A Broad Look at the Martial Arts

The term “martial arts” is a very broad term that is commonly used to reference many, many different styles of combat.  The average person thinks that karate covers everything and is a synonym for martial arts, but in fact, karate is its own distinctive martial art.  Below is a broad list of different styles of marital arts and a little information about them.  Knowing more about them might help you to appreciate the unique differences in each system, and broaden your martial arts education.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art translated as "The way of harmonious spirit.”  The original goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from major injury.  Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of their attack, rather than opposing it head-on. This requires very little physical strength to do and thus can be appealing to students of smaller stature.

Brazilian Ju Juitsu (BJJ) is a system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting.  BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using proper technique, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person.

Hapkido is a dynamic and highly eclectic Korean martial art. It is a form of self-defense that employs joint locks, grappling and throwing techniques, as well as kicks, punches, and other striking attacks.  It emphasizes circular motion, redirection of force, and control of the opponent. Practitioners seek to gain an advantage through footwork and body positioning to incorporate the use of leverage, avoiding the use of strength against strength.

Judo is a Japanese martial art that means “gentle way.”  It is noted not only for use in combat, but also as an Olympic sport.   The objective is to either throw or takedown an opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue an opponent with a pin, or force an opponent to submit with a joint lock or a choke.  It is the parent art of BJJ.

Karate is a Japanese striking art that uses punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open hand techniques such as knife-hands, spear-hands, and palm-heel strikes.  Karate gained a lot of notoriety after the movie ‘The Karate Kid” appeared in theaters in 1984 and gained a whole new following of American practitioners.

American Kempo  (also known as Kenpo) is characterized by the use of quick hand strikes in rapid succession. The multitude of fast strikes has a dual purpose of overwhelming an opponent, while attempting to ensure that at least some strikes effectively hit their target.  Largely viewed and marketed as a self-defense system, it is the style used in the kata, Master Form.  Unlike a lot of the other styles, kenpo means to employ a deadly force upon the attacker, and should be used with great care.

Krav Maga is a martial art and self-defense system developed for the military in Israel that consists of a wide combination of techniques sourced from many various forms of self-defense, along with realistic fight training. Krav Maga is known for its focus on real-world situations and extremely efficient and brutal counter-attacks. It was derived from street-fighting skills and has a philosophy emphasizing threat neutralization.

Kung Fu is the colloquial reference to Chinese marital arts, and represents a number of martial arts that have their origins in China.  They typically present traits that include physical exercises involving animal mimicry, and training methods inspired by Chinese philosophies, religions and legends. 

Muay Thai (also referred to as Thai Boxing) is a Thai-based combat art that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques.  This discipline, which includes combat on shins, is known as "the art of eight limbs" because it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, and shins.

Tang Soo Do is the base system at Kaizen Karate, and is translated as the “Way of the Worthy Hand”.  It is a Korean martial art that incorporates principles from many other styles including karate and kung fu.  The system incorporates strong fundamentals of stances, blocks, punches and kicks that allow a practitioner to be effective in a variety of situations.

Tae Kwon Do is a Korean martial art that in addition to being self-defense based is also an Olympic sport. Tae Kwon Do is known for its emphasis on high, acrobatic kicks, which distinguishes it from other popular martial arts and combat sports. It is believed that because the leg is the longest and strongest limb a martial artist has, kicks have the greatest potential to execute powerful strikes with the least chance of retaliation.