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10 Most Practiced Martial Arts Disciplines

Most Popular Martial Arts

Martial arts have involved people from all walks of life across the earth, and they encapsulate a combination of physical fitness, self-defense, and cultural heritage.


And literally hundreds of styles of martial arts - some more popular than others.


From ancient tradition to modern combat sport, these disciplines draw millions of practitioners. In this article, we will be checking out 10 highly practiced martial arts disciplines and try to outline the origin, techniques, and benefits they bring.


We used Google analysis to identify the most popular martial arts based on search data. We compiled a list, examined the traffic details, and reviewed information pages to provide the most accurate data and insights.


Remember these aren't in order though and just a list of the overall top 10.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)

One of the most famous ones is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or BJJ, for its grappling techniques and ground fighting skills.


Created in Brazil during the early part of the 20th century, BJJ emphasises the use of leverage and technique to overcome larger opponents.


The thought of a smaller, weaker person being comfortable in the knowledge that with the right technique and leverage they can defend effectively against a much bigger, stronger assailant, and particularly by taking the fight down to the ground with a dominating strategy, is BJJ in a nutshell.


There are a lot of uses for how BJJ is trained, like sport grappling tournaments, and you'll notice that they use a lot of grappling techniques within Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competition.


What do they call a fight in BJJ?

Sparring, or you may commonly here it as 'rolling,' helps the practitioners' progress and ascension through its ranking system.


  • Compared to other martial arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tends to be more costly because, in addition to a gi, you will also need mats and other equipment if you are training solo.

Key Techniques:


- Joint locks

- Chokes

- Sweeps

Benefits:


Self-defence capabilities

- Improved physical fitness

- Enhanced mental discipline

Most popular martial arts - jiu jitsu

Karate

Moving on to another globally accredited martial art, originating from Okinawa, Japan, karate is an art focusing on hitting techniques, including striking of punches and kicks.


In more recent years, it is one of the most popular martial arts for children as a way to reinforce the importance of discipline and respect.


Many styles of karate offer different ways for someone to choose, based on need or interest.


Some of the top karate athletes, like Ryo Kiyuna, Sandra Sanchez, and Rafael Aghayev, continue to inspire us with their exceptional skill and dedication.


Many practitioners seek out Karate gear to enhance their training experience.


Key Techniques:


- Kihon (basic techniques)

- Kata (forms)

- Kumite (sparring)

Benefits:


- Self-defence skills

- Physical and mental conditioning

- Increased flexibility and strength

most popular martial arts - karate

Taekwondo

Taekwondo is one of the most popular martial arts: a Korean martial art, recognisable by its high, fast kicks and dynamic footwork. It has finally obtained worldwide recognition, featuring in the Olympics since 2000.


It is said to be a stand-up or striking martial art that incorporates a few joint-lock maneuvers.


Although it is a relatively modern martial art, it arose in the 1940s and 50s. It is one of the most practiced martial arts in the entire world, with millions of practitioners.


The work of the International Taekwondo Federation and World Taekwondo Federation, formed in 1973, is proving to have paid off because the popularity of this martial art is now bordering on worldwide.


Given the growing number of participants and fights held globally, this martial art is clearly expanding rapidly.


Practitioners often participate in Taekwondo tournaments to showcase their skills.

Key Techniques:


- High kicks

- Spinning kicks

- Fast footwork

Benefits:


- Self-defence proficiency

- Cardiovascular health

- Enhanced agility and coordination

Taekwondo martial art

Judo

Judo, a fascinating martial art from Japan, primarily emphasizes throws and groundwork. Originating in the late 19th century, it has evolved into a significant Olympic sport.


Judo, known as 'the gentle way,' teaches techniques for throwing and pinning opponents. This training holds value not only for physical development but also for mental growth. Unlike some martial arts, it doesn’t rely on punches and kicks but rather on the principles of flexibility, efficiency, and control.


The real key lies in balancing technique and timing rather than relying on sheer strength.


In judo, success relies not on the force of one's attack but on the skilful use of the opponent's energy to gain an advantage.


Judo's popularity has surged significantly, with participation increasing by 25% globally over the past decade, and a notable rise in youth involvement, where membership in clubs has grown by 40%.


  • Judo is a cost-effective martial art to begin. All you need is a uniform (gi), and you're ready to start.

Key Techniques:


- Throws (nage-waza)

- Grappling (ne-waza)

- Pins and joint locks

Benefits:


- Self-defence and competitive skills

- Full-body workout

- Improved balance and coordination

Judo

Kung Fu

Kung Fu, or Chinese martial arts, encompasses a variety of styles and techniques, each with its unique philosophy and approach.


It’s one of the oldest martial arts, known for its fluid movements and traditional forms dating back over 2000 years in China.


Kung Fu training places a strong emphasis on nurturing both the body and the mind.


As a hard style martial art, Kung Fu primarily relies on strikes and kicks for offence and defence. Practitioners of Kung Fu employ a diverse range of techniques, such as punches, kicks, locks, throws, and pressure point attacks.


In 2024, the number of people practicing martial arts, including Kung Fu, continues to grow. Statistics indicate that the martial arts industry in the United States alone has seen significant expansion, with 50,490 martial arts studios operating as of 2024, reflecting a 14.2% increase from 2021.

Key Techniques:


- Strikes and kicks

- Animal forms

- Weapons training

Benefits:


- Self-defence abilities

- Enhanced flexibility and strength

- Deep cultural and philosophical insights

Kung Fu

Muay Thai

Known as Thai boxing, Muay Thai can be described as having fierce and authentic striking with fists, elbows, knees, and shins. It is a sport originating from Thailand with a big following due to the good striking and, of course, great cultural heritage.


