While it typically requires years of dedicated study to master martial arts and get the most out of your training, that doesn’t necessarily mean that some martial arts styles can’t be picked up relatively quickly.
Some people see learning martial arts as this daunting task that could never be fully realized in their lifetime due to its complexity and level of difficulty and so don’t even bother trying at all.
But they fail to realize that there are hundreds of different styles of martial arts on the planet, each with unique features and characteristics.
Some styles may take a very long time to progress in while others can be learned in a relatively short period of time due to its razor-sharp focus on only a few key techniques while ignoring everything else.
For a subset of the population that doesn’t want to spend decades studying a martial art to derive its practical aspects, this may be an attractive option for them.
In this article, we’ll look at several of the easiest martial arts to learn, regardless of your skill level.
Boxing is a hand-to-hand combat sport that has existed since ancient times in various regions around the world such as in Egypt, Greece, and Rome, but it didn’t really take off until it landed on the shores of London where it enjoyed immense popularity with the locals as a prizefighting sport.
In boxing, boxers typically wear protective gloves, mouthguard, and groin protectors while fighting in a ring.
Combat only consists of using one’s fists to either attack or defend against attacks. No kicks or grappling is allowed in a boxing match.
Here is what a typical boxing curriculum might entail:
- Learning how to throw different boxes such as a jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts
- How to evade punches through parrying, bobbing and weaving
- How to block punches
- Using your footwork to set up punches or to avoid getting hit
- Training on a punching bag and speed bag
- Hitting mitts
- Working on your strength and conditioning for your whole body through a series of drills such as punching with lightweight dumbbells, squatting and jumping on your feet, performing burpees, etc
Due to its focus on only using your fists and ignoring all of the philosophical aspects that typically entails other traditional martial arts styles, boxing can be picked up relatively quickly and is easy to learn for all levels.
If you can punch then you can learn boxing!
But don’t get fooled by its simplistic nature as boxing is actually quite practical and effective for self-defense purposes.
Some of the best punchers in the world come from boxing backgrounds and because boxing only teaches how to punch, you can expect your punches to pack a lot of power and speed.
The only drawback of boxing, however, is that because you only focus on punching, you are at a disadvantage compared to other martial arts that utilize their whole body for attacking.
In addition, there’s zero grappling and throwing taught in boxing. In case you get into a scuffle with someone and start wrestling with them, you’ll be in big trouble if they somehow manage to get you to the ground.
But despite these shortcomings, boxing is still a very practical yet easy martial art to take up for anyone.
- Very easy to learn
- Very practical
- Boxers are some of the best punchers in the entire world
- You will get very fit and conditioned studying boxing
- Only focuses on punching
Now another popular martial art and combat sport that derives some of its roots from boxing, Karate, and Muay Thai is kickboxing.
Kickboxing started off in the 1950s when a Japanese Karate practitioner named Tatsuo Yamada combined Karate with Muay Thai and wanted to pit Japanese fighters against Muay Thai fighters in the ring.
As the sport of kickboxing grew in popularity, it made its way over to Europe and North America.
In North America, fighters started to incorporate boxing along with Karate into their kickboxing training regime.
Nowadays you typically see kickboxing being used in Japanese fight organizations such as K1 that recruits fighters all around the world to compete in their prizefighting tournaments.
A lot of people like to make comparisons between kickboxing and Muay Thai as there are some similarities between the two, however, Muay Thai involves the use of all 8 limbs (fists, elbows, knees, kicks, etc.) whereas kickboxing depending on the fight organization’s rules typically do not allow elbows, knees, or even clinching in matches.
I like to view kickboxing as an upgraded version of boxing and karate and a water-downed version of Muay Thai that isn’t quite as lethal and deadly.
Here’s what you will typically learn in a kickboxing program:
- How to throw punches such as jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts
- How to throw kicks such as roundhouse kicks, front kicks, axe kicks, side kicks, back kicks,
- How to block and defend against attacks
- Strenth and body conditioning such as performing push-ups, crunches, squats, lunges, punching bag work, etc.
- Using a punching bag and punching mitts as well
Compared to boxing, kickboxing would be considered a little more difficult and complicated, however, it is still a relatively easy martial art to pick up and you don’t need to spend years before you actually learn how to fight and defend yourself.
But like it’s close cousin boxing, it still doesn’t teach how to throw or grapple, making it ineffective for close-quarters combat or ground fighting. Furthermore, it excludes some of the deadlier forms of strikes such as knees and elbows which can be detrimental when facing someone with a strong Muay Thai background.
