Every year, all around the world, martial art practitioners come together to compete, advance their skills, enrich their minds, and socialise at martial arts festivals. Whether you’ve been to one before, or your curiosity is sparked, attending a martial arts festival is an opportune time to not only put your skills to the test, but also to immerse yourself in the world of martial arts.

There’s one problem you may find, however, when you begin your search for an ideal festival to attend – there isn’t a convenient roundup to turn to which lists all of the major festivals around the world in 2018.

Annual Martial Arts Festivals in the First Half of 2018

martial arts festivals

Sure, you could spend hours trying to track down and read up on all of the festivals out there this year. Or, you could refer to the handy roundup we’ve made below of 16 of the best annual martial arts festivals to visit in the first half of 2018.

Read on, and you’ll discover a range of exciting festivals to look forward to in the US, Japan, Thailand, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Brazil, Greece, England, Moldova, and South Africa.

The events are conveniently formatted in a calendar form from January to June, with each event description comprising of all of the important information you need to know – where, when, and why you should attend.

This is the first part of our two part annual martial arts festivals roundup series. Be sure to look out for the final part of the series, Annual Martial Arts Festivals to Visit in the Second Half of 2018!

Martial Arts Festivals in MARCH

Arnold Sports Festival in Ohio, U.S.A.

  • What is it?

There’s never been a better time to attend the Arnold Sports Festival U.S.A., as this year the festival celebrates its 30th anniversary. You’ll be in good company, with an estimated 200,000 visitors expected to head to the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the Ohio Expo Center, and the festival’s other Central Ohio venues to watch or join 18,000 athletes compete in 75 sports and events.

Martial arts fans will be most interested in the 2018 Arnold Battle of Columbus (ABOC) Martial Arts Festival, held during the festival on the 2nd to 4th of March. The Battle of Columbus was created in 1976 to “offer an opportunity for all martial arts practitioners around the world to compete in a variety of martial arts events and to explore, test, and share the skills that they diligently and patiently developed.”

By offering the chance to meet martial arts leaders who share “common goals in martial arts philosophy, principles, and traditions,” the ABOC represents a continuation of this vision. There, you’ll be able to attend martial arts expert led seminars and workshops, celebrate the contributions of martial arts pioneers at the Bruce Lee and Legends of Martial Arts Hall of Honor induction banquet, and compete in martial arts competitions such as taekwondo, tang soo do, gumdo, wushu, kendo, karate, judo grappling, weaponry, wing chun, hapkido, and aikido.

  • When is it? March 1 to 4, 2018

For specific information about the Arnold Battle of Columbus Martial Arts Festival, visit the Battle of Columbus homepage here.

2018 US World Open Taekwondo Championships in Oregon, U.S.A.

  • What is it?

Taking place in the “city of roses”, Portland, the 2018 US World Open Taekwondo Championships is an event completely dedicated to the art of taekwondo. The Tournament has come a long way since its beginnings in 1989, when it was held at a high school for only 120 competitors. Now, the event attracts thousands of competitors from all around the world to the Oregon Convention Center.

According to Tournament Chairman, Chief Master Rick W. Shin, the Championships are “an excellent opportunity for all Taekwondo practitioners to meet with Taekwondo members from all over the world, share the view of Taekwondo movement, and create an opportunity for networking, collaboration, sharing of Taekwondo information and the building of trust relationships internationally.”

The business of competition judging is taken very seriously at the US World Open Taekwondo Championships, as a mix of World Taekwondo Federation International Referees, Pan American Taekwondo Union International Referees, and USA Taekwondo Referees are brought on board to judge the events.

  • When is it? March 2 to 3, 2018

Saratoga Martial Arts Festival in New York, U.S.A.

  • What is it?

A two day martial arts festival in the beautiful Saratoga Springs area, the Saratoga Martial Arts Festival features hands-on workshops run by Master Instructors in martial arts. If you’re looking to develop your technique in areas such as striking, grappling, weapons, combat sports, and self defence, this festival is the ideal place to fast track your progress.

