Soft martial arts

Soft martial arts DEFAULT

Martial arts is a very large genre of diversely encompassing activities.  It is natural for people to try and break large groups down into smaller, more manageable groups or ideas.  It helps people get a better idea of what specific part you are talking about if you can say that it belongs to a particular sub-genre.  Think of your favorite band.  Now ask yourself “what type of music do they play?”  The answer most people use is “Well… It’s kinda… X mixed with Y” and go on from there.  We use genres of music to act as sub-groupings.  It gives people a rough idea of the generalities of what the type of music is.  Even though people will disagree with where/who the edges of that genre are.

That being said, it is part of the evolution of the human mind to categorize things, and it can often be a useful heuristic tool.  Martial arts can be included in this.  There are numerous ways to break down martial arts into component groups.  One of the ways people can break martial arts down is into “hard” and “soft” arts.  Specific techniques can also be described as hard or soft as well.  Hard and soft, rather than being two categories are more of a continuum.  There is a lot of gray areas in between the two extremes, but we’re going to explore what is generally meant when the terms hard and soft are applied to martial arts.

Hard vs. Soft

Hard, in martial arts terms, means meeting force with an opposing force.  Karate and Tae Kwon Do may be prime examples of “hard” arts. They tend to rely more on physical power.  When an attack is coming in, their blocks are usually forceful and meant to overcome the incoming force by providing a larger force.  This force doesn’t need to be larger, i.e. stronger.  That would not work out well for self-defense purposes, as the stronger person will then always “win.”  Martial arts are meant to neutralize size and strength, at least in principle.  The defender’s force can be maximized by angle, timing, and distance.  Saying that is the easy part.  Getting it done, that’s the hard part.  That’s the reason why we continuously practice that inside-outside block, and will never have it be perfect.

Soft, in the case of martial arts, signifies a yielding, accepting, or non-resistive.  When a punch comes towards you, you move your body with it, rather than intercept it with a block.  Aikido and Taiji Chuan are the first martial arts that may come to mind when thinking of soft arts.  As an Aikidoka, I can feel this concept on a daily basis.  For those from a harder art, it may be more difficult to conceive of how this could be used in self-defense.  It seems to be more initially instinctual to use hard concepts.  The technique then usually involves extending the attacker past their balance point and throwing them, or something similar.  The power of these techniques often comes from having the proper physical structure, and timing for the technique.  They also seem to take longer to use effectively.  However, soft arts have proved themselves over and over.  The “ju” in judo or jujutsu (柔) is the soft/gentle/yielding that I was describing, and even the hardest martial artist usually agree that both are effective.  In order to properly have a soft technique, the attacker should never “feel” a technique has been applied.  In fact, in an expertly applied soft technique, the attacker should never feel anything, except the sense of losing balance, and then either the lock or the throw.  As a historical example, those who studied directly with Dr. Kano Jigoro would descript randori with him was like fighting an empty gi.  He offered no feedback from which to attempt a throw, and then you’d be on the ground.  O-Sensei’s Aikido students give similar stories.  It was said to be like fighting air when attempting any technique on him.  One second he was there, and then he wasn’t, and you were flying without any concept of being thrown.

Blended Arts

I don’t want to use an absolute and say all, but every martial art that I can think of blends these two concepts together to various degrees.  I’m sure there are people who would say “my martial art is all hard style, and there’s no soft in it.”  Karate was one of the examples I used for a hard style.  However, there is a style of karate created by Chojun Miyagi called Goju (剛柔 ) Ryu.  The name of the style would literally translate as “hard-soft.”  They demonstrate that even in the harder arts, there are softer elements.  Aikido, which is a pretty soft art, has direct, straight line strikes in it.  The techniques may not always be taught that way, but it is in the art if you look for it.  It has to.  It would almost be useless, in terms of combat or self-defense, to have a completely soft art.  And a completely hard art would not give you the ability to practice your art for a lifetime.  So they have to complement each other in every art.  Think about that the next time you’re practicing.  How are you applying “hard” and “soft” concepts today, perhaps in the same technique?

Jaredd Wilson

Jaredd Wilson has been practicing Japanese martial arts since 1996, and currently trains in Nami ryu Aiki Heiho under Brian Williams Sensei, in Nashville, TN

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There are two categories of Martial Arts, Hard and Soft.


A hard martial art involves meeting force with force. If you are attacked, you attack back with equal or greater force. An example of a hard martial art is Taekwondo.

A soft martial art involves redirecting an attacker’s energy in a way that expends little energy to the defender.  Soft martial arts are based on defense rather than attack.


The three general principles of Hapkido training are:

1. Nonresistance:  Remaining relaxed and not directly opposing an attacker’s strength.

2. Circular Movement:  Using circular motion or movement to control your attacker. Circling helps you gain the momentum you need to execute your own techniques.