But if you are looking for a martial art that is easy to pick up and focuses on both punching and kicking, you will be in good hands taking up kickboxing. Just make sure that it’s legit kickboxing and none of that cardio kickboxing garbage that they teach down at community centers for senior citizens or weekend warriors.
- Combines punching and kicking
- Easy to learn and pickup
- Very practical
- No throws and grappling typically taught
- No elbows, knees, nor clinching taught
Muay Thai is known as the art of eight limbs due to the use of both your fists, elbows, legs, and knees during combat.
It’s close cousin kickboxing, actually deprived a lot of its moves from Muay Thai and you can often see a lot of these Muay Thai moves being used in Japanese fight organizations such as K1.
Everything from the kicks being used to the guard looks awfully similar to Muay Thai from fighters in K1.
Muay Thai fighters are known for being very tough and aggressive, often able to take a lot of punishment from opponents and just brushing it aside as if it’s nothing.
A lot of this has to do with the strong guard that Muay Thai fighters employ that protects the head of the fighter at all times and also the rigorous conditioning that students have to go through.
If you’ve ever stepped foot in a Muay Thai gym before then you’ll no doubt know exactly what I’m talking about.
I’ve never been through as tough a workout as I did when I was studying Muay Thai.
The 1.5-2 hour long workouts were insane but I developed excellent conditioning from it.
One of the biggest differences between Muay Thai and other martial arts is the use of the knees, elbows, low leg kicks, and clinching.
In addition, Muay Thai focuses a lot on power in their techniques rather than speed compared to a martial art like Taekwondo.
This usually means that they throw all of their body weight into their strikes such as a roundhouse kick so that if you get hit by a kick, it feels like someone swung a baseball bat at you.
Now compared to some other traditional martial art styles out there, Muay Thai can be considered to be relatively easy to pick up.
There is only a limited set of techniques and moves that make up the majority of the curriculum in a typical Muay Thai class such as:
- Learning punches like jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts
- Learning how to throw kicks such as low leg kicks, roundhouse kicks, axe kicks, push kicks
- Using elbows and knees to strike at opponents
- Learning how to clinch fight with people
- Pad work and using punching bags
- How to block and defend against attacks such as checking leg kicks
- Sparring with a partner
Now as Muay Thai is a hard striking style of martial art, it doesn’t really teach much grappling with the exception of clinch work.
Furthermore, ground fighting is not taught which is another drawback with this martial art.
However, because most students only train a limited set of techniques over and over again, it is considered easier to pick up compared to some other martial arts such as Karate or Taekwondo. In addition, in fights, Muay Thai is considered to be one of the best when it comes to striking.
- Excellent striking martial art
- Uses elbows and knees for striking
- Students will develop excellent strength and conditioning
- A lot of clinch work is taught in Muay Thai
- Tough guard and defense
- Very practical for fighting and self-defense
- No ground fighting taught
- A very rigorous and intensive martial art that may not be suitable for everyone to learn
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a Brazilian martial art that has gained worldwide recognition due to its popularity in mixed martial arts fight organizations such as the UFC.
Unlike conventional martial arts styles, BJJ involves grappling, ground fighting, and submission to overpower and subdue opponents.
You won’t find any flashy moves when your studying BJJ, rather instead you will see a lot of submissions and chokes being applied to opponents during matches.
One of the main principles often touted by BJJ is that a smaller person can successfully defend against and even submit a much larger opponent simply by taking them to the ground and using leverage and techniques taught in BJJ to apply submissions and chokes to the larger opponent.
Learning to apply submissions are not too difficult if you repeat the actions over and over again, however it’s when you start having to know when and how to apply it in certain situations that the martial art starts to become more difficult.
Here is what a typical class will entail:
- Defense against takedowns
- Ground fighting and defense
Since BJJ relies mainly on submissions and grappling rather than striking, it too has weaknesses and drawbacks which mainly comes in the form of not knowing how to strike or deal with opponents that are not within grappling distance for the practitioners of the martial art, a contrast to strikers that need to keep a bit of a distance in order to strike at their opponents.
A practitioner of this martial art may find themselves getting struck or even knocked out well before they have even had the opportunity to close in on their opponents.
But still, a lot of the submissions and chokes can be learned by someone relatively quickly compared to those crazy high flying jumping kicks that require insane flexibility in some other martial arts styles.
- Teaches you how to submit larger opponents
- You will learn how to defend against takedowns and ground fighting
- Zero striking taught in the martial art
Mixed Martial Arts
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a hybrid form of martial art that borrows techniques from several different traditional martial arts disciplines such as Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Judo, Boxing, Karate, etc.
