Most people are familiar with the idea of martial arts. But normally, the versions that most frequently come to mind include taekwondo, karate, jujitsu, and possibly Muay Thai thanks to the increased popularity of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). But there are far more practices than those listed above and they can range from simple hand-to-hand combat to styles that combine weapons with traditional fighting methods. Here are four martial art styles that might be unfamiliar to you.
Most people associate Chinese martial arts with kung fu. But kung fu is more of a broad category that includes a multitude of styles and disciplines. One of those is wing chun. This lesser-known martial art is believed to have originated in Southern China roughly 300 years ago by Buddhist nun Ng Mui, a Shaolin Kung Fu master, whose first student was a woman named Yim Wing Chun.
The exact date and details surrounding the origin story are a bit murky, but martial arts experts and historians agree that the popularity of this fighting style has to do with how quickly students can master the techniques and that people of varying physical abilities can use Wing Chun. The fighting style centers around unarmed self-defense and relies on striking and grappling, and it is ideal for fighting in small spaces such as a narrow hallway or elevator. Bruce Lee popularized the style through his martial arts movies and incorporated it in his martial art, jeet kune do.
Most people don’t associate Europe with martial arts, but this region also has its popular styles. Savate (pronounced sa-vat) is a kickboxing style that began in the streets of France during the late 17th century. But it wasn’t until 1838 when Charles Lecour would create the “modern” version of the fighting style used today. It is considered the official fighting art of France and combines English boxing with two other French styles, la savate and le chausson.
La savate focuses on using various body parts for striking while le chausson focuses on traditional boxing. In its early years, Savate included kicking, punching, grappling, and weapons training. But in modern times, the style has been pared down and no longer includes traditional hand weaponry. Students of the method are known as savateurs, and their weapon of choice are the shoes they wear while training and fighting.
Eskrima is also known as arnis and kali, and it originated in the Philippines. Two of its names are Spanish in origin with “Eskrima” being derived from a word for fencing and “Arnis” from the word for armor. The exact origins of Eskrima aren’t known. However, most historians and experts agree that the style came into popularity when the local Filipino population was banned from owning swords while under Spanish rule.
This form of martial art is primarily focused on incorporating weaponry such as sticks and other bladed objects into your training. Typically, the style features an open-handed technique where you fight with one hand while holding a weapon, and your other hand is “open” to defend and block your opponent’s movements. But while eskrima can be considered a self-defense style of martial arts, much of the training centers around offensive tactics such as disarming your opponent, joint locks, and controlling your opponent’s movements.
Silat is a combination of fighting styles from Malaysia, Indonesia, and various other Southeast Asian regions. Depending on the location, the fighting style can go by a variety of names. Even though it features influences from Chinese and Japanese martial art styles, Salat has a history that goes back more than 1,000 years. While most martial arts styles are considered culturally significant to their respective country of origin, Silat is woven into cultural dances and festivals, making it more accessible to the average person.
The Southeast Asian fighting style combines weaponry and “animal style” combat techniques that center on striking and joint control. Initially, students begin studying Silat with hand-to-hand combat techniques. One of Silat’s signature aspects is that the moves are meant to flow as if choreographing a dance. So, mastering those moves is essential before weapons are introduced.