Self-defense needn’t be dull, especially if you know how to pick the right type of martial art that’ll incorporate fun routines and drills to keep everyone smiling.
In fact, the most exciting martial arts are usually the ones that keep people constantly busy and in a state of intensity; they’re tough but often the most rewarding.
On the flip side, more artistic martial arts such as Aikido can be fun but people are less likely to stay engaged for as long as it requires more patience and discipline.
Below are what we think are the most fun and exciting martial arts by rank, mainly due to their intensity, practical routines, and ability to engage with others straight away.
The Top 9 Most Fun Martial Arts by Rank
Although many martial arts have come close in recent years, karate is still the king in terms of bringing the most exciting drills, fun exercise routines, and maneuvers that a huge range of people can get involved with.
Its popularity is mainly due to its close ties with pop culture, though, the heavy emphasis on offering an all-around training curriculum that you can model your life around has seen it remain at the top of the martial art pecking order.
It ain’t called the sweet science for nothin’.
Boxing remains extremely popular all over the world, mainly due to the accessible style it offers with an emphasis on maintaining peak fitness levels.
It’s extremely fun and often involves heavy bag drills, functional movements, practicing boxing techniques, and sparring with opponents in your class.
This hands-on practicality means there’s no waiting around to get started with testing your mettle against other folks.
Although it may not take the crown in terms of fun compared to Karate, it is probably the most fun sport to watch and is definitely the most popular of all the martial arts on television.
MMA isn’t strictly a martial art or a particular style (hence “mixed martial arts”), it’s more an amalgamation of many different styles that have been refined through trial and error, and through real-life bouts with combatants.
In a way, it’s the most versatile and is also one of the most fun because it’s very open and accepting of a range of styles.
MMA practitioners will work with your strengths and will help to guide you in the right way to make you an effective fighter for whatever situation you should find yourself in, whether that be standing or on the floor.
Most commonly, MMA incorporates lots of BJJ (groundwork), boxing, wrestling, and Muay Thai, though, other such martial arts such as Kyokushin Karate have been used effectively too.
4. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
BJJ was a relatively unknown martial art before it was popularized by the famous MMA championship league, the UFC, of which it’s now practiced in basically all MMA gyms across the world.
It’s extremely fun because it shows you how effective you can be whilst on the ground and offers some rather unique takes on how to defend yourself.
In fact, BJJ is the go-to for ground defense training, even over other sports such as wrestling.
If you need something a little different in terms of pace, then BJJ can be a good diversion from the typical martial arts that usually focus on strikes and locks.
Kickboxing, although more diverse than boxing, is actually less popular on television as a spectator sport but manages to offer all the fun that boxing does and more.
That’s because you’ll be practicing your kicks as well as your punches which makes for a more varied training session and can make you a more well-rounded fighter.
Generally speaking, both boxing and kickboxing will have the same levels of intensity during the training drills meaning you’ll get a great workout, though, more emphasis will be put on stretching to give you the full advantage of your leg extension.
6. Muay Thai
Muay Thai is another popular martial art (thanks to the UFC and Joe Rogan) that focuses on close-quarter combat and utilizes a mixture of strikes, primarily incorporating elbow and knee strikes.
Similar to many martial arts, Muay Thai training involves lots of general warm-ups, shadowboxing, bag drills, pad work, and stretching.
This means you’re getting a really well-rounded workout but are also learning some solid fundamentals on how to take care of yourself in a fight should the need arise.
Taekwondo is a really fun sports martial art that involves lots of flashy kicks and strikes.
The focus on kicking is rather unique, and in reality, is usually only practical for sporting purposes and point-scoring rather than in real life versus a more well-rounded fighter.
That’s not to say that taekwondo can’t be incorporated into real bouts or MMA, it certainly can, and to huge effect when performed right.
Plus, against an untrained assailant, taekwondo kicks are extremely devastating and also keep you at a distance which is great to mitigate the risk of being stabbed.
Basically, if you want to try something a little different, taekwondo is definitely the go-to martial art for this.
There are very few martial arts that offer the same kind of raw fun as wrestling can offer.
That’s because you’ll be getting up close and personal with your opponent or classmates from the get-go where you’ll be practicing an assortment of grappling techniques, fundamentals, and ways to disengage.
In fact, wrestling is often misunderstood as a brutish sport but that couldn’t be further from the truth as it’s actually one of the most technical and also requires a good understanding of balance to make your takedowns as effective as possible.
If you want a ton of fun and a really hard workout then wrestling is a great choice as you’ll be using your entire body.
Judo is another fun, sporting martial art that involves practicing throws, clinch techniques, submissions, and groundwork.
It’s practiced mainly as a sport rather than for practical or aggressive purposes, however, the movements taught are extremely effective in many practical situations and can certainly help you to defend yourself or keep an assailant subdued.
It’s not the most popular by any means and is mainly only watched during the Olympics, not unless you’re an enthusiast, though, for keeping fit and staying disciplined, Judo is the perfect martial art.
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The most fun martial arts are usually the ones that involve the most practicality and that allow the practitioner to start testing out different moves straight away.
For this reason, it’s not difficult to understand why karate, boxing, and MMA are regularly touted as being the best to get started with for any budding martial artist.