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What’s the Best Martial Arts for Self-Defense? (Ranked with Infographic Inside)

So what’s the best martial arts for self dense and is there even one?

  • If you are new to martial arts we recommend starting with a single martial art – some good options are Muay Thai or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  • If you are looking for the ultimate martial art for self defense you will likely have to combine different martial art styles or train MMA (after you learn the basics of one martial we recommend trying out another complementary martial art)
  • Before signing up for a martial arts gym always research extensively and consider doing a trial class before signing anything
  • Consider the questions: Does the martial art include live sparring? Are the techniques practiced against fully resisting opponents?
  • In this list we’ve also focused primarily on unarmed martial arts
  • Finally situational awareness, confidence, and deescalation will always be the safest form of self defense

There are many different martial arts styles available for self-defense.

When I was younger like many people I started with karate, then began boxing, spent 6 months in Aikido before realizing it wasn’t very practical, then finally found Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Presently, I practice Brazilian jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, judo, mma, and wrestling and have been doing so over the last 6 years so hopefully I can provide some insight into choosing the best martial arts for self defense that is both accessible and practical.

Some things to consider in analyzing a martial art for self defense are:

  • Does it include live sparring against a fully resisting opponent?
  • Does it include high level competition?
  • Have the techniques been proven in MMA?

A combination of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, and wrestling will honestly be the best combination for self-defense


Martial Arts for Self Defense Ranked (From Most to Least Effective)

  1. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  2. Wrestling
  3. Muay Thai
  4. MMA
  5. Sambo
  6. Judo
  7. Boxing
  8. Kickboxing
  9. (Full Contact) Karate
  10. (Full Contact) Tae Kwon Do
  11. Krav Maga
  12. Kung Fu
  13. (Modern) Japanese Jiu Jitsu
  14. Aikido
  15. Tai Chi

Martial Arts Comparison Chart:

Best Martial Arts for Self Defense

Here is our summary for some of the best martial arts for self defense.

Action done with mastery has the potential to be dangerous.

Self-defense is a natural mechanism that all human being have for survival. We only need to use science to resurrect our primal instincts in order to make self-defense effective.

First lets take a look at MMA shown in UFC 1. UFC was meant to display a clash of martial arts styles where only the most effective would rise to the top:

Since martial arts have been practiced for thousands of years and are found all around the world. They may differ in their types, but there is one thing in common for self-defense martial arts learning and that is that it requires:

  • structured teaching
  • understanding
  • application

But, which martial art is the greatest for self-defense?

Take a  look at some of the most popular martial arts styles, and what they have to offer for self-defense. 

  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: This martial art style focuses on grappling and ground fighting. It is an effective form of self-defense, as it can help you take down an attacker even if you are not stronger or faster than them.
  • Krav Maga: This is  an Israeli martial art and is designed for real-world self-defense situations. However, since it doesn’t include frequent live sparring, and the fact that it is considered by supporters that it’s techniques are “too dangerous for mma”. We don’t have too many real world examples of it’s effectiveness. I would also personally be wary of joining a Krav Maga gym unless confirming that is legitimate. Additionally, modern Krav Maga often borrows techniques from other more prominent disciplines such as bjj and Muay Thai but these Krav Maga gyms may not be the best source to learn these techniques from other martial arts.
  • Muay Thai: This Thai martial art is known for its powerful kicks and punches. Muay Thai can be an effective form of self-defense, as it will give you the ability to take down an attacker with ease.
  • Taekwondo: This Korean martial art is focused on kicking and striking techniques. Taekwondo can be an effective form of self-defense, as it can help you disable an attacker quickly and efficiently.

From here you may choose the one that best suits your goals and preferred style.

Martial Arts History

Martial arts have been an integral part of human societies, with records tracing back thousands of years across multiple civilizations.

Rooted in the need for self-preservation and warfare, these combat systems taught ancient warriors techniques that enhanced their physical prowess and mental fortitude.

Through time, various martial arts emerged influenced by their respective regional cultures, providing a diverse array of methods for self-defense.

It is our belief that every man and women should know how to defend themselves

One fascinating aspect of martial arts history is the interconnection of different combat styles across regions.

  • For example, the Japanese discipline of Judo is closely linked to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which resulted from the exchange of techniques between the two nations.
  • Similarly, traditional Chinese martial arts such as Kung Fu have played a significant role in the development of modern Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) by inspiring legendary fighters like Bruce Lee to create systems like Jeet Kune Do.

This cross-pollination of martial arts fosters innovation and advancement, resulting in the sophisticated self-defense techniques available today.

The global proliferation of martial arts has shaped various styles suited for varying needs and physical capabilities, catering to both self-defense and sport.

As we attempt to determine the best martial art for self-defense, it’s crucial to consider the historical context in which each discipline arose, as well as the methodology that distinguishes them from one another. By understanding their unique characteristics, we can assess the martial arts’ effectiveness in real-world scenarios and better identify the ideal practice for self-defense.

Ranking of Martial Arts

When it comes to the raking of martial arts. We must consider:

  • effectiveness of a martial art in a real life scenario
  • how difficult it is to learn
  • training methods

1. Some questions to consider when measuring effectiveness of a martial art:

  • does training include live sparring
  • does it offer forms of competitions
  • does it effectively neutralize techniques of other styles
  • can techniques be perform upon a fully resisting opponent

2. In terms of how difficult it is to learn and become effective:

  • how long does it take to learn the basics
  • how long does it take to obtain mastery

3.Finally, considering the training methods

  • again a big key is – does the training include live sparring on a resisting opponent*
  • does it require certain athletic attributes for practitioners
  • can anyone learn it regardless of physical attributes

Ranking of a martial art will always be subjective, but by using some of the questions above, we can help narrow down some of the top martial arts that are most effective in any scenario.

Most Effective Martial Arts

There are a few martial arts styles that seem to be more effective than others.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, for example, is frequently regarded as one of the most superior martial arts due to its emphasis on grappling and ground fighting. This can be especially useful in a street fight, where you may be at a disadvantage if your opponent is bigger or stronger than you. 

Another martial art that is considered to be effective for self-defense is Muay Thai.

This form of martial arts emphasizes kicks and strikes, making it a good choice for those who want to keep their opponents at a distance. 

We can easily find out the most effective martial art by looking toward MMA and look at a variety of different fighting promotions such as UFC, ONE, Pancrease, Rizin, and Bellator.

