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What Martial Art Should I Learn | Your Full Breakdown

A guide to what martial art I should learn.

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Choosing the right martial art to study can be a real minefield. With so many types of martial arts which promise many different opportunities. Trying to work out what martial art I should learn can be quite a difficult question.

When it comes to learning a martial art, you need to choose one which best suits your personal needs. One that is practical is easily applicable and mixed martial arts offers those qualities.

Learning martial arts can be quite a difficult and long road. Don’t let anyone fool you if you want to learn a martial art that is worth it’s salt. Then you will have to shed some blood sweat and tears along the way. You should never be looking for something that makes you look good. Only something that will actually produce verifiable results.

Learning martial arts will teach you discipline, both inside and outside the gym or dojo. If you find the right one for you, then you will see a notable positive change in how you are progressing as a person.

So questioning which martial art you should learn is one of the valid questions you could ask yourself. And young or old, if you are reading this right now then you are probably of age to begin your journey and discover the next step in your martial arts journey.

How Much Time Can You Spend Training

One fighter holds the other by the head as they grapple in the gym,
Two fighters grapple on the mats.

Before jumping head-on into something you won’t be able to fully commit, I think that it’s best to first ask yourself some questions. I have made the mistake on more than one occasion and trust me it is easily done. So the best thing you can do is ask yourself, how much time can I commit to this?

Is this going to be a hobby I do for a couple of hours per week or am I going to apply myself and spend multiple days at a time doing my training? Learning any martial art properly will take time, some less than others.

But, if you have limited time or limited aspirations. Perhaps it’s best you find something which will give you pretty fast results in as short a time as possible.

What Do You Personally Want From Your Martial Art

So what do you want from your martial arts training? Do you simply want the best martial art for fitness? Have you been scouring BuzzFeed and Reddit quizzes asking what martial art should I learn? Or is it simply a case of working with what you have got, what is the nearest gym for me to get to?

These are all valid questions, but if you really want to learn a martial art. It should be about giving yourself something that almost nothing else will. Improved confidence, improved health, the ability to protect yourself and others and really an overall better quality of life. Training in and learning anything that will give you all these things and more surely cannot be a bad thing!

What Body Type Are You

Now I am not saying you should limit yourself due to your body type. And choosing a martial art based on body type alone is probably not a wise decision. But I do think that you should t least consider some of your natural attributes before you thrust yourself headfirst into something you later regret.

Two BJJ martial artists in the gym practising form
Two BJJ players working moves.

Are you, for instance, more petite in stature and wondering what are the best martial arts for small guys? Is your reach both in terms of punches and kicks limited? Well maybe then you should consider a grappling art, as opposed to a striking one where you may end up being someone else punching bag.

The opposite is are you tall and rangy and could you keep someone at distance with some good punches and kicks? Taller people often do have an advantage over smaller opponents, but that’s not always the case.

Are you of average build but carrying some extra pounds, do you want to lose those pounds? Well, the good news is that all martial arts will change how your body looks and feels. Giving you newfound muscles and additional mental health benefits you never knew possible.

What Are The Different Types Of Martial Arts

There are essentially four types of martial arts and these include either grappling or ground fighting, stand-up or striking martial arts, and Internal like Tai Chi or martial arts which involve the use of weapons.

Are you someone who likes to punch and kick things, letting all that aggression out on a heavy bag or some mitts? Are you someone who would rather not get kicked or punched and instead get involved in some ground fighting? Which may include some limited strikes, but mainly submissions and throwing off your opponent.

How about weaponry, do you fancy the idea of bladed and stick weapons, or perhaps the ability to defend against them? A martial art that is more geared toward fitness and form rather than everyday real-life situations?

There are really so many options out there and in most major metropolitan areas you will have quite a wide range of choices. But first, you just need to take a closer look at some recommendations and see what best applies to you and your own personal goals or needs.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Ground Fighting

Not a knock on traditional Jiu-Jitsu from Japan, but the adaptation of this traditional fighting art into a more modern combat sport. Has seen it take the combat world by storm.

Two BJJ players on the ground grappling for position in the dojo.
Two BJJ players roll during training.

