Taekwon-Huh? Your Guide To Martial Arts Around The World

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


Since martial arts movies hit the big screen in the 1960s, Karate, Judo, Taekwondo, and other martial arts have grown in popularity around the world. But what is the difference between all of these combat arts? And where did they come from? Here's just a sampling of what I've dug up.

Taekwondo (image via @Ilove_taekwondo on Instagram)

Taekwondo
Country of Origin: Korea
This is a relatively new martial art that was created in the 1940s and 1950s by combining elements of Chinese martial arts with indigenous Korean fighting traditions. It involves having a strong stance and blocks, arm strikes and kicks. It was created to be used by the military, and now every man in South Korea is essentially a black belt in the art by the age of 30, as military service and training is compulsory. There are six belt colors, or levels: white, yellow, green, blue, red, and black. Someone who is focused on training can achieve a black belt in 2-3 years.

Karate
Country of Origin: Japan
Developed on Japan's Ryuku Islands, Karate spread to the Japanese mainland in the early 20th century. It is known as a striking art, meaning that it uses punching, knee and elbow strikes, kicking, and some open hand strikes as well. After WWII, the US military was stationed in Japan and began learning the art, contributing to its spread to the Western World.

Capoeira (Image via @malandra94 on Instagram)

Capoeira
Country of Origin: Brazil
The first time I saw capoeira martial art experts in action, I was stunned. They seemed to defy gravity with their fluid, aerobatic movements that were more like a dance than a fighting technique. Which, it seems, is exactly the point. Apparently this art was created by Brazilian slaves in the 16th century who had to hide the fact that they were learning fighting techniques in a dance. It is made up of quick movements, kicks, spins, flips and more. Practitioners must be incredible strong and flexable.

Jujutsu
Country of Origin: Japan
This is the martial art that uses an attacker's momentum against them rather than being on the offensive. It also focuses on defeating an opponent who is armed when you are not. Moves involve throwing, holds, striking, kicking and joint locks. The art was began between 1600 and 1650.

Judo
Country of Origin: Japan
Basically a modern version of Jujutsu, this martial art was created in 1882, and uses the same practice of using an opponent's force against them. Judo is also an official Olympic sport.

Muay Thai
Country of Origin: Thailand
Also known as Thai Boxing, Muay Thai dates back hundreds of years and basically works on the concept that the entire body is a weapon. Practitioners use all "eight limbs" — two fists, two elbows, two knees, and two shins — in combat. This martial art was the inspiration behind the Kick Boxing fitness craze.