Types of Martial Arts

Several different types of martial arts have existed for thousands of years around the world. While Russia, Brazil, the Philippines, and African countries all have their own martial arts, many Eastern disciplines have gained more popularity over recent decades.

Today, countless people practice martial arts to improve their fitness, discipline, and interpersonal skills. Students often take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to relieve stress, socialize with others, and overcome personal challenges.

There are many common types of martial arts, and each is a bit different. Let’s explore some of the most popular disciplines practiced in today’s dojos. If you’re thinking about taking part, this guide may help you narrow down your choices.

Types of martial arts


Aikido originated in Japan, and it’s been taught since the early 1900s. Students of this martial art learn to leverage a partner’s own energy and momentum to neutralize direct attacks. Aikido is popular among students of all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned experts.

The study of aikido highlights principles of harmony and nonviolence. It differs from other martial arts because its main concern is personal development rather than aggressive combat. Instead of competitive sparring, it involves cooperative observation and participation.

This makes aikido a great martial art for students of all ages, helping them focus on connection, community, and self-confidence. Aikido emphasizes techniques like intentional breathing, self-awareness, and carefully executed movements.


When many people think of martial arts, they often envision karate. This martial art evolved over hundreds of years before being imported into Japan around 1920, and it’s now among the most popular in the West today.

Karate focuses on both combat and self-defense, and it revolves around principles of respect, loyalty, and discipline. Its students generally practice various stances, punches, blocks, and kicks. Like most martial arts, values in karate are often taken outside the classroom and implemented in general life.

Kung Fu

If karate isn’t what comes to mind when you think of martial arts, then kung fu probably is. Also known as wushu, kung fu has become an umbrella term that refers to various Chinese martial arts.

You may have seen it practiced in films featuring prominent movie stars like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. In fact, Bruce Lee developed his own martial art, Jeet Kune Do, after extensively studying kung fu. Some of the major principles of kung fu are calmness, speed, and precision. It’s also known for its use of weapons such as swords and staves.


This martial art originated in Korea many centuries ago, and it became popular in the United States after World War II. Taekwondo literally translates to the “art of hand and foot fighting.” It emphasizes speed, concentration, and breath control alongside principles of courtesy, integrity, and perseverance.

Students of taekwondo often practice several different forms, blocks, punches, strikes, and distinct kicks. They may also take part in competitive sparring or board-breaking demonstrations.


Another common unarmed Japanese martial art, judo emphasizes the need for stability, posture, and strategy to overcome an opponent. This popular type of martial art focuses on techniques such as throws, chokeholds, and submission-type moves that put pressure on extremities.

While both judo and aikido stem from jujutsu (jiu-jitsu), judo focuses more on strength, competition, and close-quarters ground fighting. Judo influenced the development of several other disciplines such as Sambo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and mixed martial arts.

Final Thoughts  

These are five of the most popular types of martial arts. While some may share origins and basic principles, each has their own unique aspects. We invite everyone to learn more about martial arts and consider trying one that suits their style and goals.

We’re always thrilled to offer a free trial class to new students at our dojo in Lincoln, Nebraska. Our professional instructors teach classes for all ages and skill levels in a positive, encouraging environment.

Visit Us!






4215 South 33rd Street
Lincoln, Nebraska 68506


Mondays Closed
Tuesday- 5:30 p.m - 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday- 6:30p.m. - 7:30p.m.
Thursday- 5:30 p.m - 8:30 p.m.
Fridays Closed
Saturday- 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Sundays Closed

Try a Class!

Interested in trying one of our classes? Choose your class level and schedule a trial appointment today! Discover Aikido and discover yourself!