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Sep 2011 17

Martial arts are now practiced throughout the world. About 100 million people participate in the martial arts as a means of self-defense, physical fitness, mental tranquility, and competition. There are about 200 distinct martial arts, and within each one are specific schools called styles or systems. These styles number in the thousands.

Despite the array of martial arts and styles, most of them share common techniques, and so they can be organized into broad categories that facilitate understanding. The primary way of classifying martial arts is by the basic physical technique they use: striking or grappling.

The striking technique, technically referred to as percussive, uses blows with the hands, elbows, feet, knees, and head. Such popular martial arts as karate, kung fu, and tae kwon do fall under this category.

Grappling arts, on the other hand, primarily employ throwing, locking, and wrestling techniques. These arts seek to neutralize aggressive action by gaining control over an adversary without necessarily striking the person. The most popular grappling arts are jujutsu, judo, and aikido.

Judo (Japanese for ‘gentle way’) is an art of self-defense developed from jujutsu in 1882 by Japanese educator Kano Jigoro. Like jujutsu, judo is a method of turning an opponent’s force to one’s own advantage through grappling and throwing skills. Instead of directly opposing the opponent’s strength, the goal is to yield to him or her, which will unbalance the opponent. This makes it easier to complete a throw.

The martial arts can also be divided into those that prohibit weapons and those that require them. In judo, for example, competitors use only their bodies, but in many styles of kung fu, weapons represent an essential part of the basic training. Common weapons used in martial arts include swords, staffs, and spears made of wood or metal. Firearms are never used.

Martial arts can also be divided by function and philosophy into traditional and nontraditional, according to the way they are taught. Traditional teachers emphasize self-improvement, whereas non-traditionalists emphasize self-defense. When instructing their students, traditionalists focus on three priorities, in the following order: spiritual development, discipline, and aesthetic form. Nontraditional instruction accents combat, discipline, and spiritual development. Both schools of thought offer advantages to students, encouraging the cultivation of such traits as self-confidence, which can then be successfully carried over and applied to everyday life.

Newer forms of martial arts such as Bazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Muay Thai are also gaining tremendous popularity for its health and lifestyle benefits. BJJ promotes the principle that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend himself against a bigger, stronger assailant using leverage and proper technique; most notably, by applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person. Jiu Jitsu can be trained for sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition or self-defense.

Martial sports like kickboxing are also very popular. Kickboxing is the main martial arts spectator sport because of its extensive international television coverage. The sport was first developed in Thailand hundreds of years ago, but in the 1970s it was adopted by Americans, who helped make it popular all over the world. Kickboxing techniques involve the hand techniques of Western boxing and the kicking techniques of the Eastern martial arts. Contestants wear gloves and footpads.

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2 comments

  1. Tyler says:

    This is a pretty good post for beginners. I think tbh in many ways it’s choosing your speciality and style of fighting that is the most important decision we have to make. After a while it usually becomes obvious which is best suited to you. At least that’s what I found anyway.

  2. Danyel says:

    Brazilian jiujitsu is by far and away the best martial art for me! It’s a popular MMA style but absolutely obvious why – as a smaller dude allegedly with less ‘strength’ than most of my friends I find it awesome to be able to take down most anyone i choose, not that i do in unnecessary situations!

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