Many of us took karate lessons as kids. It’s fun to collect colorful belts and try to impersonate Street Fighter characters with your buddies, but when karate – or any martial art – is taken to the next level, fighting can get pretty real. Here’s a look at some disciplines that are anything but child’s play.
It might be popular with kids, but karate owes its popularity to its effectiveness. Its array of strikes and kicks can cause serious damage to the opponent – especially if you hit them right in the windpipe.
Tried and tested, this Cambodian discipline has existed for hundreds of years. This diverse martial art includes everything from elbow and knee strikes to submissions to weapons.
3. Jeet Kune Do
It’s a safe bet that any fighting system devised by Bruce Lee is pretty effective. Lee’s Jeet Kune Do is a twist on traditional kung fu that overwhelms the opponent with a series of quick attacks.
This discipline was created by the Spetsnaz, or Russian Special Forces. Systema is great for incapacitating opponents through manipulating the body’s pressure points. It also teaches Spetsnaz members to deal with all kinds of fighting situations – whether they’re facing one opponent or six.
5. Muay Thai
Coming at you out of Thailand, Muay Thai is known as the “art of eight limbs,” because of its reliance not just on strikes and kicks, but also knee and elbow strikes.
This is a blanket term for a collection of brutal and effective Southeast Asian disciplines. Silat fighting typically focuses on strikes, joint manipulation, and, for an extra dose of deadly, bladed weapons.
This one comes from the Canadian Plains Cree First Nations. Okichitaw fuses together Asian martial arts with traditional Cree weapons like the tomahawk and war club.
This Korean martial art is quite possibly the most popular fighting discipline in the world. Its name translates into “the art of punching and kicking,” and that’s exactly what it does – combining those strikes with agile jumps and spins to keep the opponent off-balance.
9. Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP)
Everyone knows the Marines are badass, so it stands to reason that their signature fighting style is as well. MCMAP – also known as “Semper-fu” – emphasizes close-quarters combat, subduing enemies, and giving the attacker the option of using lethal or non-lethal force.
This one turns modestly-sized wooden sticks into deadly weapons. Eskrima utilizes constant movement and proficiency with both hands to disarm and subdue the opponent.
11. Jailhouse Rock
To survive in a maximum-security prison, you need to be good with your hands. Jailhouse rock is a fighting style born in the U.S. prison system, so cloaked in secrecy that its origins aren’t fully understood.
Pugilism, or boxing, or old-school fisticuffs, focuses on brutal, heavy strikes to the head and body. Although the sport of boxing eventually banned certain dirty tactics, it’s still a very dangerous style – as evidenced by the many boxers who have been killed in the ring.
13. Vale Tudo
Vale tudo translates into “anything goes” and this win-at-all-costs style is extremely popular in Brazil. Vale tudo melds together all kinds of martial arts – whatever’s necessary to get the job done – and is similar to MMA fighting.
Yes, the style of the ninja. Real ninjutsu focuses on psychological tactics, deception and espionage – making it the perfect fighting style for sneaky assassins.
15. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
A South American spin on a Japanese classic, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is all about taking down a bigger opponent by using their leverage against them, then dominating them on the ground.
This Russian martial art is an acronym that translates into “Self-defence without weapons.” It’s a particularly brutal wrestling style that, like Brazilian jiu-jitsu, emphasizes grounding an opponent before using a variety of strikes and submission moves.
This hybrid style was influenced by Asian martial arts and originated in Hawaii. Kajukenbo’s combination of strikes, disarmament, takedowns and throws was developed in response to violence in Oahu, Hawaii in the 1940s.
18. Keysi Fighting Method
The Keysi technique was originally developed for dealing with violent street encounters, but it’s better known as the official fighting style of Batman. That’s right – Bruce Wayne himself used this fighting style in the Dark Knight film series and recent video games.
Originating in West Africa, Dambe is a modified kind of boxing, emphasizing quick, heavy strikes. A fighter’s lead leg and lead arm are often wrapped in heavy cords or chains for an extra dose of violence.
Kalaripayattu, or Kalari Payat, is a southern Indian fighting style that goes back nearly a thousand years. A versatile discipline, Kalaripayattu comes in several different styles and teaches both armed and unarmed combat.
21. Krav Maga
Krav Maga is a fighting style developed by the Israeli military that’s designed to be as punishing as humanly possible. The discipline combines elements of boxing, judo and wrestling and is a “no quarter given” fighting style. In other words, the goal of Krav Maga is to incapacitate your opponent, sometimes fatally. For this reason, it’s not a popular martial art in competitions.