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When we think about martial arts, we usually think of a sophisticated skill set that combines both punches and kicks, within most cases – more focus on the latter than the former. But, although kicks are usually essential to martial arts, there are – in fact – some martial arts that don’t use kicks at all or use them very rarely.
Some of these could be considered as combat sports rather than classical martial arts (most of them are Western in origin), but there are also martial arts that don’t use kicks, as you are soon going to see. This article is about them – the martial arts that focus on punches and other techniques, but do not use kicks. So, if you ever wanted a list – keep reading!
Boxing is a combat sport in which two people wearing protective gloves, throw punches at each other for a predetermined amount of time in a boxing ring. Boxing matches are overseen by a referee and are fought in rounds, that may vary in length and number.
There is also a panel of ringside judges who may declare the winner in certain situations. A winner can be resolved before the completion of the rounds when a referee declares one of the fighters to be incapable of further fighting, by the disqualification of a fighter, or when a fighter forfeits the match.
When the fight reaches the end of its final round with both opponents still standing, the judges; scorecards determine the winner. In the event that both fighters gain equal scores from the judges, the bout can be declared a draw (there are differences regarding these rules in professional and amateur boxing).
Boxing is a modern form of historical one-on-one hand combat that is probably as old as humans themselves; still, the earliest evidence of fist-fighting sports date back to the ancient Near East in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. The earliest evidence of some boxing rules dates back to Ancient Greece, where boxing was established as an Olympic sport in 688 BC.
Boxing evolved from 16th– and 18th-century prizefights, largely in the United Kingdom, to the forerunner of modern boxing in the mid-19th century with the 1867 introduction of the Marquess of Queensberry Rules.
Boxing is probably the best-known martial art (or combat sport) that doesn’t use kicks. Boxers focus exclusively on punching, as you probably know by now, and are not allowed to use their legs for anything except moving. A variant of boxing that uses kicks is called – kickboxing.
Wrestling is a modern combat sport that involves grappling techniques such as clinch fighting, throws and takedowns, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds; the aim of wrestling is to pin your opponent down on the mat, thereby winning the match.
The sport can either be theatrical for entertainment purposes (professional wrestling), or genuinely competitive; competitive wrestling has several styles such as folkstyle, freestyle, Greco-Roman, judo, sambo and others, although some of them are now distinct martial arts and/or combat sports.
A wrestling bout is a physical competition, between two (occasionally more, although seldom) competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position. There is a wide range of styles with varying rules with both traditional historic and modern styles.
Wrestling techniques have been incorporated into other martial arts (especially judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and MMA) as well as military hand-to-hand combat systems.
Although legwork is extremely important – if not essential – for wrestling, you’re actually not allowed to kick your opponent. Legwork is important for a fight but is used primarily in defense, asserting your domination and holding your balance.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) (Portuguese: jiu-jitsu brasileiro) is a self-defense martial art and combat sport based on grappling, ground fighting and submission holds. BJJ focuses on controlling one’s opponent, gaining a dominant position over him and using a number of specialized techniques to force them into submission via joint locks or chokeholds.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was first developed and modified in the 1920s by Brazilian brothers Carlos, George and Hélio Gracie after Carlos was taught traditional Kodokan judo by a traveling Japanese judoka called Mitsuyo Maeda in 1917; the brothers later went on to develop their own self-defense system named Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, which is not that different from traditional BJJ, but it’s still very distinctive.
BJJ eventually came to be its own defined combat sport through the innovations, practices, and adaptation of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, with governing bodies such as the IBJJF working worldwide, becoming an essential martial art for MMA
Traditional Brazilian jiu-jitsu is very similar to wrestling and judo, which means that there are no kicking techniques, as the art focuses on grappling and submission. Still, with the development of modern martial arts, some kicking techniques have started to enter the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, although they aren’t inherent to it.
Judo (柔道, jūdō, lit. “gentle way”) is a modern martial art, which has since evolved into a combat and Olympic sport. The sport was created in 1882 by Jigoro Kano (嘉納治五郎) as a physical, mental, and moral pedagogy in Japan.
With its origins coming from jujutsu, judo’s most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the objective is to either throw or takedown an opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue an opponent with a pin, or force an opponent to submit with a joint lock or a choke.
Strikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defenses are a part of judo, but only in pre-arranged forms (kata, 形) and are not allowed in judo competition or free practice (randori, 乱取り). It was also referred to as Kanō Jiu-Jitsu until the introduction to the Olympic Games.
A judo practitioner is called a “judoka”, and the judo uniform is called “judogi”. The philosophy and subsequent pedagogy developed for judo became the model for other modern Japanese martial arts that developed from koryū (古流, traditional schools).
Like wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo focuses on grappling and throwing your opponent, and not on strict kicking and punching.
Wing Chun (Chinese: 詠春) is technically not a martial art, but a very popular and well-known style of kung fu. It originated in southern China around 300 years ago and was, interestingly, founded by two women, a nun well-versed in kung fu and her student, a tofu saleswoman, called Yim Wing Chun. It is the only kung fu style named after a woman.
Like the majority of southern styles, Wing Chun focuses on close-range combat and upper body movements, i.e. punches. It is a very quick style that relied a lot on agility, but also defensive techniques such as sidestepping and ducking.
There are a lot of other southern styles that focus on punching instead of kicking, as it is the tradition of southern kung fu movements. We have decided to list Wing Chun because it is the best-known among the lot.
Aikido (合気道) is a Japanese martial art created and developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his personal martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Ueshiba’s goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attackers from injury, which was a rather revolutionary approach at the time.
According to his personal philosophy, the primary goal of aikido is to overcome oneself instead of cultivating violence or aggressiveness against one’s opponent. The fundamental principles of aikido are irimi (entering), atemi, kokyu-ho (breathing control), sankaku-ho (triangular principle) and tenkan (turning) movements, that redirect the opponent’s attack momentum.
Its curriculum comprises various techniques, primarily throws and joint locks, but without kicking. It also includes a weapons system encompassing the bokken, tantō and jō. Aikido derives mainly from the martial art of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, but began to develop independently during the 1920s, partly due to Ueshiba’s involvement with the Ōmoto-kyō religion, which had different principles.
Aikido is a very specific martial art. Although it is focused on actual fighting and self-defense, there are no kicks, which is why it made it on our list.
And that’s it for today, guys. We’ve covered all the most popular martial arts and combat sports and we hope you’ll find our information useful. See you next time!