Marking its 17th year, the 2018 Saratoga Martial Arts Festival will bring together more than 15 highly skilled instructional staff to cover a variety of popular and niche martial arts disciplines. Well-known instructors include the likes of Grandmaster Rudy Duncan – who will teach a workshop on the Kemchido Combat Arts System, Guro George Chaber – who will run classes in Maphilindo Silat and Stick Grappling, and Sifu Steve Bugler – who will teach Jeet Kun Do and JKD grappling.

This year, the festival will be held at a new location, the Courtyard by Marriott. Offering a more stylish venue than many other martial arts festivals, there’s even a Saturday Night Banquet on the grounds that will give you the chance to mingle with festival instructors and your fellow attendees. If you’re interested in staying at the hotel during the course of the festival, there’s a special rate for festival attendees that you can take advantage of.

  • When is it? March 3 to 4, 2018

International and Thai Martial Arts Games and Festival in Bangkok, Thailand

  • What is it?

The International and Thai Martial Arts Games and Festival is a Bangkok based martial arts festival held at Nimibutr National Stadium. 2018 will be the third year this massive eleven day festival has been running, and like the years passed, there is an almost unbelievable amount of special events on the programme.

The festival begins in spectacular fashion, with a welcome party and an opening ceremony which requires all participants to wear their country’s uniform. Following this, the plethora of games begin, with highlights including; the 5th Amateur Muay Boran World Championships (WMBF), Muay Thai Pro-Am & Professional Championships (WMO), Sport Karate Kata /Kumite, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, W.K.A. kick boxing K1, jeet kune do (sparring), and the 3rd Dap Thai (Thai sword) World Championships.

Beyond these competitive events, participants can look forward to a number of free experiences to celebrate the 14th World Wai Kru Ceremony. There’s a sightseeing tour of Ayutthaya Historic Ancient City, shows, demonstrations, and a special gala dinner show – all compliments of the Thai Tourism Authority (T.A.T.). The International and Thai Martial Arts Games and Festival is no doubt a busy festival that isn’t for the faint hearted. But if you’re serious about seeing how you measure up against other martial artists in your discipline, it’s well worth the trip over.

  • When is it? March 12 to 22, 2018

Tiger Balm Internationals in Vancouver, Canada

  • What is it?

Imagine what it would be like to compete against a range of international martial arts practitioners in one of Canada’s finest college sports complexes? That’s exactly the experience you will sign up for if you register for the Tiger Balm Internationals. Held in Vancouver’s north shore mountains at the Capilano College Sportsplex, this event is a National Blackbelt League (NBL) “Tournament of the Year” Hall of Fame Winner.

Competitors have the chance to compete in eleven sparring categories: SKIL point fighting, SKIL and WKC Continuous Sparring, MMA (no face) submission sparring, padded weapons sparring, san shou fighting, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, submission grappling, lei tai sport fighting, and taiji push hands (it should be noted that no full contact is permissible for any fighting or sparring divisions).

First, second, and third place holders will be awarded three inch color inset gold, silver, and bronze medals respectively, with junior competitors receiving two inch medals up to eighth place in forms. Canadian competitors will be particularly excited to learn that The Tiger Balm Internationals is a World Martial Art Games sanctioned and qualifying event which helps pick members for Team Canada at the 2018 World Martial Arts Games. Notably, the overall event is additionally sanctioned by Wushu B.C., the World Organization of Martial Arts Athletes, and the World Karate Council.

  • When is it? March 24 to 25, 2018

Arnold Sports Festival in Melbourne, Australia

  • What is it?

There’s good reason the Arnold Sports Festival in Melbourne can boast the title of Australia’s largest multi-sport festival. Just look at these numbers: 40 plus sporting events and activations, more than 10,000 professional and amateur competitors, and over 60,000 visitors who attend the three day festival.

In terms of martial art events to anticipate, you can look forward to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Kyokushin karate, taekwondo, and boxing. One of the most popular events at the festival is the IMMAF Oceania Open Championships, where you will get to see firsthand which national team is selected to compete at IMMAF international events. This year will also be the first time showcasing of IMMAF’s five-day, nation vs nation Amateur MMA tournament.

