Top 10 Martial Arts and Their Origins

Last updated on Apr 22, 2014
Martial artist

"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win." - Sun Tzu, master strategist and author of "The Art of War", regarding the human warrior spirit.

The martial arts are a collection of combat systems, strategies, and philosophies stemming from ancient techniques of war. Almost all the martial arts were borne from the need to survive; Capoeira was the African slave's answer to enslavement by Porteugeuse colonists, while Kali evolved by Filipino natives to repel the Spanish conquistadors from invading their country.

In recent history when countries were taken over, the occupying countries tended to outlaw martial arts in order to prevent uprisings, creating a defenseless population. For this reason arts like Ninjitsu formed to make use of everyday items found in farms such as sickles, sticks, and home-made weapons such as the sickle on a chain, which could be used as a throwing weapon.

The world has evolved many different styles of martial arts, from the grappling arts of Judo and Jiu Jitsu, the striking styles of Karate and Muay Thai, to the weapons-based arts of Kendo and Iaido. We'll be exploring 10 of the most fascinating styles and their origins in today's top ten.

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Jiu Jitsu

Founded by Takenouchi Hisamori, a Japanese military strategist, Jiu Jitsu was formed primarily as a form of combat for battlefield warfare in situations where weapons were ineffective, mainly against well-armored opponents. The word "Ju" can be translated to mean gentle, flexible, or yielding, and "Jutsu" means art or technique; the name represents a fighting style that seeks to manipulate an opponents force against himself as opposed to applying force from without.

Since this fighting style was developed in the days of the samurai, whose body armor protected against most striking techniques as well as weapons, Jui Jitsu typically places more emphasis on immobilizing the opponent, pinning, locking, and choking. The style also makes use of very practical knife and gun defense skills, as well as using the opponent's own body against him. A glaring disadvantage of this fighting style is when faced with multiple opponents, as it's more of a close-combat, one-on-one style of fighting.

Jiu Jitsu is used as the base for many other martial arts such as Hapkido, Judo, Jeet-Kune-Do, Ninjutsu, and Aikido to name a few.



Derived from a number of different Asian martial art styles, Hapkido was developed in Korea and literally means "The art of coordination and internal energy." The style has its roots in another martial art called Daito-Ryu, and slowly developed by incorporating strategies from other fighting styles, mainly Taekwondo and Judo. Hapkido is unique in the sense that it incorporates a mainly defensive style of fighting, utilising kicks and punches aimed at the lower regions of the body, and can also be fought with weapons such as the sword, nunchuka and staff.

Today Hapido is taught to US special forces called the Green Beret, as well as CIA operatives and Korean special forces. It's a well-balanced style whose main goal is to breech the distance to an enemy fighter in order to be able to control the opponent's balance by manipulating the head and torso, and quickly take them down.

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