The instant you look at their shorts and accessories, you'll be able to tell that he is a muay thai fighter.


Its conquest of the outside world essentially began in the 1970s and 1980s, when Muay Thai fighters handily bested some of the most famous practitioners of other martial styles. It went widely international in the late 20th century when muay Thai practitioners defeated notable practitioners of other martial styles.


Make no mistake; Muay Thai is a very brutal sport.


Whether you are looking for a new way to get fit or training for self-defence, Muay Thai is likely going to be a perfect martial art for you.


Those interested in Muay Thai can find specialised Muay Thai gear to enhance their practice.

Key Techniques:


- Elbow and knee strikes

- Clinch work

- Powerful kicks

Benefits:


- Self-defence and competition readiness

- Cardiovascular and strength conditioning

- Increased mental toughness

Fairtex Fight Team

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is an Israeli martial art designed for real-world self-defense and combat. Known for its efficiency and brutal effectiveness, it incorporates techniques from various martial arts, including boxing, wrestling, and Judo.


Krav Maga is often practiced by military and law enforcement personnel for its practical applications.


Krav Maga has experienced significant growth in recent years, with more participants engaging in this self-defense system. The increase in interest can be attributed to its practical application for real-world situations and its appeal for those seeking effective self-defense techniques.


In the United States alone, the martial arts industry, including Krav Maga, has seen a steady increase, with over 3.9 million participants actively involved in various martial arts disciplines. This growth is further supported by the expanding number of martial arts schools and training centres offering Krav Maga classes and certification programs.

Key Techniques:


- Strikes and kicks

- Disarming attackers

- Situational awareness

Benefits:


- Self-defence mastery

- Real-life applicability

- Enhanced physical and mental resilience

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Now one of the top 3 most popular martial arts is MMA, which is a mixture of different disciplines involving Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, and wrestling.


It has become the most watched martial art due to its intense popularity in competitions such as the UFC. MMA requires knowledge of all-round striking and grappling skills allowing fighters to use a wide range of striking and grappling techniques both standing and on the ground.


MMA is one of the most exhilarating combats to watch, and it is easy to follow, even if it's your first time watching. Two people put into a cage and one comes out on top!

Key Techniques:


- Striking (punches, kicks)

- Grappling (takedowns, submissions)

- Ground and pound

Benefits:


- Well-rounded self-defence skills

- High-intensity workouts

- Versatile combat techniques

For those looking to start their journey in MMA, Mixed Martial Arts gear is essential for training and competition.

Venum Sponsored MMA Fighters

Kickboxing

Kickboxing is an exciting blend of traditional boxing, karate, and Muay Thai. While it might not be as widely followed as boxing or MMA, it still has a dedicated following.


Whether you're competing or just looking for a killer workout, kickboxing offers something for everyone. Its intense training routines are fantastic for getting your heart pumping and improving your overall fitness.


Several famous kickboxers, such as Andrew Tate, Buakaw Banchamek, Giorgio Petrosyan, and Rico Verhoeven, have significantly raised awareness about the sport through their remarkable achievements and public profiles.


Andrew Tate, a four-time world kickboxing champion, Buakaw Banchamek, with over 300 wins, Giorgio Petrosyan, known for his impressive 104-3-2 record, and Rico Verhoeven, the reigning Glory Heavyweight Champion, have all contributed to the sport's prominence.


  • In 2024, the number of registered kickboxers increased by 12%, reaching a total of 45,000 compared to 40,000 in the previous year.

Key Techniques:


- Punches

- Kicks

- Knee strikes

Benefits:


- Self-defence and competitive skills

- Cardiovascular health

- Improved coordination and reflexes

Top Ten Kickboxing

Kickboxing enthusiasts often invest in specialised kickboxing equipment to enhance their training experience.

Boxing

Boxing is one of the oldest and most popular combat sports, focused on striking with the fists and ranking among the top three martial arts.


This sport demands both strategic thinking and physical endurance, making it popular for both competition and fitness. 


In recent years, boxing's popularity has shifted, with traditional TV viewership declining but social media and streaming platforms boosting its appeal.


Highlights and influencer matches now attract millions of views, and by 2024, boxing content on Instagram has over 500 million hashtags, showing strong online engagement.


Globally, boxing boasts 388 million fans and contributes $2 billion annually to the economy. In the UK, it's worth about £3 billion and employs around 3,000 people. Even with a 51% drop in ESPN’s post-pandemic boxing ratings, events like the 2021 Logan Paul vs. Floyd Mayweather fight, which drew over 20 million viewers, prove the sport's lasting appeal through modern channels.

Key Techniques:


- Jabs

- Hooks

- Uppercuts

Benefits:


- Self-defence proficiency

- Enhanced cardiovascular fitness

- Improved hand-eye coordination

For those looking to get into boxing, a variety of boxing gear is available to support their training.

Leone Boxing

Conclusion

Martial arts encompass a wide variety of disciplines, each with their distinct techniques, philosophies, and advantages.


As martial arts continue to gain popularity, we're witnessing the emergence of remarkable athletes excelling in their respective fields.


Engaging in martial arts enhances physical fitness, mental discipline, and self-defence abilities. Whether pursued for personal development, competition, or fitness, the path of martial arts offers substantial rewards.

FAQ

What is the most popular combat sport?

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is currently one of the most popular combat sports, thanks to its comprehensive nature and widespread appeal through promotions like the UFC. It combines techniques from various martial arts, making it highly versatile and exciting to watch.

What is the hardest black belt to get?

The hardest black belt to achieve is often considered to be in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). The journey to a BJJ black belt typically takes many years of dedicated training and mastery of complex techniques, making it one of the most challenging martial arts to achieve a black belt in.