How Many Different Types & Styles of Martial Arts Are There?

When it comes to the question of how many forms of martial arts are there, you might be surprised by the sheer number of different practices all across the globe. But, how many forms of martial arts are there?

The World Martial Arts Union recognizes over 200 styles of martial arts but estimates the total number may range from 400 to 1,000 or more. These styles may be grouped by geography, philosophy, or techniques, and can be classified as striking, grappling, or weapons-based. 


But a number of those you’ve never heard of. And many are VERY similar to one another.

So in this article, we’ll uncover the many different forms of martial arts practiced around the world, exploring their distinct techniques and philosophies. Furthermore, we’ll explore how many countries have their own unique form of martial art developed over centuries.

But don’t worry. I’ll also be taking a closer look at the most popular martial arts, why they are popular, and what their roots are.

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents:

different forms martial arts lg

What Are Martial Arts?

Martial arts are a collection of various fighting styles and techniques that have been developed over centuries for self-defense, sport, mental and physical health, spiritual development, and even entertainment.

These practices often involve striking techniques (punches, kicks), grappling techniques (throws, joint locks), or the use of weapons. There is an incredibly wide range of different martial arts around the globe. And each style has its own unique characteristics.

Some, like Aikido or Tai Chi, are very peaceful by nature. These have a strong spiritual component and are largely defensive as opposed to offensive.

But others, like Krav Maga, are more of a self-defense system than a true martial art.

Krav Maga completely lacks a spiritual component and just focuses on simple down-and-dirty techniques designed to quickly incapacitate attackers.

Finally, others like Muay Thai and some factions of BJJ,  are geared mostly towards sport and competition rather than self-defense or spiritual development.

A Brief History of Martial Arts

The roots of most martial arts can be traced back to ancient societies in a small handful of countries such as:

  • China
  • Japan
  • India
  • Greece
  • Egypt
  • Rome

Bodhidharma, an Indian monk, developed Shaolin Kung Fu in 495 AD at the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. That makes it one of the oldest forms of Chinese martial arts.

As time went on, these ancient combat systems evolved into the more modern martial arts we know today like Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, etc.

Different Categories Of Martial Arts

  • Striking Styles: These focus on punches, kicks elbow strikes & knee strikes; examples include Muay Thai(Boxing), Kickboxing & Karate.
  • Grappling Styles: They emphasize throws & submission holds; Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu(BJJ) & Wrestling fall under this category.
  • Weapon-Based Styles: These involve training with traditional weapons like swords, sticks & nunchaku; Kendo, Arnis & Kobudo are some examples.
  • Hybrid Martial Arts: Mixed Martial Arts(MMA) combine elements from 2 or more styles of specific martial arts to create a more well-rounded fighting system. And the UFC is the most popular organization promoting MMA events worldwide.

Martial Arts for Self-Defense and Personal Growth

In addition to being an effective means of self-defense, martial arts can also provide numerous benefits for personal growth and development.

Training in martial arts not only helps improve physical fitness, but also mental focus, discipline, and confidence. And all of that is, of course, in addition to self-defense.

Participants may also find a sense of direction and community among their peers. For example, Krav Maga, developed by the Israeli military as a highly efficient self-defense system has gained popularity around the world due to its practicality in real-life situations.

The practice of martial arts can be tailored to suit individual needs – whether you’re looking for intense combat sports competition or gentle exercises focusing on balance and coordination such as Tai Chi or Yoga.

With so many martial arts options available there is absolutely something to fit everyone’s needs.

Martial arts are a great way to learn self-defense, stay fit and healthy, and even have fun. Now let’s take a look at a great many of the different martial arts that are out there.

