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Discovering Martial Art Styles

Updated on March 21, 2015

Staying In Shape

If you're looking for a creative way to get in shape, you may want to learn more about martial art styles so that you can relax your mind and body through the practices of martial arts.

This guide will help you to figure out which of the combat styles is for you, and you'll also get information on which parts of the body you'll be working with your new exercise routine.

Each of the martial art styles is similar in nature, but there are distinctive differences that set each style apart. One of the main ways that fighting styles are set apart is in the way they are taught.

Soft and hard arts are also another way to classify martial arts; soft art has two principles--that the mind determines your actions, and that you should use your opponent's own body force to defeat him or her. Hard arts are based on the concepts that physical reactions are quicker than mental reactions, and that the opponent's force should be combated with force that is just as intense.

Akido Is A Very Popular Martial Art Style
Akido Is A Very Popular Martial Art Style

Akido Is A Very Popular

One of the most popular methods for fighting in the martial arts community is Aikido.

This is a soft art, and originated in Japan. It teaches students how to take control of their attacker, and has been around since the 1920s.

The movements for Aikido are done in circles, in order to create a complete range of motion for a better defense system.

You may be able to find Aikido centers in your area, since the martial arts business is definitely starting to pick up in the Western world.

Judo is another martial art you may want to consider learning. This practice involves getting close the the opponent and fighting in a more aggressive manner. A person who practices Judo is called a Judoka, and you can even get your kids involved in this art by checking with your local recreation center or YMCA to check for class times and instructors.

If you enjoy combat that is a little more daring, you may also want to try Kung-Fu--this is one of the most ancient martial arts forms. There are different sub-divisions of this style, and the practice will also teach you discipline and self-control.

In order to be most prepared for your new class, you should make sure that your heart is in good condition, even though your immune system and heart rhythm will improve once you begin taking your classes. Making sure that you have enough fluids in your body during and after class is also a good way to make sure that you can maintain your energy, especially in the beginning stages.

The Seven Japanese Martial Art Styles
The Seven Japanese Martial Art Styles

The Seven Japanese Fighting Styles

There are several different martial arts that are native to Japan.

The origin of these styles of combat originated from the warrior traditions of the samurai and the caste system that restricted the use of weapons by members of the non-warrior classes.

Japanese martial arts can generally be divided into two classes. One of them is referred to as koryu, which means 'old school' or 'traditional school.' Usually this type of martial art was used in war.

The second type is called gendai budo, which is a term used to describe a martial art that is considered modern. In other words, this is a form of combat that would have been founded after the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

The undisputed national sport of Japan is sumo wrestling. Steeped in ancient tradition that goes back more than two-thousand years, it is the most watched spectator sport in the country. Professional sumo wrestlers are required to live in communal stables where all aspects of their daily lives, from eating to dressing, are dictated by strict tradition.

In a typical match, two large wrestlers enter a circular ring, called a dohyo. The next few minutes are a psychological build up to the clash. Sumo wrestlers will stare each other down and sprinkle salt in the middle of the dohyo, in keeping with Shinto purification practices.

The goal for each wrestler is to force the other out of the ring, or to get him to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of the feet.

Kicking and punching are forbidden in sumo matches. Wrestlers can push, lift, throw and trip an opponent but not grab the hair or genitals. Professional wrestlers are ranked according to their win-loss records in tournaments. The ranks are written on a graded list, called a banzuke.

The literal meaning of Judo is 'gentle way.' This martial art and combat sport originated in the late nineteenth century. The most noticeable features are its grappling maneuvers, throws, trips and joint locks. It was created by Kano Jingoro, a martial artist who was educated at Tokyo Imperial University.

In judo there are two main phases of combat: the standing phase (tachiwaza) and the ground phase (newaza). Judo is practiced in many countries and has been an Olympic sport since 1964.

