5 Most Popular Types of Martial Arts

Avatar for DW Pardasani By in aikido, capoeira, fitness, hapkido, karate, krav maga, martial arts on 20/02/2019
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Remember when you were young and your friends took different types of martial arts krav maga, karate, taekwondo or kickboxing classes? Perhaps, you were a big Jackie Chan fan or watched lots of martial arts movies like Karate Kid (I mean, who could forget “wax on, wax off”!)? While I thrived in my world of dance, these influences meant that a part of me always wondered whether I would have enjoyed martial arts, too. That got me thinking…is it too late to start taking martial arts classes now? And I found the answer to be a resounding “no!”

Practicing martial arts is a great way to learn self-defence, boost your confidence, improve discipline and get exercise. So as an adult, what classes can you take and what are the most popular martial arts to choose from? We take a look at some of these disciplines below to help you make a more informed decision.

1. Karate

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Karate is likely to have touched your life in one way or another – someone you know has done it, your neighbour’s kid is taking classes or karate-based movies and movie stars have influenced your perception of this martial art. So it comes as no surprise that karate is practiced by millions of people around the world and is one of the most popular types of martial arts.

Karate originated in Okinawa, Japan thousands of years ago, but the current form only dates back around 200 years. Interestingly, karate (kara-te) translates to ’empty hands’ and alludes to the act of blocking and striking opponents without the use of weapons. Hands, elbows, knees and feet are typically used.

Classes for this martial art take place in karate training studios known as dojos. Training takes place in a safe, positive, rewarding environment that is suitable for people of all ages, abilities and body types. Karate is a well-rounded type of martial arts as it works out your body and mind as you work through achievements from white to black belt. Other benefits of karate include improving discipline, self confidence and self esteem.

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2. Aikido

Like karate, aikido is a Japanese martial art. But unlike karate, aikido was only developed earlier this century and is considered a more modern form of martial arts.

Aikido is a defensive martial art form because it is employed as a mechanism to resolve conflict or to defend oneself from someone showing aggression. Its core principles are non-aggression, non-resistance and non-competitiveness. As such, you can expect your fellow aikidoist not to be battling you in competition, but rather sharing the mutual goal of achieving personal growth at each individual’s pace.

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This Japanese martial art can be practiced by men, women and children. If you are interested in practicing martial arts that can help you get physically fit, work on movement and self defence, while also allowing for spiritual growth, then aikido is for you. In fact, ‘aikido’ literally means ‘the way of harmony with the forces and principles of nature.’

3. Hapkido

types of martial arts

While hapkido has similar roots to aikido, it is a different martial art form completely. In fact, unlike its Japanese counterpart, Hapkido is a 2000 year old Korean martial art. It employs circular, flowing movements and the natural flow of an opponent’s energy to subdue or overpower them. Interestingly, a number of techniques are used to help students focus on energy originating from within to achieve optimal effectiveness.

Unlike aikido, which is a purely defensive martial art, hapkido is considered a comprehensive martial art. This is because it has a strong focus on self defence coupled with strikes, throws, joint locks, kicks, immobilisation techniques and weapons. Weapons can include staffs, swords, canes, belts and short sticks (dan bong).

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Hapkido incorporates over 270 movements and 3400 techniques so it gives you a full body workout. It is suitable for adults and children alike with benefits that include weight loss, building endurance and improving overall fitness.

4. Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a mixed martial art form that involves a combination of techniques from karate, aikido, boxing, muay Thai and judo to name a few. It is an Israeli martial art that is now used by military and armed forces around the world. In those applications, krav maga is one of the most deadliest martial arts forms.

Krav Maga is not a sport so classes are not competition-focused. Instead, the focus is on the application of self defence techniques to real life situations. The aim is to combine an offensive move with a defensive one at each instance so that maximum impact can be made with the primary goal of neutralising the threat as quickly as possible. This effective and powerful self defence system can be used to fight off armed assailants and advances of sexual violence, for example.

This martial art is not designed to look pretty and is functional in nature. Depending on the situation, this can include keeping you safe, keeping you alive and protecting you. In a class situation, krav maga can be undertaken by anyone irrespective of age, fitness level, size or strength.

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5. Capoeira

While the exact history is disputed, one supported origin story is that capoeira (kapu-air-ah) was developed by Africans brought to Brazil as slaves. They developed fighting techniques as a means of self defence and protection from their slave masters. It’s believed that their fighting moves were disguised by combining them with music, dance, acrobatics and rituals. This allowed them to practice their around 500 year old martial art form without being detected by the slave masters.

types of martial arts

If you want to start martial arts classes, but don’t like the sound of more traditional forms, capoeira is for you. Capoeira has evolved over the years, but it remains arguably the most beautiful martial art form. There are two styles of capoeira – Capoeira Angola and Capoeira Regional. While both forms have similarities, the former is more closely aligned with its African roots with slower movements close to the ground. The latter is a more modern style developed in the 1930s with faster movements and capoeiristas standing tall. Some schools teach both styles and refer to their contemporary style as Capoeira Contempor├ónea.

No previous martial arts, dance or gymnastics experience is required to enrol in a capoeira class. While capoeira is suitable for everyone, it can be physically demanding.

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While these are this year’s 5 most popular types of martial arts, there are several other styles you might want to consider like kung fu, taekwando and muay Thai. Click here if you’re interested in martial arts in Melbourne! Please share this post to help others looking to start martial arts a head start on their search.

Avatar for DW Pardasani

An experienced writer and media and communications professional, DW is the chief content officer at Avaana. She loves dogs and basketball. As a classically trained dancer, DW credits her wellbeing to alternative therapies.
  1. Avatar for Shayne Harris

    Hi DW
    You missed Ninjutsu and several Kung Fu Tai Chi styles..??
    cheers Sensei Shayne 34 years study of Bujinkan Ninjutsu

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