Utilising ground fighting, some kicks and throwing techniques, BJJ exploded onto the world stage when a young fresh face Royce Gracie won three of the earliest Ultimate Fighting Champions.

Since then ground fighting martial art has gone on to become one of the most popular, especially amongst mixed martial arts fans and fighters. The intricate fight-ending submissions are some of the very best in the world. And BJJ has proved itself time and time again in sanctioned, as well as street fight situations.

While rolling or grappling in the standard Gi is great. A more realistic approach to a street fighting situation would be what is called No-Gi training.

Essentially wearing some tight-fitting lycra jersey and shorts. Meaning there is no heavy-duty Gi to hold and use to work submissions, lending to a more likely scenario outside the gym itself.

Why Jiu-Jitsu

  • Elite-level ground fighting techniques.
  • Critical positional awareness.
  • Incapacitate someone without hurting them.
  • Excellent overall body conditioning.
  • Multiple choke techniques.
  • Learn how to counter takedown attempts.
  • Excellent improvements in body toning.
  • Great for weight loss.
  • Excellent cardiovascular workout.

Taekwondo Kicking Technique

While Taekwondo is seen by many as a point-fighting martial art. Its range of kicks and strikes is amongst some of the very best in the world. Search for spectacular knockouts online and you are sure to find some from Taekwondo competitions.

A female taekwondo student sitting on the ground in the dojo.
A female student with her coach.

It’s a standup martial art that if employed in the right way on an unsuspecting opponent will result in a devastating outcome. Taekwondo purely focuses on kicking strikes, where the body and arms are merely used as a counterweight and counterweight reactions to the actual kick.

With its range of spinning kicks that usually focus on head strikes. The concept is that the focus of the kick is placed on a very specific point of contact that takes the full brunt of the blow.

The theory behind the striking style is called Choi’s Theory of power which very much uses physics and biometrics in the delivery of its kicks.

And while this martial art may focus purely on kicking, very much like boxing, excelling in a specific area. If you take this up, there’s no doubt you will have plenty of fun along the way trying to get some of those kicks down. Also, one famous person you may not know is a black belt the one and only comedian and UFC commentator Joe Rogan.

Why Taekwondo

  • Excellent selection of kicks.
  • Unexpected and spectacular strikes.
  • Learn to breathe correctly while striking.
  • Physical and mental meditation.
  • Learn how to be self-confident, respectful and disciplined.
  • Delivering a blow with maximum and accurate force.
  • Learn how to become super light on your feet.

Krav Maga Street Fighting

Krav Maga was born out of necessity in the defence of Jewish people in the Czech ghettos in the mid-1930s pre World war II. Originally using a boxing and wrestling base, the martial art developed into an all-encompassing self-defence martial art. Taking some of the simpler and more practical elements of European boxing, wrestling and hand-to-hand street fighting.

A man uses Krav Maga landing an elbow to he chin.
Man landing an uppercut elbow.

In the latter years of the 1940s, Krav Maga would go on to be refined and perfected for use by the Israeli military. Condensing down the moves into a series of easily learnt and quickly applied techniques for use in volatile and ever-changing situations.

Krav allows for significant sparring with some gyms encouraging their students to begin sparring as early as possible. The belt ranking system is based on that of Judo and with similar timeframes in terms of moving through the ranks. Taking on average from 4 – 6 years to advance to G2 or blue belt level.

Its appeal to military powers around the world is a hand-to-hand combat skill for their soldiers. Is really a testament to its efficient and deadly application.

Why Krav Maga

  • Tried and tested real-world techniques.
  • How to counter the use of weapons.
  • Fast and lethal fight-ending moves.
  • Learn throws and takedowns.
  • The developing of your physical aggression.
  • Learning how to hit the body’s vulnerable points.
  • Taking out and incapacitating an adversary.
  • Learning how to be aware of your surroundings.
  • Dealing with high-stress situations.

Judo For Close Quarters Combat

While Judo may not be so cool nowadays, we cannot deny that it is among the elite of grappling martial arts. With its punishing throws and sweeps, as well as limb-breaking armbars.

Two Judoka's working their Judo throws in training.
Two Judoka’s working hip throws.

Judo is one of the martial arts which has worldwide appeal. Its ongoing place since 1964 in the Olympics games, goes to show how well respected and established this martial art really is.