Here is a break down using the current men’s belt holders (as of 10/15/22) in the UFC and the martial art that they specialize in:

  • DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO – BJJ
  • ALJAMAIN STERLING – Wrestling
  • ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI – (Greco-Roman) Wrestling
  • CHARLES OLIVEIRA – BJJ
  • LEON EDWARDS – Boxing
  • ISRAEL ADESANYA – Kickboxing
  • JIŘÍ PROCHÁZKA – Muay Thai
  • FRANCIS NGANNOU – Boxing

It should be noted that all of these top MMA competitors likely have a very advanced understanding of all the listed martial arts that the other specialize in.

Its rare to find an effective mixed martial artist that doesn’t have a solid grasp of a striking and grappling martial art

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

MMA is a full-contact combat sport that incorporates techniques from a broad range of other combat sports and martial arts.

It has been one of the fastest growing sports in the world and is known for its unique blend of styles, training techniques, and effectiveness in real-world self-defense situations.

MMA fighters are skilled in many forms of martial arts, allowing them to fight standing up or on the ground.

  • Standing fights may involve techniques from boxing, Muay Thai, or karate
  • while ground fights often incorporate Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, or Judo.

The ability to transition seamlessly between styles to respond to different opponents and situations is a cornerstone of MMA.

Several martial arts influence MMA, each contributing different techniques and strategies:

  1. Boxing: Offers punching techniques and footwork.
  2. Muay Thai: Known for its strikes using elbows and knees, as well as kicks and punches.
  3. Wrestling: Provides techniques for taking opponents to the ground and maintaining control.
  4. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: Emphasizes ground fighting and submission holds.
  5. Judo: Teaches throws and takedowns, as well as submission techniques.
  6. Karate: Incorporates strikes, kicks, and knee strikes.
  7. Taekwondo: Known for its high, fast, spinning kicks.
  8. Sambo: Russian martial art that combines judo and wrestling techniques.

Training is rigorous and multifaceted. Athletes train both their striking and grappling techniques, working on punches, kicks, takedowns, and submissions. They also focus on strength and conditioning workouts to build endurance, power, and agility.

Furthermore, training includes strategy and fight IQ development, sparring, and learning to transition between different martial arts styles seamlessly.

MMA’s effectiveness in self-defense arises from its diversity of techniques and its focus on practical, real-world situations. It trains practitioners to respond to attacks from standing or ground positions, equipping them with a well-rounded defense strategy.

Key Points on MMA:

  • MMA is a full-contact combat sport that integrates techniques from various martial arts.
  • Martial arts that influence MMA include boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, judo, karate, Taekwondo, and Sambo.
  • MMA training is comprehensive, including striking and grappling techniques, strength and conditioning, strategy development, and sparring.
  • MMA’s effectiveness in self-defense stems from its versatile techniques and real-world application.

Why MMA May not Work for Self Defense

MMA is an incredibly popular and effective combat sport that blends various martial arts disciplines and encompasses stand-up fighting, grappling, and ground fighting techniques. Although it is a powerful martial art with numerous advantages, it may not be the ideal choice for some for self-defense.

While we recommend a combination of BJJ, Muay Thai, and Wrestling for self defense (all of which have techniques that are heavily prevalent in MMA) you may not personally like MMA due to preferences or other goals.

We feel that MMA or a combination of grappling and striking martial arts is the best answer for anyone looking to learn self defense.

You must also understand that:

  • avoiding a confrontation or running away is always a better option
  • no martial art can effectively deal with multiple attackers or someone with a weapon.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Yes, in case you’re wondering, I may be a bit biased toward BJJ for self defense because:

  • includes live sparring in every class (which pressure tests techniques)
  • it can be practiced at nearly 100% effort with little risk of injury (which can better mimic real life self defense situations
  • focuses on control (controlling your opponent or attacker without necessarily causing them serious harm)
  • takes the most effective techniques from other martial arts (like judo, sambo, wrestling) and continues to adapt and evolve leaving behind ineffective techniques
  • finally, it is very accessible and due its training methods leaves very little room for ineffective teaching and illegitimate gyms

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu History and Origin

Read More: BJJ History explained

The inception of Jiu Jitsu is a story interwoven with Buddhist monks from India, an accomplished Japanese judo master, resilient Brazilians, and a thriving dream in America.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu’s roots stretch back almost 4000 years to northern India, where monks practiced this grappling form for self-defense.


Later, it gained popularity among samurai in Japan, becoming a staple in their arsenal of martial arts.

Jiu Jitsu found its way to Brazil courtesy of Mitsuyo Maeda, a judo master from Japan, creating a complex debate regarding the sole founder of Jiu Jitsu.

Considering “where does Jiu Jitsu come from?”, it’s clear that its origins span across multiple regions.

Jiu Jitsu in the modern era retains some traditional aspects, such as the use of belts to represent rank and experience, while continually evolving, adopting effective techniques and discarding the less useful ones.

Key Points on the History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

  • The genesis of Jiu Jitsu is associated with monks in Northern India about 4000 years ago, but its “modern” development took place in Japan as a martial art for battlefield use.
  • In the 1800s, Japanese soldiers employed Jiu Jitsu during combat when other tactics failed.
  • The commencement of Jiu Jitsu in Japan is connected to Jigoro Kano.
  • Mitsuyo Maeda, a student of Jigoro Kano, was well-versed in other martial arts, including Judo.
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a hybrid of Japanese jiu jitsu and judo, was introduced to South America by Maeda in the early 1900s. Later, it was molded into a unique martial arts style by Brazilian pioneers.
  • In the 1920s, Carlos, Oswaldo, Gaston Jr., George, and Helio Gracie further developed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. They learned it from the renowned Judo practitioner, Mitsuo Maeda, while he was teaching in Brazil.
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu found its way to the United States in the 1970s. Following an initial introduction at the US consulate in Rio, Carley Gracie was invited to teach at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, VA. He later moved to California in 1979.
  • Rorion Gracie relocated to California and was soon joined by his younger brother, Royce Gracie. They established the first Gracie-owned gym around 1980 in Southern California.
  • The first UFC event in 1993, created by Rorion Gracie and Art Davie, showed BJJ’s effectiveness. Royce Gracie, Rorion’s brother, demonstrated how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu could be effective even for a smaller practitioner like himself.
  • Carlos Gracie, Jr. founded the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) in 2002 to organize Jiu Jitsu competitions globally.

Key Figures in the Development of Jiu Jitsu

  • Buddhist Monks in 2000 BC Northern India who have the first document form of grappling martial arts.
  • Jigoro Kano, who imparted the early form of Jiu Jitsu in Japan in the 1800s.
  • Mitsuyo Maeda, who was taught Japanese Jiu Jitsu by Kano in 1900.
  • Carlos Gracie, who was first taught Jiu Jitsu by Maeda in the 1920s.
  • Helio Gracie, who significantly developed and disseminated the martial art in the mid-1900s

Why BJJ May Not Work for Self Defense

There are certain circumstances in which BJJ may not be the best option for self-defense. One downside of BJJ is its primary focus on ground combat.