3. Water Principle:  Can be thought as soft, adaptable strength that does not rely on force alone, much like water is soft to the touch.


Hapkido techniques make it a fully comprehensive fighting style.  Hapkido uses techniques which involve ranges of fighting from standing to groundwork.  Joint locks, twists, sweeps, Judo throws, pressure points and weapons defense

Hapkido training is just as vigorous as other martial arts. It carries the same physical and mental benefits, with the additional benefit of superior self-defense skills. If you’re interested in a comprehensive Hapkido training program, contact Black Tiger Martial Arts today.

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This list of 180+ martial arts styles provides you with details about their techniques, kata & forms, history, etc. It ranges from well-known styles (such as Karate, Taekwondo, Krav Maga, BJJ and MMA) to more unique martial arts styles (such as “Drunken Fist” Kung Fu, Sherlock Holmes’ Bartitsu and Zulu Stick Fighting). We have also broken this information into country of origin (i.e. martial arts that were developed in America, Japan, China or Korea) and martial arts styles dedicated to a “specialty” (i.e. weapons-based or grappling-based martial arts). You will find more detailed country and specialty lists below. Hopefully, this information will help you to find a martial arts style & school that is right for you. Many of these martial arts help participants to improve their overall fitness, learn self-defense, gain confidence and lose weight.

List of Martial Arts Styles – Click on the links below for more in-depth knowledge regarding that style’s techniques (i.e. unique kicks), katas & forms, history, etc.

