Martial art is a broad term that refers to a wide range of systematized combat training disciplines. Generally, all of the disciplines have been designed for a single purpose — to defeat opponents and defend against threats. Since man has been able to ball his hand into a fist, there has been hand-to-hand combat. Martial arts can be separated into five distinct categories: stand-up or striking, grappling, low-impact styles, weapon-based, and MMA fighting. Here, we will briefly discuss some of the more common styles of martial arts that are practiced.

Martial Arts Disciplines


Directly translated, karate means “empty- hand” and was originated in Okinawa, Japan in an era when weapons were banned. The need for man to defend himself led to the creation of the empty-hand doctrine, which taught participants to use their bodies as a weapon of defense. As with any other Japanese practice, karate is not limited to physical combat but is a lifestyle that teaches discipline, respect, and personal growth.


Taekwondo directly translated means “the way of the foot and fist.” This Korean fighting form emphasizes power through the splitting of boards and bricks as well as broad kicks. Taekwondo also teaches respect, discipline, and personal growth outside of combat.


Another Japanese fighting style, Aikido’s focus is not on strikes and kicks, but on countering the opponent’s kinetic energy and using it against them. To dominate in this discipline, a practitioner will throw and pin their opponent to gain the dominant position.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Developed in 1925 by the Gracie family (yes, that Gracie family!) in Brazil, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a modified version of the original Japanese Jiu Jitsu. The original goal of Brazilian jiu-jitsu was for smaller fighters to be able to overtake larger opponents. This discipline focuses on gaining the superior position by applying chokes, holds, locks, and joint manipulations.

Krav Maga

Directly translated from its Hebrew origin, Krav Maga means “contact combat.” Krav Maga was created by a Jewish boxer and wrestler in the 1930s as a means of defense against anti-semites who threatened the Jewish existence. This fighting style’s main emphasis is that every defensive movement is combined with an offensive movement. There is no real pattern, instead, it relies on continuous motion.


Capoeira is a Brazilian fighting artform that includes fighting, music, and dance to create continuous exchanges of fighting movements. History has it that capoeira was developed as a way for African slaves to continue their practice of native martial arts and conceal their skills behind the guise of dance.


Keysi is one of the newest fighting techniques that was developed in Spain. The main focus of Keysi is fighting off multiple attackers in a street fighting style. Keysi emphasizes elbow strikes, head butts, and lethal hammer fists.


Another Japanese fighting sport, Judo emphasizes throwing and takedowns of opponents. The main objective of Judo is to immobilize or subdue an opponent with a pin, joint lock, or choke — submission.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is a ruthless combat sport developed in Thailand. The main objective in Muay Thai is to use one’s own body as a weapon. This discipline challenges other styles by directing practitioners to use “eight limbs,” meaning moves are not limited to hands and feet, but emphasize knee, shin, and elbows, in addition to hands, to deliver devastating blows.


Boxing is a Western adaptation of hand-to-hand combat that emphasizes punches and preparing the practitioner’s body to accept the opponent’s blows without submitting. The mind and body are prepared for an attack through physical conditioning and taking blow after blow to desensitize it from attack. A variety of punches are delivered from various ranges to assault an opponent.

In most martial arts studios for children and adults, taekwondo is what is commonly practiced. As we have discovered, there are many other doctrines that have their value and are rich in tradition and discipline. If you are interested in studying martial arts for physical fitness, discipline, self-confidence, or self-defense, contact us at Thrive Martial Arts!