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Style descriptions: A

Some styles of martial arts that begin with the letter A.

Aikido (Japan)

Aikido was founded by Morihei Uyeshiba (1883-1969) in 1942. Prior to this time, Ueshiba called his art "aikibudo" or "aikinomichi." Aikido means "ai" to meet, "ki" spirit, "do" way. Uyeshiba, also known as O­’Sensei, was heavily influenced by the principles and techniques of daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu, several styles of Japanese fencing (ken-jutsu), spear fighting (yari-jutsu), and by the so-called "new religion" of Omotokyo.

Largely because of his deep interest in Omotokyo, Ueshiba came to see his aikido as rooted less in techniques for achieving physical domination over others than in attempting to cultivate a "spirit of loving protection for all things." The extent to which Ueshiba's religious and philosophical convictions influenced the direction of technical developments and changes within the corpus of aikido techniques is not known, but many aikido practitioners believe that perfect mastery of aikido would allow one to defend against an attacker without causing serious or permanent injury.

Aikido is a "soft" Japanese martial art that emphasizes evasion and neutralizing forceful attacks by circular/spiral redirection of their force. In some variations of aikido, practitioners attempt to control the attacker's momentum and redirect it into a throw or takedown. In other variations, practice consists of strictly joint locks and throws. Aikido practitioners attempt to be "in tune" with their opponents so they may sense the opponent's intentions and take advantage of the opponent's actions. Many of aikido's movements are based on the movements used while using a samurai sword.

The primary strategies of aikido are: moving into a position off the line of attack, seizing control of the attacker's balance by means of leverage and timing, and applying a throw, pin, or another sort of immobilization (such as a wrist/arm lock). Strikes are sometimes used, but they are used mostly as a distraction. A strike "atemi" is delivered to provoke a reaction from the opponent, to create an opening for the use of a throw, pin, or other immobilization.

Aikido is popular in Japan because police frequently learn it so they may subdue suspects without injuring them. Contrary to the way it is portrayed in the popular movies of film star Steven Seagal, aikido has a reputation as a "non­violent" martial art.

Some aikido schools train with weapons, such as the jo (a staff between 4 or 5 feet in length), the bokken (a wooden sword), and the tanto (a wooden knife). These weapons are used to teach defenses against armed attacks, and to illustrate principles of aikido movement, distancing, and timing.

A competitive variant of aikido (tomiki aikido, founded by Kenji Tomiki) holds structured competitions where opponents attempt to score points by stabbing with a rubber knife, or by executing aikido techniques in response to attacks with the knife. However, most variants of aikido do not hold competitions, matches, or sparring. Instead, techniques are practiced in cooperation with a partner who steadily increases the speed, power, and variety of attacks in accordance with the abilities of the participants. Participants take turns being attacker and defender, usually performing pre-arranged attacks and defenses at the lower levels, gradually working up to full-speed freestyle attacks and defenses.

There are several major variants of aikido. The root variant is "aikikai", founded by Morihei Ueshiba, and now headed by his grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba. Several organizations in the United States are affiliated with aikikai, including the United States Aikido Federation, the Aikido Association of America, and Aikido Schools of Ueshiba. Other major variants include: the Ki Society (founded by Koichi Tohei), Yoshinkan Aikido (founded by Gozo Shioda), and the Kokikai Organization (headed by Shuji Maruyama).

Aikijutsu (Japan)

Aikijutsu (harmony art) was founded during the Kamakura period (1185-1446) as an extension of kenjitsu and was later refined by Miyamoto no Yoshimitsu. Aiki means "meeting of the ki." When opponents meet, the one with the stronger ki will prevail. It uses throwing, holding, and locking with lots of circular/redirecting techniques. It is similar to aikido but without the philosophies of Morihei Uyeshiba.

American freestyle karate (United States)

American freestyle (named by Dan Anderson) is not really a style, it more of a method of non-Oriental training. It stresses training to capitalize on your own specific skills and capabilities rather than training to force yourself to conform to some preconceived idea of what a technique should be.
American kempo (United States)
American kempo (or kenpo) (American fist law) is an eclectic art developed by Hawaiian Ed Parker. The art combines the kara-ho kempo karate that Parker learned from William Chow, with influences from Chinese, Japanese kosho-tyu kenpo, and Hawaiian and Western martial art sources.

Parker added many labels to concepts from these arts that originally had no labels. It blends circular motions and evasive movements with linear kicks and punches. It is oriented toward "street" self-defense. The system allows "artistic interpretation" and many American offshoots have evolved from it.

