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Top 20 Martial Arts Types and Their Categories

Martial arts come in different kinds, each with its own way of fighting and self-defense. There are various types that involve punches, kicks, wrestling, and even using different kinds of weapons. Every Martial Arts types teaches unique skills and techniques for staying strong, respectful, and brave. They’re like different styles of exercise that also help with discipline and focus.

In this article, you will learn about the most popular martial arts types and categories. Additionally, if you want to learn martial arts, you will be able to choose the best one for yourself.

Table of Contents

1. Striking Martial Arts

Striking martial arts is like learning special ways to hit and kick in a fight or for self-defense. In these martial arts, you use punches, kicks, elbows, and knees to protect yourself or stop someone from hurting you. They teach how to punch and kick in different ways and how to be fast and strong when you need to defend yourself. Some of these cool fighting styles are called Karate, Taekwondo, Muay Thai, Kung Fu, and Capoeira which are discussed below in detail. 

a. Karate

Karate is one of the martial arts types originating from Japan. It teaches how to punch, kick, and use your hands for self-defense. In karate, you learn different moves and practice them in patterns called ‘katas.’ It’s not just about fighting; it also teaches respect, discipline, and how to stay in control. Karate helps you stay fit and strong while learning how to protect yourself.

b. Taekwondo

Taekwondo originates from Korea and has a fascinating history it uses patterns called ‘poomsae’ to train these moves.  It began a long time ago when warriors used it to defend themselves and their land.  As time passed, it turned into a martial art that people practice for self-defense, exercise, and discipline. Now, it’s also a sport in the Olympics where athletes from all over the world show their skills in kicking and punching.

c. Kung Fu

Kung Fu has a rich history that comes from China. It started many centuries ago as a way for monks to exercise, defend themselves, and find inner peace. Over time, Kung Fu became known for its various styles, like Shaolin Kung Fu and Wing Chun. People practice Kung Fu to learn self-defense, improve their health, and understand its philosophical teachings. Moreover, Kung Fu teaches a mix of powerful strikes, graceful movements, and techniques using fists, kicks, and even weapons like staffs or swords. Each style of Kung Fu has its unique forms or sequences of movements called ‘katas.’ which helps in mastering the art.

d. Muay Thai

Muay Thai, also known as the “Art of Eight Limbs,” originates from Thailand and has a long history. It began hundreds of years ago as a form of combat used by Thai warriors. Over time, it evolved into a martial art that includes punches, kicks, elbows, and knee strikes. Additionally, it teaches how to use fists, elbows, knees, and shins for striking. Muay Thai fighters practice various moves and techniques like punches, kicks, clinching, and knee strikes. They also focus on conditioning their bodies to become stronger and more flexible. 

e. Capoeira

Capoeira is an amazing martial art from Brazil that combines elements of dance and music with impressive acrobatics. This martial art is like a beautiful dance that requires quick, graceful movements and clever strategies. Practitioners of Capoeira not only learn how to kick and dodge but also how to play musical instruments like the berimbau. It’s a martial art that encourages teamwork and creativity while teaching discipline and respect. In Capoeira, you get to move like a dancer and think like a strategist, making it a thrilling and unique martial arts experience!

2. Grappling and Submission Martial Arts

Grappling and Submission Martial Arts focuses on close combat sports techniques where fighters aim to control their opponent using throws, locks, and holds. It’s like a strategic puzzle where practitioners learn how to use leverage and technique rather than just strength. In this martial art, there’s a lot of rolling, flipping, and clever maneuvering involved. The goal isn’t just to overpower the opponent but to use skillful techniques to immobilize or submit them. This martial art teaches patience, focus, and respect for opponents, making it both challenging and rewarding to practice.

a. Judo

jodo martial arts types

Judo, which means “gentle way,” is a martial art that focuses on using an opponent’s strength against them. It’s like a clever game of balance and technique where practitioners learn throws, pins, and joint locks. What’s fascinating about Judo is that it doesn’t rely on brute force but on smart movements and timing. Beginners wear special uniforms called “gi” and learn how to use their opponent’s energy to gain control and score points. Judo teaches respect, discipline, and the importance of focus, which makes it a special mind and strength.

b. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

bjj martial arts types

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, also known as BJJ, is a martial arts type that emphasizes ground fighting and grappling techniques. It’s like a puzzle game where practitioners learn how to control and submit opponents using leverage and technique, even if they’re bigger or stronger. BJJ involves a lot of rolling on mats and practicing various holds, chokes, and joint locks. A special thing about this type is that it’s not just about strength, it also teaches mental strategy and problem-solving. Moreover, Practitioners learn to use their opponent’s movements to their advantage.

c. Wrestling

Wrestling martial arts types

Wrestling is a sport where players try to pin each other down without hitting. It’s like a big game of moving and trying to win by holding the other person’s shoulders on the ground. They wear special uniforms and use lots of tricky moves to try to win points. Wrestlers need to be strong and quick thinkers to win. It’s all about being strong, smart, and respecting each other while having lots of fun!

3. Hybrid or Versatile Martial Arts

Hybrid or versatile martial arts combine techniques and principles from various disciplines, creating a well-rounded system that adapts to different situations. These styles emphasize versatility, allowing practitioners to flow between striking, grappling, and defensive tactics seamlessly.