  1. Aikido – Aikido is a Japanese martial arts style focused on redirecting the attack away from you. Aikido concentrates on throwing, joint locks, traditional Japanese weapons, etc.
  2. Aikijujitsu – Aikijujitsu is a sub-genre of Jujutsu. In contrast to Jujutsu, Aikijujitsu focuses more heavily on blending with the opponent, moving joint-locks, and other esoteric principles.
  3. American Kenpo – American Kenpo is a hybrid martial arts style. It is also known as Kenpo Karate.
  4. Angampora – Angampora is a Sri Lankan martial arts that focuses on unarmed combat, grappling, weapons and pressure points.
  5. Araki Ryu – Araki Ryu is a Japanese martial arts focused on traditional Japanese weapons such as the sword, spear, staff, etc.
  6. Bagua Zhang – The “Eight Trigram Palm” style is one of the 3 best known Wudang styles. Best known for its “circle walking”.
  7. Bajutsu – Bajutsu is a Japanese martial arts focused on military equestrianism.
  8. Bakom – Bakom (also known as Vacon) is a Peruvian martial arts that combines Jujutsu with street fighting techniques. It was designed for survival in the slums of Peru.
  9. Bajiquan – Bajiquan is a Chinese martial arts style that is famous for its explosive power and elbow strikes.
  10. Bando – Bando is a martial arts style from the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).
  11. Bartitsu – Bartitsu is an English martial arts that combines boxing, cane fighting, jujutsu, etc. Revival of this martial arts is due to renewed interest in Sherlock Holmes (as he was a fictional master of Bartitsu).
  12. Bataireacht (Irish Stick Fighting) – Bataireacht is the martial arts better known as Irish stick fighting.
  13. Bokh (Mongolian Wrestling) – Bokh is a traditional wrestling martial arts that was practiced by Mongol warriors. It is better known today as Mongolian Wrestling.
  14. Budokon – Budokon is a hybrid system that combines martial arts training with Yoga.
  15. Bojuka – Bojuka is a self-defense system focused on grappling and strikes to an opponent’s vital areas.
  16. Bojutsu – Bojutsu is a weapon-based martial arts focused on the long staff (Bo).
  17. Bokator – Bokator is an ancient Cambodian martial arts that includes grappling, strikes and weapons training.
  18. Boxing – Boxing is a martial arts style focused purely on powerful punches.
  19. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a Brazilian martial arts style focused on ground fighting (i.e. grappling).
  20. Bujutsu – Bujutsu is the Japanese martial arts of the Samurai.
  21. Butthan – Butthan is a martial arts from Bangladesh. It is focused on subjects such as mediation, self-defense, weapons, etc.
  22. Byakuren Kaikan – Byakuren Kaikan is a Japanese martial arts focused on full contact sparring. This style originated out of Shorinji Kempo.
  23. Catch Wrestling – Catch Wrestling is a grappling martial arts created in the late 1800s that combines techniques from wrestling, Judo, Jujutsu and other grappling martial arts.
  24. Canne de Combat – Canne de Combat is a French martial arts that focuses on a sports version of cane fighting.
  25. Capoeira – Capoeira is a very fluid and acrobatic martial arts style from Brazil.
  26. Choy Li Fut – Choy Li Fut (or Cai Li Fo) is a substyle of Kung Fu that combines long and short-range techniques.
  27. Chun Kuk Do – Chun Kuk Do is a Korean and American hybrid system created by Chuck Norris (martial artist and movie star). In 2015, this martial arts was renamed to the Chuck Norris System.
  28. Combat Hapkido – Combat Hapkido is seen as a spin-off of traditional Hapkido. It has a much greater focus on self-defense and grappling than traditional Hapkido.
  29. Combat Hopak – Combat Hopak (or Boyovyy Hopak) is an Ukrainian martial arts supposedly derived from Cossack military traditions.
  30. Coreeda – Coreeda is an Australian aboriginal martial arts focused on wrestling.
  31. Cuong Nhu – Cuong Nhu is a Vietnamese-American hybrid martial arts that combines elements from Shotokan Karate, Aikido, Judo, Wing Chun, Vovinam, Tai Chi and Boxing.
  32. Daido Juku Kudo – Daido Juku Kudo is a Japanese martial arts that practices mixed martial arts techniques while wearing a traditional gi.
  33. Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu – Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu is a traditional Japanese martial arts focused on unarmed combat, throws, strikes to vital areas, joint locks, etc.
  34. Dambe – Dambe is an African martial arts focused primarily on boxing but it also uses kicking techniques.
  35. Danzan Ryu – An American hybrid form of Jujutsu. It is also known as Kodenkan.
  36. Defendo Alliance – This European martial arts is focused on realistic self-defense training.
  37. Defendu – A British martial arts created by William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes. This system was taught to Office of Strategic Services agents and Allied troops in World War 2.
  38. Dumog – Dumog is a Philippine martial arts focused on wrestling.
  39. Dutch Kickboxing – Dutch Kickboxing was formally developed in the 1970s and is often seen as a modified version of Muay Thai.
  40. Eagle Claw Kung Fu – Eagle Claw Kung Fu is a Chinese martial arts known for its gripping techniques, strikes, joint locks, takedowns and pressure point attacks.
  41. Enshin Kaikan – Enshin Kaikan is a Japanese martial arts that utilizes the Sabaki method (which seeks to turn an attacker’s power against him). This martial arts involves kicks, punches, sweeps, throws, etc.
  42. Eskrima, Arnis & Kali – Eskrima is a martial arts style from the Philippines focused on the use of stick and blade weapons (i.e. Yantok). This martial arts is also known as Arnis and Kali.
  43. Fencing – Fencing today is mainly an Olympic-style sport. However, there is a sub-style called historical fencing which focuses on fencing as a martial arts.
  44. Fu Jow Pai – Fu Jow Pai is a Chinese martial famous for its “Tiger Claw” style.
  45. Gatka – Gatka is an Indian martial arts focused on weapons, especially swords.
  46. Glima – Glima is a Scandinavian wrestling-based martial arts that was created by the Vikings.
  47. Gongkwon Yusul – Gongkwon Yusul is a Korean hybrid martial arts that includes elements from Hapkido, Jujutsu, Judo and Boxing.
  48. Gungsol – Gungsol or Gungdo is a Korean martial arts focused on archery.
  49. Haidong Gumdo – Haidong Gumdo is a Korean martial arts focused on sword techniques. It contains elements similar to Kenjutsu and Iaido.
  50. Hanbojutsu – Hanbojutsu is a martial arts that utilizes the Hanbo (a 3 foot wooden staff).
  51. Han Mu Do – Han Mu Do (or Hanmudo) is a Korean martial arts style. It is seen as a “smoother” and more “open hand” cousin to Hapkido. Hanmudo students also train with weapons.
  52. Hapkido – Hapkido is a Korean martial arts style focused on punches, kicks, throws and joint locks.


