10 Masterful Martial Arts

According to my research, martial arts have been around since at least the 1984. One Daniel Larusso moved across the United States, from New Jersey to California and, along with a man named Mr Miyagi, they developed the art using nothing more than a pair of chopsticks and a fly.

Since then, the sport has gone global, spawning an inordinate number of spin offs, including one which I’m particularly keen to master: Drunkard’s Boxing. You’ll learn more — hiccup — about that in — hiccup — a moment. First up, let’s get you prepared with a short warm up, based on Miyagi’s very own ancient technique: wax on, wax off.

Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. Wax on. Wax off. OK, stop. Now go the other way.

Bring your chop-chop this way, we’re taking a roundhouse to the world, with a look at some of the planet’s most kick-ass martial arts. I guess this is where we take a respectful bow?

High kick

Limber up, there are 10 Martial Arts coming up with a kick… | Photo by kaibara87

10 Martial Arts to Chop your Way through

Tiger Claw Kung Fu

What do you get when a monk in China deters two duelling Kung Fu instructors from going at each other with a deft move? The origins of Tiger Claw Kung Fu. The nameless monk past on the secret techniques — based on the fighting moves of an attacking tiger — to reveal one of the most powerful of all martial arts. If you’re a fan of the 2008 martial art movie, Kung Fu Panda, you’ll see Tiger Claw in action by the lead female, Tigress.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is one of the world’s fastest growing, and most popular martial arts. Its origins are found in 16th century Thailand, when locals felt the need to polish up on some swift self defense moves. The fact that Muay Thai is one of the most aggressive forms of martial arts shouldn’t be overlooked — the sport makes use of elbows, shins, knees, and hands and has become Thailand’s national sport. Rumour has it that no one dared to argue.

Sumo Wrestling

If you think sumo wrestling is just about two fat blokes in nappies going for a cuddle, you’d be right wrong. In truth, there are very few rules, and the object of the game sport is to simply toss your (300lb) opponent out of the 4.55m ring. Aside from the comedy value, there’s a deep running vein of tradition and art running through Japan’s national sport.

you're going down with me

Timberrrrrrr… sumo wrestling has been popular in Japan since the 17th century | Photo by -miguelito-


This is one of the most modern forms of martial arts on the planet, taking form in the mid-nineties in — wait for it — Afghanistan. Hosharafu draws on four of Persia’s greatest gifts: art, ability, combat, and technique. The combat sport is a point-based contest, allowing kicks to the legs, body and head, and punches to the chest area.


Surely one of the world’s oldest martial arts, Tahib dates back to 2000 BC, at a time when Pharaohs were honoured in extraordinary ways. This Egyptian martial art is played out to music, and features a four foot stick known as an Asa. I know what you’re thinking: Morris Dancing. Trust me, this is much cooler. Head to Aswan and you’ll find regular Tahtib shows.


The arching style of Brazil’s capoeira is derived from the African slaves who saw it as a way to harness hope for the days of freedom that they longed for. Usually played out to a percussion of upbeat music, and whoops and cheers, you’ll find capoeiristas showing off their skills in rodas (circles) all over the world, but for the authentic experience, travel to Rio, where you can learn a step or two.


The artistry of capoeira is a must-see in Brazil | Photo by irene nobrega

Zui Quan

This deceptively appealing Chinese martial art is popularly known as Drunkard’s Boxing, and was brought to fame by the 1978 Jackie Chan film, Drunken Master. It draws on the fluid movements portrayed by a drunk, as he stumbles and flops his way from one side of the bar to another. Hidden within, is a series of deft moves, designed to down your opponent in one.

Zen Do Kai

This feisty martial art was formed by Aussie’s Bob and Dicko, in Melbourne, Australia in 1975. You might think I’m joking, but this cheeky fusion splices karate and Thai boxing to create a philosophy based around the entire portfolio of martial arts lore. The result? The best combat moves, enhanced by a well-balanced approach to its fighters well-being. Nice one, Bob and Dicko.


The South India state of Kerala is home to one of India’s most famous martial arts. Kalaripayattu is oft-touted as the world’s oldest form of martial arts, and draws its inspiration from the techniques of animals, such as the peacock, elephant, horse and lion. You can find regular performances, from nimble masters of the art, in the pleasant city of Kochi.

Pan's People

Peter Pan was one of the world's finest kalaripayattu fighters | Photo by Me

Jeet Kune do

North America may be better known for its heavyweights than its martial art masters, but thanks to none other than Bruce Lee, the USA has managed to provide the world with the little-known variety called Jeet Kune do. Jeet Kune Do means “The Way of the Intercepting Fist” and combines kicking, boxing, trapping, and grappling to great effect. Fist! Good dodge. Fist again! You’re good.

H’waaaaaaaah! How was that for you? Pretty exciting stuff, and the perfect way to travel the world, right. Have you come across any interesting martial arts during your own travel adventures?