1. In self-defense scenarios, especially those involving multiple attackers, it’s crucial to maintain mobility and avoid being pinned to the ground, where you may be at a disadvantage.

In reality no martial art is suited for dealing with multiple attackers or defending an attacker with a weapon.

2. Another issue with relying solely on BJJ for self-defense is that it assumes your opponent is untrained in grappling or counter-techniques. If your assailant is also skilled in BJJ or a related martial art, you may find yourself in a more challenging fight than anticipated.

3. Additionally, BJJ training typically does not incorporate striking techniques or effective defense against striking attacks, leaving practitioners vulnerable to opponents who use punches, kicks, or other striking methods in a confrontation.


Side note: Though BJJ may have its limitations in particular self-defense situations, it’s important to recognize that it still provides valuable skills in ground fighting and grappling that can be beneficial in various circumstances.

Combining BJJ with other martial arts or self-defense systems, such Muay Thai or wrestling, may help address these shortcomings and ensure a more well-rounded and comprehensive approach to self-defense.

Is There Any Striking in Jiu Jitsu?

It’s important to understand that Jiu Jitsu did evolve from Judo, which in turn has its roots in Japanese Jiu Jitsu. In the traditional form of Japanese Jiu Jitsu, striking techniques were employed in conjunction with throws, submissions, and grappling.

  • As Brazilian Jiu Jitsu emerged, the focus shifted primarily to ground grappling, and most of the striking elements in training were largely diminished.
  • However, it’s worth noting that self-defense oriented BJJ schools occasionally incorporate striking techniques into their curriculum. This is done to create a more well-rounded understanding of martial arts and to provide practitioners with the abilities to handle themselves in stand-up fighting situations.
  • Finally, in the early days of Gracie jiu jitsu some strikes were also included (as seen by the strikes implemented by Royce Gracie in the early UFC days) – these however were mostly used for setups for takedowns

For self-defense purposes, it’s crucial to have comprehensive knowledge, including both grappling and striking techniques. Knowing how to strategically incorporate strikes into a Jiu Jitsu game can provide a tactical advantage in both competitive and self-defense situations. However, compared to other martial arts like Muay Thai, Kickboxing, or Boxing, striking is less prominent in Jiu Jitsu training.

If one’s primary concern is learning striking techniques, they might consider supplementing their Jiu Jitsu training with additional stand-up fighting disciplines for a more comprehensive self-defense skill set.

What Is Submission Grappling?

Submission grappling is a term often used to describe a type of Brazilian jiu jitsu. While many jiu jitsu athletes focus on winning matches via points, some prefer to focus on winning via submissions only.

So submission grappling may be sometimes used interchangeable with Brazilian jiu jitsu or when referring certain competitive events such as those held by ADCC.

List of Martial Arts vs BJJ

Check out our list of martial arts (we may be biased toward Brazilian jiu jitsu here in case the website name didn’t give it away)

Looking to get into martial arts but not sure which one is right for you? We have broken down some very effective martial arts for self defense:

  •  Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). BJJ is perfect for those who are looking for a challenge and want to learn how to defend themselves in a real-world situation using methods of grappling, control, and submissions
  • Karate: Karate is a traditional Japanese martial art that focuses on striking techniques like punches, kicks, and blocks. Karate is great for those who are looking for a discipline that emphasizes respect and self-control.
  • Taekwondo: Taekwondo focuses on striking techniques but also incorporates acrobatic elements like jumps and spins. Taekwondo is perfect for those who want to get fit and have fun at the same time while learning effective strikes.
  • Judo: Judo is a Japanese martial art that focuses on takedowns and throws. Judo is an excellent choice for those who want to learn how to take an opponent down without using strikes.

As you can see, there are a lot of different martial arts styles to choose from.

If you don’t have any prior martial arts experience, we strongly recommend starting with Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Mixed Martial Arts – What is the Best Martial Art and How to Choose

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a form of combat sport that combines techniques from multiple martial arts disciplines including boxing, wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and more. This makes it one of the most versatile and effective forms of self-defense around. While MMA has grown in popularity over the past few decades, it can still be intimidating for those getting started.

The best way to choose an MMA style is to consider your objectives.

  • Are you looking for a full contact combat sport or just want to get fit?
  • Do you prefer striking-based styles such as boxing or Muay Thai
  • Or are you more into grappling based arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Once you have determined what kind of martial art fits your goals best, you can start researching different styles and academies.

It’s important to remember that all martial arts take time and dedication to master. So don’t forget to factor in how much time and energy you are willing to commit when selecting a style. When done right, MMA is one of the most rewarding martial arts out there – but make sure you do your research choosing a gym.

Read More: How to Choose a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gym

Wrestling

Wrestling can be good for self defense for several reasons:

  1. Takedowns/Pinning Techniques: wrestling focuses heavily on takedowns and pinning techniques. Takedowns enable you to bring your opponent to the ground in a controlled manner which can limit how force they can generate to land strikes. Next, wrestling strong utilizes pinning techniques which can be used in self defense to control an opponent once you are on the ground.
  2. Control: Wrestling teaches you how to control your opponent’s body, which can be useful in self defense situations. You will learn how to take your opponent down, pin them to the ground, and control their movements. This can help you to protect yourself and others, and to avoid getting hurt.
  3. Fitness: Wrestling requires a lot of physical strength and conditioning. Regular training can help you to build up your strength and endurance, which can be beneficial in self defense situations. You will also learn how to move your body in a coordinated way, which can improve your overall balance and agility.
  4. Confidence: Wrestling can help you to develop self-confidence, which can be valuable in a self defense situation. Knowing that you have the skills to take down an opponent can give you the confidence to stand up for yourself and protect yourself if necessary.
  5. Mental toughness: Wrestling can be a physically and mentally challenging sport. You will learn how to push yourself to your limits and overcome obstacles. This mental toughness can translate to other areas of your life, including self defense situations where you may need to remain calm and focused under pressure.

Wrestling Origins

Wrestling is one of the oldest combat sports in the world, with origins dating back thousands of years.

It was practiced in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and was often used as a form of training for soldiers.

In Greece, wrestling was a popular event at the Olympic Games, which were held from 776 BC to 393 AD.

The ancient Greeks believed that wrestling was a way to develop strength, endurance, and discipline, and it was considered an essential part of a young man’s education.

Over time, wrestling evolved into different forms in different parts of the world.