  1. HEMA – Historical European Martial Arts – HEMA refers to mainly sword-based martial arts based on techniques used in Europe from around the 1300s to the 1800s.
  2. Hojojutsu – Hojojutsu is a Japanese martial arts that uses ropes to restrain or disable an opponent.
  3. Hung Ga – Hung Ga (or Hung Gar) is a southern Chinese martial arts that combines 5 animal styles (Crane, Dragon, Leopard, Snake and Tiger).
  4. Huyen Langlon – Huyen Langlon is a martial arts from northeastern India.
  5. Hwa Rang Do – Hwa Rang Do is a Korean martial arts that includes sparring, self-defense, weapons training and grappling.
  6. Iaido – Iaido is a Japanese martial arts focused on the drawing of a sword (bokken, iaito or shinken) from its scabbard. This martial arts relies heavily on katas (forms) and does not utilize sparring.
  7. Iaijutsu – Iaijutsu is the combat version of Iaido.
  8. Icho-Ryu – Icho-Ryu is a fusion of martial arts such as Aikido, Goju Ryu Karate, Jujutsu, Judo and Aikijujutsu. It was created to meet the needs of law enforcement officers.
  9. Itto-Ryu – A Japanese martial arts focused on the sword. There are many sub-styles of Itto-Ryu and this martial arts had significant influence on the development of modern Kendo.
  10. Jailhouse Rock – Jailhouse Rock (JHR) is a martial arts system that was developed in the US prison system.
  11. Jeet Kune Do – Jeet Kune Do is a martial arts style created by Bruce Lee (martial artist and movie star).
  12. Jojutsu – Jojutsu (or Jodo) is a Japanese martial arts focused on the short staff (Jo).
  13. Judo – Judo is a Japanese martial arts style focused on grappling, joint locks and throws.
  14. Jujutsu – Jujutsu is a Japanese martial arts style focused on joint locks, holds and throws. It tries to redirect or manipulate the force of an attack in order to defeat the attacker.
  15. Jukendo – Jukendo is a Japanese martial arts focused on the bayonet.
  16. Juttejutsu – Juttejutsu is a Japanese martial arts that focuses on the martial arts weapon known as the Jutte (Jitte).
  17. Kajukenbo – This is an American martial arts style that combines techniques from many different martial arts such as Judo, Karate, Eskrima, etc. It was designed to be effective in real world self-defense situations and street fights.
  18. Kalaripayattu – Kalaripayattu is an ancient martial arts style from India.
  19. KAPAP – KAPAP is the Hebrew acronym for Face-To-Face-Combat. While not as well known as Krav Maga, this Israeli martial arts system is used by a number of Israel’s elite military units.
  20. Karate – Karate is a Japanese martial arts style focused on punches, hand/elbow strikes, knee strikes and kicks. Major Karate styles include the following:
  21. Keijojutsu – Keijojutsu is a Japanese martial arts focused on police stick fighting (batons).
  22. Kendo – Kendo is a Japanese martial arts style focused on sword fighting (i.e. Bokken and Katana).
  23. Kenjutsu – Kenjutsu is a Japanese martial arts style focused on sword techniques. In contrast to Kendo, Kenjutsu is less focused on sparring.
  24. Kenpo or Kempo – Please visit the American Kenpo section.
  25. Keysi – The Keysi Fighting Method is a self-defense system “created to act and react while defending yourself”. This system has been featured in movies such as the Batman series that starred Christian Bale.
  26. Kickboxing – Kickboxing is a martial arts style focused on powerful kicks and punches.
  27. Kinomichi – Kinomichi is a martial arts style that originated in France and was developed by one of the students of the founder of Aikido.
  28. Kino Mutai – Kino Mutai (Kina Mutai) is a Philippines martial arts that uses unconventional tactics such as biting and eye-gouging.
  29. Kobudo – A Japanese (Okinawan) martial arts focused on weapons training. Weapons used include the bo staff, sai, tonfa and nunchaku.
  30. Kokondo – Kokondo is a style that combines techniques from Karate and Jujutsu.
  31. Krabi-Krabong – Krabi-Krabong is a weapon-based martial arts from Thailand.
  32. Krav Maga – Krav Maga is a martial arts style from Israel focused on winning in “real life” combat situations.
  33. Kuk Sool Won – Kuk Sool Won is a Korean martial arts focused on strikes, kicks, grappling, joint locks, weapons training and healing techniques.
  34. Kumdo – Kumdo is a Korean sword-based martial arts which is similar to Kendo.
  35. Kung Fu – Kung Fu is a Chinese martial arts style focused on hand/arm strikes, kicks and even weapons training. Please see the main Chinese martial arts styles section for more Kung Fu styles but listed below are a few of the many different Kung Fu styles:
  36. Kung Fu To’a – Kung Fu To’a is an Iranian martial arts style that combines Kung Fu and Yoga.
  37. Kuntao – Kuntao is a southeast Asian martial arts that utilizes hand strikes, kicking techniques, grappling and martial arts weapons (i.e. sword, staff and spear).
  38. Kyudo – Kyudo is a Japanese martial arts style focused on archery.
  39. Kyujutsu
  40. Kyuk Too Ki – Korean kickboxing.
  41. Kyusho Jitsu – A martial arts focused on targeting pressure points.
  42. Laamb – Laamb is a Senegalese martial arts that combines wrestling and punches.
  43. Lathi Khela – Lathi Khela is a Bangladeshi stick-fighting martial arts.
  44. Lerdrit – Lerdrit is a military martial arts used by the Royal Thai Army.
  45. Leopard Kung Fu (Bao Quan) – Leopard Kung Fu is a Chinese martial arts that focuses on aggressive speed and agility to defeat an opponent.
  46. Lethwei – Lethwei is a Myanmar (Burma) martial arts that is similar to Muay Thai and Kickboxing. However, Lethwei has less restrictions as this martial arts allows techniques such as headbutts.
  47. LimaLama – A martial arts from Samoa.
  48. Linh Quyen Dao – Linh Quyen Dao is a Vietnamese martial arts.
  49. Lua – Lua is a traditional Hawaiian martial arts that focuses on bone breaking, boxing, wrestling, weapons, etc.


