Here are some of my favourite and deadliest styles of martial arts...
Karate Karate means empty or open hand. It is said that evolved from a time when weapons were banned, and thus people were forced to attack 'empty handed'. Karate is a Japanese martial art and is very external. The only emphasis on spirit or ki at all is the kiai. Although it isn't taught this way other martial arts will tell you it's a 'projection of the spirit'. Karate basically revolves around attacking and blocking with the limbs, however it places more emphasis on hand attacks and less on legs than a martial art such as Tae Kwon Do or Kick boxing, it is more well rounded. Karate is probably the most popular martial art in England although Tae Kwon Do is rapidly catching up. Rather than sets or Forms, external styles have Kata which are basically the same, maybe shorter as a rule.
Judo Judo means way of softness, despite this it is a hard external style. It does however follow the same principles as Tai Chi, that is using the opponents force against them. Judo is made up entirely of locks and throws. It is an evolved form of Jujitsu, the difference comes from the fact that Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) took out all the punching moves. Apparently there was once a tournament, Judo vs Jujitsu in Kano's time and Judo won, but it was a Judo book I read that in... biased?
Tae Kwon Do Tae Kwon Do is very similar to sport karate, it is rapidly becoming more popular due to it's flashy kicks. Many people are sceptical as to the usefulness of these kicks in real situations...
Jujitsu Jujitsu is a very old martial art and one of the most accomplished, focussing on throws, attacks, and almost all empty handed techniques. Apparently it means 'way of softness' also... suspect.
Kendo Perhaps the most famous of many, many weapon martial arts; Kendo is a stick art.
Kick Boxing Kick boxing is as you would expect a martial art that places great emphasis on powerful kicks.
Jeet Kune Do Put together by possibly the most famous martial artist to live. Bruce Lee. He formed this mainly from research, as he only had 5 years guided Kung Fu instruction. Jeet Kune Do takes away the rigidness of many martial arts, and tries to be well rounded as well. Bruce Lee is famous for his spectacular one inch punch in which he would send an opponent flying with only an inch to gain momentum. This is also incorporated into it. I believe that his original book 'Tao of Jeet Kune Do' can still be purchased.
Capoeira Brazilian Martial Art that looks rather unusual compared to the other similar ones. It's like a mix of Martial Arts, Break Dancing and Gymnastics. Music features heavily and to progress you must be able to sing and play an instrument as well as walk around on your hands... The cool part is where you 'play Capoeira'. There's a ring of people clapping and in the middle two people half fight half showing off. You stay very low to the ground throughout before some one takes over your place. A few moves I've learnt include Armada, Au (A cartwheel), Au Batido, and Chair. It's tough work!
Thai Boxing Oriental boxing, but more useful than ours; they believe they have 8 lethal weapons; two hands, two feet, two elbows and two knees, it used to be 9, including the head but too many were injured. This sport is more like a martial art in that it is a way of life, each combatant does a demonstration before they fight to honour the gods. This is a great way to make money in Thailand, young kids will fight in the street.
Boxing The major competitive fighting style used in the west. Fun, but flawed; there is no logical reason for example, to rule out kicking, grappling etc entirely. It is for this reason that it is more a spectators' sport than a realistic fighting style. However, practicing it will increase your fighting prowess and youll learn to both take and deliver a powerful punch.
Hsing-I Hsing-I is a very linear style, incorporating straight line movements and linear attacks. It is a kind of opposite to Pa Kua, again, it's not very widely practised except as an extra in many Tai Chi classes.
Ninjitsu Ninjitsu is what the ninja's of legend would have practised, it was not so much a martial art as entire way of life, although it's no longer practised in this way. It taught, Martial Arts, stealth, speed, weapons, survival, it was like jujitsu crossed with scouts!
Dim Mak Dim Mak is pressure point striking. It's not as simple as where you strike, but for more complicated attacks, date, time and month also come into play! It is from Dim Mak that the famous kung fu 'touch of death' comes from.
Aikido Aikido is very 'into' Chi cultivation and so I put it here. Other wise, this is the only comparison this has to Tai Chi and the other soft styles. Aikido is a very accomplished martial art, encompassing weapon work, linear strikes, throws, locks and break-falls. However as I said, it's also quite focussed on spirit and Ki, which may put a few off. The word Aiki is a state of being that all martial artists strive to achieve.
Pa Kua Pa Kua is a very fast martial art, it's mainly evasive and involves lots of speedy running in circles. It's not very widely practiced over here, but if you do Tai Chi, chances are you'll learn a bit of this. The idea of Pa Kua is to dazzle and confuse the opponent with your fast circling movements. If you've ever seen Jackie Chan's 'Snake in the eagles Shadow' or 'Drunken Master' then you'll be interested to know that those cup balancing and juggling training techniques are used in Pa Kua. Big circles that sweep over your head using your hand can be performed whilst balancing a tea cup on your palm. Legend has it, that once a famous of Pa Kua met up with 'invincible Yang' and they set a challenge to each other. They were fighting to win a place in some kind of group (a guy was trying to acquire a group of all the best martial artists). It is said that the fight went on for three days before being called to end to avoid either of them from being damaged and thus losing their value to him.