5 Asian Martial Arts You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

There are many martial arts based in Asia… but if asked on the spot we are likely to name any of the major ones like karate, ju-jitsu, chinese gong-fu, tae-kwon-do, judo, etc.

This post takes a look at five interesting martial arts from Asia that are not so mainstream, but still as lethal as their popular cousins.

1. Japan – Chanbara

I came across this martial art a few years ago at a sports centre in Singapore. The martial arts sport was designed in 1971 in Japan as a diffusion of the sword-fighting components of Japanese martial art ‘goshindo’ which was used to train samurai.

Nowadays it is practiced by executives in Asia as a sport that can be both fun and a good way to balance the stress of modern working day life.

2. The Philippines – Dumog

When one thinks of martial arts from the Philippines, the names ‘eskrima,’ ‘arnis’ or ‘kali’ might come to mind. Dumog is another deadly Filipino martial art which combines wrestling techniques with small joint manipulation (can I hear you say ‘ouch?’) that you might find in Aikido.

Some forms of Dumog also concentrate on the use of weapons such as knives or even bow and arrows. It is also known as ‘buno’ or ‘mindoro.’

3. India – Kalarippayattu.

India seems to have the most eclectic set of martial arts that most of the Western world might never have heard of (largely due to the practice of the arts being somewhat limited to India). The idea of kalarippayattu is a mixture of striking movements, kicks, wrestling, weapons and, most interestingly, ‘healing methods.’

You may come across some epic Kalarippayattu fight scenes coming from the cinema of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka areas of South India.

Bonus points for knowing that all Asian martial arts actually originated from India before being propagated to China.

4. Indonesia – Silat.

Silat is rapidly growing worldwide as a martial arts sport originating from Indonesia, with the traditional side of the art combining disciplines of a variety of weapons, striking and grappling and the sport form of the art making use of strikes and take-down techniques.

So far the World Silat Championships have been held mostly in either Indonesia, Malaysia or Singapore. However in 1990 the competitions were held in The Netherlands and in 2010 the championship saw representatives from 32 countries.

5. Vietnam – Vovinam.

Vovinam was developed early in the 20th century as a successor of traditional Vietnamese martial arts (Vo Thuat). Similar to a lot of other Asian martial arts, the principle behind Vovinam is based on the equilibrium of yin and yang. Or hard and soft techniques – meaning there can be a movement for every situation.

Interestingly, the stunt double of Toby Maguire in Spiderman 1 & 2 is a practitioner of Vovinam.

Thus concludes our round up of not-so-well-known martial arts from Asia. These are just a few of the many martial arts that exist in Asia that may not be so popular in the West (yet). I hope these martial arts continue to thrive, or get discovered by more people to keep the traditions alive. If you know of any good schools for these martial arts in your region, go ahead and add them to the KOA directory for martial arts.

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