From the old school kung fu fighting movies to modern day action movies, martial arts are everywhere. You might be driving to get groceries and stop at a stoplight only to see the words “karate” or “taekwondo” on a sign for the plaza across the street. You’ll see it but may never go in and always wonder if you could learn to fight like your favorite action hero. Martial arts are more than just fighting though. They can be a way of life or simply just a way to exercise, but the bottom-line is that martial arts have benefits for everyone. Practicing a martial art can improve muscle tone, flexibility, mobility, and cardio health. It can also help improve mental health through the philosophical values they are based upon.
Originating on Okinawa Island in Japan and influenced by Chinese kung fu, karate was born out of a weapons ban placed throughout Japan. It was taught in secrecy until the 20th century, which lead to the style being taught in other countries. According to Athletic Scholarships, karate is a self-defense style of martial arts that primarily uses punches, kicks, grappling, and throwing techniques. It is meant to be used without weapons and teaches the philosophy of being “inwardly humble and outwardly gentle.”
Though its definite origin is unknown, kung fu has developed into over 300 different styles over the centuries in China. According to Travel China Guide, the phrase literally means “Chinese martial arts” and has had an influence on the majority of martial arts styles. Its creation has been attributed to the need for self-defense, hunting techniques, and military training. Kung fu teaches hand-to-hand combat that can be used with or without weapons. It is philosophically influenced by Daoism’s approach to health and exercise and has physical and internal styles. Internal styles focus less on the body in order to strengthen the mind, while physical styles focus on the body’s power and force.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Coming from the original style of jujutsu, Brazilian jiu jitsu carries roots in early Greek, Japanese, and Chinese culture along with Buddhist philosophy. According to Gracie Academy, a common origin story is of a travelling monk bringing jujutsu to China or Japan. Jujutsu was modernized into Brazilian jiu jitsu in the 20th century. The style focuses on using the laws of physics, such as leverage, momentum, and vital points, to take down larger foes. It is also a weaponless style that can appear to look like wrestling or boxing. It is praised for its body-building techniques.
Aikido is a Japanese martial art founded early in the 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba, who intended for the style to develop people internally, physically, and with integrity. Though aikido can be used for self-defense, it is not a competitive style. According to AAA-aikido.com, aikido is influenced by Chinese and Indian meditative techniques and specializes in throwing, joint-locking, striking, and pinning techniques. It is said to promote the positive character of the ideal warrior and improves posture, breathing, balance, timing, and reaction. It also trains your body with a positive state of mind and provides a mental calm in stressful situations.
Krav maga is a style that was developed in the 1950s and was taught to the Israeli Army. According to Krav Maga Institute, it wasn’t taught to civilians until the late 70’s. Its primary purpose is to avoid worst-case scenarios in self-defense. It utilizes strikes, provides counter-defenses for chokes and headlocks, and helps people perform better under stress. After mastering the basics, students learn how to deal with multiple attackers. Krav maga also promotes learning prevention and awareness techniques to use in real life situations.
Written by: Bryce Ethridge