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Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practiced for a variety of reasons: self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, entertainment, as well as mental, physical, and spiritual development.

By technical focus Unarmed

Unarmed martial arts can be broadly grouped into focusing on strikes, those focusing on grappling and those that cover both fields, often described as hybrid martial arts.

Strikes

Punching: Boxing (Western), Wing Chun Kicking: Capoeira, Kickboxing, Taekwondo, Savate Others using strikes: Karate, Muay Thai, Sanshou

Grappling

Throwing: Jujutsu, Aikido, Hapkido, Judo, Sambo Joint lock/Chokeholds/Submission holds: Judo, Jujutsu, Aikido, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Hapkido Pinning Techniques: Jujutsu, Judo, Wrestling, Sambo

Chinese or Chinese-derived martial arts can be classed into one of two large categories or ‘families’: external, and internal.

External styles focus on training the body physically, equating it to power and strength. On the other hand, internal styles focus on energy flow – that is, qi – and its circulation, method of breathing, and other subtle elements like directing the enemies force, momentum, and balance against them.

Weapon-based

Those traditional martial arts which train armed combat often encompass a wide spectrum of melee weapons, including bladed weapons and polearms. Such traditions include eskrima, silat, kalaripayat, kobudo, and historical European martial arts, especially those of the German Renaissance. Many Chinese martial arts also feature weapons as part of their curriculum.

Sometimes, training with one specific weapon will be considered a style of martial arts in its own right, which is especially the case in Japanese martial arts with disciplines such as kenjutsu and kendo (sword), bojutsu (staff), and kyudo (archery). Similarly, modern Western martial arts and sports include modern fencing, stick-fighting systems like canne de combat or singlestick, and modern competitive archery.

Martial Styles represent the culture that surrounds them, so let’s break it down into something simpler:Mindsets/Outlooks.


Art: Art is for a practitioner with a spiritual outlook. Many Martial Arts masters fall into this category, regardless of style. It’s the study of the body, the spirit, and the mind and developing those connections through meditation and intensive training. This outlook is a lifestyle that involves constant self-improvement and introspection. Its intention is non-combative, though the practitioner can also train for that. Aikido and Tai-Chi can fall into this category (though a practitioner can land in other categories too), but this can also include any Chinese MA from Shaolin to Wushu, or any MA where the training focus is on self, on beauty, and perfection. Common Artistic/Spiritual Martial Arts: Tai Chi (China), Aikido (Japan), Capoeira (Brazil), Kalari (India), Kyudo (Japan), Wushu Kung Fu (China), Karate (Japan), etc

Sport: This is the Martial Artist who trains primarily for the arena, whether that’s professional prize fighting, death matches, or the Olympics. The trainee is prepared around a certain set of rules of what they can and cannot do. Authors who wish to write these characters will have to study up on the specific rules behind the intended training. This should be self-explanatory, but it can get confusing when the same Martial Arts like Sambo, Muay Thai, and Krav Maga fall under this label and the Lethal one. The difference is not in the techniques, but the type of preparation the trainee receives from their instructor. Someone who trains for matches does not do so with the likelihood of death as an immediate part of the equation. While they know it may happen, they also know it’ll probably be accidental or a result of their (or their opponent’s) stupidity. Actively murdering an opponent in the ring is detrimental to most fighters’ careers. I also include work out Martial Arts in this list.

Common Sport Martial Arts: Boxing (America/Europe), Kickboxing (America/Europe), Savate (France), MMA (Mixed Bag), Sambo (Russia), Judo (Japan), Muay Thai (Thailand), Tae Kwon Do (Korea), Karate (Japan), Pancratium/Mu Tau (Greece), Capoeira (Brazil), Krav Maga (MMA), etc.

Subdual: This is the outlook that focuses on subduing the opponent over killing them. These Martial Arts often focus on joint locks, throws, pressure points, and breaks over general striking, some of them are designed around easy understanding and application; others take much longer to learn. It’s important to remember that the outlook of these practitioners is to injure their opponent just enough to stop them, while they may be prepared to kill, this is not their primary objective nor the goal. Common Subdual Martial Arts: Aiki-Jutsu (Japan), Jujutsu (Japan), Tai Chi (China), Chin Na (China), Sambo (Russia), Hapkido (Korea, Korean Law Enforcement), American Law Enforcement Hand to Hand (America), American Law Enforcement Self-Defense (The style taught to civilians in HtH), General Self-Defense (Multiple Non-Military Strains of above MAs), Brazilian Jujutsu (Brazil), Krav Maga Self-Defense, etc.

Lethality: Almost all martial styles were originally lethal ones and with the right training most can be again, but this is about outlook. The practitioner of one of these styles is someone who has been trained to kill, this is their primary objective. So, these are the martial arts that are designed specifically around killing the opponent as quickly as possible. They are the most actively combative of all the different Martial Arts and have suffered the least from degradation into the above sport styles. Common Lethal Martial Arts: M.A.P. (Marines), Krav Maga (Israeli Defense Force), Sambo (Spetznaz), Systema (The System, Spetznaz), Pentjak Silat (Indonesia), Ninjutsu (Japan), Military Strain Self-Defense, etc.

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