The Martial Arts

It isn't news that there are many martial arts styles and systems throughout the world. Some of these martial arts systems date back thousands of years and some are recent offshoots of those millennia old systems.  We've compiled a list of martial arts and separated them by continent of origin. 

This is by no means meant to be a complete list as there are thousands of offshoots and hybrid martial arts in existence today that borrow techniques and philosophies from these and other arts. On top of that, different names can be used for the exact same martial art if it's practiced in a different country. For instance, Folk wrestling styles exist in nearly every country of the globe. Some styles are separated by differences in techniques, some by clothing worn and others by only language and culture.

The linked videos are not meant to teach but merely demonstrate the style. Some of the videos may be graphic.


This will be a work in progress, but here is our list so far:



African Martial Arts    •    Asian Martial Arts    •    Australian Martial Arts

European Martial Arts    •    North American Martial Arts 

South American Martial Arts

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African Martial Arts


Dambe (Nigeria) - The origins of Dambe are lost in antiquity. Dambe uses only the dominant hand to strike, while the "weaker" hand is extended toward the opponent and used to ward off blows. Grasping and grappling is used to permit a strike with the more powerful hand. Dambe boxers can strike anywhere on the body with the fist, head, or feet.

Istunka (Ethiopia) - A stick fighting art that dates back to between the 15th and 18th centuries.



Lutte Traditionelle - French for "traditional wrestling," it is known by different names in different African countries: Laamb in Senegal, Boreh in The Gambia, Evala in Togo, and Kokawa in areas of Nigeria and Niger, or simply Lutte Traditionnelle, in Niger and Burkina Faso. Two fighters compete in a circular ring. Each fighter attempts to eject the other from the ring, though they can win by knocking the other off their feet or onto all fours.

Musangwe (South Africa) - A form of bare knuckle boxing (though gauze or tape wraps are allowed).

Nguni Stick Fighting (South Africa) - Nguni Stick fighting, otherwise known as donga, or dlala ënduku (literally translated "playing with sticks") is an ancient martial art that can be dated back to 17th century Zulu tribes.

Nuba Stick Fighting (Sudan) - The stick-fighting is a contest conducted by, as the name indicates, a stick and a shield between two contestants.

Nuba Wrestling (Sudan) - Considered the world's oldest martial art, the grappling style is dated back to 2,800 B.C.

Surma Stickfighting (Ethiopia) - Like Kung fu, Surma Stick Fighting is also said to be a local self defense method that has become a way of life of the tribals of Ethiopia.

Tahtib (Egypt) - Egyptian stick fighting believed to date back to between 2,000 B.C. - 1,000 B.C. 

 
Asian Martial Arts


Aikido (Japan) - Derives mainly from the martial art of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, but began to diverge from it in the late 1920s. Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on.

Bokator or Labokkatao (Cambodia) - Possibly the oldest existing fighting system in Cambodia, oral tradition indicates that bokator or an early form thereof was the close quarter combat system used by the armies of Angkor 1000 years ago. Techniques include a diverse array of elbow and knee strikes, shin kicks, submissions, ground fighting and weapons.

Bok Cham Bab or Khmer Traditional Wrestling (Cambodia) - A folk wrestling style that has been practiced as far back as the Angkor period. In Khmer wrestling, the dancing is as important as the wrestling. Victory is obtained by forcing the opponent on their back. This sport use to be a means of choosing tribal and regional leaders. 

Dumog (Phillipines) - A style of wrestling while standing upright. Techniques encompass a variety of pushes, pulls, weight shifts and joint locks designed to "move" the opponent, often taking advantage of their weight and direction of force to throw them off balance.


Eskrima or Arnis or Kali (Phillipines) - Is the umbrella term for the traditional martial arts of the Philippines, which emphasize weapon-based fighting with sticks, knives and other bladed weapons, and various improvised weapons. It also includes hand-to-hand combat and weapon disarming techniques.

Gatka (India) - A style of stick fighting, with wooden sticks intended to simulate swords. The style originated in later 19th century, out of sword practice in the British Indian Army. It is divided in two sub-style, called "Rasmi" (ritualistic) and "Khel" (sport) from the 1880s. 

