What martial arts style should you pick

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There are many types of martial arts spread all across the world, and many countries have developed their own style.

Nowadays, most martial arts are taught through the world. However, some martial art may have their own appeal.
Some schools have even made possible the practice of martial arts by handicapped people, and for those who would think of chuckling at this mention, they might be surprised how some of them could send them flying!

But with the numerous styles of martial art, kung fu, taekwondo, jujitsu, karate, judo, and so much more available, you may be confused on what style of martial art you may want to chose.

The most important thing is to find a good teacher, and assisting a class as a tryout should always be your first move when you are looking for a place to practice.

Here is a summary of the most common martial arts schools you are most likely to find in your neighbourhood:

Kung Fu

Although it has dozens of styles and hundreds of substyles, this Chinese fighting art has as basic 5 animal forms: tiger, dragon, crane, snake and panther.

Some styles of kung fu focus on self-defense, focusing on simple movements to take down an opponent quickly and efficiently. Others teach with forms and even acrobatics.

Very popular and having its root from the Shaolin temple, kung fu is very versatile and most people may find a school that teaches a style that will please them.

Bruce Lee made martial arts popular through movies.
Bruce Lee, who went on to develop his own martial art, Jeene Kune Do, was the first person to popularize martial arts in the western society.


This Korean martial art focuses mainly on kicks and sparring, although some forms of punches and other types of hand strikes are also taught.

There are two main schools for taekwondo, coming from the 2 biggest federations: WTF and ITF.

The base for both schools are very similar, however ITF tends to be more traditional and not as much sport-oriented as WTF.

Note that taekwondo is a full contact sport.

This means that although you will wear protection gears, if you practice and spar often, you may get some injuries sometimes.


A Japanese martial art, dozens of styles have come to life along the last century, with some more widely spread such as the shotokan, goju-ryu, wado-ryu and kyokushin schools.

Karate, which originated from the Okinawan island, was first taught by Shaolin monks and has had over time the animal forms more or less combined into a single form.

Even within the same style, some schools may be more sport-oriented while others will be more traditional, meaning they will stick to their old forms and training methods.

Note that sports-oriented schools (such as kyokushin) tend to be more full contact, and will focuse on point scoring in semi-contact sparring and body resistance, traditional schools will focuse more on speed and power, and emphasize more on spirituality and meditation.

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Most styles are quite versatile, and there should be a school that would be able to pick the interest of anyone interested in starting martial arts.

Kung Fu Panda, the latest animated movie from DreamWorks


Originally a japanese martial art, jujitsu combines karate strikes and grappling, and also teaches how to take control when tripping someone on the ground.

These useful real-life situations defense techniques are the reason why many of jujitsu basics are used and taught in most self-defense courses.

The Brazilian version of jujitsu was popularized a few decades ago, and focuses more on ground grappling.

Most people competing in mixed martial arts competitions integrate at least some basic notions of jujitsu in their training.

Most mixed martial art fighters integrate jujitsu in their training


This is the point-based sport-oriented version of jujitsu’s grappling, focusing on rolls, throws and locks.

Judo has schools on every continents and almost all countries.

Note that, although very enjoyable, judo tend to be harder on the body than other martial arts, because of its emphasis on throws.

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, is a black-belt Judoka.


This is one of the most spiritual-oriented martial arts there is, and descends from jujitsu.

Half of the training of this Japanese martial art focuses on meditation while the other shows how to do efficient grappling and escaping motions.

Note there are no competition for aikido, as its creator did not consider such thing as part of the spirit of martial arts. People interested in it might also like what they will get from tai chi chuan.

Tai chi chuan

It is a form of kung fu focusing almost exclusively on sprituality, and it believes in the use of chi, a surrounding energy force that can bring inner peace to the body.

Tai chi is very accessible and will often be practiced in neighbourhood parks, and many DVDs instructing people how to train this art at home have been made.

Its effects are similar to yoga, as it is an excellent stress reliever (see article “The positive effects of yoga”) and helps for concentration.


A rhythm and dance based Brazilian martial art, it will develop your acrobatic skills, your agility and your flexibility.

If you do break dancing or any other kind of dancing style and wish to pick a martial art which has movements and footsteps that you may be familiar with, this is the one for you.

There are many other martial arts schools I haven’t described in this article too, such as Muay Thai, Pradal Serey and many more.

When chosing a martial art, it is important to choose one that will allow you to learn and enjoy the teachings of a competent instructor.

Happy school hunting!

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