Martial arts are means of hand-to-hand combat (or with the help of white weapons), the aim of which is not only the improvement of physical form, but also the development of personality and spirituality. Adepts of martial arts learn how to inflict blows in order to better control their mind and body and to feel more confident in situations of danger. At the same time, they are taught to use the acquired combat techniques only as a last resort and never attack the opponent for their own purposes.

The term “martial arts” refers to different types of hand-to-hand combat or fighting with the use of white weapons (e.g. sticks, swords, swords). In everyday consciousness, they constitute a uniform group of disciplines, in which the main emphasis is placed on learning how to strike in order to defeat the opponent or effectively defend against him. But in martial arts it is not really about demonstrating one’s strength, but using it in a wise way – that is, one that is not aggressive and offensive. Physical strength is supposed to lead to the spiritual development of the individual and not to rivalry, gaining admiration of the environment or gaining one’s own benefits. Among other things, martial arts differ from martial arts.

Martial arts and combat sports – differences

The most popular martial arts are those from the Far East – Japan, China, Korea, Thailand. They show a deep connection with Buddhist philosophy spread in this part of the world. Their domain is not rivalry and aggression, but calmness and the ability to control their reflexes. They also convey universal values such as respect for the opponent, discipline, the ability to keep nerves on the head, and the need for self-improvement. These features distinguish martial arts from martial arts, i.e. disciplines whose main goal is to successfully defeat the opponent. The latter often take advantage of eastern combat techniques, but the spiritual element is brought to the background or completely absent.

Combat sports include e.g. Israeli krav maga, Russian sambo or American kickboxing. All of them were created in the 20th century and were invented in order to eliminate the opponent more effectively. For example, kickboxing was created by American carats, who were bored with inflicting blows with limited force (as required by the karate rules) – they wanted to hit with full force in order to make a rival’s knockout. Krav maga, on the other hand, is actually a combat system developed for the Israeli Defensive Forces, which contains elements of the most effective blows from Judo and Aikido, among others.


Kung-fu is a Chinese martial art, which gained popularity in the West thanks to films featuring Bruce Lee. There are 3 centers that have influenced the development of the most important kung-fu fighting styles: the Shaolin monastery, the Wudang monastery and the Emei center in the Sichuan province. The basic styles for kung-fu are modeled on the movements of animals: leopard (a technique that increases strength), snake (learning flexibility and internal energy qi), crane (strengthening tendons and nervous system), tiger (developing the skeleton system) and mythical dragon symbolizing spiritual perfection. In Poland, one of the most popular varieties of kung-fu is Wing Tsun created by a woman, the superior of the Szaolin Ng Mui monastery. She developed a system of fighting with a bigger and stronger opponent focused on self-defense. Wing Tsun is about avoiding force confrontation and using the opponent’s strength against him. In order to do this, it is necessary to know its sensitive points, e.g. throat, eyes, muscle trailers. Teachers of Wing Tsun emphasize that it is a style that serves only to defend oneself and one’s loved ones and should be used only in a situation with no way out.


Chinese tai-chi is often treated not as a martial art, but as a meditation gymnastics. The movements performed during tai-chi training resemble the figures of the fighting players, but they are done on their own and at a slow pace (although some people recommend visualizing a non-existent opponent). The idea behind the exercises is to keep the body in good physical condition so as to maintain harmony between the soul and the body. Tai-chi is a good gymnastics for stressed people and seniors.

Types of martial arts: aikido

Aikido is one of the most spiritual martial arts from Japan. In this technique, it is important to synchronize the movement with the breath in order to extract the internal energy of the ki. Someone who exercises with a ki has peace of mind, concentration, body awareness, a sense of time and total control over the movements. In Aikido there are no typical attacking blows, but there are techniques that allow you to neutralize your opponent by “lying down” with him. For example, when someone moves to attack, one should not oppose it, but cleverly adjust to its movement by changing direction and knocking down the opponent. Therefore, speed, perceptiveness, movement coordination, ability to harmonize in time are very important for this technique. The aim of training is primarily moral and personal development: to develop courage, modesty, respect for one’s rival (according to the philosophy of Aikido he is not an enemy, but a person who has gone astray).

Types of martial arts: judo

According to the creator of judo, Japanese Jigoro Kano, the aim of this martial art is to “perfect oneself”. He argued that power does not depend on gravity and posture, but on speed and agility (Kano himself was low and small, which did not prevent him from training the best judokas in the world). The idea of perfection is reflected in the various levels that can be achieved by training judo: starting from the brown belt, which symbolizes the first degree of training of kyu, to the red-and-black (or black) belt, which means the X degree of master dan (so far only 2 Europeans have won it) – a total of 16 training and master degrees to pass. Judo training is especially recommended for children, because this martial art develops discipline, forbids humiliation of the opponent, teaches the principles of fair play, and at the same time perfectly develops speed, agility, and strength.