Hapkido (Korea) - Contains both long and close range fighting techniques, utilizing jumping kicks and percussive hand strikes at longer ranges and pressure point strikes, joint locks, or throws at closer fighting distances. Hapkido emphasizes circular motion, non-resisting movements, and control of the opponent. Practitioners seek to gain advantage through footwork and body positioning to employ leverage, avoiding the use of strength against strength.

Inbuan Wrestling (India) - Involves very strict rules prohibiting kicking, stepping out of a circle and even bending of the knees. The contest is held in a circle 15-16 feet in diameter on carpet or grass. The objective is to lift one's opponent off his feet while strictly adhering to the rules.

Judo (Japan) - Meaning "gentle way" Judo was created in 1882. The object is to either throw or takedown one's opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue one's opponent with a grappling maneuver, or force an opponent to submit by joint locking or by executing a strangle hold or choke. The worldwide spread of judo has led to the development of a number of offshoots such as Sambo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.



Jujutsu or Jujitsu (Japan) - A method of close combat for defeating an armed and armored opponent in which one uses no weapon, or only a short weapon.. Techniques take the form of pins, joint locks, and throws. 

Kalaripayattu (India) - One of the oldest fighting systems in existence. Includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods. Northern Kalaripayattu is based on the principle of hard technique, while the southern style primarily follows the soft techniques, even though both systems make use of internal and external concepts.

Karate (Japan) - Developed partially from indigenous fighting methods called "te" and from Chinese kenpo. A striking art using punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes, and open-handed techniques such as knife-hands. Grappling, locks, restraints, throws, and vital point strikes are taught in some styles.

Kbach Kun Boran (Cambodia) - Meaning "ancient martial arts" it is a historical martial arts recreation of the weapon-based combat methods used by the warriors of Angkor, based on a combination of existing Cambodian fighting styles and close study of the bas-reliefs around the country's ancient ruins. Makes use of three main weapons; the dao (curved sword), the dambong veng (longstaff) and the dambong bogato (twin sticks). The system also incorporates pradal serey as its unarmed component.

Kbach Kun Dambong-Veng (Cambodia) - A martial art based on the long staff. The term "dambong" means "staff" in the Khmer language and the term "veng" means "long". Translated literally it means "the art/martial skill of the long staff." 

Kendo (Japan) - Means "Way of The Sword" and is a modern martial art based on traditional Japanese swordsmanship. Notably associated with the Samurai, kitana sword and bushido.

Kino mutai (Phillipines) -  A specialized sub-section of some Filipino martial arts that emphasizes biting and eye-gouging. It involves extensive use of grappling, so as to allow the practitioner to control the opponent while applying the techniques. The biting aspect concerns itself with what targets to bite, how much to bite at a time, and the angle and movement of the bite. Favored targets include sensitive and easily accessible areas such as the face, neck, ear, groin, nipple, and latissimus dorsi muscle. 

Krabi Krabong (Thailand) - A weapon-based martial art closely related to other Southeast Asian fighting styles. The system's name refers to its main weapons, the curved sword (krabi) and staff (krabong). Unarmed Krabi Krabong makes use of kicks, pressure point strikes, joint locks, holds, and throws.


Krav Maga (Israel) - A noncompetitive, eclectic self-defense system developed in Israel that involves striking techniques, wrestling and grappling. Krav Maga is known for its focus on real-world situations and extremely efficient, brutal counter-attacks. Its philosophy emphasizes threat neutralization, simultaneous defensive and offensive maneuvers, and aggression. Krav Maga is used by Israeli Defense Forces and means "battle contact" in Hebrew.

Kuk Sool Won (Korea) -  A complete martial art that is dedicated to the cultivation of mental and physical strength and well being, and to the preservation of traditional Korean martial arts. Is typically characterized by having low stances and fluid, graceful motions. There is also an emphasis on joint locks and pressure points. Kuk Sool Won is also described as being a hard-soft style, which includes hard and forceful strikes in addition to circular and fluid movements.

Kung Fu To'a (Iran) - Developed by Ibrahim Mirzaii in the 1960s. It is a unique style of Kung Fu with Yoga influences focused on a healthier mind and body. It is made up by combination of Northern and Southern styles of Shaolin Kung fu.

Kuntao or Kuntaw (Southeast Asia) - Martial arts created by the Chinese community of Southeast Asia, particularly the Malay Archipelago. Many styles of kuntao have incorporated techniques from silat and some forms even changed their name from "kuntao" to "silat". Styles which combine both kuntao and silat together are sometimes called kuntao silat. Old styles of kuntao are today considered by modern day practioners to be "true" Chinese martial arts because they predate the Shaolin Temple's destruction.

Lian Padukan (Malaysia) - An offensive style of Silat Melayu that specialises in close-range striking. 

Malla-yuddha (India) - The traditional South Asian form of combat-wrestling created in what is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It is closely related to various Southeast Asian wrestling styles. Malla-yuddha is divided into four types, each named after a particular Hindu gods and legendary fighters: Hanumanti concentrates on technical superiority, Jambuvanti uses locks and holds to force the opponent into submission, Jarasandhi concentrates on breaking the limbs and joints while Bhimaseni focuses on sheer strength.

Mukna (India) - A folk wrestling style. Holding the opponent's neck, hair, ear or legs with the hands is not permitted. Strikes are also considered fouls. Anyone who touches the ground with any part of their body besides the feet is declared the loser. 

    

Muay Boran (Thailand) - Means "ancient boxing" and is an umbrella term for the unarmed martial arts of Thailand prior to modern equipment and rules in the 1930s. It is the direct ancestor of modern Muay Thai and uses the same 8 point attack plus head butts. The rules consisted of no hitting the groin, eye-gouging, hitting a fallen opponent, grappling or hair-pulling.

Muay Lao (Laos) - A traditional unarmed martial art that incorporates punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes similar to Muay Thai in Thailand and Pradal Serey in Cambodia.

Muay Thai (Thailand) - Uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. Descended from muay boran. Muay Thai is referred to as the "Art of Eight Limbs" or the "Science of Eight Limbs" because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight "points of contact."

Naban (Myanmar) - A style of wrestling related to Tibetan and Cambodian grappling arts. Techniques include joint locks, strikes to pressure points, and chokeholds. Any part of the opponent's body is a legal target.

Ninjutsu (Japan) - The ninja art that includes empty handed defense, weapons and tactics, disruption techniques, destruction techniques and mind sciences.

Pradal Serey (Cambodia) - While most well-known for its kicking technique, which generates power from hip rotation rather than snapping the leg, pradal serey consists of four types of strikes: punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes. The clinch is used to wear down the opponent. Compared to other forms of Southeast Asian kickboxing, pradal serey emphasizes more elusive and shifty fighting stances. The Cambodian style tends to utilize more elbows than that of other regions. More victories come by way of an elbow technique than any other strikes.

Sah Doh Mu Sool (Korea) - The earliest form of martial arts developed in Korea; meaning tribal, clan, or family martial arts, as this type of martial art was mainly passed down from one generation to the next. Sah Doh Mu Sool was popular among the ancient tribes, city-states and smaller kingdoms that formed in the Korean Peninsula and parts of what is now China. 

Seni Gayung Fatani (Malaysia) - A style of Silat from northern Malaysia. Because of its artistic appearance, it is often mistaken for a dance. The steps and hand movements all have combat applications and are meant to lock or disable the opponent.

Sikaran (Phillipines) - Utilizes only the feet as a rule for sport, and the hands are only used for blocking. The player uses his legs 90% of the time and his hands 10%.

Silambam (India) - A weapon-based art from south India but also practised in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. The bamboo staff is the main weapon used in this style. Unarmed Silambam, called kuttu varisai, utilizes stances and routines based on animal movements such as the snake, tiger, elephant and eagle forms.

Silat (Malay Peninsula/Archipelago) - An umbrella term for martial arts that encompasses many variations throughout Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Southern Thailand, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Brunei, New Guinea and Papua New Guinea. Along with the human body, silat employs a wide variety of weapons, from clothing to blades. Weapons training was considered to be of greater value than unarmed techniques and even today many masters consider a student's training incomplete if they have not learned the use of weapons. Except for some weapon-based styles, students must generally achieve a certain degree of skill before being presented with a weapon which is traditionally made by the guru. This signifies the beginning of weapons-training. 


Silat Medan (Malaysia) - A weapon-based style of Silat Melayu said to trace back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Unlike most silat styles, Silat medan has no pre-arranged forms but instead relies on freestyle sets and extensive sparring with sticks and dulled blades. Such training allows for the learning of various techniques and applications without having to teach set moves.