List of All The Different Martial Arts Styles

A variety of martial arts practices exist around the world, each possessing its own distinct approaches and beliefs. Here is a list of some of the best-known martial arts, along with a brief description:

  • Karate: Originating in Okinawa, Japan, this popular martial art focuses on striking techniques using punches, kicks, knee strikes, and open-handed strikes. Learn more about Karate at World Karate Federation.
  • Judo: A Japanese grappling art that emphasizes throws and joint locks to subdue an opponent. Judo is also an Olympic sport; find out more at the official International Judo Federation website.
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ): Developed from traditional Japanese jiu-jitsu by Brazilian practitioners Carlos and Helio Gracie in the early 20th century. BJJ focuses on ground fighting and submission holds such as chokes or joint locks. Check out the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) for more information.
  • Tae Kwon Do: This Korean martial art has a large focus on high-flying kicks. But it’s not all kicks. It also uses powerful hand strikes also to create a dynamic fighting style that’s both visually impressive and effective in self-defense situations. Visit World Taekwondo’s official website (WT).
  • Muay Thai: Known as “The Art of Eight Limbs,” Muay Thai is a striking martial art from Thailand that uses fists, elbows, knees, and shins to deliver powerful blows. Learn more about this intense combat sport at the World Muaythai Council.
  • Kung Fu: This is a general term for all Chinese martial arts. Since the name is just generic for any style practiced in China, Kung Fu covers an incredibly wide variety of styles from Wing Chun (what Bruce Lee did initially), to Tai Chi, and Shaolin Kung Fu. Visit the International Wushu Federation (IWUF) for more information on these diverse disciplines.
  • Krav Maga: Developed by the Israeli military in response to the ongoing violence in the middle east, Krav Maga focuses on dead simple self-defense techniques designed to quickly neutralize threats. Find out more about this efficient fighting system at the official site of Krav Maga Global (KMG).
  • Aikido: Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba in Japan during the early 20th century. Aikido focuses more on fluid circular movements and joint locks rather than strikes or kicks. It also has a do-no-harm ethos and only uses damaging techniques as a last resort. For further details on this peaceful martial art visit The International Aikido Federation’s website (IAF).
  • Mixed Martial Arts (MMA): As the name suggests, MMA combines elements from 2 or more martial arts into one comprehensive fighting style. And while MMA focuses mostly on competition, it also works well for self-defense purposes too. To learn more about MMA events and fighters check out the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s website (UFC).
  • Boxing: A classic combat sport that focuses on punches and footwork, boxing has been practiced for centuries as both a form of self-defense and an Olympic event. Learn more about this timeless art at the International Boxing Association’s website (AIBA).

This selection of martial arts offers a great introduction to the captivating realm of combat sports.

A comprehensive register of the numerous martial arts practices is offered, providing an insightful survey of the varied disciplines on offer. It’s intriguing to ponder the various countries that have crafted their own distinct martial art form, which we can delve into further with our next topic.

Key Takeaway: 

This article presents an array of martial arts forms from different parts of the globe, each with its own distinct techniques and beliefs. From Karate and Judo to BJJ, Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, Kung Fu, Krav Maga, Aikido, and MMA or Boxing – this article outlines a range of martial arts styles from around the world with their own distinct techniques and philosophies. This comprehensive guide serves as a starting point for anyone interested in exploring the fascinating world of martial arts.

How Many Different Countries Have Martial Arts?

Martial arts have a rich and diverse history, with various forms originating from different countries across the globe. This section delves into the origins of some renowned martial arts forms.

Japanese Martial Arts

Japanese martial arts, also known as “budo,” have been practiced for centuries in Japan.

Popular martial art styles from Japan include Judo, Karate, Aikido, Kendo, and Sumo wrestling – all of which focus on physical training as well as mental development for achieving harmony between body and mind. These disciplines focus on physical training as well as mental development to achieve harmony between body and mind.

Chinese Martial Arts

Chinese martial arts, or “wushu,” are deeply rooted in Chinese culture and philosophy. Styles such as Kung Fu (including Shaolin Kung Fu), Tai Chi Chuan, Wing Chun, Baguazhang are just a few examples of the vast array of Chinese martial art forms that emphasize fluidity of movement combined with explosive power.

Korean Martial Arts

In Korea, Korean martial arts like Taekwondo (an Olympic sport), Hapkido (known for its joint locks), Tang Soo Do, and Kuk Sool Won among others are widely practiced. They often incorporate high-flying kicks alongside powerful strikes making them visually impressive.