  • In the Middle Ages, folk wrestling was a popular form of entertainment in Europe
  • While in Japan, sumo wrestling became a highly ritualized and formalized sport.
  • In the United States, collegiate wrestling emerged in the late 19th century as a form of amateur competition that focused on takedowns, holds, and pins.

Today, wrestling is practiced in many different styles and contexts, from high school and college wrestling to Olympic-style Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling.

Wrestling – Why Does It Work for Self Defense?

Again, wrestling is a great martial art for self-defense. It utilizes a combination of pressure and control to neutralize an attacker, making it perfect for use in real-world situations.

Because wrestling focuses on ground fighting, it’s not as common as other martial arts for self defense purposes – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as effective.

Learning how to wrestle will give you the skills needed to protect yourself from any physical altercation. You’ll learn various holds, locks, and throws which can be used to restrain your opponent.

Why Wrestling Many Not Work for Self Defense

Wrestling does, unfortunately, pose some limitations when it comes to self-defense scenarios.

1. Due to its sport-oriented nature, wrestling may not fully prepare practitioners for the unpredictability and potential danger involved in real-life confrontations.

2. One issue with wrestling is the lack of striking techniques, making it less effective in situations where a strike could potentially neutralize an assailant quickly and efficiently.

3. Another potential concern with wrestler-geared self-defense is the inherent vulnerability when engaging in close-quarters combat, providing an opportunity for attackers to utilize weapons or take advantage of a clinch or hold.

Furthermore, wrestling techniques may not prove as useful in specific environments or against multiple attackers. In these scenarios again, remaining on your feet and maintaining mobility is often crucial, making stand-up martial arts or striking systems more practical for defense.

Are There Any Submissions in Wrestling?

When thinking of Wrestling, many people tend to associate it with the physical dominance of grappling and takedown techniques. However, some people may wonder are there any submissions used in wrestling?:

Traditional wresting such as Freestyle, Folksytle or Greco Roman wrestling does not include any submissions like those found in other grappling martial arts like judo or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. However, catch wrestling does involve some submissions.

Wrestling Vs BJJ

Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) are two martial arts that share many similarities in their focus on grappling and pinning techniques.

However, there are some key differences between the two.

  • Wrestling is more focused on takedowns and control, with an emphasis on getting an opponent to the ground and keeping them there.
  • In contrast, BJJ places a greater emphasis on submissions and using leverage and technique to control an opponent on the ground.

While both arts can be effective for self-defense, wrestling may be better suited for those who prefer a more aggressive and athletic style, while BJJ may be better for those who prefer a more technical and strategic approach.

Read More: BJJ Vs Wrestling

Judo

Judo can be a good option for self defense for several reasons:

  1. Throws and takedowns: Judo is known for its throws and takedowns, which can be very effective in a self defense situation. If someone tries to attack you, you can use your judo skills to quickly take them down to the ground and neutralize the threat.
  2. Control: Judo also teaches you how to control your opponent’s body, similar to wrestling. You will learn how to pin your opponent to the ground and prevent them from getting up, which can be useful if you need to hold someone until help arrives.
  3. Joint locks and chokes: Judo also includes techniques for joint locks and chokes, which can be used to subdue an attacker without causing serious harm. These techniques can be very effective if you need to defend yourself without using excessive force. While the submissions aren’t as varied as modern Brazilian jiu jitsu, they are still taught in Judo schools and very effective

Judo Origins

Judo is one of the oldest forms of martial arts in the world, and its origins date back to Japan in 1882.

Jigoro Kano

It was created by Jigoro Kano, who studied various martial arts before creating his own style that focused on self-defense and physical fitness.

At its core, judo encourages practitioners to use their opponent’s energy against them in order to gain an advantage. This means that even smaller opponents can successfully defend themselves against larger ones. It also emphasizes mental discipline, respect for your opponent, and fair play.

The sport has spread around the world since Kano first developed it, and it’s now an Olympic sport. Judo tournaments are held worldwide, and practitioners of all ages can compete at different levels depending on their skill level and rank.

Why You Should Consider Judo for Self Defense:

For starters, Judo teaches you how to effectively off balance your opponent and use their weight and energy against them in order to land powerful takedowns and throws.

So even if your opponent is larger or stronger than you, you can still control and take them down.

Judo training involves frequent live sparring against full resisting opponents so you know it works

The physical elements of judo also help keep practitioners agile and flexible while developing strength and endurance when attempting to control and throw an attacker.

Why Judo May Not Work for Self Defense

Judo focuses on throws and joint locks, enabling practitioners to overcome opponents using their strength and skill.

Although Judo training builds physical fitness, balance, and confidence, it may have limitations when it comes to self-defense scenarios.

1. One of the main drawbacks of Judo as a self-defense tool is its reliance on grappling and close-quarters combat.

2. In real-life confrontations, attackers might employ striking techniques that Judo practitioners may be unprepared for or have difficulty countering.

Side note: Judo’s competitive nature and the structure of its training sessions don’t usually prioritize defensive situations. The emphasis on sporting aspects might reduce the practical applicability of Judo techniques in real-world self-defense contexts.

Now what’s the difference between BJJ vs Judo?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses on grappling and ground fighting. It’s a fantastic self-defense art since it teaches students how to use leverage and body position to take down and control an opponent.

On the other hand, Judo is a martial art that emphasizes throws and takedowns. It’s a fantastic self-defense technique because it teaches you to capitalize on your opponent’s momentum against them, but doesn’t provide in depth training on controlling your opponent once you are on the ground or utilizing submissions.

Read More: BJJ Vs Judo


Sambo

Sambo is a Russian martial art and combat sport that combines elements of judo and wrestling.

The term “SAMBO” is an acronym for SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, which translates to “self-defense without weapons.”

Sambo practitioners are skilled in various techniques, such as throws, ground work, and submissions, which involve locks but not chokes, unlike judo or Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The art emphasizes practical, real-world applications and efficiency, which are considered fundamental to its effectiveness in self-defense.

Sambo was developed by the Red Army in the early 1920s to improve their hand-to-hand combat abilities. It was intended to be a merger of the most effective techniques of other martial arts. The pioneers of Sambo were Viktor Spiridonov and Vasili Oshchepkov, who were the first to propagate this new martial art in the military and police forces.

Training for Sambo is rigorous and focuses on both stand-up and ground techniques. Stand-up training typically involves throws and strikes, while ground work focuses on submission holds and pins. Sambo training also incorporates strength and conditioning workouts, similar to other martial arts, to develop power, speed, and endurance.


What’s the Difference between Sambo and Combat Sambo?

Sambo and Combat Sambo both originated in Russia but have distinct differences that make each suitable for different purposes. Sambo, or Sport Sambo as it is sometimes called, is a grappling martial art that incorporates elements of Judo and various other wrestling styles, focusing on takedowns, joint locks, and pins. It is primarily a sport martial art with an emphasis on competitive training and tournaments, although it does equip practitioners with skills useful in self-defense scenarios.

Combat Sambo, on the other hand, is a more aggressive martial art designed for real-life combat situations. It integrates striking techniques, along with kicks, chokes, locks, and submissions from a wide range of martial arts. Combat Sambo was specifically developed for the Russian military’s hand-to-hand combat training, with its objectives focused on survival and neutralizing threats through lethal force when necessary.

The main difference between Sambo and Combat Sambo lies in the breadth of techniques utilized. In Combat Sambo, practitioners learn how to defend against attackers with a focus on efficiency and intent to injure or incapacitate their opponents. This results in a far more combative and brutal approach compared to Sport Sambo, which tends to emphasize technique and finesse in exchanges.

To sum up, Sambo and Combat Sambo share many of the same grappling techniques and foundational principles but diverge in their applications and objectives. While Sambo is oriented towards sports competition, Combat Sambo is tailored for real-world self-defense and military training purposes, incorporating a wider range of violent and aggressive techniques.

Key Summary Points on Sambo:

  • Sambo is a Russian martial art that combines elements of judo and wrestling.
  • Developed by the Red Army in the early 1920s, Sambo was designed to improve soldiers’ hand-to-hand combat abilities.
  • Sambo training is comprehensive and rigorous, including stand-up techniques, ground work, and strength and conditioning.
  • Sambo is divided into Sport Sambo, which is similar to judo, and Combat Sambo, which includes striking and grappling techniques and resembles mixed martial arts.
  • Sambo’s effectiveness in self-defense arises from its versatile techniques and its focus on real-world combat situations.

Why Sambo May Not Work for Self Defense

While Sambo is a powerful and aggressive martial art, it may not be the best choice for self-defense in real-life situations. One primary reason is that Sambo focuses heavily on high impact strikes and joint locks, which could be less practical for individuals who lack the physical strength to execute them effectively. In a self-defense scenario, it’s crucial to have a versatile skill set that works for various body types and fitness levels.

Another issue with Sambo is accessibility, as training facilities are scarce outside of Russia. This limited availability makes it harder for individuals to find proper instruction and practice to hone their skills adequately. Side note: even if someone were to find a reliable Sambo school, the training methods might be harsh, intense, and injury-prone, which could deter many people from pursuing it further.

Lastly, its effectiveness in self-defense may be attributed more to the mentality of the practitioners themselves rather than to the techniques taught. The Russian military’s tough training methods and the nation’s socioeconomic landscape breed a level of resilience and determination that may not be as prevalent in Western countries. In essence, relying solely on Sambo for self-defense could be problematic due to its limitations in versatility, accessibility, and training focus.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is another excellent option for learning self defense since it includes:

  1. Striking skills: Muay Thai is known for its striking skills, including punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. These techniques can be very effective in a self defense situation, allowing you to quickly and decisively strike an attacker.
  2. Conditioning: Muay Thai is a physically demanding martial art that requires a lot of conditioning and strength training. This can help you to build up your stamina and endurance, which can be useful in a self defense situation where you may need to fight for an extended period of time.
  3. Practical techniques: Muay Thai is a practical martial art that focuses on techniques that are useful in real-world situations. Unlike some traditional martial arts that may include techniques that are only useful in a controlled setting, Muay Thai includes techniques that are specifically designed for self defense.
  4. Mental toughness: Muay Thai training can be physically and mentally challenging, helping you to develop mental toughness and resilience. This can be helpful in a self defense situation where you may need to stay calm and focused under pressure.

Muay Thai Origins

The origins of Muay Thai date back centuries ago to the Sukhothai dynasty of Thailand, where it was developed as an art form with deep historical roots. Over time, it has evolved and adopted techniques from other martial arts such as boxing and jiu-jitsu so that practitioners can create their own unique style.

For those looking for a practical form of self-defense that also focuses on physical fitness, Muay Thai is an excellent option. With its emphasis on using all parts of your body combined with traditional elements, this martial art can help you become more confident and courageous while keeping you in shape at the same time.

Read More: Muay Thai History and Origins Explained

Why Muay Thai Works for Self Defense

Simply put Muay Thai is a great form of self-defense that enables practitioners to use all parts of their body – punches, kicks, elbows, knees and grappling techniques – to protect themselves in dangerous situations.

Muay thai utilizes every limb of the body to effectively strike your opponent. Learning to use your knees, elbows, and even clinch work makes Muay Thai an excellent choice for self defense.

Not only is Muay Thai an effective way to defend yourself against attackers, but it also offers numerous physical benefits. Regular training will help you build strength, endurance and overall fitness, while increasing your confidence and courage at the same time. It’s an ideal choice for anyone looking to get into shape or learn how to protect themselves from harm.

Why Muay Thai May not Work for Self Defense

While Muay Thai is highly effective in the sport and professional fighting arenas, it may not be ideal for self-defense situations.

1. One reason is that Muay Thai focuses on a limited set of techniques, primarily involving elbows, knees, fists, and feet/shins for striking.

2. Also, its lack of ground fighting techniques can leave practitioners vulnerable to opponents who excel in grappling or wrestling.

Now onto BJJ vs. Muay Thai

Again bjj is a grappling-based martial art that emphasizes ground fighting. There are no strikes in bjj. It solely focuses on taking your opponent down, controlling, then submitting them.

While,  Muay Thai, a striking-based martial art deriving from Thailand, utilizes nearly every body part to perform effective strikes such as fists, elbows, knees and shins.

It is not only excellent for self-defense but also helps practitioners build fantastic discipline, strength, and conditioning.

Boxing

Learning the basics of boxing is always an excellent choice since it will teach you:

  1. Striking skills: Boxing is a striking-based martial art that focuses on punching techniques. This can be useful in a self defense situation where you may need to quickly and decisively strike an attacker.
  2. Footwork and movement: Boxing also includes footwork and movement drills that can help you to evade attacks and move around your opponent. This can be useful in a self defense situation where you may need to avoid being hit or to create an opportunity to strike back.
  3. Mental toughness: Boxing training can be physically and mentally demanding, helping you to develop mental toughness and resilience. This can be useful in a self defense situation where you may need to stay calm and focused under pressure.
  4. Practical techniques: Boxing includes techniques that are specifically designed for self defense, such as the jab, cross, hook, and uppercut. These techniques can be very effective in a self defense situation, allowing you to quickly and decisively strike an attacker.

