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We are bringing you the best and most effective striking martial arts in the world, and ranking them from worst to the best, while explaining why we have ranked them in that particular way.
The best and most effective striking martial arts in the world are Karate, Boxing, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Kung Fu, Kickboxing, and Krav Maga.
We will now rank the best striking martial arts in the world, and let you know why we have ranked them that way, as well as give you their pros and cons.
What is striking martial arts?
The term striking in martial arts generally refers to stand up fighting, which means everything that’s not grappling (even though strikes can be performed on the ground as well). Therefore, striking better encompasses what they do on their feet than terms like karate or Muay Thai.
Striking is often used in MMA because MMA fighters try to combine some of the best striking techniques from different martial arts.
What Are The Best Striking Martial Arts? Ranked From Worst to Best
7. Krav Maga
Krav Maga is an Israeli martial art widely accepted in the military, police, and similar branches as a defense against bare-handed and even armed attackers.
It proved to be excellent on the field and got its name from its founder Imrich Sde-Ora. Eyal Yanilov has been the right hand of the founder for over fifteen years and leads the International Krav Maga Federation.
Krav Maga began working under that name from the founding of Israel in 1948, but the founder himself taught many just after his defection in 1940 from Bratislava to what was then Palestine before the Nazis. Had he not defected we would probably have been left without one effective and efficient martial art.
A practical method of combat that trains how to avoid, prevent, and resolve any type of violence and attack. Krav Maga trains self-defense, martial and combat skills, as well as the skills of protecting others, all in a unique and easy way to learn. Yet the basic philosophy of training and coaching is a ‘he or I’ situation in an environment where defeat would be deadly.
As said above, Krav Maga is an amazing and best in the world martial art for self-defense, in close combat, and for military use.
It is also an excellent and effective striking martial art, and that is the reason it is on our list. Still, we had to put it in the last place. Firstly because Krav Maga is not even trying to be the best striking martial arts. Its purpose is to be best at self-defense in any way possible, also mostly in close combat. So, while it has some traditional striking methods, it is more adjusted for closed quarters, where you don’t have much space for a perfect spin kick or something like that, but you need to use techniques such as foot stomps, palm strikes, and eye jabs.
Krav Maga’s focus is to inflict as much damage in as little time as possible and defend yourself so you’re drilling explosive combinations, possibly starting with a block, to defuse the situation and leave.
That would certainly help you in those situations that Krav Maga is made for, but we don’t think of it as the best striking martial art in the world.
6. Kung Fu
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Kung fu is an umbrella term for Chinese martial arts. The original name is Quan Fa (fist techniques).
In general, kung fu styles are divided into 2 groups:
- Wai Jia or “external,” “hard” kung fu. For example, the styles of Shaolin, Tang Lang, Cha Quan, Five Ancestors (Wu Ching), Li (Li Gar) Family Style, and the like. Usually named after an animal, place, or family that has become known for that style.
- Nei Jia or “interior”, “soft” styles. The most famous is Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua Zang, and Xing Yi Quan. Less known systems are Ba Ji and Yi Quan (boxing intentions, also called Da Cheng Quan). They are often named after complicated philosophical ideas, questionable combat values and carried to the west by a wave of commercialization and New Ageism. But in history, they have proven to be more effective than external styles, though the secret of their application is probably lost or unavailable to the public.
But, as almost anyone who has taken martial arts more seriously can testify, the division into hard and soft is misleading. It is not about the hardness of the impact or the techniques but the philosophical approach. Hard-school techniques may be softer than soft-school techniques.
The second classification of kung fu relies on geographical differences.
- Northern generally uses long, low stances, many foot techniques, and generally resembles something a layman would recognize as Tae Kwon Do.
- Southern uses shorter, higher stances, the focus is on quick and cut-off techniques by hand. A classic example is Wing Chun.
Be sure to check out the full classificaiton of kung fu styles.
Kung Fu is an amazing martial art for speed and accuracy, but it is a little less effective and powerful with striking techniques than some other arts on this list.
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Karate is a known martial art that uses all parts of the body in combat. In the basic technique, individual strokes, blocks, stances, and other things are learned.
Kata is a special set of precisely defined motions (strikes, stances, and blocks). Fights (Kumite) can be free or agreed (agree on which blow will be performed, and which block will block that blow).
Kumite (fighting) is one part of karate training and contains kicks and punches as well as throws. In karate, we have various forms of fighting, namely Jiyu Kumite (freestyle fighting), Ippon-Kumite (agreed fighting), Sport Kumite (competitions according to the rules of the WKO World Karate Organization).
The term Kokoro is found in many martial arts from Japan. Kokoro means in Japanese the heart, spirit, feeling, or basis of everything. In karate training, not only techniques are important but also the way you treat other people. Respect for others is very important because Karate is not only a martial art of knowing body techniques but a martial art that builds the spirit as well.
There are many styles of Karate, and not all are equally effective as a striking technique. Some focus more on katas and agreed on sparrings, while others focus more on fighting. Karate is still one of the best striking martial arts in the world, just not on the top.
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Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that originated in the 1940s by combining different skills that were practiced at the time. Its name comes from the word Tae, which means to kick, Kwon, which means to strike with the hand, and Do, which means to hit.
Taekwondo is a striking martial art characterized by attractive foot techniques and speed. Today, taekwondo is considered one of the most popular martial arts and sports, and the number of practitioners in the world is estimated at more than 100 million.
