Martial arts have influenced popular culture and spread to gyms, schools and sports centres throughout the world. So much so that most of us will have probably tried at least one of these martial arts at some stage of our lives.
It’s probably the mix of exercise, discipline and self-defence that attracts so many people to them and when you add the mysticism and exotic origins of many of martial arts it’s easy to see why people would want to make a pilgrimage to the places where they were first developed and where they are still practiced today.
Here is your guide to finding the best places to visit to learn or develop your skills in your favorite martial art.
Kung Fu – Hong Kong
Photo credit: Johnny Silvercloud.
Originating in China and popularised throughout the world by Bruce Lee in Hong Kong, the name Kung Fu is a general term for any form of study that requires tremendous practice, training and time to achieve. Therefore, it’s pretty apt to use this umbrella term for a number of martial arts that includes Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai chi and Wing Chun.
As you would expect, Hong Kong is full of Kung Fu training academies and schools and you will be sure to find a course to suit your skill level. Not only are there lots of Kung Fu courses available throughout Hong Kong but there are also museums dedicated to the martial art and of course Bruce Lee features heavily in all of them. If you are a student of Kung Fu and a Bruce Lee fan, then Hong Kong really is your version of Disney Land.
Muay Thai - Phuket
Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand and dates back centuries but it has become extremely popular in the western world in recent years. In fact, if you visit any gym or recreation centre in the US you most likely come across some form of Muay Thai class. It’s known as the art of eight limbs as both fighters will need to use their elbows, fists, knees and shins to be effective.
You can also enrol in a Muay Thai course in the famous Tiger Muay Thai institute in Phuket which has programmes for beginners and more advanced participants alike. Thailand is famous for its beauty and there are many other options for tourists to enjoy while visiting Phuket. You might want to combine your Muay Thai experience with some sightseeing as it really is a country unlike any other in the world.
Krav Maga – Tel-Aviv
In Tel-Aviv you can book a Krav Maga training course which is when you combine it with a sightseeing/beach holiday is a great way to spend a week or 2. Krav Maga is an ultra-effective martial art based on real combat situations that anyone could find themselves in. It’s because of its realism with routes in boxing, judo and aikido, that there is a high demand to learn its techniques. If you want to apply your newly acquired skills in everyday situations, then a trip to Israel to learn Krav Maga be for you.
Tae Kwon Do - Seoul
Translating as “the way of the foot and fist”, there is no mistaking what Tae Kwon Do is all about. This ancient martial art began in Korea and has become popular throughout the world particularly in the past couple of decades. If you like to use your feet then this is the perfect martial art for you as kicks to the head, body and legs are the main aim of competitive Tae Kwon Do.
Seoul is regarded as the home of Tae Kwon Do and you can enrol in courses for a range of skill levels in the renown Namsangol Hanok Village in the city and watch the masters demonstrate their skills. It really is the “Mecca” for any Tae Kwon Do enthusiast.
Karate – Tokyo
Translating as “empty hands”, Karate, along with Kung Fu is perhaps the most famous martial art in the world. It was popularised in Japan in the early 20th Century and it didn’t take long for its influence to spread throughout the world. Tokyo is a beautiful city with a perfect blend of tradition and innovation.
You can enroll in a wide variety of karate classes in dojos throughout the city and watch the experts practice it at the Tokyo Budokan. While you’re there be sure to take in the sights of modern Tokyo as well as it truly is an amazing experience with sights, sounds and smells that you might never experience again. When visiting Japan its all about blending the old with the new.
Capoeira - Rio
Photo credit: Tatiana Souza
Originally developed by the African slaves that were brought to Brazil, Capoeira originated from a form of dance fighting and developed into an extremely enjoyable and energetic martial art. If you want to have a little fun while learning effective martial arts skills, then Capoeira would be a great choice.
Visit Rio as part of a Capoeira camp where you will combine dance, acrobatics and martial arts all to the sound of the ever-entertaining Brazilian music. Of course, when you are in Rio there are also fantastic beaches and carnivals to experience so this trip is for those who want to get great exercise, learn a marital art but still enjoy themselves.
Wherever you choose to visit and whichever martial art appeals to you, learning and developing your skills in the places they were perfected is an extremely rewarding and fulfilling experience.
You want to experience authentic martial arts training in the world but don’t know where to start? A martial arts camp for beginners is the perfect opportunity. Most of them are organized in countries you’ve probably never travelled to before, so you’ll have both the training and an unique experience to remember.