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There are a LOT of styles, this will help you break them down

Standup Styles:

Styles fought almost entired on your feet. most martial arts styles you see in the movies are standup styles.

Examples: Karate-Do, Tae Kwon Do, Wushu

Ground/Grappling Styles:

Styles that look more like a combination of martial arts and wrestling. These use body leverage and positioning to to overcome opponents who may be much larger in size. Most street fights start standing up and end on the ground, making this an excellent style category for self defense.

Examples: Judo, Jujitsu

Weapons Styles:

All styles that have weapons as a primary focus. The ancient Samurai practiced with swords, but other styles focus on weapons such as the bo staff, the bokken (a wooden knife) and others.

Examples: Kendo

Fitness/Wellness Styles:

All styles of martial arts have a fitness component, however some styles have a greater focus on fitness than others. Some of these aren’t actually “Martial Arts”, but are good alternatives if your goal is simply fitness and/or wellness.

Examples: Tai Chi

Dance Styles:

Some countries occasionally had laws outlawing martial arts, so people would disguise their training as a dance. This spawned a number of styles that are quickly increasing in popularity and are a lot of fun to watch.

Examples: Capoeira


All styles of martial arts will provide you with some self-defense knowledge. While there are a few styles that we may recommend, don’t limit yourself to just our recommendations. It’s more important that you look for an instructor you enjoy who teaches classes specializing in self defense.

Examples: Krav Maga

Typically martial arts are categorized as hard vs. soft and internal vs. external. For your research purposes, here if the breakdown of what hard, soft, internal and external generally refer to. (Keep in mind that most styles mix these four criteria in some way.)

  • Hard – Styles that fight force with force. Typically our kicking and punching styles such as Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Wushu.
  • Soft – Styles that use an opponent’s force against them. Hold-downs, joint locks and chokes are common techniques used by styles such as Judo and Jujitsu.
  • Internal – Styles the focus on the mind, body and spirit more than physical force. Tai Chi and yoga are two great examples.
  • External – Styles that concentrate on the physical aspects of martial arts more than the internal aspects. Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Wushu are again good examples here, but so are Judo and jujitsu.