There are many styles of martial arts in the world. Each has evolved one from the other, leading to different styles emerging in popularity (some because of movies and TV shows). Five popular ones are karate, kung fu, taekwondo, judo and jujutsu.
But while the best known, they barely scratch the surface of what is out there. As long as there have been human beings, there have been those interested in knowing how to best use their body for self-defense.
Here’s a closer look at these five martial arts. Other popular martial arts include Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, ninjutsu, krav maga and aikido.
Karate was first introduced to Americans when soldiers learned about it from Japanese masters following the end of World War II. In Japanese, the term karate means “empty hand..” Many of the techniques involved in karate have been around for centuries. Many came from the indigenous people of Okinawa island. Modern master Anko Itosu, considered by most as the grandfather of modern karate, set down the current code for karate in 1908.
Kung Fu (China)
Originating in China, kung fu is one of the oldest martial arts in the world. The term, which literally means an achievement gained through hard work, encompasses thousands of different fighting styles that have emerged in China over thousands of years. Most trace its roots to Chinese Yellow Emperor Huangdi in 2698 BC. Shaolin monks brought new elements to kung fu by emphasizing the need of coupling martial arts with philosophy and morality.
Like karate, taekwondo came to be known outside of its country of origin – Korea – after World War II. In this case, the Japanese occupation of Korea came to an end after their surrender that ended the war. The term translates into English as “the way of fist and foot” and calls for a combination of mental and physical discipline and strength. Taekwondo has become one of – perhaps the – most commercially popular martial art in the world. There are an estimated three million black belt holders in taekwondo worldwide.
Kano Jigoro, a teacher, founded judo after experiencing bullying in the mid 1870’s while a schoolboy growing up in Japan. He took the techniques known from the martial arts of the time, and over the years added moves of his own. Judo, loosely translated, means “gentle way.” The idea is to use an opponent’s own strength against him.
The martial art of jujutsu is another “gentle way” that focuses on grappling, rolls, locks and throws with an opponent. If a Japanese samurai became disarmed, jujutsu was the fighting style they resorted to in order to defeat an opponent. Again, the idea is to take an attacker’s energy and use it against him, rather than attacking him directly. It tends to be a looser form of martial arts, with more room for improvisation.
These represent five popular martial arts worldwide, which includes numerous different styles. Whichever you decide to pursue, it’s best to take it up with an acknowledged master in the discipline.