6 martial arts you can train for fun, fitness or self-defense

There are different forms of martial arts to practice from across the world. Discover the history, philosophies and facts behind these ancient, but still-relevant combat sports.
For the most part, martial arts are rooted in Asian culture. Over the years, they have been adapted to create different disciplines. Many are now hugely popular, due in part to the emergence of mixed martial arts (MMA), where fighters like Quebec's Georges St-Pierre became world-famous sports stars.

Beyond ancient systems of war and self-defence, martial arts emphasize a strong spiritual dimension. Martial arts harness the mind-body connection for the purpose of maximizing a fighter’s ability, as well as increasing their strength, endurance and mental discipline.

6 martial arts you can train for fun, fitness or self-defense

1. Karate

Karate is an ancient Japanese form of combat dating back to the first century. It consists of various attack and defense techniques. Fighters use their fingers, hands (open or closed), forearms, feet, elbows and knees to strike their opponent.

2. Japanese ju-jitsu

Samurais used this as an effective way to defend themselves when they had been disarmed, as Ju-jitsu is the art of avoiding getting hit. These sophisticated avoidance techniques seek not to meet force with force but to use the opponent’s strength and energy against them, thereby conserving their own energy.

3. Judo

This Olympic sport was created in the nineteenth century. Partially inspired by Ju-jitsu, the technique relies on awareness of the body-mind connection. An important virtue of this martial art observes and accords respect to the opponent. This is also why judokas seek to neutralize and disarm their opponent during a fight. The respect extended to the opponent also ensures that they don’t fall too hard and that landings are safe.

4. Taekwondo

Developed in the mid-twentieth century, Taekwondo is another popular Olympic event. Compared with other martial arts, it’s distinguished by its emphasis on high-kicks, roundhouse kicks and speed. A taekwondoist wears a breastplate and helmet for protection when practicing the sport.

5. Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Derived from Japanese ju-jitsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu was developed in the 1920s. The objective is to overpower the opponent using various submission holds and locks to win the match.

6. Muay Thai

Also known as Thai boxing, its roots are traced back to fifteenth century military training. Thai soldiers combined rigorous punching, elbow shots and kickboxing to defeat their enemies. Muay Thai is widespread and popular throughout world. Founded in Thailand in 2004, The World Professional Muay Thai Federation exists to promote and regulate professional league boxers.

Martial arts are known to significantly improve levels of self-confidence. Practicing techniques of self-defence can develop other feelings of self-esteem, self-respect and empowerment. If you’re interested in pursuing martial arts, know that they are an excellent way to get in shape both physically and mentally.

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