The Arnold Sports Festival in Melbourne also stages the nation’s largest Health and Fitness expo, where you’ll find the latest fitness tech, gear and apparel, coupled with healthy food and supplement offerings. If you have kids in toe, the festival even has entertaining the kids covered as well, with its bustling Kids Fun Zone area.

  • When is it? March 16 to 18, 2018

Hong Kong Wushu International Championship in Hong Kong

What is it?

There’s no better way to sum up the type of festival the Hong Kong Wushu International Championship is than to look to its slogan for this year, “Love Martial Arts, Love Life.” It is a sentiment which represents the festival’s goal of helping even more people around the world fall in love with martial arts, so that they can make their body healthier and life happier.

So how exactly does this translate to the festival’s activities? The festival, while giving the best of the best the opportunity to compete against one another in events like the King of Kings Wushu competition, Taekwondo (budo) Invitational Tournament, and various events for junior contestants such as the sanda competition, is not just about physical competition. There’s also a unique creative aspect to it, which aims to bolster the cultural side of Wushu through martial arts focused poetry, calligraphy and painting art competitions.

2018 is an opportune time to go the Hong Kong Wushu International Championship, with the festival upping the ante by offering 1 million yuan (around US$15,700) worth of gifts to participating athletes, as well as generous prizes for athletes who win their tournaments, outstanding coaches, and cultural contest winners.

  • When is it? March 16 to 19, 2018 (there will be a reception desk on the 15th at Shenzhen Guankou where you can collect items and souvenirs).

Festival des Arts Martiaux in Paris, France

  • What is it?

Festival des Arts Martiaux is a one day festival which positions you right in the spectator seat. Yes, that’s right – unlike the other events featured in this festival roundup, Festival des Arts Martiaux is purely a spectator event, and does not offer the option for participants to compete. It is therefore an great opportunity to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show (and take a few notes along the way!).

Organized by Karate Bushido, a monthly French magazine dedicated to martial arts and combat sports, the festival showcases the awe inspiring talents of hundreds of acclaimed martial artists. More than 300 experts, grandmasters, and champions from various disciplines will gather from all over the world to perform at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris.

For over three hours, you’ll be wowed by performances such as aikido by Leo and Issei Tamaki, French stick and cane by Frédéric Morin and his team, Brazilian jiu-jitsu by Laeticia Ribeiro and Beatriz Mesquita, kung fu bagua by Master Zhang Kun Lin and Catherine Bousquet, and Shorinji Kempo by Master Aosaka and his team.

  • When is it? March 24, 2018

 Martial Arts Festivals in APRIL

Geneva Open World Martial Arts Games 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland

  • What is it?

Founded in 2015, the World Martial Arts Games is described as “one of the top multi-disciplinary martial arts events worldwide.” Every year, the competition is held in a different host city, with past hosts including Sydney, Las Vegas, Bregenz, and last year, Arbon. In 2018, the honor will go to Geneva to welcome martial artists from all corners of the world.

What competitions can you expect at the Games? MMA (full and light contact), kickboxing (K1, Thai, full, light, and semi), karate kyokushinkai, grappling (no-gi and gi), forms (kata and musical forms), baton combat (chanbara and nunchaku), and breaking. For the first time in 2018, the Geneva Open World Martial Arts Games will also offer a competition of tactical self-defense for law enforcement professionals, as well as a nunchaku competition in collaboration with the World Nunchaku Association (WNA).

In case you need further convincing of the Games’ worthiness in the world of martial arts competitions, the current list of attending countries includes; Germany, England, Austria, Italy, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Wales, Scotland, United States, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Canada, Serbia, Ghana, Brazil, Bangladesh, India, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Russia, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Mexico, Morocco, Jordan, and Greece. There’s even a list of famous martial artists who have lended their support to the event, such as retired Brazilian mixed martial artist and former UFC Middleweight Champion, Murilo Bustamante.

  • When is it? April 7 to 8, 2018

Arnold Classic South America in São Paulo, Brazil

What is it?

Each year, Arnold Sports Festival South America attracts over 60,000 visitors, along with 150 exhibiting brands, and 4500 storekeepers. The festival is South America’s “largest international event of sport nutrition, health, sports, fights, performance and fitness”, and as the years go on, it continues to get bigger and better.

