In martial arts, there are hard and soft elements when you’re training. Therefore, it is difficult to define what “soft martial arts” really are.
Softness in martial arts could mean several things. In a soft style, martial arts practitioners might often train techniques with little to no resistance from their training partners.
Something worth mentioning is that soft martial art styles interpreted as a no-contact practice are ineffective in developing combat skills.
Furthermore, developing practical martial arts skills requires both mental and physical toughness. There’s no way around it.
There’s Softness Even In Brutal Combat Sports
For example, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is known for being a brutal sport to train. However, there’s softness when trying to learn techniques and train with your partners at a moderate pace.
To make the ranking process more manageable, let’s understand soft martial arts as those that offer a training method that might be gentle on your body or your training partners most of the time.
As we established, in all combat sports, both strength and finesse have a place. But, these are the top ten soft martial arts with a particular focus on “softness” as the core principle.
Let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
1) Tai Chi
Tai chi is a slow and soft martial art that demands physical and mental skills development. By training in Tai Chi movements, you’ll be able to use your body’s natural ability to evade and control the opponent’s force.
The goal of Tai Chi is to harmonize the whole body to interact with the opponent’s force. This martial usually focuses on improving your awareness of your own body’s movement.
It is vital to notice that Tai Chi has a gentle set of moves best suited to take place in a slower rhythm. Unless you’re taking a Tai Chi Chuan pushing hands class, there’s no contact with any opponent in a class.
2) Bagua Zhang
Bagua Zhang is a Chinese martial art with at least two hundred years of history, making it a relatively new martial art in the Chinese tradition.
Its main characteristics are that techniques are primarily based on palm attacks and some circular movement to defend.
The main reason to try Bagua Zhang is the physical benefits. The low stances and the long-form sequences are challenging mentally and physically.
Another main benefit of this practice is developing effective visual awareness due to the heavy use of your peripheral vision. The general practice of Bagua is quite gentle on the body and the mind. However, it is far from being a weak martial art to train.
Aikido focuses on throws and pins to defeat opponents rather than force them to tap out by submissions. For this reason, Aikido can be considered a soft martial art.
Aikido is a martial art that has been developed from the time of the Samurai. Aikido was created as “the way of peace,” This martial art aims to build personal harmony and cooperation.
Aikido uses several techniques that help you defend yourself from various attacks. Some techniques help you attack opponents or pin them on the ground to force an opponent to submit.
However, in modern martial arts, Aikido has proven ineffective as a combat skill for most people. Therefore, Aikido practitioners focus their energy on this practice’s wide range of health benefits over combat skills.
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Kyudo is a soft martial art that focuses more on mental control and accuracy. Kyudo is very popular among the Japanese and doesn’t make much noise when it is practiced.
This Japanese martial art was developed to create harmony in the practitioner. It focuses on shooting stances to build the body’s stability while shooting arrows with accuracy and power to hit targets at long distances.
Thus, this martial art helps develop your accuracy and precision when executing techniques while increasing your mental focus.
5) Japanese Jiu-Jitsu
This martial art uses many different techniques that help you defend yourself. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu has a softer touch that focuses on submissions, grappling, and strikes.
Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that has been around for centuries. This martial art focuses on throwing your opponent off balance and then submitting them by using many chokeholds, joint locks, and submission holds from the bottom position.
Thus, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is an old martial art that has been refined over the years to modernize its methods without losing any of its original training methods.
The main difference between BJJ, Judo, and Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is that practitioners don’t sparr or practice techniques against resistant opponents. While in Judo and BJJ, sparring is a fundamental aspect of the practices as they’re competitive sports.
Iaido is more of a mental martial art than anything else. Iai-do uses the principle of softness in its training methods. It is practiced with the blade, which means it is dangerous.
Iaido focuses on the principle of unity between mind and body to deliver quality control for every movement. This form of martial arts requires you to move in with restraint when attacking an opponent or defending yourself.
It also requires you to maintain balance in your body when executing techniques designed with the blade in mind. Thus, this martial art method helps develop coordination while increasing your mental focus.
7) Aerobic Kickboxing Or Body Combat
Aerobic kickboxing classes are not martial arts. However, they belong to this list because they are based on fundamental combat skills but distilled to a lighter version for fitness purposes.
It is one of the most popular ways to enjoy the physical benefits of kickboxing because It offers a full-body workout that improves both your physical and mental faculties without significant injury risk.
While training in this fitness-oriented version of kickboxing, you will develop strength, balance, stamina, and mental focus, which can help you in other real-life situations.
Kickboxing involves taking out all of your energy on the heavy bag or pads, which helps reduce stress levels and manage your emotions during times of stress.
However, don’t expect to learn actionable combat skills because this fitness combat training won’t teach you things like how to receive a punch, manage distance, or set up combinations against a resistant opponent.
8) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
This martial art is based on ground fighting and is very interesting. Many techniques help you defend yourself, such as breaking an opponent’s joints and use of chokeholds.
However, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is very soft and focuses more on using leverage to overcome opponents rather than brute strength.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art originally developed in Japan and has become very good over the years. Many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters became champions in combat sports such as submission grappling, mixed martial arts, Grappling, Judo, Wrestling, and some even became boxing champions.
This martial art involves training various techniques on ground fighting or around the streets, which requires weapon defense tactics.
Judo focuses on submission grappling, which is very soft and has different techniques that help you defend yourself. Judo does not use brute strength, but it uses proper Judo techniques to submit opponents.
Judo teaches balance, coordination, accuracy, and technique. It is a martial art that involves many chokeholds, joint locks, and throws. It is also great for training the body’s energy systems to get into the best condition possible to develop mental endurance.
Thus, this martial art helps improve physical stamina while developing agility for both mind and body controls.
Final Thoughts On Soft Martial Arts
Martial arts are training styles that focus on various aspects of combat, such as hand-to-hand combat, grappling and wrestling, strength, endurance, and mental focus. There are many different martial arts styles, and each one has a specific goal for its training methods.
Furthermore, while some martial arts styles use brute force to defeat opponents, other methods use softness or balance to defeat an opponent without necessarily hurting them.
Soft martial art styles are great for people who want to enjoy martial arts’ mental and physical benefits without getting injured through overly hard techniques.
You can now decide which martial art is right for you depending on your goals, fitness level, skill, etc.
I hope you found this article helpful.