NOTE: In the Japanese language, the consonants "n" and "m" have the same symbol, thus the English spelling can be rendered either "kempo" or "kenpo". There are several arts in this family, but the spelling is not significant in distinguishing between them.

Animal styles (China)

Some kung-fu styles are based on the way an animal defends itself. Here is a partial list of some animal styles. Some animals are styles (subsets of a system), and others are complete systems. Some animals have different personalities (subsets of the style).
  • Bear. A mauling grappling, powerful, and overpowering style.
  • Boar. Uses rushing and butting, and elbows and knees.
  • Bull. Uses charging and tackling.
  • Cobra. Strikes vital points, usually upper body.
  • Crane. The crane is a graceful beautiful bird, whose beauty makes it look weak and helpless. However, it uses its balance and grace against attackers. It is good at fighting from a distance, not letting the opponent get too close, and then using accuracy to hit with precision hand techniques.
  • Deer. Is fleet and agile.
  • Dragon. The dragon rides the wind, flies, swoops, leaps, and slashes. The style is known for twirling and spinning motions, using the momentum and whipping motion of the spin against the opponent. It uses movements and strikes from many other animals and is difficult to predict.
  • Eagle. Uses the "eagle claw," a unique attack, usually to soft targets (eyes, throat, or groin).
  • Eagle claw. A system similar to Jujutsu. Uses trapping of incoming strikes, takedowns, and locking the opponent. This is a long fist style (long range). Most strikes are aimed at pressure points.
  • Leopard. Uses speed and power. The leopard is quick and leaps. This style likes to lunge with attacks, and then get clear before a counterattack. It has a lot of in-out attacks using quick body momentum to add power.
  • Snow leopard. A variant of the leopard. The snow leopard walks on snow all day, so its paws are stiff. This style likes to lunge in like the leopard, but it uses forearms, elbows, and knees to strike (to protect its paws).
  • Monkey. This style is deceptive and dangerous. It confuses the opponent using very low stances and movements that do not look feasible. Users put on a showy display to confuse the opponent and then strike with something simple (or vice-versa). Users will roll to absorb a hit or to get inside a guard. There are 5 substyles:
  • Drunken monkey. Adds deceptive movements that give the practitioner the appearance of being intoxicated. It is the most difficult of the monkey styles to master.
  • Lost monkey. Adds constant movement (changing footwork and direction constantly).
  • Standing monkey. Uses more long range fighting, more conventional stances, and less rolling (better for taller people).
  • Stone monkey. This practitioner will absorb strikes and then return them.
  • Wooden monkey. Most aggressive of the monkey styles. Users will literally jump on an opponent.
  • Panther. Circling, lunging, and ripping.
  • Praying mantis. A system that likes to trap oncoming strikes, similar to a mantis, while simultaneously striking with the other hand or foot. Uses many fast hand strikes. A large person in this style is not afraid to use his or her body (butting, hipping, etc.) The smaller person will rely more on speed.
  • Eight-steps praying mantis. Uses footwork for more close-range fighting.
  • Northern praying mantis. Uses more kicks and more long-range fighting.
  • Seven star praying mantis. Always moving and changing direction to break
  • Praying mantis (southern). This system is unrelated to a Praying Mantis and bears no resemblance to the insect. This is a close-range, short-hand system that uses quick aggressive attacks. This style has no real blocks, it avoids (or absorbs) the first punch and immediately counter attacks with a machine gun barrage of tight punches and low kicks (often simultaneous) with no changing of footwork, just an all out blitz. They are known for their 1-inch punch, phoenix strike, and palm strikes.
  • Python. Uses grappling, crushing, locks, and holds with chokes.
  • Scorpion. Uses grabs at pressure points or soft targets.
  • Snake. The snake is fluent and supple. It will wrap up your limbs, destroy your balance, and use poison hand techniques. It likes to get in close, use grappling, and then throw while striking many times in the process.
  • Tiger. Good at close-range fighting and likes to maul and overpower an opponent. A strong style suited for stockier people, to use their strength. It throws an opponent while using the opponent's momentum against him or her.
  • Viper. Strikes at vital points, usually on the lower body.
  • White crane. A defensive system that uses long, powerful, high kicks as well as long arm attacks. Uses the pivot of the whole body to put force behind its strikes and long-range kicks. Uses a lot of quick, ever-changing footwork. Four basic fist attacks are taught:
  • CHUIN: straight punch
  • POW: uppercut
  • KUP: circular overhead punch
  • CHOW: roundhouse punch

Arnis/escrima/kali (Philippines)

Arnis, escrima, and kali are all terms for the native fighting arts of the Philippines, specifically the arts that use weapons. European sword fighting, mostly spanish, with some evidence of Italian and possibly other European countries, influenced native fighting styles when mercenaries fought (and possibly taught) there. The most popular legend concerning the Filipino arts is that Datu (chief) Lapu Lapu killed the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan in personal combat.

