Top 11 Martial Arts From Around the World

Conflict is intertwined with human history and it is of no surprise that many unique and deadly fighting styles have been created from all over the world. Either practiced for military purposes or sport, martial arts all have one thing in common, they all take time to learn, but once mastered the individual will have deadly capabilities.

Here are the top five deadly martial arts from different parts of the world. They aren't in any particular order, just five of the best:

1 Karate

One of the most famous martial arts in the world after Kung fu, Karate is practised by people of all ages and is very versatile. Karate was developed by the Ryukyu Kingdom which ruled over the Ryukyu islands in modern Japan from the 15th to 18th centuries. When the Chinese came to the island for trade purposes they brought Chinese martial arts with them and they influenced the original fighting style of the Ryukyu Kingdom called Te. Different styles were developed over the years as many people from the islands travelled to China to study martial arts and brought back what they learned.

During the wars between China and Japan, many forms of Karate emerged and the most common is known as Shotokan Karate developed by Gichin Funakoshi. Like Kung Fu, there is a lot of philosophy behind Karate and its practitioners, called Karateka, are taught to be humble and only engage in conflict when necessary. It is a deeply spiritual art and isn't solely based on combat.

Karate was seen as a Chinese martial art until 1935 when it was renamed "Empty Hand" instead of the original "Chinese Hand" as the art originated in Okinawa despite Chinese influences.

2  Kung Fu

When the phrase Kung fu comes to mind people often think of orange-robed monks from the Far East and the famous Kung Fu Crane pose, but there is a lot more to this ancient art.

Kung Fu isn't actually one particular martial art, it is an umbrella term for many Chinese fighting styles. The art is divided into different schools and the most popular types are Shaolin Kung Fu and Wing Chun Quan. The fighting style is based on ancient Chinese legends and philosophy and follows the five animals' mimicry technique. The five animals are the Tiger, crane, leopard, snake, and dragon but some other styles substitute the dragon and the leopard for the monkey and mantis.

According to the legend, Kung Fu was founded by the Yellow Emperor, also known as Huangdi, over 4000 years ago. The oldest historical record of Chinese martial arts comes from the Spring and Autumn Annals from the 5th century BC where different techniques are mentioned.

Although there are many differences in Kung Fu due to religious and philosophical influences, the main difference is the fighting styles used by Northern China as opposed to Southern China.

People from the north of China are generally taller due to meat-heavy diets and are supposed to have stronger legs due to the mountainous terrain that they are used to. This has led to the "Long fist" style of Kung Fu being created which utilizes longer limbs and focuses on legwork and high kicks.

Kung Fu in the south of China has led to more close combat using fists that are as deadly as weapons.

3  Muay Thai

Developed in the 18th century, the pioneer of Thailand's national sport was Nai Khanomtom; captured in 1767 by the Burmese during the war between Siam and Burma. Khanomtom was well known for his fighting skills and was given the chance to fight his way to freedom. In a series of contests, he beat ten Burmese fighters one after the other. The Burmese were so impressed by Nai Khanomtom that they set him free and he started the sport Siamese Style boxing which is now known as Muay Thai.

At this point, Muay Thai didn't really have a set of rules and was called Muay Boran or simply Muay. Muay was used in warfare but was also practised during festivals as a sport and as it gained popularity, the once bare-knuckled fighters started to wear rope hand raps.

Muay Thai is known as the "Art of Eight Limbs" as it uses eight points of contact including the elbows and shins and anyone who has trained in Muay Thai will tell you that shin conditioning is exceptionally painful.

In 1868, Muay Thai became very popular due to the personal interest shown by King Chulalongkorn also known as Rama V. The country was at peace during this time and Muay Thai was practised for recreational purposes.

Suan Kulap built Thailand's first boxing ring in 1921 which was used for Muay and British Boxing. The rope hand wraps were swapped for gloves due to the risk of causing death during a fight as the knots in the hand wrap aided in dealing tremendous damage while protecting the hand of the fighter.

Now Muay Thai is an international sport that is practiced all over the world.

4  Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or BJJ is an adapted form of Judo and focuses on the ability of a smaller opponent to take down a larger one through grappling techniques. Jiu-Jitsu originated in Japan and was used by the Samurai but in 1925 the first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy was opened by the Gracie family who taught their own less violent version of the martial art for recreational purposes.

In 1993, Rorion Gracie and Art Davies started the Ultimate Fighting Championship or UFC with the idea of showcasing martial arts from around the world. Through UFC Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gained popularity and fighters use it in the ring to this day.

The art uses some sophisticated moves which would be hard to execute in a real conflict scenario but it doesn't negate the fact that BJJ is an excellent recreational activity.

Today the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Foundation (IBJJF) runs competitions every year for people who practice martial art.

5  Aikido

Created by Morihei Ueshiba, Aikido is a Japanese martial art that teaches its practitioners to neutralize a threat without harming the opponent, with moves that redirect their momentum.

The word Aikido can be translated as "the way of unifying with life energy" and the term came about in the twentieth century. As with most martial arts, Aikido training involves both physical and mental aspects.

Aikido is influenced by a range of other martial arts such as Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu and has several religious influences due to Ueshiba's involvement with the Omoto-Kyo religion.

There are many more great martial arts from a range of different countries but these are five of the best.

6  Ninjutsu

Originating in Japan, Ninjutsu is a deadly martial art that was once used as guerilla warfare in the major battles of ancient times. However, the form of Ninjutsu taught in the modern-day differs from that of the past.

There are several forms of Ninjutsu which include Taijutsu; a form of hand-to-hand combat and other methods which include the use of weapons such as Shurikenjutsu and Bojutsu.

7  Jeet Kune Do

JKD, or Jeet Kune Do, is a Chinese martial art taught by Bruce Lee himself. Inspired by his own ideas and personal experiences, the idea of JKD is to use minimal movement to achieve maximum results, bringing the conflict to a swift and efficient end.

8  Vale Tudo

Vale Tudo or "Anything Goes" is an extremely dangerous sport as the name's meaning suggests. The martial art was first seen at Brazilian circuses and remained part of the underground culture in the country with smaller-scale arranged fights taking place. Fighters who use Vale Tudo are very unpredictable as the art doesn't follow particular moves and everybody has their individual style.

Many martial arts are incorporated in Vale Tudo and unlike Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it is perfect for use as a means of self-defence in real conflict situations. Today, Vale Tudo isn't a properly-recognized sport due to its bloody nature but this doesn't stop it from being practiced all across Brazil leading to much controversy in the media.

9 Krav Maga

Developed by the Israeli Defence Forces, Krav Maga is a dangerous form of martial art used to disarm an armed opponent without the use of a weapon. Krav Maga means Contact Combat and can be deadly. As the well-being of the opponent is not taken into consideration, it renders this fighting method no longer a sport.

10  Taekwondo

A powerful martial art for self-defence, Taekwondo means The Way of the Foot and the Fist, in Korean. Originating from a time as far back as 50 BC, Taekwondo is one of the oldest martial arts in the world.

The fighting methods of Taekwondo include kicking, punching, blocking, striking as well as postures that will make a threatening opponent quickly realize that they have bitten off more than they can chew!

11  Keysi

New to the martial arts scene, Keysi is a modern fighting method that gained its fame from the movie Batman. The key principle of the Keysi fighting method is for multiple opponents to be defeated by one person alone.