As usual, there will be a range of martial arts competitions held during the festival including judo, karate, Muay Thai, and shidokan. If you have time, look out for the  “Arnold Conference”, which is the largest nutrition, sports medicine and training event in the world. Respected professionals specializing in these areas will guide a series of lectures and workshops, giving you the skills and knowledge to amp up your martial arts training regimen.

Even if you’ve been to the festival before, there are a number of new drawcards to look forward to this year. For the first time, one of the most renowned health and wellness fairs in Brazil, the Rio Sports Show, will be part of the equipment hall at Arnold Sports Festival South America. Considering it has been held in Rio de Janeiro for 19 years, it’s a big coup for participants, who will now get to enjoy two festivals in one. Another anticipated addition to this year’s São Paolo schedule is the Healthy Pavilion, an expo hall focused on health, quality of life, and wellbeing.

  • When is it? April 20 to 22, 2018

Korean Martial Art Festival in Florida, U.S.A.

  • What is it?

The Korean Martial Art Festival set in Crestview, Florida has many impressive accolades to its name. In past years, the “Premier Martial Art Event in the USA” has been endorsed by the Official Karate Magazine, named “The Must Attend Event of the Year” by the Taekwondo Times Magazine, and rated as one of the “10 Must Do Martial Art Events” by Black Belt Magazine.

So, what makes this festival stand out? The festival organizer is a martial arts festival and seminar veteran, and has combined the best elements of each to form the Korean Martial Art Festival. Essentially, this culminates in festival which has
“friendly people with instructors willing to share their knowledge and made newcomers feel like family,” and leaves participants feeling like they got their money’s worth.

At the Festival, you’ll have plenty of time to advance your taekwondo, hapkido, tang soo do, kuk sool, strikes, joint locks, throws, sticks, knife, and gun skills. With a talented range of instructors there to lend a helping hand such as Dr. He-Young Kimm, Grand Master No Won Park, Grand Master Rudy Timmerman, and Grand Master Ken MacKenzie, you’re bound to walk away with a sharpened skill set and a sense of achievement.

  • When is it? April 20 to 22, 2018

Martial Arts Festivals in MAY

World Martial Arts Convention in Athens, Greece

  • What is it?

What do you get when you bring together over 80 masters and champions and more than 1500 participants from over 35 countries under the one roof? Greece’s premier martial arts festival, the Athens based World Martial Arts Convention! Organized by the World Kobudo Federation, a non-political world martial arts organization, the World Martial Arts Convention is your ticket to martial arts seminars, competitions, and parties.

Kicking off with an elaborate welcome in the form of an Opening Ceremony at Galatsi Olympic Arena, next, you’ll dive straight into your chosen training sessions. There are over 48 instructors who will run the 55 minute skill and drill sessions in judo, karate, Filipino martial arts, Okinawan weapons, jiu-jitsu, kung fu, hapkido, and kickboxing. After, you’ll be able to reward all of your hard work at the welcome party, which comes complete with a DJ and live band.

The following two days will be filled with small group master classes with top Masters and champions, the World Self Defence and Forms Competition, the Kobudomania Super Show (International Budo Gala), and further training seminars. Oh, and there’s a banquet dinner on the second day, and the Closing Ceremony, send off dinner, and party on the last night.

  • When is it? May 4 to 6, 2018

The U.K. Martial Arts Show in Doncaster, England

  • What is it?

The U.K. Martial Arts Show, held at the Dome in Doncaster, is a two day festival with back to back demonstrations, training seminars, master classes, and interviews and photo opportunities with martial arts experts. There are also two large exhibition halls packed with martial arts related exhibitors for you to peruse.

We’re sure you’re wondering which martial artists will be making their way to the show this year. Well, there’s a very impressive lineup including; Brad Pickett – mixed martial artist and former Cage Rage British Featherweight Champion, Bill Wallace – professional Karate Association world full-contact karate champion, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez – American martial artist choreographer, kickboxer, and actor, and Scott Adkins – the English actor and martial artist best known for playing Russian prison fighter Yuri Bokya in the Undisputed film series.

Just a word of advice: you will need to purchase a “seminar ticket” if you want to access any of the seminars on the schedule, as well as receive expert advice and one to one training sessions with the Masters in attendance.

