September 4, 2022

What Martial Art Should I Learn First?

Martial arts help to gain not only great fitness but excellent mental health. It is one of the best lifestyle practices you can adopt to be in the best shape while you gain adequate knowledge of self-defense. It helps you to reduce your weight through rigorous physical training and will also help you to increase your agility and focus. Besides, martial art helps to sharpen leadership skills. It will rapidly increase your social interactions as it is basically a holistic approach towards a great lifestyle. But, the question that most newbies have on their mind is, “What martial art should I learn first?”

If you ask any martial artist who has been practicing for years, they will tell you that they faced huge difficulties in selecting the right form of martial art and the practice suitable for them. But, you need to choose something that suits you perfectly, as your goal is to stick with that particular type of martial art ultimately. 

You need to focus on your purpose of learning martial arts. If you are planning to take it as a career, then mixed martial art will be the best for you. But, if you are planning for rapid weight loss, then it might be boxing that will help you in the shortest possible time. Besides, you need to understand the downsides of martial art practice, such as it involves quite a good amount of money per class. Moreover, you also need to buy some equipment, like shin guards and gloves before you start.

Here, we have come up with the complete details of the eight most popular martial art styles that you can choose from.


Hand-to-hand combat is the earliest style of physical fights known to mankind. It can be traced back to the 3rd millennium BC where a Sumerian relief in Iraq depicts a picture quite close to boxing. It is also extremely popular in ancient Greece as the Greeks introduced this martial art form as a sport in the 23rd Olympic Games in 688 BC. And, if you talk about modern development, Sir Thomas Parkyns wrote a complete article on boxing around 300 years ago in 1713.

boxers working out in gym

Now, boxing is not only a standard fixture in any international sports competitions but is also a vital part of both the Olympic Games and Commonwealth. It also requires minimal equipment support as you need just a boxing glove to start practicing it. There are also several different styles of boxing that you can adopt, beginning with the classic boxing style where the fighter mainly focuses on long and faster punches like a jab.

You can also go for a boxer-puncher style that focuses on close combat with an excellent combination of power and techniques. A variant of this style is counter punchers that mainly rely on defensive techniques and take advantage of the mistakes or errors by the opponent. If you are not that agile but have good punching power, then you can also adopt the brawler style. It is also an excellent idea to choose the swarmer style if you are good at uppercuts and hooks.


Karate is a versatile martial art form that can be practiced as a combat sport or as a complete art. It is developed during the Ryukyu Kingdom, with heavy influences of indigenous Ryukyuan martial art techniques. It is also influenced by the Fujian White Crane style of King Fu. After Japan annexed the Ryukyu Kingdom, Karate started becoming quite popular in the Japanese mainland. This martial art style came with the migrants from Okinawa.

The founder of the Shotokan style in Karate, Gichin Funakoshi, popularized this style in the mainland of Japan. Then, several movie stars like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Chuck Norris popularized this martial art style in the western world. Karate mainly focuses on several open-hand techniques like spear-hands, knife-hands, and palm-heel. However, it also uses kicking, punching, elbow and knee strikes, and other hand-to-hand combat techniques too.

There are three practicing styles in Karate, which are – Kihon, Kata, and Kumite. Kihon refers to the basic forms and stances of Karate that includes punches, elbow strikes, and kicks, as well as blocks. Kata is the sequence of movements that depicts various postures of both offense and defense. Kumite, which literally stands for ‘meeting of hands’, is basically the sparring practice that involves a partner.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai, which literally translates to Thai boxing, is a combat style from the mainland of Thailand that predominantly uses several clinching and striking techniques. It is actually the ‘art of eight limbs’ that mainly uses fists, elbows, shins, and knees. Ever since the traditional Thai fighters started participating in various international competitions during the late 20th century, this particular style of martial art has created a huge buzz all over the Western world.

muay thai athletes wearing shin guards & training

Two main techniques are the backbone of Muay Thai, i.e., Mae Mai and Luk Mai. Mae Mai includes the major techniques, while the Luk Mai comprises the minor ones. Elbow is one of the most vital parts in Muay Thai as it is used as striking equipment. Uppercuts, down cuts, diagonal strikes, horizontal strikes, flying, and backward-spinning are some of the most important movements of the elbow in this martial art style.

Kicks are also among the most vital aspects in Muay Thai, especially the Thip or the foot jab and the Te Chiang that is quite similar to the roundhouse kick. While foot jab is primarily used as a blocking technique to defend against kicks, Te Chiang is completely for offense purposes. Khao Dot or the boxer jump is also used in this martial art where the knee is used as striking equipment. Clinching is also an important part of Muay Thai.


Taekwondo is an extremely popular Korean martial art form that mainly focuses on various types of kicks. From the head-height kicks to the spinning kicks, Taekwondo artists can smoothly perform various leg movements with the utmost ease. This martial art technique mainly focuses on speed and agility rather than concentrating on power. It is mainly developed with the influence of Karate and Kung Fu during the 1940s.

Achieving great height with just kick is a vital part of this martial art as additional points are given in international competitions for a kick to the head. It also relies on maximizing the reaction force to create more impact. So, the other part of the body is deliberately brought backward to generate more power when the striking limb is going forward. Concentration is also extremely important in taekwondo as it focuses on reducing the impact area as small as possible.