Types of martial arts: ju-jitsu (jujutsu)

Ju-jitsu (also called jujutsu) was created in the 17th century – from it all the later Japanese combat techniques began. It is called the art of submissiveness, gentleness, softness, although the repertoire of tricks used in it is very rich and often sounds brutal: these are levers, strangulation, holding, blocks put on hands, manipulation of joints. The motto of ju-jitsu is “give up to win”. This means fighting in such a way that you do not use hard force against your opponent, but rather adapt to his movements and use the force of his maneuvers against him.  Another principle of this discipline is:  “The other principle of this discipline is: “minimum effort, maximum effectiveness”.

Types of martial arts: karate

Karate literally means “empty hands”. This martial art was created by Okinawa residents in order to defend themselves without the need for weapons. It consists of making blows in the form of strokes and kicks. Strikes are accompanied by a loud cry called kiai, which is supposed to give them power and confuse the opponent. As part of karate, the adepts undergo tameshi-wari exercises – they consist in breaking through hard objects (boards, bricks, tiles, etc.) with the edge of their hands, fist, elbow, head. In addition to physical fitness, karate improves character: the ultimate goal of the exercises is to reach a level where victory over the opponent can be achieved without violence.

Why is it worth to train martial arts?

Training martial arts, regardless of its type, gives a number of health and psychological benefits:

  • increases physical fitness and muscle strength
  • improves motor coordination;
  • develops agility, speed, perceptiveness;
  • teaches concentration, concentration and vigilance;
  • gives inner peace and self-confidence;
  • restores harmony between body and mind;
  • allows you to discharge stress in a healthy, controlled way and get rid of negative emotions;
  • teaches techniques useful in self-defense;
  • communicates valuable values such as perseverance, patience, honesty, respect for the competitor, consistency, accuracy.

Types of martial arts: taekwondo

Taekwondo is a traditional martial art in Korea. The name of the discipline consists of 3 parts: tae, which means a footstroke, kwon – a fiststroke and to the art or the way to reach the state of intuition resulting from the experience of mind and body. Taekwondo was originally a martial style used for military purposes, and only in the twentieth century, it gained popularity as a martial arts sport. Adepts of this style are bound by 5 ethical principles developed by the master of Choi Hong Hi: courtesy and courtesy, reliability and honesty, perseverance, self-control, and courage.

Types of martial arts: capoeira

Capoeira comes from Brazil but was invented by African slaves. It consists of making acrobatic figures similar to dancing and, at the same time, making strokes with one’s leg. Its effectiveness is based on the unpredictability of movements, which can throw the opponent out of balance and surprise him with their fluency and dynamics. The fight takes place in a special round arena, where two players exchange blows to the rhythm transmitted by Brazilian instruments. Initially, capoeira was not strictly a martial art, but an acrobatic and dance show and a manifestation of inner freedom. So far several styles of capoeira have been created, some of which place greater emphasis on dance and cooperation, and others on rivalry.

Types of martial arts: muay thai (Thai boxing)

Muay thai is a Thai national sport with a tradition dating back to the 13th century. Initially, it was a technique of fighting saturated with religious elements – each duel began with dancing both opponents (waikhru) and praying to the gods. Training methods were very ritualistic, and the fight was accompanied by a band performing Thai folk music. With time, the Thai boxing penetrated the ranks of the army, and in the twentieth century, it became a popular form of spectacle with the participation of the audience. For safety reasons, battles were organized on the arena limited by ropes and boxing gloves (modeled on the European boxing). A characteristic feature of muay thai is a duel in a wedge, i.e. close contact between both players. In addition, opponents use elbow and knee kicks, overthrow and leg undercuts. Although today’s Thai boxing is no longer related to religion, at official meetings, players still practice the traditional customs associated with this sport.

Types of martial arts: Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ)

Brazilian jiu-jitsu comes from judo and wrestling. This fighting style was popularized by the Gracie family, whose next generations were very successful in MMA and kickboxing competitions, among others. BJJ is considered to be one of the most effective martial arts and finds practical application in a direct battle. Its aim is to knock down an opponent to the ground and overpower them by using appropriate techniques such as levers, suffocation, undercutting, blocking hands or legs. In some ways, Brazilian jiu-jitsu resembles judo, but in this style, efficiency is more important than technique. Although BJJ does not require spiritual improvement from its students, the discipline has its own philosophy based on three pillars: efficiency, patience, and control.

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