Taking up martial arts has a huge number of benefits for your physical and mental health, and helps you push the boundaries of what you believe you can do. It gives you an enormous sense of achievement as you smash goals you never thought you could reach.
But “martial arts” covers a wide variety of different disciplines, which all have their own unique characteristics. We’ve put together this handy guide, to help you discover which martial art is right for you.
Boxing is a combat sport between two people, who spar wearing protective gloves. It is hugely popular worldwide, both as a competitive sport and as a way to improve health and fitness.
One of the earliest Olympic sports in Ancient Greece, Boxing has been a popular sport for thousands of years. The sport as we know it today is largely based on the Marquess of Queensbury Rules, which were established in England in 1867.
What does Boxing involve?
Every Boxing match is overseen by a referee and three judges, to make sure the fight is fair and both fighters are abiding by the rules.
A Boxing match is usually made up of 12 rounds, each three minutes long. Between each round the boxers return to their corners for a one-minute break, when their coaches can give them advice.
The winner of the match is decided in one of three ways:
- Points awarded by the judges
- A knock-out
- A technical knock-out, where one fighter is knocked down and doesn’t get up within 10 seconds.
Who can take up Boxing?
There are many different styles and weight categories in Boxing, so it is a sport that anyone can take part in. Even if you don’t want to box competitively, the fitness and discipline offered by Boxing training will vastly improve your health and quality of life.
MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is a combat sport which combines different techniques from a variety of martial arts disciplines, such as Boxing, Wrestling and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu.
Mixed-style combat sport was popular in Japan and the Far East from the early 20th century, but has been recognised as a sport in the USA and UK since the 1990s. Thanks to competitions like the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), more and more people are now taking up MMA as it gives them the chance to learn elements of different disciplines and vastly improve their fitness.
As modern MMA has only been established for two decades, there is not currently a worldwide governing body for the sport. However, MMA has a variety of different promotions which each have their own set of rules.
Most MMA fights are made up of three rounds lasting five minutes each, with two minutes’ rest between rounds. Championship bouts generally have five rounds.
MMA competitors are matched by weight and skill, so it is a sport that anyone can take up. If you would like to take yourself to the next level, open your Fighter account today.
Ju-Jitsu is a close combat martial art which originated in Japan. Competitors can strike using their feet as well as their hands, along with using throws, grappling and joint locks. The aim is to overcome your opponent by using their own weight against them.
What are the origins of Ju-Jitsu?
Ju-Jitsu was first practiced in Japan at the beginning of the 16th century. It originally simulated battlefield conditions with short weapons, but gradually changed its focus to concentrate more on strikes and throws, until weapons were banned from the sport altogether.
Its popularity in the West dates from the end of World War II, when America embraced elements of Japanese culture as a way of cementing peace. Ju-Jitsu has since become one of the most popular martial arts in the world, and is an official sport in the World Games.
The benefits of Ju-Jitsu
Ju-Jitsu can either be practiced competitively or as self-defence demonstrations between two members of the same time. It is excellent for improving physical and mental health, fitness, balance and co-ordination, as well as teaching useful self-defence techniques.
Anyone of any age and fitness level can learn Ju-Jitsu. As your ability improves, you will have the chance to reach higher grades, which are represented by a series of coloured belts ranging from white through to black belt.
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Taekwondo is a combat martial art which concentrates mainly on kicking techniques, particularly jumping and spinning kicks as well as fast kicking.
With its roots in several ancient martial arts, modern Taekwondo was invented in Korea in the 1950s. The South Korean army used Taekwondo as part of their training at this time, which made the sport more popular with civilians throughout the country. It gained international prominence throughout the 1970s and 80s, and has been an official Olympic sport since 2000. It is now one of the most popular martial arts in the world.
The rules of Taekwondo
The rules of international competitive Taekwondo are set by World Taekwondo, the main governing body for the sport. Competitors wear protective clothing and compete in bouts of three two-minute rounds.
The emphasis is on agility, and points are awarded for different kicks and punches. Kicking is the main element of the Taekwondo technique.
There are ten different Taekwondo grades to progress through before reaching Black Belt, which is then separated into ten Dans.
Many people take up Taekwondo because of its benefits for health and fitness. It improves agility, stamina and balance, as well as being highly beneficial for relieving stress and as a great all-round exercise.
Judo is a modern martial art which focuses on different throws and takedowns to overcome your opponent. Pinning, chokes and joint locks are all main components of Judo.
Where does Judo originate from?
Judo has its origins in Japan, where the founder of the sport, Jigoro Kano, studied Ju-Jitsu under various masters. Wanting to emphasise the mental and philosophical aspects of martial arts as well as the physical technique, Kano established his own martial arts school in 1882. It was here that he developed and perfected his own new martial art – Judo, which means “gentle way”.
During the early 20th century, some practitioners of this new martial art travelled from Japan to England. Here the famous Budokwai Judo school was established, and the international popularity of Judo began to flourish. It was recognised as an Olympic sport in 1964, and is now the most practiced combat sport in the world.
Judo rules and practices
There are two main types of Judo practice:
- Randori (free practice) – competitors are paired according to ability, and attempt to overcome each other using the various throwing and grappling techniques learned in Judo.