Ssireum (Korea) - A folk wrestling style and traditional national sport of Korea that dates back to before Christ. In the modern form each contestant wears a belt that wraps around the waist and the thigh. The competition employs a series of techniques, which inflict little harm or injury to the opponent: opponents lock on to each other's belt, and one achieves victory by bringing any part of the opponent's body above the knee to the ground.

Sumo (Japan) - A competitive full-contact sport where a wrestler (rikishi) attempts to force another wrestler out of a circular ring or to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of the feet.

Taekwondo (Korea) - The national sport of South Korea. Loosely translated as "the way of the hand and the foot" and is a striking art. It combines combat techniques, self-defense, sport, exercise, and in some cases meditation and philosophy. In 1989, Taekwondo was the world's most popular martial art in terms of number of practitioners.

Tomoi (Malaysia) - An unarmed martial art that is closely related to other Indochinese boxing styles, such as Muay Thai in Thailand, Pradal Serey in Cambodia, Muay Lao in Laos and Lethwei in Myanmar. It incorporates kicks, punches, knees and elbow strikes. Originally, punches consisted of simple straight-armed strikes but, through the influence of British boxing during the colonial period, it now includes the cross, hook, and uppercut. The main kicks are the foot-thrust and the roundhouse kick. Tomoi practitioners consider punches to be the weakest form of attack, and regard elbow and knee strikes the best way of inflicting damage.

Vajramusti-Yuddha or Musti-Yaddha or Mukki Boxing (India) - A striking based art infamous for hand hardening exercises. Uses knuckledusters during competitions. Dates back as far as 1000 B.C.E. A possible ancester of Kenpo.

Varma adi or Marma adi (India) - Means "hitting vital spots" and is a part of the art of healing and harming called Varma Kalai which is a martial art that teaches methods to attack pressure points of the human body.

Vovinam (Vietnam) - Practiced with and without weapons and is based on the principle of between hard and soft. It includes training of the body as well as the mind. It uses force and reaction of the opponent. Vovinam also includes hand, elbow, kicks, escape- and levering techniques.
 


Australian Martial Arts


Koonomon Togip Baip (Australia) - An Aboriginal martial art almost lost to history, includes moves that mimic those of Australian animals such as kangaroos, emus and wedge-tailed eagles. Aboriginal dances seemed to include martial arts moves. But in Victoria it was more a wrestling style of fighting that included kangaroo, kite hawk and wedge-tailed eagle moves. Another move, common throughout Australia, was based on fishing where the fighter struck out with one arm (casting the line) and then followed up with a series of blows to the stomach (reeling the line in). Originally, the martial art would have been used to settle disputes between neighboring tribes that could not resolve their differences through talking.

Mau Rakau (New Zealand) - Meaning "to bear a weapon", is a martial art based on traditional Maori weapons. In pre-European Maori society, the use of weaponry was an art form requiring skill, dexterity, agility and concentration. There is a range of Maori Weaponry all of which are based on the spear and the club shapes.

Zen Do Kai (Australia) - A system open to influences and ideas from all around the world, embracing elements from Boxing, grappling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Eskrima, Judo, Karate and Muay Thai. Its elements include self-defence moves, kata, and strike work. Its philosophy encompasses the principle of "if it works, use it."

   
 

European Martial Arts


Catch wrestling (United Kingdom) - A style of folk wrestling that was developed and popularised in the late 19th century by the wrestlers of traveling carnivals who incorporated submission holds, or "hooks", into their wrestling to increase their effectiveness against their opponents. Catch wrestling derives from a number different styles, the English style of Lancashire Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling, Irish Collar-and-elbow, Greco Roman Wrestling, styles of the Indian subcontinent such as Pehlwani and Iranian styles such as Varzesh-e Pahlavani.

Canne de Combat (France) - Uses a cane or canne (a kind of walking-stick) designed for fighting. It developed in the early 19th century as a self-defence discipline and was particularly used by upper class "bourgeois" gentlemen.

Bataireacht (Ireland) - A term used in Irish martial arts traditionally applied to various forms of stick fighting. Today the word bataireacht is used amongst Irish and English language speakers to distinguish between traditional and non-traditional stick-fighting styles.

Jogo do Pau (Portugal) - Meaning "Game of the Stick" this martial art was developed in the northern regions and focused on the use of a staff.

