The term ‘martial arts’ refers to numerous systems and traditions for training and combat that are practiced for many reasons including self-defence, competition, military and law enforcement as well as to work on one’s mental, spiritual and physical development. It’s also an incredibly popular way to stay in shape and keep on top of your fitness, health and wellbeing.

Here at Senshi Academy, we offer junior and adult classes in Judo, as well as classes in boxing and Muay Thai Melbourne wide. We’re going to take a look at the top seven most popular martial arts practiced worldwide so you can get a sense of the wide variety of sports that sit underneath the umbrella of martial arts.

Karate – Japan

Arguably one of the most well-known out of all of the martial arts, it features some impressive movements of powerful punches, kicks and blocks. Karate originates from Japan in the early 20th century, where the Japanese word “karate” translates as “empty handed”. The practice of karate centres around self-defence and combat. However, the philosophy of karate extends beyond the studio, where one will embrace working on principles such as discipline and respect, replicating these in everyday life as well as in their martial arts practice.

Kung Fu – China

There are many different styles of Chinese martial arts and Kung Fu has been adopted as an umbrella term for all of these forms, some ancient and some more modern. It’s a popular style of martial art that has gained notoriety through film and television, where some famous practitioners include Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Li.

Judo – Japan

Judo is one of the more modern forms of martial arts, which means it has therefore been influenced by other forms that have come before it. It is a popular competitive sport in Australia and worldwide that demands both great mental discipline as well as physical prowess in order to overcome an opponent. The practice of Judo can involve techniques that allow participants to lift and throw opponents onto their backs, leveraging their strength against them. Once on the ground, they are then able to control their opponent by pinning them down and applying different techniques such as joint locks and chokeholds until their opponent submits.

Muay Thai – Thailand

Hailed as the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand, Muay Thai (aka Thai Boxing) dates back to the 13th century and was developed as a form of close-combat. It is a full-contact sport that requires fighters to defeat their opponents by utilising kicking, cinching and hitting techniques as well as an element of grappling, where striking your opponent requires strong physical and mental discipline. It is another martial art that uses the body as a weapon for fighting.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – Brazil

A modified form of the Japanese martial art adapted by the Gracie family in 1925, the Brazilian version sees participants attempting to gain superior positioning over their opponent through use of holds, chokes, joint manipulations and locking of joints.

Krav Maga – Israel

Meaning “contact combat” in Hebrew, Krav Maga is Israel’s national martial art. It borrows features from various other forms including grappling and ground fighting from Jujutsu, traditional boxing punches, and kicks and knee techniques from Karate. Although Krav Maga was initially developed in the 1930s by a Jewish wrestler and boxer as a way to teach his neighbours how to defend themselves, it has gained popularity amongst the Israeli security forces and the special police. It is considered a violent martial art as there are virtually no rules and the main purpose of this practice is to defend yourself whilst attacking your opponent. On the field, it proves useful as a form of self-defence as it is more brutal than competition or sport.

Aikido – Japan

Developed and created in Japan in the early 1900s, participants are taught how to utilise the strength and energy of the attacker against them in combat, where one can disarm their opponent but not cause them serious injury. This makes Aikido another great option for self-defence.