I was pleasantly surprised to see what the most popular Martial Arts in the world were, it was way off what I thought though. The number one Martial Art in the world, to my surprise is: Muay Thai from Thailand. Obviously this martial art is rich in history and is very effective for self defense. It can also be trained for and practiced as a sport. That makes this a very functional and liked martial art. Since I have experience in Muay Thai competition and training, as well as teaching it to kids, I find this to be a great number one to the list.
I would have guessed it was Tai Chi or Kung Fu.
Number two was another good surprise for me, rounding out the number two spot is Brazilian Jiu-jitsu from Brazil. This is obviously a great form of Martial Arts in terms of self defense as well and is also, like Muay Thai, practiced as a sport. The popularity was mainly gained from the UFC, but was rich in the underground history of fighting. The Gracies basically invented the Brazilian form of it and are the most famous family to teach it. As a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, I can state that it is very effective and is hugely popular because sparring can be done at full power with a low risk of injury. This is certainly not true of Muay Thai.
Karate from Japan takes the number three spot and is probably the oldest form of Martial Arts along with Kung fu from China, which hits the number four spot. Taekwondo from Korea gets the number five spot. Karate and Taekwondo are widely practiced for self defense but are also sports that have millions of participants across the globe. Taekwondo is an Olympic sport and has a reputation for sporting the deadliest and most skillful kicks.
Ninjutsu and Jujutsu from Japan take the number six and seven spots on the list. Ninjutsu was made world famous in the eighties by a slew of movies about it. Ninjas were a very mysterious and intriguing group of assassins that little boys aspired to be. Moving stealthily through the night was what they were known for along with their no-nonsense approach to fighting. Quick kills and the use of several interesting weapons added to the spectacle of the art. Jujutsu is the art that spawned Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and was an incorporation of Judo and submission fighting. This is perhaps one of the oldest, most traditional martial arts in history.
Number eight and last on today’s list is Krav Maga from Israel. This was specifically designed for the Israeli military and is especially brutal in its true form. It is taught around the world obviously and has developed a ranking system. There isn’t much sport in this art although competitions are around. This art is often said to be the best of all martial arts in terms of self-defense because it goes over multiple attacker scenarios and teaches weapons use as well as disarming of attackers. The jury is out on whether it is the best but it is certainly a valid martial art, it is effective, and if it made the list, it’s popular.