Karate means 'empty hand.' It is called this because there are usually no weapons used when practicing this art. Karate is thought to have originated in Okinawa, the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. It is a striking martial art, using linear punches, kicks and openhanded attacks. Simple karate moves are called 'kihon,' which in Japanese means basics.

Beginners will have to learn the four basic stances to progress to more advanced techniques. They are the ready stance, the forward stance, the horse stance and the fighting stance. Practitioners wear a white uniform with different coloured belts to reflect how skilled they are.

Beginners in martial arts wear a white belt, followed by yellow, red, green, blue, brown, black, black belt 1st dan, black belt 2nd dan and so on until finally the practitioner reaches black belt 10th dan.

Dan means that a student has reached black belt status.

Learn all there is about Japanese Martial arts a fully researched book from the origins to the traditions behind Japanese martial arts. David Hall's experience in martial arts makes this encyclopedia a great asset to have.

The book has seven sections making it very easy to read and reference for anyone interested in learning more about Japanese Martial Arts.

Capoeira The Martial Art of Brazil
Capoeira The Martial Art of Brazil

Capoeira The Martial Art of Brazil

Capoeira is an art that is now known the world over.

Combining acrobatic movements with music, games and songs, this Afro-Brazilian form of dance was started by African slaves who were brought to Brazil to work on sugar and tobacco plantations three to four centuries ago.

It was first developed as a way to resist oppression, to safely practice the art and to transmit knowledge from one generation to another.

It was outlawed in Brazil during the early decades of the twentieth century and was considered a form of criminal activity.

Participants form a roda, or circle, while two Capoeiristas continually spar in the middle of the circle. The ones who make up the circular shape clap and sing along to the music being played for the two partners engaged in the Capoeira game, called 'jogo.'

Some of the musical instruments that are used include a berimbau, which resembles a fishing rod with a long steel string and a hollow gourd for added resonance. There are 'pandeiros,' or tambourines, and an 'agogo,' a double gong bell.

The 'ginga,' which means to rock back and forth or to swing, is the most important movement in Capoeira. This is accomplished by maintaining both feet approximately shoulder-width apart and then moving one foot backwards and then back to the base, creating a triangular step on the ground. This is done to prepare the body for other movements.

The sparring is marked by swift kicks, sweeps, handstand's and back flips. Less frequently used techniques include punches, slaps and elbow strikes but some schools still teach these. One possible explanation as to why punches are not used as much in Capoeira is because the slaves who developed it were shackled at the wrists. Flips and rolls are used to maneuver around an opponent.

The aim is not to injure an opponent, merely to test him/her and see if an attack can be dodged. Playful and yet tricky at the same time, Capoeira is more about deceiving somebody rather using forceful attacks and blocking. So, capoeira can be considered a dance and a combative martial art. The art's effectiveness at combat should never be underestimated though.

There are plenty of opportunities to learn this dynamic art. Look for a class in your area and see a demonstration. Numerous clubs have been started in the United States, Great Britain, Canada and other countries. Learning Capoeira can be challenging. It will be necessary to become familiar with the roots of the sport, and the cultural/philosophical elements that go along with it.

Get in shape!

Capoeira is more demanding than you might realize, so you should be in relatively good physical condition when you begin your first lesson. Train with an experienced instructor. Many injuries can result from inexperience, so patience will be required to learn the proper stances and techniques.

For better protection, wear ankle braces for support and stability. Believe it or not, so many Capoeira students sprain their ankles.

It can't be emphasized enough that stretching the muscles is vital before practice. Begin with a light workout and then slowly build up the intensity. Capoeira is a high intensity sport, so drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Muay Thai Kickboxing from Thailand
Muay Thai Kickboxing from Thailand

Muay Thai Kickboxing from Thailand

Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand and today is practiced in several countries around the world.

This form of combat makes full use of the knees, fists, elbows and feet. Any part of the body is considered to be a fair target and fighters may use everything except the head to strike an opponent.

