5 Most Popular Types of Martial Arts

Avatar for Declan Davey and DW Pardasani By in aikido, capoeira, fitness, hapkido, karate, krav maga, martial arts on 20/02/2019
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Five types of martial arts to choose from are karate, aikido, hapkido, krav maga, and capoeira. Glance through the guide below to get a solid understanding of all of these martial art forms.

Were you ever tempted to try out martial arts when you were a kid? Perhaps you were a big Jackie Chan fan? Or, you may have watched popular movies like Karate Kid (I mean, who could forget “wax on, wax off”!)?

I thrived in my world of dance but a part of me always wondered whether I would have enjoyed martial arts, too.

And that got me thinking. Is it too late to start taking martial arts classes now? Well, I’ve found the answer to be a resounding “no!”

Quick & Easy: Did you know you can browse the best deals on Martial Arts classes in Australia here on Avaana?

A great way to learn self-defense, boost your confidence, improve discipline is to practice martial arts. Plus, it’s a healthy, well-rounded source of exercise that you can enjoy in a social setting.

You might have wondered what the best class will be for you to take at this stage in your life. Two important questions to consider are:

  • What skills can each martial art teach you?
  • What are the most demanding martial arts to pick up?

With these questions in mind, let’s take a look at some of these disciplines to help you make a more informed decision about the best martial arts to trial.

Types of Martial Arts to Choose From

1. Karate

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Karate is likely to have touched your life in one way or another.

Either someone you know has done it, your neighbour’s kid is taking classes, or karate-based movies and movie stars have intrigued you to learn more about this martial art.

So, it comes as no surprise that karate is practiced by millions of people around the world. Without a doubt, it’s 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.’ This alludes to the act of blocking and striking opponents without the use of weapons.

Hands, elbows, knees, feet. Karate demands action from all of these body parts.

Classes for this martial art take place in karate training studios known as dojos. Training is designed to be in a safe, positive, rewarding environment that is suitable for people of all ages, abilities, and body types.

Karate is one of the most holistic types of martial arts. Why so?

Because it works out your body and mind as you work through achievements from white to black belt.

Further benefits of karate include improving discipline, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

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Fun facts about Karate:

  • Karate is made up of many sub-styles. Well-loved styles include Goju Ryu and Shotokan.
  • Reaching the black belt status in karate usually takes around five years, though this can range from three to seven years.

2. Aikido

Similar to karate, aikido is one of the key Japanese martial arts. But, unlike karate, aikido was only developed earlier this century. It is recognised as a more modern form of martial art.


Aikido is a defensive martial art form because it is used as a method to resolve conflict or to defend oneself in a threatening situation.

Its core principles are non-aggression, non-resistance, and non-competitiveness. As such, you can expect your fellow aikidoist to steer away from engaging in frequent battles, but rather sharing the mutual goal of achieving personal growth at each individual’s pace.

types of martial arts

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-defense, 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

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While hapkido has similar roots to aikido, it is a different martial art form entirely.

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.

To achieve peak effectiveness, a number of techniques are used to help students focus on energy originating from within. Pretty cool, right?

Aikido is a purely defensive martial art but Hapkido is considered a comprehensive martial art. This is because it has a strong focus on self-defense combined with strikes, throws, joint locks, kicks, immobilisation techniques, and weapons.

Weapons can include staffs, swords, canes, belts, and short sticks (dan bong).

types of martial arts

Hapkido incorporates over 270 movements and 3,400 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.

Fun facts about Hapkido:

4. Krav Maga


Krav maga is a mixed martial art form that involves a blend 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 these environments, krav maga is viewed as one of the deadliest types of martial arts to learn.

Krav maga is not a sport so classes are not competition-focused. Instead, the focus is on the application of self-defense techniques to real-life situations.

The aim is to couple an offensive move with a defensive one at each instance. This increases the impact that can be made, with the primary goal of neutralising the threat as quickly as possible.

An effective and powerful self-defense system, Krav maga can be used to fight off armed assailants and advances of sexual violence, for example.

As a martial art, it is not designed to look pretty. Rather, it is functional in nature.

Depending on the situation, this can include keeping you safe and protecting your loved ones in moments of danger.

In a class situation, Krav maga can be undertaken by anyone, no matter their age, fitness level, size, or strength.

types of martial arts

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 the 500-year-old fighting techniques as a means of self-defense and protection from their slave masters.

It’s believed that the Africans’ fighting moves were disguised by being combined with music, dance, acrobatics, and rituals.

This allowed them to practice their martial art form without detection by the slave masters. A rather smart approach to take, wouldn’t you say?

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 one of the best martial arts, in part due to its beauty and grace of movement.

There are two main styles of capoeira. These are:

While these two forms do have certain similarities, the former is more closely aligned with its African roots with slower movements close to the ground.

The latter, Capoeira Regional, is a more modern style developed in the 1930s. It involves faster movements and capoeiristas standing tall. Some schools teach both styles. In this case, they refer to their contemporary style as Capoeira Contemporânea.

No previous martial arts, dance, or gymnastics experience is required to enrol in a capoeira class. With this in mind, capoeira is technically suitable for everyone.

Word of warning, though: it can be physically demanding!

Fun facts about Capoeira:

  • Instrumental music, group chanting, and singing often appear within the practice of capoeira.
  • The most valued movement set to master in capoeira is called ‘the ginga.’
types of martial arts

5 Types of Martial Arts – Closing Thoughts

While these are this year’s 5 most popular types of martial arts, there are several other styles you might want to consider. Kung fu, taekwondo, and muay Thai are three of the other best martial arts to try out.

Anyway, that’s probably enough information for today, so we’d like to thank you very much for stopping by!

If you’re looking for martial arts classes in Australian cities such as Melbourne, click here to start your search.

And if you know anyone else who might be interested in learning about the different types of martial arts, please share this post via email or social media.

P.S. Here’s what the Avaana team recommends you check out next…



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Reviewed by Declan Davey (Health Copywriter) on 24/06/2021

Health Writer | + posts

Declan Davey is a health writer with a background as a psychological therapist. He has provided therapies for a range of NHS health services and wellbeing charities. Website: https://www.declandavey.com/

+ posts

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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