Today you will typically see it being used in cage fighting promotions such as the UFC or Dream where the combat sport has exploded in popularity and it seems every average joe out there has decided to take up MMA because of this.
Because of MMA’s hybrid fight system, students will learn a variety of different techniques in a class such as:
- How to throw punches (jabs, hooks, crosses, uppercuts, body blows)
- How to throw kicks (roundhouse, front kicks, push kick)
- How to take down an opponent
- How to grapple and do ground fighting
- Submissions and Chokes
- How to block and parry attacks
- How to defend against takedowns and submissions
Because students only learn what is really necessary to fight, it eliminates a lot of the unnecessary steps for mastering a martial art and thus this makes it easier to learn compared to some traditional forms of martial arts that can become quite difficult to learn at higher levels due to the complexity of moves such as a 540-degree jumping spinning hook kick.
Rather instead, practicality is favored over flashiness.
The only problem with MMA however, at least in my opinion is that you will learn to become a jack of all trades but a master of none.
You will learn just enough to be “good enough” but not enough to become great.
A lot of MMA students lack the fundamentals and base skillset needed to really excel in their combat sport.
Whereas a BJJ or Taekwondo practitioner would have spent thousands of hours just perfecting a few techniques in their art over and over again, a MMA student, on the other hand, will only spend a fraction of those hours learning that technique in addition to trying to learn other techniques as well.
This is why you oftentimes see a lot of really cringeworthy and sloppy techniques being used in MMA fights, especially at the lower levels.
Most of the top guys that are champions became masters of one or two martial arts first before diving into MMA, whereas the masses participating in those fight promotions instead skipped this crucial step and just took up MMA from the getgo.
Nonetheless, MMA still has many benefits and a new student will learn a variety of different techniques that can be used in various situations right from the get-go, rather than spending years trying to master a specific martial art.
- Taught stand up striking
- Taught how to grapple and ground fighting
- Not enough focus on one specific style or set of techniques
- Jack of all trades style
Krav Maga is an Israeli self-defense and combat system that was originally developed for use for the Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli Security Forces that borrows many different martial arts techniques from a vast array of martial arts such as Boxing, Wrestling, Muay Thai, Karate, Judo, etc.
Unlike traditional forms of martial arts or combat sports, in Krav Maga the focus is on street fighting and getting out of rough situations alive.
The martial art was later modified and watered down to a civilian version which is less intense.
One of the core teachings of Krav Maga is to quickly end a fight as quickly and aggressively as possible and striking in highly vulnerable parts of the body is all fair game in Krav Maga.
In Krav Maga, students are taught that using objects or any items within reach is perfectly acceptable and may even be encouraged if it helps them incapacitate an opponent.
In a typical Krav Maga class you will learn the following things:
- How to throw punches
- How to throw kicks
- How to perform throws and grapple with an opponent
- How to perform joint manipulations, chokes, and submissions
- Defense against attacks and takedown defense
- How to use weapons and also how to defend against weapons
- Better situational awareness
Once again, just like MMA, Krav Maga falls short due to its heavy emphasis on learning a tonne of different things all at once rather than trying to master a specific style or technique first. Furthermore, it may seem daunting and overwhelming for someone due to its tough rigorous curriculum and overly aggressive nature.
But still, it can be picked up relatively quickly compared to traditional martial arts as survival is more important than perfecting technique when it comes to Krav Maga.
- Well-versed self-defense fighting system
- Will learn how to strike and grapple
- Will learn how to use weapons and defend against weapons
- Very practical for street fighting
- Lack of focus on a specific set of techniques
- Not enough sparring is done to give students experience
I’m sure most people would agree that trying to master and perfect your skills in a particular martial art will require quite a significant amount of time and devotion towards that style.
However, that doesn’t mean that all martial arts styles require the same amount of time to become proficient.
In this article, we looked at several of the easiest martial arts to learn that you could probably become reasonably skilled at without spending years trying to master it.
Here’s a list of the easiest martial arts to learn:
- Muay Thai
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
- Mixed martial arts
- Krav Maga
While I have provided a list of the easiest martial arts to pick up, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can just slack off and put in the minimal amount of effort and expect to reap maximum benefits.
You still need to bust your chops and put in the work if you expect to receive a reasonable amount of return on your investment and become reasonably proficient at it.
Remember you get out of it what you put in!
I hope this guide has been of some help for you on deciding which martial arts to pick up if you’re looking for something relatively easy to learn.