There's a lot more to Muay Thai than just fighting somebody else. It's an excellent way to stay in shape and maintain good self-esteem and discipline.

Over the years Muay Thai has changed considerably. Early documentation claims that Muay Thai evolved from an art called Krabi Krabong; a Thai weapon based martial art closely related to a Burmese form of combat called Banshay. Today when fighters are in the ring they use gloves on their hands similar to Western boxers.

Due to the influence of Western martial arts like boxing, Muay Thai fighters use a full range of punches when pitted against an opponent, including jabs, hooks, shovel/corkscrew punches, uppercuts and back fists. Body punching is used less in Muay Thai in order to protect the attacker's head from knee and elbow counterattacks. This is a little different from other styles of martial arts in Eastern and Western countries.

Muay Thai is well known for its elbow attacks. It can be used in a variety of ways, including horizontally, diagonally and as a flying attack. A common technique is to cut the opponent's eyebrow so that his/her vision will be blocked with blood. Uppercuts and flying elbows are the most powerful but they are easier for a fighter to block. Diagonal assaults are quicker but lack the power of the other elbow maneuvers.

There are many different kicking techniques in Muay Thai and they differ from other Eastern martial arts like karate. The two most common kicks are known as the 'teep,' literally 'foot jab,' and the 'teh chiang', kicking upwards in the shape of a triangle cutting under the arm and ribs. This is otherwise known as the angle kick and has been adopted by fighters practiced in other combat disciplines. It is close to a roundhouse karate kick, but leaves out the rotation of the lower leg from the knee. Muay Thai fighters also swing their arms back to give their kicks more power.

In stark contrast to Western boxers, Muay Thai fighters don't often choose to punch their opponent in the stomach. The knees can deliver more crippling blows. In the ring a Muay Thai fighter will thrust his knee upward in a sharp and precise motion. They would also use their knees to hit the opponent in the face if possible. There are jumping knee strikes, flying knee strikes and straight knee attacks.

Muay Thai takes a lot of hard work and this art can't be mastered overnight.

Trainees must be supervised by qualified instructors. Sparring with a partner is really the only way to improve balance, coordination, speed and power. Before a training session it's vital to run, skip or bounce on old tires for at least fifteen minutes, to improve balance and also to prepare the body for the vigorous exercise that follows. Running is essential to strengthen the legs. Hit the bags and pads to toughen your body and to build stamina.

Tae kwon do and hapkido
Tae kwon do and hapkido

The Two Fighting Forms Of Korean

Here is some information about the Korean martial art that you'll want to know before you begin your next class, or if you're thinking of practicing fighting methods on a more regular basis in the future.

Tae kwon do and hapkido are the main forms of Korean martial art, and many students of the martial arts community study these methods in order to improve motor skills and to increase agility when fighting an opponent.

Tae kwon do will greatly increase leg and thigh strength, since it involves a number of kicks that are used to attack pressure points in the body of the enemy. There is not much punching or grappling in this art form, which means that the upper body may not get as much strength from this fighting technique.

While fighting methods and techniques were always a widely practiced sport in Korea, the Japanese invasion of Korea during the early 1900s meant that many of the original fighting techniques that were specific to Korea were lost.

Early Korean fighting forms included activities such as sword fighting, technical fist fighting, and even horseback riding while fighting, and many of the ancient Korean artifacts depict fighters engaging in this type of activity.

There were also certain rules or principles that went along with sword arts and other forms of fighting in Korea; these were somewhat based on the Buddhist practices that had been adopted in the area, and included factors such as honoring one's parents, faithfulness to friends, and courage in battle.

In order to learn more about Korean martial art, there are a few resources you may want to take advantage of. You can visit a history center or museum in your area, in order to get pictures and specific accounts of battles or conflicts in which certain fighting methods were used.

Or, you can check out local health centers in your city to find when classes in these combat arts are being offered, so that you can learn the techniques first-hand.