Thai Martial Arts:

  • Muay Thai: The Art of Eight Limbs is a combat sport that originated in Thailand. It utilizes punches, kicks, elbow strikes, and knee strikes to create a powerful fighting style.
  • Krabi-Krabong: This traditional Thai martial art focuses on the use of weapons such as swords and staffs alongside unarmed techniques.

Cambodian Martial Arts:

  • Bokator: Also known as Kbach Kun Bokator, this ancient Cambodian martial art incorporates animal movements and various striking techniques for self-defense purposes.
  • Kun Khmer (Pradal Serey): Similar to Muay Thai, this Cambodian kickboxing style emphasizes the use of knees, elbows, punches, and kicks.

In addition to these well-known styles from Asia, there are numerous other forms of martial arts originating from countries like Brazil (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), Israel (Krav Maga), Russia (Systema and Sambo) India(Kalaripayattu) among others. These disciplines have evolved over time influenced by cultural practices, local customs, and specific needs which makes them unique in their own right.

Throughout history, various nations have cultivated their own distinct martial arts techniques. Let’s explore the differences between various martial arts forms.

Key Takeaway: 

Martial arts have diverse origins and styles across the globe, with Japanese budo emphasizing physical and mental harmony, Chinese wushu combining fluidity of movement with explosive power, Korean martial arts incorporating high-flying kicks alongside powerful strikes, Muay Thai utilizing eight limbs for combat sports in Thailand while Bokator from Cambodia incorporates animal movements. These forms have evolved over time influenced by cultural practices and local customs making them unique in their own right.

How Much Do Different Martial Arts Vary From Each Other?

With over 190 different martial arts in the world, it’s no surprise that there is a vast range of techniques and styles. Due to geographical, cultural, and historical influences, martial arts vary significantly in terms of techniques and styles.

Exploring some of the key distinctions between various martial arts, we will now delve into this topic further.

Different Techniques

Different techniques are one of the primary ways in which martial arts vary from each other.

Some martial arts focus on striking with hands and feet, and sometimes elbows (e.g., Muay Thai, Karate, and Taekwondo). But others have a huge focus on grappling (e.g., Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu).

Then, of course, there are also hybrid systems like Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) that combine both striking and grappling techniques from 2 or more martial arts for a more well-rounded approach to combat and sport.

Cultural Influences & Origins

The origins of a particular martial art play an essential role in shaping its unique characteristics.

Chinese Kung Fu has its foundation in traditional Chinese culture, incorporating aspects of ancient philosophies such as Taoism and Confucianism. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was created by adapting Japanese Jujutsu to fit local Brazilian needs.

List of Popular Martial Arts Styles By Country:

  • Japan: Karate, Judo, Aikido
  • Korea: Taekwondo
  • Brazil: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • China: Kung Fu, Tai Chi
  • Thailand: Muay Thai

Fighting Philosophy & Approach

Different martial arts also vary in their fighting philosophies and approach to combat.

For instance, Aikido emphasizes non-resistance, using an opponent’s energy against them through circular motions and joint locks. Krav Maga is a system of self-defense techniques geared towards providing practical solutions for real-world scenarios.

Sport vs. Self-Defense vs. Spiritual Development

Martial arts tend to fall into one of three main categories:

  • Sport (e.g., Judo, BJJ, Taekwondo)
  • Self-defense (e.g., Krav Maga, Systema)
  • Spiritual development (e.g., Tai Chi)

While some martial arts may incorporate elements from all three categories, each art typically has a primary focus that distinguishes it from others.

In conclusion, the world of martial arts is incredibly diverse with numerous styles varying significantly in terms of techniques, cultural influences, origins, fighting philosophy/approach as well as whether they are geared towards sport or self-defense, or spiritual development purposes.

The differences between various martial arts styles can be vast, from the physical techniques to the underlying philosophies. All martial arts styles share the same purpose – to enable self-defense and personal development.

Key Takeaway: 

There are over 190 different martial arts in the world, each with unique techniques and styles influenced by cultural origins. Some focus on striking while others emphasize grappling, and they can be categorized into sport, self-defense, or spiritual development purposes.

What Are the Most Popular Martial Arts Styles?