Boxing Origins

Boxing has been around for centuries, with references to it dating back to Ancient Greece.

It was one of the first spectator sports, and was often used as a training method for warriors. In early times, boxing matches were held without any gloves or protective gear; instead, boxers fought bare knuckle in duels that could last up to an hour.

Over time, rules and regulations were introduced to make boxing safer and more enjoyable.

Today, boxing remains a popular sport enjoyed by millions of people around the world.

Not only is it one of the highest grossing sports, but having a boxing background lends itself well to the world of mixed martial arts.

Why Does Boxing Work for Self Defense?

Boxing teaches you to block and defend yourself with counterattacks, while improving your motor skills, fitness, and mental preparedness.

With its roots in Ancient Greece and Rome, boxing has been used in battles and duels for centuries – and today it’s still popular all around the world.

Whether you’re looking to compete professionally or just want to learn some basic techniques for fun, there are many different types of boxing that you can choose from. Boxing teaches you how to protect yourself in a fight by using punches, kicks, blocks, and other defensive maneuvers. You’ll also improve your coordination and reflexes which will help you respond quickly in a dangerous situation.

Knowing how to throw a punch, counter punch, and dodge should be a massive part of your self defense training.

This martial art also helps to build confidence, courage, discipline and respect. Learning how to box will give you the skills needed to stand up for yourself if ever put in a violent situation.

Why Boxing May Not Work for Self Defense

Despite boxing’s advantages, several factors limit its effectiveness in real-life encounters.

1. While boxing equips individuals with strong striking and evasion techniques, it lacks the grappling skills necessary to handle opponents who initiate close combat or seek to pin them to the ground. Any attacker familiar with wrestling or jiu-jitsu techniques can exploit the limitations of a boxer in a self-defense scenario.

2. Boxing techniques are narrowly focused and might not provide an adequate overall self-defense skill set for such unpredictable conditions like a street fight

To make sure boxing covers all the bases for self-defense, it would be ideal for boxing practitioners to incorporate training in other martial art disciplines, such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Muay Thai or wrestling, to overcome the limitations of boxing and be better prepared for real-life encounters.

BJJ vs Boxing

BJJ emphasizes grappling for self-defense. With this style, you’ll learn how to use body placement and leverage against an attacker. 

Contrarily, boxing is a stand-up martial art that emphasizes strikes. It’s a terrific option if you want a challenging cardio workout and it also works well for self-defense. Boxing doesn’t need a lot of equipment and is a fairly simple sport to master. It places a strong emphasis on timing, movement, and strikes.

There is no grappling in the sport of boxing as it only relies on strikes with your fists. So a boxing is severely unmatched against a grappling based martial art as seen in the below video:

Karate

While modern day karate doesn’t necessary emphasis live sparring and may be more focus on point fighting, there are still some benefits for self defense. Since it can teach you:

  1. Striking skills: Karate is a striking-based martial art that emphasizes hand and foot strikes, as well as knee and elbow strikes. These techniques can be very effective in a self defense situation, allowing you to quickly and decisively strike an attacker.
  2. Self-defense techniques: Karate includes many self-defense techniques, such as blocking, striking, grappling, and joint-locking techniques. These techniques can be useful in a self defense situation, allowing you to defend yourself against an attacker and control the situation.
  3. Mental focus: Karate training places a strong emphasis on mental focus, discipline, and perseverance. This can be helpful in a self defense situation where you may need to stay calm and focused under pressure.
  4. Physical conditioning: Karate training can be physically demanding, helping you to develop strength, speed, and agility. This can be useful in a self defense situation where you may need to move quickly and evade an attacker.

Karate Origins

Karate is a martial art that originated in the Ryukyu Kingdom, which is now modern-day Okinawa, Japan.

The exact origins of karate are unclear, but it is believed to have evolved from indigenous martial arts practices that were influenced by Chinese martial arts and other combat styles from Southeast Asia.

Historically, Okinawa was an important trading center between China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, which allowed for the exchange of ideas and techniques related to martial arts.

In the 19th century, Okinawa was annexed by Japan, which led to the suppression of Okinawan culture and the banning of the possession and practice of weapons. As a result, Okinawan martial artists began to develop empty-hand techniques that could be used for self-defense.

One of the pioneers of modern karate was Funakoshi Gichin, who is often referred to as the father of modern karate. Funakoshi studied various Okinawan martial arts, including the styles of Shorin-ryu and Shorei-ryu, and traveled to Japan to promote karate as a form of physical and mental training. In 1936, Funakoshi established the Japan Karate Association, which helped to popularize karate as a martial art and competitive sport.

Why Karate May Work for Self Defense

Karate is effective for self-defense because it emphasizes the use of efficient and powerful striking techniques, as well as blocks, throws, and joint locks.

However, while we recommend other martial arts for self defense (like boxing, bjj, wrestling, and Muay Thai), if you would still like to pursue Karate for self defense – know that it has its limitations.

We recommend finding a karate school that emphasizes live sparing as much as possible.

Karate practitioners are trained to strike with speed, precision, and power, using their fists, elbows, knees, and feet.

They also learn to defend against strikes and grapples, and to use their opponent’s momentum and energy against them.

Why Karate May Not Work for Self Defense

Karate might not be the best martial art for self-defense in real-life scenarios.


Primarily, this is because traditional Karate training often focuses on learning and perfecting specific forms, called “kata,” which are choreographed sequences of movements. Although these forms develop strength, flexibility, and technique, they are not always pressure-tested or adaptable to unforeseen circumstances.


Next, in many Karate schools, sparring is point-based, which may not simulate the unpredictability and intensity of a street fight. Point-sparring often emphasizes controlled, singular strikes rather than combinations, which is not ideal in fluid, fast-paced situations.

Real-world altercations often involve grappling and close-quarter combat, both areas where Karate lacks emphasis and approachability.

This isn’t to say that Karate isn’t effective, karate has some devastating strikes and we have seen many top athletes in MMA use karate to its full advantage in the ring:

  • Lyoto Machida
  • Bas Rutten
  • GSP
  • Ryo Chonan
  • Semmy Schilt
  • Chuck Liddell
  • Keith Hackne
  • Guy Mezger
  • Pat Militech

BJJ vs Karate

This is a comparison of a more modern martial art vs a more traditional one.

Karate is one of the oldest martial arts, but in the present day a lot of the effectiveness and practices in the martial art rely around point fighting. It may be also worth noting that karate rarely has live sparring as opposed to bjj.