Pale or Ancient Greek wrestling (Greece) - Was the most popular organized sport in Ancient Greece. A point was scored when one player touched the ground with his back,hip,shoulder,or tapped out due to a submission-hold or was forced out of the wrestling-area.

Pankration (Greece) - Introduced into the Olympic Games in 648 BC and founded as a blend of boxing and wrestling but with few rules; disallowing biting and gouging the opponent's eyes out.

Sambo (Russia) - "SAMBO" is an acronym for SAMooborona Bez Oruzhiya, which literally translates as "self-defense without weapons". Sambo is relatively modern since its development began in the early 1920s by the Soviet Red Army to improve their hand to hand combat abilities. Intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts, Sambo has roots in Japanese judo plus traditional folk styles of wrestling.


Savate (France) - Uses the hands and feet as weapons combining elements of western boxing with graceful kicking techniques. Only foot kicks are allowed unlike some systems such as Muay Thai and Silat which allow the use of the knees or shins.

Stav (Norway) - Uses runes and Norse Mythology in its teaching based on oral tradition. Stav resembles T'ai chi, with the student beginning with ritualized stances.

Wrestling - English styles include Cornish, Cumbrian, Devon and Lancashire. Greco-Roman and Gouren (France), Glima (Iceland), Collar-and-Elbow (Ireland), Scottish Backhold (Scottland), Narodno Rvanje (Serbia) and Schwingen (Switzerland) are all European styles of folk wrestling.
 

North American Martial Arts


Bajan stick licking (Barbados) - An African system of weapons fighting that features the use of fire hardened sticks of varying lengths. Was most likely transferred to Barbados from the Kongo (Congo)/Angola region of Africa during the 15th century by military men who had been captured as prisoners of war. 

Calinda or Kalinda (Trinidad) - A martial art, as well as kind of folk music and dance in the Caribbean which arose in the 1720s. It is a kind of stick-fighting commonly seen practiced during Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago.

Chun Kuk Do (United States) - A Korean-based, American hybrid martial art style founded in 1990 by Chuck Norris. CKD evolved from Tang Soo Do and combines elements from several different fighting styles.


Jeet Kun Do (United States) - A hybrid martial arts system and life philosophy founded by martial artist Bruce Lee. Noted for minimal movement with maximum effect and extreme speed. It is referred to as a "style without style" and means "way of the intercepting fist."

Kajukenbo (United States) - A hybrid martial art that combines Western Boxing, Judo, Jujutsu, Kenpo Karate, Eskrima, Tang Soo Do, and Kung Fu. It was founded in 1947 in Oahu, Hawaii and uses hard, fast strikes to vital points throughout the body, take-downs involving high impact throws, and many joint and limb destruction techniques, usually as follow-ups to take-downs. 

Kapu Ku'ialua or Kuialua or Lua (Hawaii) - An ancient Hawaiian martial art based on bone breaking, joint locks, throws, pressure point manipulation, strikes, usage of various weapons, battlefield strategy, open ocean warfare as well as the usage of introduced firearms from the Europeans. Training methods include spear catching, training in the surf, and focus of "mana" or life force. This energy is described much like chi or ki in Chinese or Japanese martial arts.

Okichitaw (Canada) - A martial art based on the fighting techniques of the Plains Cree First Nations.

 
South American Martial Arts


Bakom or Vacon (Peru) - A hybrid martial art founded in the early 1980s. Bakom is a vicious martial art designed to quickly overwhelm and inflict maximum injury to the opponent. It is not unusual for confrontations to end with the death of one of the fighters, as it also incorporates the use of hidden weapons and deception.

Capoeira (Brazil) - A martial art form that combines elements of martial arts, sports, dance and music. It was created by descendants of African slaves, probably beginning in the 16th century. It is known by quick and complex moves, using mainly power kicks and quick leg sweeps, with some ground and aerial acrobatics, knee strikes, take-downs, elbow strikes, punches and headbutts.

Jiu-Jitsu (Brazil) - A grappling/submission art derived from the Japanese martial art of Kodokan Judo (which itself is derived from Japanese Jujutsu). 


El Juego del Garrote Larense ("The Garrote Game") (Venezuela) - A martial art that involves machete, garrote, and knife fencing.

Tinku (Bolivia) - A brawling style that disallows kicking or punching a downed opponent. Tinku, like many South American martial arts, was born as a dance since the conquering Spaniards forbid martial training.