Martial Arts: Facts and Characteristics

Every individual in the world has heard of at least one type of martial art. In this article, we'll be showing you the main ones and their characteristics.
Martial Arts: Facts and Characteristics

Last update: 03 September, 2020

The practice of martial arts is popular throughout the world. It consists of several disciplines whose specific objective is to combat, neutralize, or defend against one or more adversaries.

A lot of people like to call this practice military art. Now, it’s possible to distinguish it by its traditions, philosophies, and practices, which put aside warlike thinking and, instead, focus on self-defense.

What the practice of martial arts is about

The ancient world offers a lot of information about this practice. On a philosophical, religious, and ethical level, the main cradles of civilization developed different military arts under honorable thoughts, which some saw as rituals.

Some of the most named countries in the history of martial arts are Greece, Egypt, Rome, China, Japan, and Korea. However, those that stand out the most are those located in the Far East.

For this reason, every time a person hears about martial art, it’s more than likely that they’ll relate it to Eastern philosophy and to regions in that area of the world. Despite this, though, many other countries have their own martial arts.

The main martial arts

There are many martial arts around the planet. Despite this, some will always excel above others. Up next, we’ll be sharing the most popular ones. Let’s see!


It’s originally from England. However, many other countries have their respective variants of boxing. This martial art focuses on facing an opponent within a ring only with fists. It’s carried out as a sports practice and it focuses on the values of respect for the opponent, as well as a physical and psychological resistance.


Two men practicing Capoeira.

The African slaves who resided in Brazil created this ritual dance called capoeira. The fact that it’s a dance made it harder for their captors to notice them since they used it to defend themselves against them.

This dance is one of the most recognized martial arts due to the discipline that its practice requires. In this case, mental and physical coordination plays a fundamental role, as well as the flexibility of different body parts.


This is one of the best known martial arts throughout the world. Interestingly enough, it has its origin in ancient Japan. Now, its main characteristic is based on the philosophy of respect, which one can see through the courtesy used in its greetings.

On the other hand, karate is easy to distinguish karate from other disciplines thanks to its fighting technique, which is based on beating the opponent using the least energy expenditure. The karateka achieves this through their kicking, slapping, or punches.


A jiu-jitsu trainer working with a student.

The antiquity of Japan brings the invention of different martial arts, and jiu-jitsu is a clear example of this. This practice comes from the ancient Buddhist monks, where they’d use it in order to avoid attacks by opponents.

It consists of quick movements but rarely focuses on attacking. However, in case of offending the opponent, the objective is to knock them down with a single hit.


Taekwondo is of Korean origin and is one of the martial arts that makes up the long list of oriental origin. This discipline focuses on the use of lower limbs, so the distance between the taekwondoins is essential. Although elbows and arm locks are sometimes used, kicks are the centerpiece.

Kung Fu

It’s one of the best known and oldest martial arts in the world. Furthermore, its origin dates back to Asia, more specifically China. Kung Fu’s philosophy focuses on effort, respect, perseverance, humility, and justice, which are all typical of Buddhist and Taoist teaching.

As for combat, the main characteristic of kung-fu is its hand-to-hand combat. This discipline uses different techniques, such as kicks, fists, acrobatics, and agile movements.

Martial arts are more than just combat

Although martial arts have a high component of hand-to-hand combat, they usually go beyond a simple fight or the objective of neutralizing the opponent. Now, the philosophy that founded this practice transcends the spiritual and moral aspects of the world. At the end of the day, its aim is simply to seek full respect.

For this reason, if you want to get started in the practice of martial art, you should start by understanding that they go far beyond belligerence. Consult with an instructor to specialize in the one that you find the most interesting!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Pereda González, P. (2012). Breve historia del Kung-fu. Revista de Artes Marciales Asiáticas.
  • Espartero, J., Villamón, M., & González, R. (2011). Artes marciales japonesas: Prácticas corporales representativas de su identidad cultural. Movimento.
  • Lasheras Salvador, E. (2012). La historia de las Artes Marciales Coreanas y sus armas de combate. Volumen 1. Revista de Artes Marciales Asiáticas.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.