  • When is it? May 5 to 6, 2018

Moldova Karate Grand Prix 2018 Seven Samurai Cup in Chișinău, Moldova

  • What is it?

Organized by the National Karate-Do Federation of the Republic of Moldova, the Moldova Karate Grand Prix 2018 Seven Samurai Cup is a one day karate exclusive event at the University of Physical Education and Sports.

Both individual and team competitions are on the bill, namely: the Kata individual, Kumite individual, and Kumite Team Seven Samurai Cup. For the Kata individual competitions, there are separate male and female categories divided into; 6 – 7 yrs, U10 (8 – 9 years), U12 (10 -11 years), U14 (12 -13 years), Cadets (14 – 15 years), Juniors (16 – 17 years), and Seniors (18 years plus). There are also separate male and female categories for the Kumite individual competitions, divided into categories based on both participants’ age and weight.

If you’re looking for an incomparable martial arts experience, make sure to sign up to the event’s namesake competition, the Kumite Team Seven Samurai Cup. The Kumite Team Seven Samurai Cup offers participants the chance to compete in multi-age teams. According to the Cup rules, each team must be formed of seven participants, one from each of the following age groups; 8 – 9 years, 10 – 11 years, 12 – 13 years, 14 – 15 year old cadets, 16 – 17 year old juniors, U21, and seniors (18 years plus).

  • When is it? May 6, 2018

Arnold Classic Africa, in Johannesburg, South Africa

  • What is it?

Compared to the other Arnold Festival chapters, Arnold Classic Africa is a relatively new addition, with 2018 representing only its third year up and running. But that doesn’t make it any less spectacular than the others – the Arnold Classic Africa is still the biggest multi-sport event in continent of Africa.

The Arnold Classic Africa, in fact, has a one of a kind multi-style programme called ‘The Power of Ten’. Presented by Martial Arts South Africa (MASA), the programme features; aikido (demonstrations); Muay Thai (ring-fighting championship); combat & traditional tang soo do, haedong kumdo, taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, kendo, SARMAF & ISKA (multi-style championships and national selections).

This year’s festival will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, a venue which spans 22,000m². In addition to The Power of Ten, you’ll be able to enjoy 50 plus other sporting disciplines, exhibitions, a fitness and lifestyle expo, and of course, the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger in the flesh.

  • When is it? May 18 to 20, 2018

Martial Arts Festivals in JUNE

2018 Miyagi Chojun Festival in Ontario, Canada

  • What is it?

Promising to bring about “technical excellence to willing students, regardless of belt rank,” the Miyagi Chojun Festival is part of a series of worldwide events organized by the International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-do Federation (IOGKF). The IOGKF, for those unfamiliar, is the largest traditional Okinawan Karate organization in the world, so you can trust that any events under their name are both professionally run and useful for any karate aficionado to attend.

Miyagi Chojun Festival is said to be akin to a gasshuku – the Japanese term for “lodging together,” which describes a special type of training event in which students are immersed in a cycle of both living and training together for numerous hours a day. Indeed, the Holiday Inn in Burlington will host both the Festival’s training and accommodation needs, so you’ll be able to get a sense of gasshoku if you choose to lodge at the hotel.

Regarding instructors, you’ll see that there’s no shortage of IOGKF instructors there to help you hone your skills. To name a few, IOGKF South Africa Chief Instructor,

Sensei Bakkie Laubscher will be in attendance, as well as IOGKF USA Chief Instructor, Sensei Gene Villa, and Australian Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Federation (AOGKF) Chief Instructor, Sensei Joe Roses. If you already follow the teachings of Sensei Chojun Miyagi, the founder of Goju-Ryu Karate, or are interested in learning more about them, you will find much to cherish about the 2018 Miyagi Chojun Festival.

  • When is it? June 7 to 10, 2018

What martial arts festivals do you plan to attend the first half of 2018? Let us know in the comments below!

Please note: this calendar of events does not encompass the full volume of martial arts festivals held in 2018. The events featured represent a compilation of festivals available to the author’s knowledge at the time of publication, with all details included in the article correct at the time of research.

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