However, karate can still be considered quite effective as there have been several top MMA athletes who have proved its effectiveness in the ring such as:

  • Lyoto Machida
  • Bas Rutten
  • George St-Pierre
  • Stephen Thompson

So present day karate cannot be totally dismissed.

Karate is highly known for its powerful kicks and punches as well as for emphasizing respect and discipline. Karate is a quick learning martial art compared to other arts, making it a great choice for both fitness and self-defense

Read More: BJJ Vs Karate

Taekwondo (TKD)

Tae Kwon Do can be also be a good option for self defense. Mastering the powerful kicks in TKD can be extremely effective for self defense.

Here are some other reasons to consider it:

  1. Kicking techniques: Tae Kwon Do is known for its powerful and dynamic kicking techniques, which can be very effective in a self defense situation, allowing you to strike an attacker from a distance and create distance between you and the attacker.
  2. Self-defense techniques: Tae Kwon Do includes many self-defense techniques, such as blocking, striking, grappling, and joint-locking techniques. These techniques can be useful in a self defense situation, allowing you to defend yourself against an attacker and control the situation.
  3. Sparring: While some TKD schools do not practice live sparring, it is strongly recommended to consider a school that does. Live sparring has been proven to be the most effective indicate on whether or not a martial art will work for self defense.

Taekwondo Origins

Taekwondo is a martial art that has its roots in Korea.

It was developed in the 1940s and 1950s by combining elements from other Korean styles such as taekkyeon and subak with foreign combat styles such as karate.

This combination of styles was intended to create a form of self-defense that could be used in any situation, whether it be on the battlefield or when facing an opponent in a competition.

Taekwondo utilizes both physical and mental discipline, teaching practitioners to use their opponents’ energy against them and develop strong character traits such as respect, resilience, and discipline. The physical aspect of Taekwondo also helps to improve agility, flexibility, strength, and endurance.

Why Does Tae Kwon Do Work for Self Defense

Taekwondo is undoubtedly a great option for those looking to learn self-defense.

Not only does it teach you physical techniques to protect yourself, but it also trains your mind and helps you develop important character traits such as respect, resilience, and discipline.

Additionally, Taekwondo can help improve agility, flexibility, strength, and endurance which can be incredibly helpful in a fight.

By mastering high velocity kicks and some times spinning kicks, you learn to use your most powerful limbs against an attacker.

Why Tae Kwon Do May Not Work for Self Defense

TKD may not provide the desired outcome in self-defense situations.

The main reason lies in its reliance on kicks as the primary mode of attack. While high, quick kicks might be visually impressive and powerful, they are not always practical in confined spaces or close-combat situations where street fights frequently occur.

Plus some of the powerful kicks in TKD may leave you vulnerable with your back exposed or open to being off balanced.

Additionally, Tae Kwon Do’s effectiveness is considerably limited in grappling scenarios. Fights often shift from kicks and punches to grappling, and without proper grappling training, TKD practitioners may find themselves at a disadvantage. This limitation is crucial for self-defense since controlling the situation becomes impossible without efficient grappling knowledge.

BJJ vs Taekwondo – a solid complement to one another

Taekwondo, is a centuries-old Korean martial art that emphasizes kicks and palm strikes. Taekwondo students learn how to generate power through spinning and jumping kicks as well as defensive techniques such as blocks and parries. It is also a fantastic workout since it enhances coordination, balance, and flexibility.

Some consider BJJ the perfect complement to striking-based martial arts like Taekwondo because practitioners learn how to control and submit opponents from the ground while having some of the necessary striking skills taught by taekwondo.

Read More: BJJ vs Taekwondo

Other Martial Arts You May Consider

While the above martial arts are our most recommended martial arts for self defense, there are many other martial arts out there.

We wanted this post to be comprehensive and include information on as many different martial arts as possible. While, again, we strongly recommend the more practical, modern martial arts (and martial arts focused on unarmed combat), below are some more martial arts broken down with some basic info.

Some of these are definitely more effective than others when it comes to practicality and self defense.

Also remember when choosing a martial art for self defense they should:

  • include frequent live sparring
  • be taught by legitimate instructors
  • (ideally be easily accessible in terms of location/instruction)

So now let’s take a look at some other martial arts:

Kickboxing

Kickboxing is a stand-up fighting sport that combines elements of Karate, Muay Thai, and Western boxing.


If you are new to martial arts and want to focus on striking but not focus on the numerous strikes of Muay Thai, starting with boxing or kickboxing may be more your speed and may offer a more manageable learning curve.


By honing their punches, kicks, knees, and elbows, kickboxers develop superb coordination, agility, and power. The combination of striking techniques allows practitioners to generate offense from various angles, making them more unpredictable and difficult to counter. Intensive training also enhances cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and flexibility, promoting overall well-being.

One advantage of kickboxing is that it teaches powerful defensive techniques such as blocks, parries, and evasive footwork, enabling fighters to guard against incoming strikes. Furthermore, sparring is an integral component of kickboxing training, which instills the ability to handle real combat situations effectively. To ensure safety during training sessions, appropriate protective gear such as gloves, shin guards, and mouth guards is recommended.

Side note: While kickboxing offers valuable self-defense skills, it is essential to keep in mind that it lacks in grappling and ground fighting, which may limit its effectiveness in certain real-life situations.

Silat

Silat, a martial art originating from Southeast Asia, is a fierce and highly effective self-defense system.

Known for its fluid movements and powerful techniques, it combines striking, grappling, and weapon skills to disarm and neutralize opponents quickly.

One advantage of Silat is that it teaches practitioners to adapt to various environments and situations, making it well-suited for real-life confrontations.

Silat is also distinguished by its use of weaponry in training, providing an additional layer of self-defense capabilities. This can be a deciding factor in protecting oneself and loved ones in precarious situations. Overall, Silat’s comprehensive approach to self-defense, which includes environmental awareness and mental fortitude, makes it an excellent choice for those interested in mastering a self-defense martial art.

Lethwei

Lethwei, a Burmese martial art, is sometimes referred to as the “art of nine limbs.” It combines traditional boxing techniques with ferocious elbow, knee, and head strikes, making it a powerful and formidable self-defense martial art.

Lethwei demands a high degree of physical fitness and discipline and has gained international recognition for its ruthless sparring matches, which often leave fighters bruised and battered.

One advantage of Lethwei as a self-defense martial art is its aggressive and relentless approach to combat. Practitioners are trained to close the distance between themselves and their opponent rapidly, delivering lightning-fast and powerful strikes that can incapacitate attackers. These techniques can prove invaluable in situations where an individual is faced with an imminent threat, especially from an unarmed assailant.