Arnis, whose name is derived from the Spanish expression "arnis de mano (harness the hand)" is from the northern parts of Luzon Island; escrima is from the central Philippines, such as Cebu City; and Kali is from the southern island of Mindanao. Some claim that, since Mindanao was never conquered by the Spanish to the extent that the rest of the Philippines was, kali (the older of the three) more closely resembles the original pre-Spanish arts of the area and is more complete and covers more combative possibilities. Some claim that the word kali is part of a modern attempt to marginalize the Spanish (and other European) influence on Filipino martial arts, and some go so far as to refer to kali as a "Filipino-American" style. Most people tend to say that the words do not matter. Every village, and often every master, has a distinct style, so people tend to ask "do you study ilustrisimo, caballero, or cabales style?" Not "do you study escrima or kali?"

Kali is more of a "warrior art" while escrima and arnis are "soldier arts." Escrima and arnis were developed as streamlined, simplified ways to teach people to fight the Spanish invaders. Some people say that kali is a blade art, while escrima and arnis are stick arts, but this is a matter of contention. A distinctive feature of all of these Filipino arts is their use of geometry, and lines and angles of defense and attack; movements are important. The use of the hands and feet, to do two different things at the same time, requires a lot of training. Most Filipino arts, kali in particular, stress the importance of disarming an opponent by destroying the attacking weapon.

There are many different styles of Filipino martial arts, but general categories can be drawn along the lines of range. Largo-mano styles tend to prefer staying at long distances from their opponents, and using well-timed and placed strikes to the hands of their opponents to disarm them. Corto or serrada styles are the opposite, tending to crowd into their opponents, where the opponent will hopefully be uncomfortable and unprepared. Other styles prefer the medio, or middle range, which is between largo mano and serrada. There are also styles, such as lameco escrima, which address all three ranges. The name lameco even comes from these ranges; (la)rgo mano, (me)dio, and (co)rto.

The different Filipino styles typically cover some (or all) of the following areas: single stick (or long blade); double long weapon; long and short sword, daggers (such as single dagger, double dagger, and palm stick/double-end dagger), empty hands (punching, kicking, and grappling), spear/staff, long weapons (two-handed), flexible weapons (whip, sarong, etc.), throwing weapons, projectile weapons (bows and blowguns), and healing arts.

Some arts, such as sayoc kali, focus on the knife almost exclusively, while there are others, such as some lineages of balintawak eskrima, focus almost entirely on the single stick. This focus on certain lineages or styles may be the origin of the notion that Kali is more "complete" than arnis or escrima.

Filipino styles normally classify attacks not by their weapon, or their delivery style, but by the direction of their energy, for example, a strike to the head is usually analyzed in terms of "a high lateral strike." A punch to the gut is treated much the same as a straight knife thrust to that region would be. Students learn how to deal with the energy of the attack, and then apply that knowledge to the slight variations that come with different lengths and types of weapons.

Filipino arts place great emphasis on footwork, mobility, and body positioning. The same concepts (of angles of attack, deflections, traps, passes, etc.) are applied to similar situations at different ranges, making the understanding of ranges and how to bridge them very important. The Filipinos make extensive use of geometric shapes, superimposing them on a combat situation, and movement patterns, to teach fighters to use their position and their movement to best advantage. Some styles emphasize line-cutting (similar to wing-chun), while some are very circular (similar to aikido). Some prefer to stay at long range, while some will move inside as soon as possible.

Most Filipino arts stress the importance of disarming an opponent in combat. This is not usually done gently, or by using a complex disarm, but by "destroying" the hand holding the attacking weapon using your weapon. This is often referred to as "defanging the snake," since a poisonous snake that has no fangs cannot harm you.
Other sub styles include: latosa escrima, serrada escrima, dumog, panantukan, sikaran, balintawak escrima, modern arnis, garimot arnis, Inosanto/Lacoste kali, sayoc kali, doce-pares, pekiti-tirsia kali, and many more.

Atemi (Japan)

A general and inclusive term referring to the art of striking anatomically weak points. Atemi in some form was prevalent in virtually all Japanese close-range combat disciplines such as that of the sword (kenjitsu) as well as in later unarmed systems such as jujutsu and judo.

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