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How Many Types of Martial Arts Are There?

Martial arts originated in different parts of the world, each with its unique style, form, and technique. These can be categorized into several types, including striking or stand-up styles, grappling...

What are the Different Types of Martial Arts?

Martial arts encompass a broad array of disciplines with historical, cultural, and practical implications.

Dating back thousands of years, these fighting styles have evolved in various cultures around the world, each one featuring unique principles, techniques, and philosophies.

But how many types of martial arts are there? The truth is, it's not a simple number, as the genre is vast and constantly evolving.

The Origins of Martial Arts

The exact origins of martial arts are difficult to trace, primarily due to their antiquity.

Some of the earliest references date back to Ancient Egypt and Greece, but it was in Asia, specifically China and India, where martial arts developed significantly.

Styles such as Kung Fu and Pankration, for instance, have rich histories dating back thousands of years.

Categorizing Martial Arts

Martial arts can broadly be classified into five main categories: traditional martial arts, grappling styles, striking styles, hybrid martial arts, and weapons-based styles.

Traditional Martial Arts

These are steeped in history and often rooted in the religious and philosophical systems of their regions. Examples include:


Originating from Japan, this martial art focuses on strikes using punches, kicks, knee strikes, and open-hand techniques.

Kung Fu

Originating from China, Kung Fu is a comprehensive term for hundreds of styles developed over centuries, from Shaolin to Wing Chun.


A modern martial art from Japan, emphasizing throws and groundwork.

Grappling Styles

These styles emphasize close-contact techniques, including throws, locks, chokes, and groundwork. Some examples are:

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

BJJ focuses on ground fighting and submission holds, promoting the concept that a smaller, weaker person can defend themselves against a bigger, stronger assailant.


This ancient martial art focuses on throws, takedowns, and ground control.

Striking Styles

Striking styles focus on punches, kicks, elbows, and knee strikes. A few notable examples are:


This Western martial art focuses solely on punches and footwork.

Muay Thai

Also known as "the art of eight limbs," this Thai martial art utilizes fists, elbows, knees, and shins in striking.

Hybrid Martial Arts

Hybrid martial arts combine elements from various styles to create more comprehensive fighting systems. Some examples are:

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

MMA is a full-contact combat sport that allows striking and grappling, both standing and on the ground.

Krav Maga

Developed for the Israeli military, this martial art combines elements from boxing, wrestling, Aikido, and Judo.

Weapons-Based Styles

These styles focus on the use of traditional weapons. Examples include:


Kendo is a modern Japanese martial art that uses bamboo swords, called "shinai," and protective armor, known as "bōgu."

The term "Kendo" translates to "The Way of the Sword," reflecting its origin from the traditional art of Japanese swordsmanship, or "kenjutsu." It is both a sport and a discipline for cultivating the mind and body.


Fencing is a modern sport originating from traditional sword fighting. It is one of the few sports that has been featured in every one of the modern Olympic Games, dating back to their revival in 1896.

It's a high-speed, athletic contest of skill, timing, and strategy, resembling a physical game of chess.

The Future of Martial Arts

The proliferation of MMA has led to a resurgence of interest in martial arts, fueling the evolution and creation of new styles.

Hybrid styles that effectively blend striking, grappling, and ground fighting are becoming increasingly popular.

As we move forward, it's crucial to recognize the essence of martial arts is not solely about fighting.

The core philosophies promoting discipline, respect, and self-improvement are as important as ever, and continue to shape these ever-evolving disciplines.


To answer the question, "How many types of martial arts are there?" would require an exhaustive global census of every recognized and practiced style.

There are hundreds, possibly even thousands, when we consider regional variations and hybrid forms.

As we've seen, the martial arts world is richly diverse, reflecting the vast tapestry of human culture and history.

From traditional to hybrid forms, these disciplines continue to evolve, captivate, and teach us far more than just how to defend ourselves.

1 comment on How Many Types of Martial Arts Are There?
  • antony valente
    antony valenteAugust 03, 2023

    This is a sublime and conscis explanation that will help those who are unaware of the history surrounding martial arts.

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