In the world of martial arts, there are a vast number of different fighting styles with various origins. Steeped in history and deep traditions, all carry fascinating backstories and are still practiced to this day. Some of the most famous martial artists in the world have left incredible legacies by inventing new fighting styles, which are often born by blending existing styles with personal philosophies.
Read on to learn about the fighting styles of five famous martial artists.
Jeet Kune Do: Bruce Lee
As one of the most famous (if not the most famous) martial artists, Bruce Lee is an incredible influence on modern martial arts, having left an indelible mark in history. One important piece of his legacy is Jeet Kune Do, which Lee founded in 1969. The legendary martial artist has said that Jeet Kune Do is essentially a practice in Chinese Kung Fu without form. It is not fixed or patterned and is heavily intertwined with Lee’s personal philosophy.
Jeet Kune Do is a blend of Wing Chun, fencing, boxing, kali, and kickboxing, used in such a way that it is personalized to the student’s own style. Bruce Lee believed that Jeet Kune Do allows for “combat realism”, which means that these techniques are incorporated based on their effectiveness in a real-life combat situation. In essence, the style should be practical and useful in a self-defense situation. Learn more about Bruce Lee’s legacy and Jeet Kune Do here.
Judo: Kanō Jigorō
Translating literally to “gentle way”, Judo was created as a physical, mental, and moral discipline by Kanō Jigorō in 1882. Judo would later evolve into a combat sport, with the objective of either throwing one’s opponent to the ground, subduing one’s opponent with a pinning technique, or forcing them to submit. Combining a number of ancient Japanese forms such as randori and kata, Jigorō’s principles for Judo include maximum efficiency with minimal effort and mutual welfare.
Jigorō believed that adjusting to an opponent’s attack (as opposed to resisting) would cause your attacker to lose balance, ultimately reducing their power, leading to his or her defeat. This works to the advantage of fighters who don’t rely on brute strength. The name Judo stems from jujutsu, the form of which Judo is derived from. Believing that the name was not enough to describe this new art, Jigorō changed the second character from jutsu (which means “art” or “means”) to “dō,” which implied a more philosophical nature.
Wing Chun: Ng Mui
Wing Chun, which is one of the martial arts that Bruce Lee incorporated into Jeet Kune Do, is a traditional version of Chinese Kung Fu that focuses on close-range combat. It is said that the fighting style was created by Ng Mui, one of the legendary Five Elders, who were survivors of the Shaolin Temple’s destruction during the Qing Dynasty. According to Yip Man, one of the most famed practitioners of Wing Chun, Ng Mui created Wing Chun in order to help a young girl defend herself. Ng Mui managed to condense Shaolin martial art knowledge into a system that the young girl could quickly learn without having to develop great physical strength.
Wing Chun has a number of signature characteristics, such as an emphasis on “fighting on the outside” of one’s opponent (as opposed to fighting them head on) and keeping the body soft and relaxed while fighting. Yip Man once said in an interview that the point is to “maintain one’s flexibility and softness, all the while
Aikido: Morihei Ueshiba
Crafted in the 1920s and 1930s by Moreihei Ueshiba, a Japanese martial artist, Aikido is meant to be an expression of Ueshiba’s personal philosophy of universal peace and reconciliation. Drawing from his experience with Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu and his Shinto faith, Aikido combines grappling, throwing and joint-locking techniques, and weapons.
The most important aspect of Aikido comes from the fighting style’s religious influences, one being from that of a neo-Shinto movement: Aikido’s emphasis is on mastering the art so that one may receive an attack and harmlessly redirect it elsewhere. Its aim is not to injure either the attacker or the receiver.
Krav Maga: Imi Lichtenfeld
Krav Maga is a system built for self-defense that was originally developed by martial artist Imi Lichtenfeld for the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli security forces in the late ‘30s. Blending techniques from street fighting, Judo, Karate, Aikido, boxing, and wrestling, its aim is to provide practical techniques that can be used in real-world situations. This art is meant to be used by anyone – no matter sex or size – in the event of an attack. Unlike some of the aforementioned fighting styles, Krav Maga emphasizes physical aggression (as opposed to emotional aggression), in addition to both defensive and offensive techniques.
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