By integrating elements from multiple martial arts forms, they aim to provide a comprehensive toolkit for self-defense, emphasizing adaptability and flexibility in combat scenarios. The focus lies in blending diverse techniques rather than sticking to a single tradition, enabling practitioners to respond effectively to a range of challenges.

a. Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is like a mix of different fighting styles. People learn moves from lots of types of fighting like punching, kicking, and wrestling and put them together. Fighters practice things like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, and other kinds of fighting, and then use all these skills when they fight in the ring. MMA helps them be ready for all kinds of situations during a fight, whether they’re standing up or on the ground. It’s about using lots of different moves to be good at fighting.

b. Jeet Kune Do

Jeet Kune Do is a martial art created by Bruce Lee. It’s not just one set style, but more like a way of thinking about fighting. Bruce Lee believed in using what works best from different martial arts, making it practical and adaptable. Jeet Kune Do focuses on being fast, direct, and efficient in movements, using punches, kicks, and footwork to defend and attack. It’s about being flexible and using your own style instead of following strict rules, making it a personal and effective way of self-defense.

4. Self-Defense and Combat Martial Arts

Self-defense and combat martial arts focus on practical techniques that help people protect themselves in dangerous situations. These martial arts teach methods for getting away from someone who might want to hurt you. They emphasize quick and effective moves that don’t rely on strength alone. Techniques often include ways to escape holds, how to block strikes, and how to use an attacker’s energy against them. The aim is to give people skills to stay safe and get out of trouble if they ever need to defend themselves.

a. Krav Maga

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a martial art that’s all about self-defense and protection in real-life situations. It was developed for the Israeli military, focusing on practical moves that anyone can learn. In Krav Maga, there aren’t any strict rules or fancy techniques—just quick, efficient methods to defend against attacks. It teaches how to react fast to threats and how to use your body’s natural movements to stay safe. The goal is to defend yourself and get out of danger as quickly as possible, using strikes, kicks, and techniques to disarm attackers.

b. Hapkido


Hapkido is a martial art from Korea that’s all about using an attacker’s energy against them. It’s not just about hitting back, but more about redirecting and controlling an opponent. Hapkido teaches a mix of moves like kicks, strikes, joint locks, and throws. Practitioners learn how to defend themselves in different situations, even against weapons, by using their opponent’s strength and momentum to neutralize the threat. It’s a versatile martial art that focuses on self-defense and harmony, emphasizing fluid movements and efficient techniques to overcome attackers.

c. Escrima 


Escrima, also known as Kali or Arnis, is a Filipino martial art that centers around using sticks, knives, and sometimes empty hands for self-defense. It’s known for its practicality and adaptability, teaching techniques for both armed and unarmed combat. Escrima emphasizes fluid movements and precise strikes, focusing on quick and efficient ways to defend oneself. In this type, beginners learn how to handle different weapons and also how to switch seamlessly between armed and empty-handed combat which makes it a versatile and comprehensive martial art.

5. Other Notable Types of Martial Arts

The world of Martial Arts is full of diversity and you find more and more types as you dive into it. There are some other notable Martial Arts that could be discussed Including Boxing, Ninjutsu, Sambo, Tai Chi, Kendo, and many more. These martial arts have some things in common. They all think being disciplined is important, whether it’s doing things just right in Kendo or practicing slow movements in Tai Chi. They also care a lot about self-defense, like how Boxing teaches ways to defend yourself and Sambo focuses on grappling for real fights. Many of them are discussed in detail below:

a. Boxing


Boxing is another martial arts type where fighters use their fists to hit each other while adhering to specific rules. It’s not just about throwing punches it’s also about moving your feet to avoid getting hit and learning how to protect yourself. Boxers train hard to improve their punching techniques, footwork, and ways to defend themselves in the ring. The goal is to land punches on the opponent while being quick on your feet and staying safe from their punches too.

b. Ninjutsu


Ninjutsu is an ancient Japanese way of fighting that’s about more than just combat. It’s about being sneaky and clever, like a ninja. Back then, ninjas were like secret agents, using tactics for spying, guerrilla warfare, and different ways to fight that were not normal. They learned how to move silently and use all kinds of tools for tricky situations. Ninjutsu is not only about fighting but also about using your mind and skills in unconventional ways for survival and success.

c. Sambo


Sambo martial arts emphasizes on grappling techniques. In this style, fighters use holds, throws, and locks to control their opponent without hitting them. It’s a practical and effective form of self-defense, teaching individuals how to manage close combat situations using various wrestling techniques. Sambo is known for its emphasis on real-life application, providing practitioners with skills that are useful for practical defense scenarios.

d. Tai Chi

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a martial art that’s all about slow, graceful movements and focusing on breathing and balance. It’s like a dance that helps people relax and feel more centered. Tai Chi isn’t about fast fighting; it’s about moving smoothly and staying balanced while doing different poses. People who practice Tai Chi often find it helps them feel calmer and more flexible, and it’s also a way to learn self-defense moves in a gentle and flowing manner.

f. Kendo


Kendo is a Japanese martial art that revolves around swordsmanship using bamboo swords called “shinai.” It’s not just about swinging swords; it’s about discipline, respect, and following traditions. Practitioners wear protective gear and learn different techniques to strike and defend. Kendo teaches more than just fighting; it emphasizes mental focus, proper form, and respect for others. It’s like a way to practice sword fighting while also learning important values like respect and discipline.


There are more than 180 Martial arts styles with cool moves and important values. Some, like Karate and Taekwondo, teach punching and kicking, while others like Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focus on wrestling and holding techniques. They all help you get better, teach you to be respectful, and show you how to defend yourself. There are also mixed styles like MMA and self-defense methods in Krav Maga and Hapkido that are useful in real-life situations. In all these martial arts, you learn about being disciplined, protecting yourself, and showing respect. They’re great for staying fit and strong, both in body and mind.

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