Martial arts fighting styles are many and varied with not only techniques but principles, cultures and philosophical approaches varying widely.
One of the difficulties in classifying fighting styles is that there is no definite consensus on what is the definition of a true martial arts fighting style.
For the purpose of this article I will use the definition of a martial arts fighting style as any system or methodology pertaining to fighting and combat situations, as this complies with the dictionary definition of the terms martial and art.
Some “authorities” would argue that they must originate from Asian cultures; an opinion that does not take into account the fighting systems of ancient Greece or Europe and their modern derivations.
From a general perspective martial arts styles can be separated into those that emphasize the use of weapons, those that concentrate on striking and those that emphasize grappling techniques.
This is only a very general classification as many systems combine two or more of these classifications and although many commentators would argue that a true martial art requires the use of all of these aspects of fighting that is not the case with many of the accepted martial arts disciplines.
Systems of martial arts fighting styles have evolved from the fighting techniques and methods used by warriors throughout the world and can be as diverse as full systems taught in schools of military training to
systems of fighting developed and kept within families.
It is only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that we see the systematically taught instruction of styles that we see today, evolved.
Many of these systems have lost their practical fighting ability to the so called meditative aspects of the particular art or have been completely turned into just sports.
Some martial arts fighting styles have only appeared within the last 100 years and have never been exposed to the rigorous selection of real fighting that their predecessors underwent.
In the weaponry rich systems we find the Japanese systems of Kendo, Kenjutsu, Iaido, Jodo together with the Karate weaponry systems derived from the Kobudo weapons systems. Striking and grappling is either absent or very poorly developed in all of these systems.
The Chinese arts also utilize many weapons as part of their Kung Fu systems but these are taught as part of unarmed combat systems as well.
Probably the richest weapons systems are those of the Philippines and nearby areas of Malaysia and Indonesia; the blade and stick-fighting systems of Kali, Escrima and Arnis. These fighting systems also have a very complex and powerful unarmed combat components, together with the weapons and some also utilize throwing and ground fighting, these systems were very much family trained systems.
The Europeans also have the quarter-staff, sword and dagger systems which were extremely well developed and if you want to accept the definition that martial arts fighting styles are systems and methods of war and fighting then you would also have to include the disciplines of modern firearm and bayonet usage in this classification.
The striking systems are probably the most well known and most practiced through out the world with the Karate system of Japan being the most well known. There are many different styles of Karate each having slightly different emphasis on different methodologies and while most include some form of weaponry at higher levels it is certainly not well developed and doesn’t have a practical realistic usage, apart from exercise and strengthening value which is normally the justification for using them as part of their systems. Much of it is drawn from the Kobudo group of weapons and has lost a lot of it’s functionality in ritual.
The most powerful striking martial art would be Muay Thai and its’ close cousin Burmese boxing; these striking systems are extremely well developed and deliver strikes with incredible speed, power and ferocity.