Taekwondo artists also maintain proper center-of-balance throughout their fight to have correct equilibrium. Breathing is also an important aspect in this art form where you need to exhale during the strike to concentrate the total energy of your body at a particular point. Speed is essential for taekwondo as it mainly creates power in all the limbs. Besides, they also focus on striking with as much body mass as possible to create maximum impact.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu

As the name itself suggests, this combat sport originated from Brazil. It mainly focuses on various grappling techniques to defeat the opponent through ground fighting. It is based on the ground fighting fundamentals of the Kodokan style of judo. And, most of the experts of this sport also accept that this particular martial art style is a modern and altered adaptation of judo. This sport is aimed towards the goal of a weaker and shorter person who wants to take down the bigger opponent.

You will learn to use force and body weight distribution in your favor to defeat your opponent in this martial style form. Besides, jiu-jitsu also teaches various joint locks as well as chokeholds. The jiu-jitsu artists mainly use their unique grappling techniques in their favor to compensate for their physical strength against bigger opponents. While most of the martial arts are focused on standing techniques, this particular form gives minimal emphasis on standing strikes.

There are mainly three ways in which a man can take down his or her opponent in this martial art form. You can grab your opponent from the side of his torso and pin him down onto the ground through side control. You can do the same in full mount while controlling your opponent by the front of the torso or chest. And lastly, you can also use back mount position to wrap your legs around your opponent’s thighs. It’s also handy for a street fight.


Judo is a special kind of modern martial art that is now mainly practiced as an Olympic sport, besides self-defense. Japanese educationalist Jigoro Kano first created this form of martial art to increase the overall mental and physical strength of students in the archipelago of Japan. It is a hierarchical art that is based on a unique ranking system called kyū-dan. Jigoro Kano himself introduced this ranking system that is based on a board game called ‘Go’.

There are three main techniques used in Judo, which are – nage-waza or the throwing technique, katame-waza or the grappling techniques, and finally, the atemi-waza or the striking techniques. Modern judo artists mainly use nage-waza and katame-waza rather than the atemi-waza. A practitioner called ‘Tori’ or ‘Taker’ performs this waza on the ‘Uke’ or ‘Receiver’ in a demonstration and also in actual competition.

Nage-waza mainly uses Uchi-Komi that is actually repeated pinch throwing in a brief period in time. Katame-waza, on the other hand, has two main subdivisions called the osaekomi-waza or the holding techniques and the shime-waza or the strangulation techniques. And in Atemi-Waza, a tori completely disables uke by striking the soft points of his body. However, Atemi-waza techniques are not permitted outside Kata as it can be lethal.

Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed Martial Arts is a full-contact combat style that uses various effective techniques of several other martial art forms. Starting from striking in the standing position to grappling on the ground, MMA uses almost everything to defeat the opponent.  Legendary UFC commentator Howard Rosenberg first coined this term called mixed martial arts in 1993. However, an MMA match was played way earlier when legendary judoka Masahiko Kimura faced Brazilian jiu-jitsu inventor Hélio Gracie in 1951.

Bruce Lee first popularized this martial art form in the Western world through his ‘Jeet Kune Do’ philosophy during the early 1970s. However, this particular martial art form touched a new height as an entertainment-oriented combat sport when UFC champion Chuck Liddell faced his archrival, Tito Ortiz, in December 2006.

There are two main techniques primarily followed in MMA – i.e., the striking techniques and the grappling techniques. Striking techniques include punches, kicks, and elbow attacks, while the grappling technique includes clinching, pinning, and sweeps. Techniques like Sprawl-and-Brawl are also used in MMA that mainly focuses on stand-up striking. Clinching technique is also heavily used in this art form to force the opponent into close combat.


Wrestling is one of the oldest martial art styles that involve various grappling stances. Besides, it also uses throws, joint locks, pinning, takedowns, and various kinds of clinching to defeat the opponent. This old art form can be traced back around 15,000 years ago in various cave paintings throughout the world. Babylonians and Egyptians even made several reliefs that are based on this particular martial art form.

Nowadays, it is practiced throughout the world as an amateur wrestling form with two main variants – Greco-Roman and freestyle. In Greco-Roman style, it is only permitted to hold and attack the region above the waist. This style also focuses on ‘high amplitude’ throws after the recent international rule change. And in this style, you need to pin down your opponent onto the mat.

Freestyle is much more versatile, and it allows attacking the legs, too. This particular form originates from catch-as-catch-can wrestling. You can either throw your opponent outside the mat or can pin him down to the mat to mark your victory. Besides the traditional style, beach wrestling has become quite popular these days. It uses a sand-filled circle instead of a mat.


Even after planning and understanding the pros and cons of martial arts, it is not always easy to choose what seems right for you. One thing that you can do is to take demo classes of various martial arts to know which one suits you the best. Once you start feeling comfortable learning a particular art, you can continue with it. Of course, there’s no harm in learning more than one martial art form. 

Eugene Hardy

Eugene is a professional Muay Thai fighter, with several years of experience. Also, a black belt holder. He actively participates in tournaments and provides training to his students. Eugene started this blog to share his experiences with Martial Arts.

View all posts by Eugene Hardy →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *