What Is The Most Acrobatic Martial Arts Style?

When it comes to high flying, jumping spinning, flipping techniques, there are some martial arts styles that out perform others. If acrobatics and stuntman type movements are what you are looking for, there is a shortlist of systems that fit the bill.

The most acrobatic martial arts style is XMA (Xtreme Martial Arts) by far. It was designed with gymnastics built into the system. Other notable mentions as highly acrobatic styles are: Wushu, Sholin Kung Fu, Capoera, and even the olympic sports of TaeKwonDo and Judo.

What makes a style acrobatic and which styles are more gymnastically inclined than others? What would help is a way to rank these styles in a way that shows us a clear winner. Well, I have that all done for you. Read on to find out which styles made the list, in what order, and why.

Ranking The Most Acrobatic Martial Arts Styles

The styles will be ranked on a scale of one to ten relevant to how much each of the following gymnastic style techniques have been incorporated into the system. Ten being the highest and 0 being no content at all, numbers in between will designate more or less of a focus on the particular area.

So, ones that may have a particular offering that only somewhat implements it into their techniques will end up with a score of 3, 5, or 7 in that category.

Acrobatic Martial ArtFlipsHandspringsSpinningJumpsJump SpinsTotal
XMA (Xtreme Martial Arts)101010101050
Wushu (Kung Fu)10101010747
Shaolin (Kung Fu)77105736

If this type of ranking is up your ally, then check out my article on the Most Fun Martial Art For Kids.

One of the factors that has to be considered is who is doing these gymnastic style techniques. The average student of some of these styles are not learning or at least not becoming proficient at these high flying maneuvers.

The one at the top of the list actually is teaching all students to do these sorts of moves. The foundation of the style unlike others is based on the combination of acrobatic skill and martial arts techniques. At least an attempt is made to have all students reach their potential in the tumbling and flipping department.

Many of these other styles will only have students of the highest athletic ability and usually the ones on touring demo teams train in and attempt these. XMA is not only the most acrobatic martial art, it is also the most acrobatic for the most amounts of its ordinary students in its ranks.

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Why Do Some Styles Have More Gymnastic Style Moves Than Others?

It is readily apparent when comparing one style to another that some are more inclined to teach and practice feats of daring and body contorting actions. The reasons usually come in three forms.

  1. Some styles were purposefully designed to incorporate gymnastics into their curriculum.
  2. Other styles have a practical purpose somewhere in their history for the use of such techniques.
  3. Still other styles have influenced media, movies, and television, which in turn fueled an ever increasing demand for more drastic and dramatic displays from practitioners of that style.

If you were to dissect the history and founding of many styles, and lay it out on a timeline, the reason for much of what practitioners do would become fairly obvious. Some styles were developed around edged weapons, others horsemanship, and then there were those designed with aesthetics in mind.

What are some examples of this? How can we tell the difference? It is all in the ingredients that went into forming the system in its inception.

Some Styles Were Designed With Acrobatics As A Main Focus

Styles like XMA (Xtreme Martial Arts) and a few other smaller versions of the same thing specifically designed their techniques incorporating gymnastics into their program. A main reason was the testing of personal limits and the sense of accomplishment for students who could command their bodies in an “extreme” way.

The flips, round-offs, handsprings and other techniques combined with traditional self defense and martial arts moves created a display pleasing to an audience as well as the student. Some of these things can translate into actual self defense, but that is not the only goal. Fun, health benefits, and effectiveness all come into play.

To keep on the cutting edge of what is popular, attracts students, and attempt to push the limits of the martial arts some instructors incorporate fitness, gymnastics, and other complete systems of martial arts. This is essentially how you get XMA and other sports like MMA (mixed martial arts).

There is a bit of advertising and practicality in all of these types of styles. They may not be ancient, but they do serve a purpose for students looking for what they offer.

The History Of Certain Martial Art Systems Developed High Flying Techniques

As an example of history dictating acrobatic techniques, TaeKwonDo incorporates high flying jumping, spinning, and flipping kicks at least into their demonstration side of the art for an interesting reason. There is a foundational aspect of their history that informs the use of these techniques today.

From its foundation centuries ago on the ancient Korean peninsula, kicking was an essential element in the fighting arts of the peoples of this area of the world. This was carried over into the more modern version of the style established in the 1950s, what we know today as TaeKwonDo (Foot, Fist way).

Let’s look at the historical use of these kicking techniques and how they were applied in their developmental context.

In the era of Korean kingdoms there were three separate dynasties vying for control. These were the Goryeo, Baekje, and Silla. These kingdoms remained divided from 57 B.C. to 668 A. D.

The Silla kingdom began to incorporate kicking techniques and other ’empty handed’ training for its soldiers along side their weapons arts. As can be imagined, the heavy soldiers along with most others wanting to travel at that time rode horses.

In order for those not on horseback not to be over-matched by mounted troops, these Hwarang warriors had to be used to leap from the ground or with assistance from partners to unhorse opponents with kicks. They were instrumental in the smaller Silla kingdom’s defeat of the other two, and unifying the Korean people in the late 7th century.

Today we see the influences of those ancient warriors and the recorded techniques that have survived the annals of time. The high flying jumping kicks are in the fibers of a system designed for defense against mounted or elevated attackers.

These techniques were highly effective for what they were designed for, which is the way of most every martial art. They are not only for the crowd pleasing display of skill and daring, they came from a real need and a practical solution for the time.

If you would like to see how the belt ranks from white to black belt have been affected by the story of TaeKwonDo through the years, click here to read all about it.

Ever Increasing Demands For The Extreme Fueled Some Acrobatics In The Martial Arts

It is clear for anyone who has seen a Jackie Chan action movie, acrobatic theatrics are a major part of the production. With his blend of the martial arts, spot on comedic delivery, and gymnastics his movies have become worldwide best sellers in the martial arts genre.

Jackie Chan movies are a classic in comedy delivery mixed with acrobatic martial arts choreography. This is slapstick comedy on a whole new level. If you would like to see some of the best action martial arts movies with lighthearted comedy mixed in, get his 8 DVD set on Amazon here.

This same aspect to especially Chinese martial arts movies can be seen in many such films. This is a unique phenomenon that has developed in this niche industry.

Though much of this trend was started by martial artists wanting to push their limits in exciting fight scenes, it also in turn, influenced how the style was taught and implemented.

In a study by the Tian Hui-jun (P.E. Department of East Institute of Gansu Province, Qingyang) researchers found that there was a reciprical relationship between Wushu gymnastic style training and the demands of a movie going public that wanted more excitement in fight scenes.

Chinese Wushu fueled movies and television, which in turn influenced the practice of the art. In order to raise the popularity of movies more and more techniques were required to be gymnastic in nature. The stunts became more and more extreme.

This caused a shift in Hollywood actors training studios as well as in schools in China. The style began to resemble more and more what was created on the movie sets. Though some parts of Kung Fu you find today have ancient roots, some portions will be recent additions or adaptations due to the influence of actors, stuntmen, and the film industry.

Grappling Styles Have A Unique Set Of Acrobatic Skills

As for grappling arts and their acrobatic prowess, it takes another less noticeable form. Their acrobatics have to be done not against mere gravity, but against a resisting human opponent, determined not to allow them to complete the action.

In order to throw someone, like Judoka attempt to do, when they are skillfully attempting to stop you requires acrobatic maneuvers with exceptional timing and strength. This many times involves propelling your own body through the air.

On the other side of the equation, the intended recipient of the throw often flips, rotates, or spins violently to avoid landing in a match losing position, on the side or back.

One could argue that grappling and throwing arts must be more acrobatic due to the massive amounts of resistance placed on them when they attempt gymnastics style moves. The problem is, it is not as easy to see the effort and skill required in this.

Acrobatics are essentially visually driven and aesthetic based concepts to either astound a crowd or trick an opponent. Either way, it is meant as an outwardly noticeable action. Judo and Jujitsu are notoriously hard to follow without prior understanding of ‘what’s going on’.

The Most Acrobatic Martial Art Takeaway…

So, what is the most acrobatic martial arts style? XMA definitely is the most gymnastic based, acrobatic martial art system for the vast majority of its students. Sure, others come close, but usually this is only for a select few that populate demo teams and movie sets.

Some of these systems were designed specifically with these techniques in mind and others developed out of necessity over time. Still others morphed because of the demands of the media industry.

Whatever the reason, they all have their place and for those so inclined, can be a load of fun to train.

Mathew Booe

Mathew Booe is a father of four, husband to Jackie since 1994, retired international competitor with over 50 wins, an international seminar instructor, a master instructor of hundreds of Little Ninjas each week, and the one bringing you the great content like you just read. Sign up for the newsletter to hear about his upcoming books before they are released to the public.

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