  1. Luta Livre – Luta Livre is a Brazilian grappling martial arts known in Portuguese as “Free Fighting”.
  2. Malla Yuddha – Malla Yuddha is an Indian and Southeast Asian martial arts focused on combat wrestling.
  3. Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) – The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program is focused on unarmed combat, knife training, bayonet techniques, etc.
  4. Mau Rakau – Mau Rakau is a weapons-based martial arts developed by the Maori of New Zealand.
  5. Military Martial Arts – Military martial arts are martial arts styles used by and/or developed for the military. They are designed for real-life combat situations versus sport-based martial arts that ban certain techniques in order to avoid injuries.
  6. Mixed Martial Arts – Mixed Martial Arts utilizes techniques from a variety of different martial arts styles (i.e. wresting, jiu-jitsu, boxing, karate, etc.) in order to defeat an opponent.
  7. Monkey Kung Fu (Hou Quan) – Monkey Kung Fu is an unorthodox and acrobatic style used to disorient and attack opponents from unusual angles and positions.
  8. Muay Boran – Muay Boran is a Thai martial arts. Modern Muay Thai evolved from this martial arts style.
  9. Muay Thai – Muay Thai is a martial arts style from Thailand. It is similar to kickboxing but also involves elbow and knee strikes. Given its powerful kicks and knee strikes, Muay Thai is often an element of MMA training.
  10. Naginatajutsu – Naginatajutsu is a Japanese martial arts style focused on the long pole weapon known as the Naginata.
  11. Nam Hong Son – Nam Hong Son is a Vietnamese martial arts.
  12. Nhat Nam – Nhat Nam is a Vietnamese martial arts.
  13. Ninjutsu – Ninjutsu is a martial arts style developed from the techniques used by ninjas (Japanese spies and assassins).
  14. Nippon Kempo – Nippon Kempo is a Japanese martial arts that uses punches, kicks, joint locks and grappling techniques.
  15. Niten Ichi-Ryu – Niten Ichi-Ryu is a two sword martial arts style created by the famous Japanese samurai, Miyamoto Musashi.
  16. Niyuddha – Niyuddha is an ancient Indian martial arts focused on kicking, punching and throwing.
  17. Nunchaku Do – Nunchaku Do is a martial arts focused on the sports usage of the Nunchaku(Nunchucks).
  18. Nunchakujutsu
  19. Okichitaw – Okichitaw is a hybrid martial arts that combines the traditional fighting techniques used by the Cree Indians (Native Americans) with techniques from martial arts such as Taekwondo and Judo.
  20. Panantukan – Panantukan is the boxing component of Filipino martial arts. Panantukan is not a sport, but rather a street-oriented fighting system. This martial arts is also known as Suntukan, Pangamot, Pakamot and Mano-Mano.
  21. Pankration – This Greek martial arts style combines grappling, kicking techniques and boxing. It was part of the first Olympics in 648 BC.
  22. Pehlwani – Pehlwani is an Indian martial arts focused on wrestling & grappling techniques.
  23. Pencak Silat – Pencak Silat is the name used to refer to a variety of Indonesian martial arts.
  24. Pradal Serey – Pradal Serey is a Cambodian martial arts similar to Muay Thai and Kickboxing. Pradal Serey is well known for its use of elbow strikes in order to win a fight.
  25. Praying Mantis Kung Fu – Praying Mantis Kung Fu is known for its redirection, joint manipulation, pressure point attacks and trapping tactics.
  26. Quarterstaff – The British martial arts that uses a 6-9 foot wooden staff. Famous from the tales of Robin Hood.
  27. Qwan Ki Do – Qwan Ki Do (Quan Khi Do) is a Vietnamese martial arts founded by Pham Xuan Tong in the 1960s.
  28. Sambo – Sambo is a Russian martial arts style. There are two main types of Sambo; Combat Sambo and Sports Sambo.
  29. Sanshou (or Sanda) – Sanshou is a martial arts style developed for the Chinese military. It is focused on combat training and combines elements of kung fu, grappling and self-defense techniques.
  30. Savate (French Kickboxing) – Savate is a French martial arts style focused on boxing and kicking. No knee strikes are allowed.
  31. Schwingen – Schwingen is a Swiss martial arts focused on grappling.
  32. Shaolin Kempo Karate – Shaolin Kempo Karate is a hybrid martial arts that combines techniques from Shaolin Kung Fu, Karate and Asian wrestling.
  33. Shaolin Kung Fu – Shaolin Kung Fu is a well known style of Kung Fu. This martial arts was developed by the monks at the Shaolin Temple in China.
  34. Shin Kicking – Shin Kicking is an English martial arts or combat sports where the contestants kick each other in the shins until one withdraws from the contest.
  35. Shindo Jinen Ryu – Shindo Jinen Ryu is a martial arts that combines elements of Karate, Aikido & Jujutsu.
  36. Shintaido – Shintaido is a martial arts that combines Karate, Kenjutsu and Bojutsu with spiritual and mediation elements.
  37. Shootfighting – Shootfighting is a combat sport similar to Mixed Martial Arts. It is focused on techniques from “Muay Thai Kickboxing and total body Submission Grappling”.
  38. Shooto – This Japanese martial arts style is similar to mixed martial arts and was created by Satoru Sayama.
  39. Shorinji Kempo – A Japanese martial arts that combines personal growth, health and spirituality with self-defense techniques such as punches, kicks, escapes, throws, etc. It is seen as a modified Japanese version of Shaolin Kung Fu and was established in 1947.
  40. Shuai Jiao – A Chinese martial arts focused mainly on wrestling and grappling techniques.
  41. Shuri-Ryu – Shuri-Ryu is a martial arts that combines elements of Karate and Kung Fu.
  42. Sibpalki – Sibpalki is a Korean martial arts that teaches close combat skills that were utilized in the late 1700s.
  43. Sikaran – Sikaran is a Philippines martial arts focused almost exclusively on kicking.
  44. Silambam – Silambam is an Indian martial arts focused primarily on staff fighting.
  45. Silat – Silat is a Southeast Asian martial arts style focused on strikes (i.e. elbow and knee), throws, takedowns and weapons training.
  46. Siljun Dobup – Siljun Dobup is a sword-based martial arts based on Japanese and Korean traditions.
  47. Singlestick – This ancient English martial arts uses a wooden rod to practice techniques that were originally designed to teach cutlass fighting to sailors.
  48. Small Circle Jujitsu – Small Circle Jujitsu is an American martial arts. It is a hybrid grappling system and utilizes modified techniques from martial arts such as Jujutsu, Judo and others.
  49. Sojutsu – Sojutsu is a Japanese martial arts focused on spear fighting.
  50. Soo Bahk Do – Soo Bahk Do is a Korean martial arts that grew out of Tang Soo Do.
  51. Special Combat Aggressive Reactionary System (SCARS) – This martial arts program was taught to US Navy Seals in the 1980s and 1990s.
  52. Spochan – Spochan is a martial arts that uses “air soft” weapons to practice various sword & stick-based fighting techniques.
  53. Ssireum – Ssireum is a Korean martial arts focused on wrestling.


