Various forms of martial arts have been practiced in the US for a long time. But it is only in the 1970s that they were able to capture public imagination thanks in large part to the success of martial arts movies of stars such as Bruce Lee. Since then their popularity has grown in leaps and bounds with millions of Americans enrolling in martial arts classes for various reasons such as learning self defense skills and achieving physical fitness. Here we look at some of the most popular martial art forms currently practiced in the US and their trends.
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With over 30 million followers, Taekwondo is not only the most popular martial arts style in the US but also in the world. Translated into English it means “the way of fist and foot”. It was first brought into the US by servicemen who fought in the Korean War in early 1950s. The style seeks to develop a balance between attack and self-defense. It emphasizes quick body movements and high kicks. A common belief among Taekwondo practitioners is that the leg is the best weapon for both attack and self defense because it is the farthest-reaching and strongest limb. It is, therefore, able to keep an attacker at a distance. Practicing Taekwondo enhances one’s physical strength, flexibility, balance, speed and stamina.
Originating from Japan, Aikido means “harmonious spirit”. It is perhaps the most peaceful of all the martial arts styles. Practitioners of the style are taught to repel an attack without causing physical harm to the attacker. It is based on the belief that each time an attacker goes on the offensive they expose their vulnerabilities. All the defender has to do, therefore, is to identify these vulnerabilities and thwart the attack. Instead of the defender doing any fighting, they just use the attacker’s momentum and movements against them.
Like Akaido, it originates from Japan. It is mainly played as a sport where participants earn points by taking down their opponents. In its beginnings it was primarily a sport but it has since developed into an effective martial art skill especially in close combat. Its practitioners learn to maximize their efficiency with minimum effort. In Judo you learn to use the strength of the opponent against them through a variety of submission-style attacks such as chokes and locks. Thanks to these techniques and a proper balance, one can easily beat a larger and stronger opponent.
Kung fu is the oldest form of martial arts. It is believed to have been introduced in China in 2700 BC by its emperor. Translated from Chinese it means “success gained through long and hard work”. Since its development more than four millennia ago, Kung fu has developed into thousands of forms. Apart from self-defense skills that its practitioners learn, it also places strong emphasis on moral and philosophical values. For a very long time it was primarily taught by Shaolin Temple monks who valued virtues such as patience, respect, humility and trust. Like other martial arts styles, it also has great health benefits.
Karate means empty hand. Developed in Japan, Karate is mainly a self-defense art whose main focus is to deflect an attack from an opponent. It achieves this through combining various fighting elements such as kicking, punching and a number of open hand techniques. Apart from teaching people valuable self defense skills, it also has great health benefits.
Martial arts trends in the USA
The success of Bruce Lee movies in the USA in the 1970s made martial arts, especially those from Eastern Asia, very popular. That popularity is yet to die down as martial arts have now become part of the American culture. Initially developing as sporting and entertainment activity, many martial arts forms have now been integrated into fitness programs because of their health benefits. Many gyms now have classes that integrate fitness exercises with martial arts such as piloxing. This is an exercise that combines boxing with plates and dancing. The hybrid workout allows one to increase their flexibility while simultaneously burning fat.
The various styles of martial arts certainly have many benefits for their practitioners. They include acquisition of self-defense skills, development of confidence and moral values, and physical fitness. Even though there are many video guides on the internet that are useful for those who may want to learn various martial arts styles on their own, it is always advisable to train with a professional martial arts instructor for safety purposes.