At the very beginning, taekwondo training resembled the training of the original Japanese karate-do system and consisted of practicing traditional postures, blocks, and punches. Today, not much time is devoted to traditional techniques and in most schools they have been replaced by exercises of constant movement, stretching, jumping with exercises on objects or light bags, and with focusers.
As you can see from its training, Taekwondo focuses much on striking training, which means it is with right high on our list of best and most effective striking techniques in the world.
Boxing is a martial art in which opponents of similar body weight are punched with fists on which gloves are padded. The fight takes place in a fenced rectangular ring, in 3 to 15 rounds of three minutes of fighting. The goal of the fight is to send the opponent as many blows as possible to the parts of the body above the belt (head, torso) and at the same time to avoid the opponent’s blows. It can be won by knockout (KO mark, from the English term knock-out), that is when the opponent after being thrown on the ground fails to get up within ten seconds, by technical knockout (TKO mark), ie when one fighter does not have the strength to continue the fight or the winner is determined by the decision of the judges after the agreed number of rounds.
There are several basic ways of boxing. The basic boxing stance envisages standing in a gap, and the arms placed at shoulder height with the fists in front of the head as a shield. This hand setting is called a guard.
There are several types of punches such as uppercut (kick from the bottom up, usually in the opponent’s chin), then direct, crochet, semi-direct, etc.
During the fight, fighters take different positions according to each other depending on the style of each fighter, so it is known to distance combat when fighters are at arm’s length or more apart, or eg clinching when fighters are close to each other. Depending on the position, the fighter chooses the most effective strikes and methods of defense.
In the boxing technique, the work of the legs is also important, with which the fighter can be quickly moved to a more favorable position, and the defensive art of avoiding blows is known as dodging. However, the basis of every boxer must first of all be the speed and strength of the hand strikes that he is able to direct towards the opponent.
Boxing is by far the best and most efficient hand striking technique in the world, but, unfortunately for this list, it doesn’t use legs at all, so it can’t be higher on the list of the best striking martial arts in the world.
Kickboxing is a modern martial art that includes several sports/disciplines, namely: Semi contact, Light contact, Kick light, Full contact, Low kick, K-1, Thai kickboxing similar rules to Thai boxing), Musical Forms and Aero-kickboxing.
Except in disciplines where knock-outs are allowed, fights for the world and European professional titles are held in semi and light contact.
Kickboxing was created on the basis of boxing, karate, taekwondo, kung fu and other more or less famous oriental and western martial arts.
The main goal of every fighter is to overcome his opponent with better technique, speed, and strength while using maximum security, tolerance, honesty, and honor of each competitor.
In a word, Kickboxing is a Western sport – a unique answer to a large number of Eastern martial arts.
In the broad sense, kickboxing is a group of stand-up combat sports that include kicking and punching.
Even thou kickboxing is not so effective hand striking technique as boxing, it does have boxing in its name, and that is not without reason, it relies heavily on boxing skills.
Kickboxers could stand on their own in a boxing match, which cannot be said for the best and most effective striking martial art in the world since they rely more on kicks and leg techniques than kickboxers. Kickboxing also uses more punch combos, includes more headwork (just like boxing) and its footwork is much more similar to regular boxing.
Typical kickboxing kicks rely heavily on bending and withdrawing the foot after the kick and rely more on the use of kicks. It demands faster, more aggressive footwork that is aimed at attacking the opponent.
Kickboxers tend to start very strongly, very aggressively from the first sound of the bell (or street fight) and the pace slows down as the rounds (fights) pass because the energy level of the fighters decreases.
1. Muay Thai
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Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. It was developed several hundred years ago as a form of close-combat that utilizes the entire body as a weapon.
According to the rules, punches, and kicks are allowed with the use of knees, elbows, and holding, pushing and throwing (without the use of locks), which makes it different from other similar sports (K1, kickboxing).
Such rules require fighters a great degree of endurance and polyvalence in the way of fighting. The level of workload in fights is extremely high, so the top competitors of this sport have a reputation as fighting “supermans”.
Unlike Kickboxing, classical Muay Thai, as practiced in Thailand, usually has five rounds and it is normal for fighters to use the first two rounds to “examine” each other before the real fighting begins in round three. This is, of course, mostly limited to Asian Muay Thai; Western practitioners usually start fighting from the beginning of the fight.
Muay Thai kicks usually come from the ground in an explosive manner and the fighter’s leg doesn’t bend while kicking. Muay Thai is an art that requires patience. Thus, a fighter has to adapt his footwork to patiently follow the opponent and his movements in order to find the right moment to strike.
Muay Thai fighters rely more on kicks and leg techniques than kickboxers, while not so much on hand techniques.
Even thou kickboxing and Muay Thai are pretty similar martial arts, to well-known fighters they are completely different, and if you would like to find out more about Muay Thai and Kickboxing differences, check out our article.
Muay Thai is the best striking martial art in the world, but it has a big rival in ‘similar’ kickboxing.
Conclusion – What Are The Best Striking Martial Arts?
All of the martial arts on this list are great striking arts, but Muay Thai is the best of the best, with Kickboxing closely follows.
But, if you are a beginner, and just starting your martial arts journey, you won’t go wrong with any of these. It is important to have fun while training the martial art of your choosing, that way you will be doing it much longer, then if you just train them because someone (Way of Martial Arts) told you they are the best.
On the other hand, if you are looking for the best martial art for self-defense, then the list is much different, and you can check it out on our link.