  1. Sumo – Sumo is a Japanese martial arts focused on wrestling.
  2. Systema – Systema is a martial arts style used by some Russian special forces (i.e. Spetsnaz).
  3. Taekkyeon – Taekkyeon ia a Korean martial arts focused on low kicks, leg sweeps, trips, pushes, etc.
  4. Taekwondo – Taekwondo is a Korean martial arts style focused primarily on punches, blocks, strikes and kicks (i.e. spinning hook kick).
  5. Tahtib – Tahtib is an Egyptian martial arts focused on stick fighting. Students generally train with a 4 foot wooden stick.
  6. Tai Chi – Tai Chi is often seen as a “gentle” martial art because many seniors use its slow movements in order to improve their health & balance and to reduce stress.
  7. Taido – Taido is a Japanese martial arts that combines elements of Karate with gymnastic maneuvers & dynamic movement.
  8. Taiho Jutsu – Taiho Jutsu is a Japanese martial arts that was originally designed to help feudal police arrest armed criminals.
  9. Tang Soo Do – Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial arts style that is similar to Taekwondo and Karate.
  10. Tantojutsu
  11. Teukgong Moosool – Teukgong Moosool (or Tukong Moosul) is a martial arts that was developed by South Korean special forces units.
  12. Tessenjutsu – Tessenjutsu is a Japanese martial arts based on the use of Tessen (war fans).
  13. Thien Mon Dao – Thien Mon Dao is a Vietnamese martial arts.
  14. To-Shin Do – A “modernized” version of Ninjutsu.
  15. US Army’s Modern Army Combatives Program – This is the martial arts program taught by the U.S. Army.
  16. Vale Tudo – Vale Tudo is a Brazilian martial arts system that is similar to Mixed Martial Arts but with even fewer rules. The limited number of rules can result in more injuries during Vale Tudo contests.
  17. Varma Kalai – Varma Kalai is an Indian martial arts focused on pressure points. They claim that is also used for healing applications.
  18. Vovinam – Vovinam is a Vietnamese martial arts style.
  19. Wing Chun – Wing Chun is a Chinese martial arts style focused on strikes, grappling and weapons training.
  20. Won Hwa Do – Won Hwa Do (or WonHwaDo) is a Korean martial arts known for its circular techniques.
  21. Wrestling – Wrestling, while used mainly for sports today, is an ancient martial arts style of fighting. It focuses on grappling, throws and “pinning” your opponent.
  22. Wushu – Wushu is the modern-day sports version of Kung Fu. Wushu was developed in the 1950s as an attempt to unify the multitude of traditional Chinese martial arts into one national style.
  23. Xtreme Martial Arts – Xtreme Martial Arts (XMA) combines gymnastics with martial arts techniques in order to create acrobatic martial arts “tricks”.
  24. Yabusame – Yabusame is a Japanese martial arts focused on archery while mounted on horseback.
  25. Yamanni-Ryu – Yamanni-Ryu is a martial arts style that focuses on training with Okinawan weapons (Kobudo).
  26. Yaw Yan – Yaw Yan is a Philippine kickboxing martial arts. It also utilizes grappling techniques and defenses against weapons.
  27. Yongmudo – Yongmudo (Yongmoodo) is a Korean martial arts style that combines techniques from martial arts such as Taekwondo, Judo and Ssireum.
  28. Yoseikan Budo – Yoseikan Budo is a Japanese martial arts system that combines a number of different martial arts including Aikido, Jujutsu, Judo, Karate, Kobudo and Boxing.
  29. Zui Quan – Zui Quan is better known as the “Drunken Fist” style of Kung Fu.
  30. Zulu Stick Fighting – Zulu stick fighting is a South African weapons-based martial arts.