- Kata – students practice pre-arranged techniques and patterns alongside a partner.
There are seven different weight categories for men and seven for women, and a range of belted gradings to complete from white to black. Once a student reaches black belt, they can then progress through ten different Dans.
Find out more about Judo
Judo is an excellent way of keeping fit and healthy while improving your balance, strength and skill. It is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. If you would like more information about Judo, or want to try it for yourself, find a club in our search menu.
Kickboxing is popular all over the world with people wanting to learn self-defence and improve their fitness. It is a full-contact martial art which combines the techniques of Boxing and Karate. Participants wear gloves and are only allowed to fight with their hands and feet.
There are several different variants of Kickboxing, but the form most commonly practiced in the UK and throughout Europe was invented in America in the 1970s. it can either be practiced competitively or used to improve general fitness.
Kickboxing teaches a variety of kicking and punching techniques, as well as blocks and holds, showing you how to use your entire body for self-defence. Roundhouse kicks and sweeping are two of the moves most associated with the sport.
Classes are generally taught using punch bags as well as sparring with an opponent.
As Kickboxing is such a modern martial art, it doesn’t yet have an overall governing body. However, there is a recognised grading system in the UK of nine different coloured belts. Once black belt has been achieved, there are then three Dan levels.
Who can learn Kickboxing?
Kickboxing is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. It’s a great cardiovascular workout so it is highly beneficial for health and fitness.
If you would like to know more about Kickboxing, or want to join a class, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.
Wrestling is a combat sport based around different grappling techniques. Throws, holds, pins and joint locks form the main components of Wrestling, with the aim of overcoming your opponent.
While some Wrestling is done theatrically for entertainment, it is also a serious competitive sport which many other martial arts have been influenced by.
Where does Wrestling come from?
Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world, dating back at least 15,000 years in France and Egypt. It formed a major component of the original Olympic Games in Ancient Greece, and became popular with royalty in England and Japan during the Middle Ages.
In modern times, Wrestling has remained popular throughout the world. It has been recognised as an Olympic sport since 1904, and the sport’s governing body, United World Wrestling (UWW), was established in 1912.
The different types of Wrestling
Three types of Wrestling are recognised as Olympic sports:
- Men’s Freestyle
- Women’s Freestyle
The main difference between these disciplines is that Greco-Roman Wrestling does not allow the active use of the legs in executing any move, while Freestyle does.
Three other Wrestling disciplines are also recognised by UWW – Amateur Pankration, Beach Wrestling and Belt Wrestling Alysh.
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Thai Boxing is a martial art originating from Thailand. Sometimes known as Muay Thai, it is a great exercise for the whole body, as the hands, elbows, legs and knees are all used in combat. Stance is particularly important in Thai Boxing, as this is what gives you the strength and stability to execute the various kicks and punches.
The history of Thai Boxing
Thai Boxing was developed in Thailand by the famous fighter Nai Khanomtom, in the 18th century. Originally intended as a fighting technique to be used in war, it was also demonstrated at festivals and celebrations in Thailand, becoming a popular sport which many people watched for entertainment.
Today Muay Thai is recognised as Thailand’s national sport. It has spread throughout the world due to Western troops learning the martial art while stationed in Thailand, and is hugely popular for fitness, health and wellbeing.
Thai Boxing techniques and benefits
Thai Boxing is often referred to as “the art of eight limbs” because you are allowed to strike your opponent with eight different parts of your body. Balance and focus are extremely important, and the correct stance is one of the first things you will learn.
Thai Boxing is a great way to improve your general fitness, energy and agility. It is also a highly practical tool for self-defence.
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One of the best-known of all martial arts, Karate combines defensive and offensive combat techniques using punching, kicking, and some grappling moves including throws. Although highly physical, Karate also concentrates on the power of the mind and awareness of your surroundings in order to protect yourself from danger.
Karate origins and influences
Karate was originally developed in Okinawa, which is now part of Japan but until 1879 belonged to the Ryukyu Kingdom. Karate combined ancient Ryukyuan martial arts with the techniques of Chinese Kung Fu.
Becoming popular throughout Japan during the early 20th century, Karate was learned by American servicemen stationed there after World War II. It subsequently became part of Western popular culture thanks to the martial arts movies made in the 1970s and 80s, leading to Karate schools being set up across the USA, UK and Europe.
Today the World Karate Federation estimates that approximately 100 million people practice the sport worldwide. Karate will be included in the Olympic Games for the first time in 2020.
What does Karate involve?
Karate combines mental and physical techniques to create a complete system of self-defence. It involves learning the vulnerabilities of the body and using hand and elbow strikes, punches, kicks and throws to overcome an opponent.
There are generally ten grades in Karate, represented by different coloured belts to indicate your level of skill. Those who reach the top grade of black belt can then progress through ten different Dans.
Learn more about the benefits of Karate
Karate is excellent for physical and mental health and wellbeing, and teaches important self-defence techniques. Popular with adults and children, it can be learned by people of all ages and fitness levels.
If you would like to try a Karate class, or want more information to find a club, please check out our platform.
Whichever martial art you are interested in, we are always happy to help! Our platform is here to solve your problems, be it finding a gym to train in or spar, to finding your ideal sparring partner, coach, physio and more.