With the vast range of martial arts styles available, selecting one can be daunting for both newcomers and experienced practitioners alike.

However, some styles have gained more popularity than others due to their effectiveness in self-defense, combat sports, or overall physical and mental benefits. In this section, we will discuss the most popular martial arts styles practiced today.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

BJJ is a grappling-based art that emphasizes control and submission holds, making it an effective choice for MMA competitions like UFC. It has become increasingly popular due to its effectiveness in mixed martial arts competitions like UFC and its emphasis on technique over brute strength.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai, a martial art using eight points of contact to deliver powerful strikes, has become popular in mixed martial arts events like UFC.

This striking-based martial art is widely used by professional fighters in MMA bouts due to its versatility and devastating power.


A Japanese martial art with various substyles such as Shotokan and Goju Ryu; Karate emphasizes striking techniques using punches, kicks, and knee strikes along with open-handed strikes like knife-hands or ridge hands.

Its popularity skyrocketed after being featured in numerous movies starring actors like Chuck Norris and Jackie Chan, as well as the original Karate Kid movies.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do (or Taekwondo) is a Korean martial art that emphasizes high, fast kicks and jumping or spinning techniques. It has gained global recognition as an Olympic sport since 2000, making it one of the most popular martial arts styles practiced worldwide.


Another Japanese martial art, Judo focuses on throws and grappling techniques to control opponents rather than striking them. As an Olympic sport since 1964, Judo’s popularity can be attributed to its emphasis on physical fitness, mental discipline, and respect for others.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a modern Israeli self-defense system designed for real-life situations.

Its practical approach to dealing with threats using simple yet effective techniques has made it increasingly popular among civilians looking for efficient self-defense training.

In addition to these top styles, there are countless other martial arts disciplines worth exploring based on individual preferences and goals. Whether you’re keen on classic Oriental disciplines like Kung Fu or Wing Chun, or more modern ones such as MMA and Jeet Kune Do – there’s something for everyone.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 9 kinds of martial arts?

The nine kinds of martial arts typically refer to a mix of popular and traditional styles:

  • Karate
  • Taekwondo
  • Judo
  • Kung Fu
  • Muay Thai
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
  • Boxing, Kickboxing
  • Wrestling

Each style has its unique techniques and philosophies.

Who is the # 1 martial artist in the world?

It’s difficult to determine a single “No. 1” martial artist due to various factors such as skill level across different disciplines.

Some notable figures include Bruce Lee for his impact on modern-day MMA and Georges St-Pierre for his accomplishments in UFC competition.

Here is a list of some top contenders:

  • Bruce Lee – Jeet Kune Do
  • Jet Li – Wushu
  • Jackie Chan – Kung Fu
  • Chuck Norris – Tang Soo Do, Chun Kuk Do, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Donnie Yen – Wing Chun
  • Tony Jaa – Muay Thai
  • Michelle Yeoh – Wushu
  • Steven Seagal – Aikido
  • Ip Man – Wing Chun
  • Anderson Silva – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai

What are forms in martial arts?

‘Forms’ in martial arts refer to prearranged sequences or patterns called ‘kata,’ ‘hyung,’ or ‘taolu.’

They serve as training tools for practicing techniques and developing muscle memory while emphasizing balance, fluidity, and focus within each respective discipline.

These are typically performed solo and often look like choreographed dance movements using martial techniques.

3 Best Martial Arts Styles | No, It's Not Yours


From the ancient to the modern, martial arts come in many shapes and sizes – offering a wide range of options for self-defense or competitive combat.

Each style has its own unique techniques, movements, and strategies that can be used for self-defense or competitive combat sports. Whether you’re looking to get fit or become an expert fighter in any one particular form of martial art there is sure to be something out there for everyone.

With so many forms of martial arts available it can seem daunting at first but by exploring each style thoroughly you will soon find the perfect match for your individual needs.

Image by Donate PayPal Me from Pixabay

4 thoughts on “How Many Different Types & Styles of Martial Arts Are There?

  1. Your posts always provide me with a new perspective and encourage me to look at things differently Thank you for broadening my horizons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top Related Posts