Kendo – Japanese Martial Arts Style

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons via its Creative Commons license

Martial Arts Styles by Country of Origin

Martial Arts Styles by Specialty

Related Topics

What Martial Art Should I Learn? (Hard vs. Soft, Difficulty, Personality)

Hard and soft techniques

In martial arts, the terms hard and soft technique denote how forcefully a defender martial artist counters the force of an attack in armed and unarmed combat. In the East Asian martial arts, the corresponding hard technique and soft technique terms are 硬 (Japanese: , pinyin: yìng) and 柔 (Japanese: , pinyin: róu), hence Goju-ryu (hard-soft school), Shorinji Kempo principles of go-ho ("hard method") and ju-ho ("soft method"), Jujutsu ("art of softness") and Judo ("gentle way").

Regardless of origins and styles, "hard and soft" can be seen as simply firm/unyielding in opposition or complementary to pliant/yielding; each has its application and must be used in its own way, and each makes use of specific principles of timing and biomechanics.

In addition to describing a physical technique applied with minimal force, "soft" also sometimes refers to elements of a discipline which are viewed as less purely physical; for example, martial arts that are said to be "internal styles" are sometimes also known as "soft styles", for their focus on mental techniques or spiritual pursuits.

Hard technique[edit]

A hard technique meets force with force, either with a linear, head-on force-blocking technique, or by diagonally cutting the strike with one's force. Although hard techniques require greater strength for successful execution, it is the mechanics of the technique that accomplish the defense. Examples are:

  • A kickboxing low kick aimed to break the attacker's leg.
  • A Karate block aimed to break or halt the attacker's arm.

Hard techniques can be used in offense, defense, and counter-offense. They are affected by footwork and skeletal alignment. For the most part, hard techniques are direct. The key point of a hard technique is interrupting the flow of attack: in counter-offense they look to break the attack and in offense they are direct and committed blows or throws. Hard techniques use muscle more than soft techniques.

Soft technique[edit]

Further information: Tai sabaki

Tai sabaki step diagram, 180-degree.

The goal of the soft technique is deflecting the attacker’s force to his or her disadvantage, with the defender exerting minimal force and requiring minimal strength.[1] With a soft technique, the defender uses the attacker's force and momentum against him or her, by leading the attack(er) in a direction to where the defender will be advantageously positioned (tai sabaki) and the attacker off balance; a seamless movement then effects the appropriate soft technique. In some styles of martial art like Wing Chun, a series of progressively difficult, two-student training drills, such as pushing hands or sticky hands, teach to exercise the soft-technique(s); hence:

(1) The defender leads the attack by redirecting the attacker's forces against him or her, or away from the defender — instead of meeting the attack with a block. The mechanics of soft technique defenses usually are circular: Yielding is meeting the force with no resistance, like a projectile glancing off a surface without damaging it. Another example could be: an Aikido check/block to an attacker's arm, which re-directs the incoming energy of the blow.

A tomoenagefront sacrifice throw used against a front-pushing attacker.

