Master Martial Arts: A Rundown of Different Types of Martial Arts

Judo, Karate, and Taekwondo. Although the practitioners have belts, wear white, loose-fitting gear, and look cool, are they all the same? Not at all! Here is a breakdown of some of the most common martial arts, included with a brief overview of what they are and where you can find them, along with some fitness benefits of each martial art!


This contemporary martial arts style, developed by Morihei Ueshiba, focuses on locks, turns, jabs, and entering moves. Aikido, or “the way of harmonious spirit” in Japanese, keeps the well-being of the attacker at the forefront while protecting the defender. Aikido, which requires practitioners to wear the simple white jackets and loose pants of other martial arts, distinguishes from student and master with just two belts– as a student, you have a white belt. As a master, your belt is black. Weapons in Aikido include a short wooden staff, a wooden sword, and a knife. Some practices also include firearm-disarming techniques. Aikido training is considered physical as well as mental, and most of the injuries reported are merely soft tissue injuries, although some head-and-neck injuries have occurred. Benefits of aikido are strength, breathing, posture, bone density and muscle mass, and joint flexibility.


Unlike many of the other martial arts on this list, ju-jitsu has its groundings in Brazil. Originally an offshoot of judo, this technique was created by Carlos and Helio Gracie, who studied under Mitsuyo Maeda. This sport also differentiates itself from many of the others on this list by having an emphasis on Ju-Jitsu as a sport and a way of life. Many of the moves focus on ground movements and fighting an opponent larger than yourself. Adults (counted as 16 and over) and children have different belt colors and styles, and the forms of the black belt are different than in other sports.  The length of time it takes to receive a black belt is longer than in other disciplines, as the black belt is significantly harder to achieve. Common injuries include dislocations, cauliflower ear, and skin conditions due to mat abrasions and unclean mats. Ju-jitsu has one of the lowest rates of injury across all martial arts disciplines. Ju-jitsu builds mental confidence and resolve, resilience, persistence, strength, flexibility, and speed.


Judo, which means “gentle way” in Japanese, originally was born out of mental and spiritual teaching, and later became a modern martial art and an Olympic discipline. Judo is competitive in that you are either trying to throw your opponent or take down your opponent. The outfit that practitioners use while practicing judo is called the judoka, or a heavy-weave wrap jacket and trousers designed to withstand any throwing or grappling moves. Judo, like many other sports on this list, is hierarchical– with students holding the rank of kyu and masters holding the position of a dan. In the past, only white belts were used to distinguish the kyu from a dan– but presently, different countries having different color-based ranking systems for the kyu rank. People who hold the status of dan tend to have a uniform black belt. Injuries in judo tend to be mostly bruises, dislocations, and slipped discs. Judo helps the judoka, or practitioner of judo have increased coordination, strength, flexibility, speed, and agility.


Karate, one of the most well-known martial arts, was developed in mid-1300 in Okinawa by a group known as te. Karate, unlike many others on this list, can be practiced as an art, a combat sport, or in self-defense. The practice of karate arranged itself into styles, most of which differ regionally, which changes the method from other martial arts on this list. Some practitioners of the art don’t spar, or practice contesting with one another, while others consider it a significant point of the discipline. The method of promotion, with the balance of ryu/dan, was adopted from Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, and the colored belts that are an emblem of your rank in judo are used in karate to this day. Injuries in karate tend to be limited to sprains, cuts, and bruises. Karate can up your flexibility, strength and posture, while increasing your self-esteem and mental health!

Krav Maga 

Created by the Israeli Defense Force in mid-1940, Krav Maga is a combination self-defense discipline which teaches the practitioners to avoid confrontation but to finish a fight as quickly and aggressively as possible. Krav Maga, like many other disciplines, has a belt gradient system, with the beginners starting at white, and the experts continuing to black. The sport has been used extensively by different governments as part of their training for members of their armies, most notably the US Army, which teaches a modified form, the current Israeli Defense Force, and the British Special Air Service. Common injuries in Krav Maga include bruises, sprains, and dislocations. Krav Maga can also increase your strength, flexibility, coordination, cardiovascular ability and stamina!


Taekwondo, a Korean martial art, places a significant emphasis on speed and agility for its practitioners. Taekwondo, similar to all of the other sports on this list, denotes rank with a colored belt and wears the traditional jacketed belt and loose-fitting pants, both of which are generally in white. Aspects practiced in Taekwondo include mental strength and ethics, sparring, form, and board breaking. Different regulating agencies practice different styles of taekwondo, with the United States-style being that of the World Taekwondo Federation. Different styles also offer different philosophical backgrounds, with the most common being the five tenets of Taekwondo: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Indomitable Spirit and Self-Control. Taekwondo can provide benefits to your strength, flexibility, confidence, resilience, and leadership skills.

Did you find this guide to be useful, or have any tips or preferences across disciplines? Let us know in the comments below!

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