an opponent’s strikes.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a combat method developed by the Israeli army in the 1940s. It combines elements of boxing and wrestling with martial arts movements taken from Aikido, Judo, and Karate. Unlike many of the traditional martial arts, which are intended primarily for defense, Krav Maga was developed for lethal use in combat.

Kung Fu

Like Karate, Kung Fu is a traditional Chinese martial art. One of the biggest differences between the two is that Kung Fu forms tend to be more circular and complex than Karate forms, giving it a more graceful look. While it may look “soft” compared to some other types of martial arts, it can be extremely effective at taking down an opponent.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is a form of kickboxing with ancient origins. It is currently the national sport of Thailand. It uses gloves and protective gear at various levels. Typical movements include kicking, punching, and sparring to defend against opponents.


Taekwondo as we know it began in the 1940s after World War II ended, but its origins go back millennia because it incorporates movements from traditional Korean combat martial arts. The art of taekwondo incorporates 80% kicking and 20% hand techniques, including blocks, punches, and open hand strikes against opponents.

Tang Soo Do

Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial art that shares roots with Taekwondo. When Taekwondo emerged in the 1940s, some practitioners of traditional Korean combat wanted to preserve some of the elements that were lost. The focus in Tang Soo Do is on kicks, punches, and one-step sparring.

Any one of the martial arts styles we have explained here may be right for you. It may be helpful to watch videos to get a feel for each martial art before you enroll in your first class.

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