(2) The soft technique usually is applied when the attacker is off-balance, thus the defender achieves the "maximum efficiency" ideal posited by Kano Jigoro (1860–1938), the founder of judo. The Taijiquan (T'ai chi ch'uan) histories report "a force of four taels being able to move a thousand catties", referring to the principle of Taiji — a moving mass can seem weightless. Soft techniques — throws, armlocks, etc. — might resemble hard martial art techniques, yet are distinct because their application requires minimal force. (see kuzushi)

  • In Fencing, with a parry, the defender guides or checks the attacker's sword away from himself, rather than endure the force of a direct block; it likely is followed by riposte and counter-riposte.
  • In Classical Fencing, other techniques appear in all forms of swordplay which fall into the soft category, the most obvious being the disengage where the fencer or swordsman uses the pressure of his opponent to disengage and change lines on his opponent giving him an advantage in the bind.
  • In Bare-knuckle boxing or Pugilism, with a parry, the defender guides or checks the attacker’s blow away from himself, attempting to cause the attacker to over commit to his blow and allow an easy riposte and counter-riposte.
  • In Judo and Jujutsu when the attacker (uke) pushes towards the defender (tori), the tori drops under the uke, whilst lifting the uke over himself, effecting the Tomoe Nage throw with one of his legs. The technique is categorized as a "front sacrifice technique" in judo and jujutsu styles. The push from the uke can be direct, or it can be a response to a push from the tori.[citation needed]
  • With martial arts styles such as T'ien Ti Tao Ch'uan-shu P'ai the soft style is also in keeping with the Taoist philosophy, the idea that the technique can also be applied in mental terms as well as physical.

Soft techniques can be used in offense but are more likely to appear in defense and counter offense. Much like hard techniques they are effected by foot work and skeletal alignment. Where a hard technique in defense often aims to interrupt the flow of attack; a soft technique aims to misdirect it, move around it or draw it into over commitment, in counter offense a soft technique may appear as a slip or a vault or simply using the momentum of a technique against the user. Soft techniques in offense would usually only include feints and pulling motions but the definition and categorization may change from one art form to another.

Soft techniques are also characterized as being circular in nature and considered internal (using Qi (Chinese) or ki (Japanese and Korean)) by martial arts such as t'ai chi ch'uan, hapkido and aikido.

Principle of [edit]

The principle ofJu (柔, Jū, Yawara) underlies all classical Bujutsu methods and was adopted by the developers of the Budō disciplines. Acting according to the principle of Jū, the classical warrior could intercept and momentarily control his enemy's blade when attacked, then, in a flash, could counter-attack with a force powerful enough to cleave armor and kill the foe. The same principle of Jū permitted an unarmed exponent to unbalance and hurl his foe to the ground. Terms like "Jūjutsu" and "Yawara" made the principle of Jū the all-pervading one in methods cataloged under these terms. That principle was rooted in the concept of pliancy or flexibility, as understood in both a mental and a physical context. To apply the principle of Jū, the exponent had to be both mentally and physically capable of adapting himself to whatever situation his adversary might impose on him.

There are two aspects of the principle of Jū that are in constant operation, both interchangeable and inseparable. One aspect is that of "yielding", and is manifest in the exponent's actions that accept the enemy's force of attack, rather than oppose him by meeting his force directly with an equal or greater force, when it is advantageous to do so. It is economical in terms of energy to accept the foe's force by intercepting and warding it off without directly opposing it; but the tactic by which the force of the foe is dissipated may be as forcefully made as was the foe's original action.

The principle of Jū is incomplete at this point because yielding is essentially only a neutralization of the enemy's force. While giving way to the enemy's force of attack there must instantly be applied an action that takes advantage of the enemy, now occupied with his attack, in the form of a counterattack. This second aspect of the principle of Jū makes allowance for situations in which yielding is impossible because it would lead to disaster. In such cases "resistance" is justified. But such opposition to the enemy's actions is only momentary and is quickly followed by an action based on the first aspect of Jū, that of yielding.

Distinction from "external and internal"[edit]

Further information: External and internal (Chinese martial arts)

There is disagreement among different schools of Chinese martial arts about how the two concepts of "Hard/Soft" and "External/Internal" apply to their styles.[citation needed]

Among styles that this terminology is applied to, traditional Taijiquan equates the terms while maintaining several finer shades of distinction.[2]

Hard styles typically use a penetrating, linear "external force" whereas soft styles usually use a circular, flowing "internal force" where the energy of the technique goes completely through the opponent for hard/external strikes while the energy of the technique is mostly absorbed by the opponent for soft/internal strikes.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Fu, Zhongwen (2006) [1996]. Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan. Louis Swaine. Berkeley, California: Blue Snake Books. ISBN .
  2. ^c.f. The martial arts FAQ, built up over years of discussion on rec.martial.arts. In part one, there is an entry for hard vs soft and internal vs external.
  3. ^TanDaoKungFu, TanDao Fight Lab #2 Hard & Soft Palm Strikes,, retrieved 2019-01-19 Youtube, July 16, 2010 Lawrence Tan

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