With thousands of gyms around the world training the next up-and-coming Ronda Rousey. There can be little doubting its success will continue for many years to come.

But it is its effectiveness in leveraging bodyweight to take often bigger opponents down which is the key to Judo’s appeal. This is an appeal that has leant to many other spin-off martial arts around the world such as combat sambo taking and incorporating elements to create another whole new martial art.

Judo’s mantra is all about using minimal energy to get maximum results. Not to try and overpower your opponent, but to use their aggression and momentum against them to win the fight.

Did you know that Don Frye, Hector Lombard, Fedor Emelianenko along with Khabib Nurmagomedov have both trained and competed in Judo

Why Judo

  • Some of the best throws in the world.
  • Grip strength from throwing using Gi.
  • Use of hips for leverage to throw much heavier opponents.
  • Learn the art of submission chokes.
  • A selection of beautiful joint locks.
  • Learn the use of armbars to subdue or incapacitate.

Boxing Keeps The Fight Standing

Boxing as we know is one of the very oldest of all martial arts and for very good reason has stood the test of time. In its most practical sense boxing is one of the easier arts to learn. I say to learn, but not to excel in as it takes years of dedication to honing your boxing combinations to truly be considered a good boxer.

A boxer with a beard wearing a red top punches a heavy bag.
A boxer hitting the heavy bag.

Practical in its application boxing is all about those hands. If you have good hands you can do all kinds of damage against an untrained assailant. But where boxing falters is its limitations in terms of there being no use of legs or any kind of ground fighting.

For this very reason, if you do get into a fight against someone who has some experience in those areas, it may not turn out very well. But boxing still has its applications and is a fantastic sport to train in and watch as a fan. And to pit, a pure boxer against any regular person who decides to cause you any harm will not end well for the attacker.

Boxing is and will little doubt continue to be one of the biggest draws in terms of combat sports. With the biggest pay-per-views and biggest notoriety when it comes to star athletes. The sports place in world combat sports history is forever set in stone.

Why Boxing

  • No better sport for learning how to punch correctly.
  • Excellent body condition.
  • Learn how to counter when someone throws the first punch.
  • Learn how to punch correctly if you are a smaller person.
  • Outstanding cardio when punching.
  • Correct breathing to ensure longevity.
  • Learn great balance and how to plant your feet.

Lethwei For Doing Damage

For many, the standup striking art of Lethwei is a newcomer to the combat sports scene. But truth be known this vicious and destructive martial art has existed since the 2nd century BCE. But its popularity in the wider world has been somewhat limited, which may be due to a number of historical and cultural reasons.

Dave Leduc lands a body kick to his opponents ribs.
World Lethwei champion Dave Leduc.

Known as the sport of nine limbs, a term which was also previously used to describe ancient Siam boxing. Lethwei uses all four limbs of the body, with two striking points on each limb. With the devastating addition of the head to use for headbutts.

Whereas its close neighbour in Thailand is very much modernised and adopted its national martial art. The population of Burma now Myanmar looked to hold on to its old-world traditions, adapting their national sport only very slightly for the modern era.

I have to say there is something very nostalgic and admirable about a sport maintaining its roots and not changing very much to suit the wider world. But, this may be one of the reasons why the sport has not become more widely known or practised outside the country’s borders.

But funnily enough, I don’t think you will hear its fighters complaining as they seek the maintain the integrity of what they believe to be the toughest striking martial art on the planet.

Why Lethwei

  • Ultra conditioning of the body to take punishment.
  • Toughening and conditioning of the entire body.
  • Spinning elbow techniques.
  • Learn spinning back fists which have become very popular.
  • Using the head as a devastating weapon.
  • Use the 9 points of contact to defeat an opponent.
  • Experience the last man standing in a true fight to the end.

Muay Thai Striking Technique

The stand-up striking martial art of Muay Thai has a historical lineage that dates back some 800 years to the southern Asian country of Siam, which today is Thailand.

Siam had a turbulent history with many wars and invasions by neighbouring kingdoms that forced the country’s leaders to develop and train their soldiers in hand-to-hand combat.

