5 Great Martial Art Styles You May Not Know About

A “martial art” is known typically as a fighting style that emphasizes certain techniques, training methods, and philosophies. That means that there are a lot of different types of martial arts in the world, since virtually every country has developed at least one form of combat throughout history. Some martial arts are thousands of years old, and others were created in many of our lifetimes. Here’s a short list of fighting styles that aren’t as well known as karate or boxing, but are worth knowing just as much. Whether you’re just getting into martial arts or been at it for years, it’s good to brush up on all the styles out there.

You’ve probably heard of a more popular variant of Tang Soo Do. Tae Kwon Do sprung from Korean Tang Soo Do in 1964. Lots of Tang Soo Do masters frown upon that because they believe a lot of modern Tae Kwon Do is too sport oriented. Tang Soo Do’s history stretches back as far as two millennia, and there were many, many different types of it before it was unified under one name. The art is influenced by some dance-like forms, and you can think of it as a Tae Kwon Do that’s focused on more damaging forms of combat, and less oriented towards competition.

Russia’s military has a reputation for having some of the toughest, iron-skinned soldiers in the world. Due in part to what is now Russia’s national sport, Sambo. Like many martial arts styles, Sambo has branched into the sports world since its founding in the 1920s, created as a very lethal system of hand-to-hand combat for the Red Army. The sport version is very similar to MMA, emphasizing grappling, locks, and chokes, as well as many types of striking. Fedor Emelianenko is a Sambo fighter who until recently was undefeated in his professional career, and to this day is considered by many to be the top martial artist in the world.

Silat is the primary martial art of Malaysia. It’s also an older art and branches off into forms that are too many to count. Silat was developed from military styles and hunting methods, and has remained a very lethal and self-defense oriented martial art. Throws and take-downs are among the most common techniques, and are always followed up by strikes to sensitive areas and pressure points, like the throat or gut. The idea is to always have your next move planned, until your opponent is dispatched.

As fun as it looks, Hapkido does not teach you how to jump upside down. Well, maybe advanced students do. Those guys aren’t jumping, though. They are being thrown to the ground by a Hapkido master. This is another Korean martial art, and it focuses heavily on self-defense and varies in techniques from strikes and jump kicks to joint locks and throws. A main principle of Hapkido is effectively taking control of your opponent and using circular, efficient motions. This is a good art for people who want to learn a good variety of martial arts techniques.

Everyone knows a bit about ninjas, but a lot of people are surprised when they find out there’s actually a martial art called “ninjutsu.” As the name implies, it’s the martial arts system created by ninjas. Today, it is no longer taught as a style in which to sneak around assassinating people, and has evolved into a self-defense system. It stays true to the unconventional techniques used by ninjas, and weapons skills are still passed down to students. The man you see in the picture is Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, the 79 year old last living Grand Master of Ninjutsu who is the founder of the Bujinkan dojo in Japan, where martial artists from around the world train. The art itself is as mystical as ninja legends, with a focus on drawing power from your spirit ( also known as “chi”) and the Earth.