List of Martial Arts Exercises

Martial Arts Exercise
(Image: bokan76/iStock/GettyImages)

The list of martial arts varieties numbers in the hundreds. It ranges from nguni stick fighting from South Africa and juego del palo in Spain to capoeira in Brazil and Kinamotay from the Phillipines. However, when you think about martial arts, you're most likely considering those that hail from Asia. Some of the most common types of martial arts include judo, jiu jitsu, karate, taekwondo and tai chi. Learning basic martial arts exercises for each can help you determine if you'd like to become a practitioner of that particular sport.

The Newbie: Judo

Created in 1882, judo is a relatively modern Japanese martial art. The goal of those practicing judo is to throw or takedown the opponent and then, when on the ground, incapacitate them with a grappling maneuver, strangle hold, choke or joint lock. In judo, strikes by hands, feet or weapons are not allowed in competition or free practice — but it is approved in pre-arranged forms, such as kata.

A common exercise in judo is the floating hip, one of the most common hip throws used in competition. To do it, face your opponent and quickly catch his belt, then slide sideways and pull your opponent over your hip. In a lifting hip throw, you do the same move, but you lift the competitor on your back and throw him to the ground.

Other judo exercises to practice include:

  • Single-handed back throw
  • Sweeping hip throw
  • Big inner reap
  • Springing wraparound
  • Arm reversal

Close Combat: Jiu-Jitsu

Also known as jujutsu, this Japanese martial art aims to neutralize an enemy using pins, throws and joint locks. Practitioners of jiu-jitsu train in five main areas: blocking, fulcrum throw, non-fulcrum throw, escaping and striking.

One common exercise is known as the double leg takedown, often shortened to double leg or double. It requires grabbing your competitor with both arms around his legs and forcing the opponent to the ground, whether by lifting and slamming or using your shoulder to push forward against his legs.

Once on the ground, get into the mount, in which one person sits on the opponent's torso. Here, the top combatant can engage in strikes, chokeholds or joint locks.

Additional jiu-jitsu moves include:

  • Front snap punch and kick
  • High and low parry
  • Escape wrist grab
  • Straight arm lock
  • Body drop

The Traditional Martial Art: Karate

Karate, which originated in Okinawa, Japan, might be the most popular martial art in the U.S. Exercises include punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes and open-handed moves. You can break down karate further in styles, such as Shotokan, Shito Ryu, Goju Ryu and Wado Ryu.

In karate, learning the snap kick is an effective exercise. It requires bringing your kicking foot up to the knee and then snapping it forward, leading with the ball of the foot. Right when the leg is nearly extended, bring it back faster than you extended it.

Common karate exercises include:

  • Front and back kicks
  • Hook kick
  • Upper rising, middle and downward block
  • Basic punches
Children sparing in tae kwon do
Tae kwon do focuses on kicking techniques. (Image: microgen/iStock/GettyImages)

The Olympic Sport: Tae Kwon Do

Of all the martial arts, only tae kwon do and judo compete in the Olympics. Tae kwon do emphasizes kicking techniques, as well as self-defense training. Prearranged sequences of techniques, frequently done by those practicing tae kwon do, are known as forms.

One of the most important exercises to master, though, is the block. These defend against getting a blow by your opponent. Types of blocks include the low block, middle block and high block, as well as the outer forearm block and the knife block.

Other tae kwon do exercises include:

  • Punching hand twists
  • Back-fist strike
  • Front Kick
  • Axe Kick
  • Roundhouse kick
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