A Muay Thai fighter wearing red gloves in the ring.
A Muay Thai fighter prepares to fight.

From this necessity Siam boxing or what we know today as Muay Thai was born. Created specifically for situations on the battlefield if a soldier lost their weapons. The martial art was their backup plan to use all limbs of the body in what was referred to as the sport of 8 limbs.

The long and documented history, as well as the proven effectiveness of Muay Thai, mean that I had to have it near the top of any list like this. While its neighbours in Burma may disagree and argue that their fighters beat Thai’s when the two face-offs, this could be for the most part true.

But it’s the Thai’s consistency and track record that shows that for now at least it has the head start in being widely regarded as the best stand-up striking martial art on the planet.

If you choose Muay Thai you will not go far wrong. And the wonderful thing about it is it blends in beautifully with the number one pick on my list.

Why Muay Thai

  • Extreme conditioning of the body and legs.
  • Lose excessive weight quickly.
  • Learn how to kick low, medium and high.
  • Learn how to keep distance using these push kicks.
  • Utilise the 8 points on 4 limbs to strike your opponent.
  • Learn the best clinch techniques on the planet.
  • Learn how to work inside with boxing and elbows.
  • Learn how to block and parry punches, kicks and elbows.

MMA or Mixed Martial Arts

MMA has grown to become one of the most popular mixed-fighting sports on the planet. And while it is seen as a sport, MMA has some very real-world applications with its cross-training in multiple techniques. Meaning that you get a taste of multiple martial arts which blend well together under one umbrella.

Regarded as one of the toughest combat sports in the world. MMA uses elements of wrestling, boxing, muay Thai, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu as well as other arts in which your local gym may specialise in. In fact, this is one of the very best things about MMA, in that you can come from pretty much any martial art, combining it with others to build your own style.

Learning everything from fighting on the ground to avoiding things ending up on the ground. Striking with both hands, legs and elbows, MMA covers almost all the bases except working with weapons in any offence or defence scenario.

Two MMA fighter competing inside the cage wearing shin guards.
MMA fighters spar during training.

Mixed martial art is now the fighting sport to which more and more young up-and-coming combatants are attracted. Its fighters are the combat sports stars of the new millennium and this shows little chance of changing any time soon.

MMA burst into the combat sports seen in the early 1990s, evolving from a brutal all-but no holds barred cage fight. Into what we now see today as a fully sanctioned global sport with comprehensive rules and safety procedures. The sport would not have lasted had it tried to maintain itself as it was and had to change to become widely accepted.

For me, MMA has it all and can be pitted against any martial art on the planet and come out on top. So if you really want to learn a martial art or mixed fighting art that ticks all of the boxes, for me at least it has to be MMA.

Why Mixed Martial Arts

  • An excellent overall body workout.
  • Phenomenal conditioning regiment.
  • Learn to apply the best elements from several martial arts.
  • Learn how to strike with hands, elbows and legs.
  • Learn what to do when you end up on the ground.
  • How to submit a person or put them to sleep.
  • Learn bone-breaking locks and submissions.

In Conclusion

The truth about choosing what martial art you should learn is really a combination of questions you need to ask yourself. What do I want for my training, and what am I willing to commit to in terms of the hours I am really going to put in? You get out what you put in, this saying applies to almost every aspect of life.

Are you looking to become a lifelong practitioner or do you just want to learn something relatively quickly or change your physique, these are the only questions you can answer.

Because believe me, if you train in the right type of gym, you will be both mentally and physically tested and this is not something you should shy away from.

Learning almost anything worthwhile will require determination and desire. There will be days, lots of them, where you say to yourself, I’ll just skip training today.

Hey, been there done that! But what you need to do is focus on what you truly want because time passes by fast and before you know it you are several steps behind where you wanted to be and it can be soul-crushing.

So from my point of view, you need to take at least some of my advice into consideration. Find out martial arts near me and if you perhaps do want to train mixed rules and find out what are the best martial arts for MMA. I say MMA because for me this is the total package sport. By all means, you do you and choose the right martial art that suits you personally, it’s all relative.

All I can say in closing is I wish you all the best and I hope that your training brings you all the satisfaction and results for which you were hoping. And with that, best of luck on your personal journey.