Martial Arts A Global Overview
Martial Arts A Global Overview

A Global Overview

Martial arts conjure up images of two or more opponents duking it out with lethal punches, kicks and throws in an effort to validate strength and agility.

Every country around the world has its own special form of combat. Today, now that more and more people are becoming familiar with foreign cultures, martial arts styles are being mixed together, making self defense methods even more effective.

Not many people would be familiar with Kalarippayattu. This martial art is from India, more specifically from the southern state of Kerala. A skilled practitioner is proficient in striking, grappling and using various types of weapons. This art is highly spiritual and students learn to develop psychic like senses before an opponent initiates an attack. Traditional Indian dance schools still incorporate Kalarippayattu as part of their exercise regimen.

Tae Kwon Do originated in Korea and is the national sport of that country. The literal meaning is 'the way of the foot and the fist.' There are millions of Tae Kwon Do practitioners around the world and is easily distinguished by its high impact kicks. The rationale behind this is that the feet have a longer range than the hands, and would make more effective weapons.

Karate is a striking martial art from Okinawa, a group of small islands off the coast of Japan. Practitioners of this art number about twenty-three million worldwide. Karate was made famous by the 1984 film 'The Karate Kid' starring Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita. With a variety of punches, kicks, throws and takedown's, this art can be deadly if used in real combat situations.

Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, and it's taking the world by storm. Otherwise called the art of eight limbs, Muay Thai fighters can strike opponents with their shins, knees, elbows and hands. Muay Thai training is rigorous and difficult but can put somebody in the best shape of his/her life. This art, if used in the right way, can also be fatal. There are training schools in many nations in North America, Europe and Asia.

The literal meaning of Krav Maga is 'hand to hand combat' and was developed as a form of street fighting in Israel. It focuses more on threat defense instead of offensive attacks. Different variations of this art are now being used in military forces around the world and in Special Forces like Israel's Mossad and the British SAS.

Capoeira is the hypnotizing and musical martial art practiced primarily in Brazil, although there are schools that teach this amazing form of combat/dance around the globe.

First developed by slaves from Africa, Capoeira emphasizes the use of sweeping kicks, cartwheels, back flips and a smaller variety of punches and elbow attacks. Music and songs are a part of every match. While practitioners don't usually try to hurt each other, Capoeira can be used in this way if the situation requires it. Beginners should be prepared for some strenuous exercises to prepare the limbs, but it's entirely worth the effort.

Silat is still a relatively unknown martial art to Westerners that traces its origins to Southeast Asia, probably in Malaysia or the Philippines. Used mainly as a war dance and a form of self defense, practitioners are trained to appear to be slow and unable to protect themselves, hence tricking an opponent into thinking that an easy victory can be achieved.

Silat practitioners use weapons in combat. The keris is an unusual wavy bladed knife or dagger. In the old days, this blade was carried around in much the same way as colt revolvers were in the American West in the 1880s. To be lethally effective, the keris was also covered with arsenic so when the enemy was stabbed his life would be shortened considerably.

More Martial Arts Resources - A collection of great books that will help master your self defense techniques.

Vital Point Strikes: The Art and Science of Striking Vital Targets for Self-defense and Combat Sports
Vital Point Strikes: The Art and Science of Striking Vital Targets for Self-defense and Combat Sports

Knowing where to strike your opponent can be the difference between winning and losing.

The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program: The Complete Combat System
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program: The Complete Combat System

Learn the way the Marines train for self defense. Very interesting read.

Ultimate Flexibility: A Complete Guide to Stretching for Martial Arts
Ultimate Flexibility: A Complete Guide to Stretching for Martial Arts

A must have book for anyone wanting to get involved in Martial arts.


Have you got a martial arts story to tell, then please take a minute and share it with our readers.

Are You Into The Self Defence Arts? - Share your experiences and stories with our readers.

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