A comparative list of all the different types of martial arts in the world currently

A comparative list of all the different types of martial arts in the world currently

Steve Njuguna
updated at June 26, 2023 at 8:58 AM

Martial arts are learned primarily for self-defence and competition. Various communities worldwide have developed techniques that enhance their ability to fend off opponents. Today, we look at the different types of martial arts and their distinguishing features.

Amanda Nunes vs Irene Aldana
Irene Aldana of Mexico (white top) punches Amanda Nunes of Brazil in their women's bantamweight title fight during the UFC 289 event. Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Source: Getty Images

The number of martial arts worldwide and their denominations is close to 200. Many come from specific parent techniques, and those are the ones we will focus on today.

How many different types of martial arts are there?

Most types of martial arts originally came from Asia, specifically Japan, China, and Korea. All the different types of martial arts have their benefits. Some are more tailored to kicks or punches, while others work on all round technique.

What are the best types of martial arts?

Some of the deadliest martial arts styles insist on taking advantage of one strong point and using it to defeat your opponent. Here is a list of some of the best types of martial arts in the world.

Martial art

Country of origin









Tai Chi




Mixed Martial Arts


Muay Thai


Krav Maga


Brazilian Jiujitsu


The top 10 types of martial arts

This list factors in the different types of martial arts, their purpose, and their origins. Here are the top 10 types of martial arts.

10. Brazilian Jiujitsu (Brazil)

Derived from the original Japanese Jiujitsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was first founded in 1925 by the Gracie family, who were also the pioneers of mixed martial arts. It was taught to the Gracies by Japanese fighter Mitsuyo Maeda during his tour of Brazil. It involves using grappling techniques to submit an enemy who is typically more prominent in size than you.

9. Krav Maga (Israel)

Maga was developed for the Israeli Defence Forces in the 1940s by Imi Lichtenfeld. It integrates the elements of street fighting with martial arts techniques borrowed from the likes of Karate and Aikido. It is widely taught worldwide due to its usefulness in situations requiring self-defence.

8. Muay Thai (Thailand)

Early renditions of Muay Thai are believed to have been practised as early as the 16th century. It involves utilising full-body techniques, from kicks to punches to using knees. It became popular in the late 20th century due to its frequent use in Hollywood movies.

Muay Thai training
Tourists take Muay Thai classes in Phuket, Thailand. Photo by Sirachai Arunrugstichai
Source: Getty Images

7. Mixed Martial Arts (Brazil)

Commonly abbreviated as MMA, the sport initially came from Brazil under the influence of the Gracie family. Nowadays, it is a global affair due to the popularity of promotions like UFC, PFL, Bellator and One Fighting Championship.

Ferreira vs Goltsov
Cezar Ferreira (grey shorts) throws a kick against Denis Goltsov during PFL 2023. Photo by Cooper Neill
Source: Getty Images

6. Dambe (Nigeria)

Dambe originates from the Hausa community in Nigeria. It involves using fists and grapples to achieve the main goal, knocking the opponent down eventually.

5. Tai Chi (China)

Tai Chi is a Chinese form of internal martial art widely practised for its many physical and psychological benefits. It emphasises controlled breathing and meditation as well as technique.

Tai Chi
Locals practice Tai Chi at a park in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by Omar Havana
Source: Getty Images

4. Judo (Japan)

Judo was invented in 1882 by Kano Jigoro as a means for smaller people to defend themselves through grappling techniques. It has inspired many martial arts, such as Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Judo has been an Olympic sport since 1964.

Riner vs Adil
Olympic and World champion Teddy Riner of France (wearing blue) throws Adil Orazbayev of Kazakhstan with an inner-thigh throw on his way to the 100kg gold medal match during the 2023 Paris Judo Grand Slam in Paris, France. Photo by David Finch
Source: Getty Images

3. Taekwondo (Korea)

Taekwondo emerged in the 1950s from Korea. It is a type of martial art that emphasizes kicks and balance. It has been an Olympic sport since the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Trajkovic vs Larin at the Olympics
Ivan Konrad Trajkovic (in blue) of Slovenia and Vladislav Larin of the Russian Olympic Committee in combat during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Photo by Swen Pförtner/picture alliance
Source: Getty Images

2. Karate (Japan)

Karate is one of the oldest martial arts in history, with some sources saying it could have been practised in Japan as early as 970 AD. It uses both kicks and punches and body positioning techniques to enhance self-defence. It was made an Olympics sport during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Kason Baltov and Cameron Neill warm up
Australian Karate fighter Kason Baltov (centre of the ring) and his training partner Cameron Neill during a practice session. Photo by Fairfax Media
Source: Getty Images

1. Kung Fu (China)

Kung Fu is the world's most popular form of martial arts. It was popularised globally through Hollywood stars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. It emphasises speed and awareness when punching and kicking.

There are many types of martial arts that all have different styles and purposes. It is up to the participants to pick the one that suits them the most.

READ MORE: Who are the top FIFA 23 Wonderkids to watch out for? A top 10 list

Sports Brief recently broke down the top FIFA 23 wonderkids to watch out for. Big names like Moise Kean and Kylian Mbappe feature prominently on the list. Click on the link above to find out more.

Steve Njuguna photo
Steve Njuguna
Steve Njuguna is a media professional with close to a decade of experience in the sports media industry. He has previously worked as a sports journalist with Bamba Sports TV, Vybez Radio and The Nairobian newspaper.