Lethwei fighters are also highly conditioned, emphasizing endurance, strength, and agility. This level of fitness is critical in self-defense situations, as it allows practitioners to effectively manage their energy and avoid becoming overwhelmed or exhausted during a confrontation. Although Lethwei may not be accessible to everyone due to limited availability of training facilities, the martial art’s aggressive nature and powerful striking techniques make it a solid option for anyone committed to mastering self-defense skills.

Systema

The Russian martial art of Systema is designed to develop effective self-defense skills through natural body movements. Known for its fluidity and adaptability, Systema is taught to Russian military personnel and emphasizes hand-to-hand combat, grappling, and weapon disarmament.

Systema practitioners learn to use their body’s natural leverage and movements while employing techniques against opponents of varying strengths and sizes. This approach enables practitioners to adapt to different self-defense situations and neutralize threats effectively. Combining strikes, joint manipulation, and pressure point attacks, Systema offers a comprehensive and efficient self-defense system.

Escrima

Escrima, a Filipino martial art, is known for its weapon-based techniques, specifically focusing on sticks or blades. As a self-defense system, Escrima emphasizes versatility, adaptability, and speed, empowering its practitioners with a unique skill set designed to counter armed assailants effectively.

One advantage of Escrima is its focus on weapon proficiency, which can be essential in life-threatening situations where an attacker is armed. Trainees learn to wield and defend against various weapons, improving reflexes and hand-eye coordination. This unique skill set can be a game-changer, providing an edge in self-defense encounters.

Additionally, Escrima incorporates unarmed techniques, including striking, kicking, and grappling, to prepare practitioners for any scenario that may arise. This combination of weapon-based tactics and hand-to-hand combat techniques offers a well-rounded self-defense martial art system.

Savate

Savate, also known as French Kickboxing or La Boxe Française, is a highly effective martial art that combines boxing, grappling, and dynamic kicking techniques.

One of the key advantages of Savate is its focus on agility, precision, and fluidity of movement, making practitioners nimble fighters capable of delivering powerful strikes while maintaining a distance from their opponents.

In self-defense situations, Savate practitioners can use swift and accurate kicks to target vulnerable areas such as the opponent’s knee or head, increasing the chances of incapacitating their attacker efficiently. Moreover, the training in Savate also emphasizes the importance of dodging and evading incoming attacks, as well as counter-striking techniques that exploit an opponent’s weaknesses. Such a skill set can prove invaluable when faced with an unexpected confrontation or a potential threat.

Wing Chun: Precision and Efficiency

Wing Chun, a martial art with origins in Southern China, is founded on the principles of simplicity, directness, and efficiency in combat. One advantage of Wing Chun for self-defense is its emphasis on precise strikes to vulnerable targets.


While the techniques taught in Wing Chun may be effective if practiced wiyh enough repetition, I would still strongly recommend you learning more practical martial arts like boxing, kickboxing, bjj, Muay Thai, judo, or wrestling.


The unique combat style and philosophy of Wing Chun have been popularized through martial arts legends such as Ip Man and Bruce Lee.

Jeet Kune Do

Jeet Kune Do, also known as JKD, is a martial art founded by the legendary Bruce Lee in the 1960s.

Based on his belief in simplicity and practicality in combat, it eliminates unnecessary movements and emphasizes fluidity, speed, and power.

Jeet Kune Do by many is considered the first form of MMA devised by Bruce Lee to take with it only the most effective techniques from other martial arts and leaving ineffective or tradition based practices behind.

This martial art combines elements from various disciplines such as Wing Chun, Boxing, Fencing, and even Grappling. The idea is to create a well-rounded fighter who can defend themselves in multiple scenarios. By studying and incorporating these diverse techniques, a Jeet Kune Do practitioner becomes equipped with an arsenal of effective tools for self-defense.

Keysi Method

The Keysi Method, originating from Spain, is a self-defense system that emphasizes close-quarters fighting and the strategic use of peripheral vision.

However, we recommend you to be weary any time you see “self-defense” system since often times these systems are “watered-down” techniques from more prominent and practical martial arts.

Developed by Justo Diéguez and Andy Norman, this martial art has gained popularity through its use in Hollywood action movies like the “Batman” trilogy. The Keysi Method encourages practitioners to learn how to defend themselves using their body and mind as a coordinated unit. Training in this martial artis supposed to increases one’s reaction time, spatial awareness, and mental resilience under pressure.

Aikido

The core philosophy of Aikido is to neutralize potentially harmful situations without causing undue harm to the aggressor.


It should be noted that this martial arts practicality in a self defense situation has been mostly debunked (I actually took ~6 months of Aikido and can’t say I learned anything truly practical). Plus training doesn’t include the use of any sparring whatsoever.


Master Morihei Ueshiba founded Aikido in the early 20th century, drawing inspiration from traditional Japanese martial arts and blending it with his philosophy of peace and harmony. By applying joint locks, throws, and redirection techniques, Aikido practitioners aim to disarm and immobilize opponents without using excessive force. This non-violent approach ensures that practitioners can defend themselves while minimizing the risk of injury to all parties involved.

Hapkido

Hapkido, a Korean martial art, is a practical and highly effective self-defense system. It uniquely combines both striking and grappling techniques, making it a versatile option for those seeking comprehensive self-defense capabilities.

First developed in the early 20th century by Choi Yong-Sool, Hapkido integrates elements from various martial arts, focusing on joint locks, throws, strikes, and minimalist offensive movements. This martial art prioritizes self-defense tactics that allow individuals to subdue attackers with little risk of injury to either party. One advantage of Hapkido’s diverse techniques is that they can easily be adapted to the unique preferences and physical attributes of individual practitioners.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art that focuses on slow and controlled movements, is often seen as a means to promote relaxation and improve general health.

Tai Chi is not recommended for those who wish to learn a practical martial art for self defense purposes.

Traditional Tai Chi practice consists of learning a series of choreographed movements called forms. By mastering these forms, practitioners develop enhanced body awareness, balance, and coordination.

Gymnastics

While gymnastics may not be a martial art in the traditional sense, it holds immense potential for cultivating self-defense abilities, particularly in the areas of agility, strength, and body control. Plus we figured we should mention it if we are discussing other non practical martial arts (like aikido and tai chi).

The main advantage for learning gymnastics in terms of martial arts training is to gain better control over your body and spatial awareness.

These factors have great carryover effectiveness especially when it comes to grappling based martial arts. Gymnastics can also be a great intro for your child to guided instruction before diving into martial arts

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a martial art that is specifically designed for self defense and can be a very effective option for self defense for several reasons:

  1. Practical techniques: Krav Maga focuses on practical self defense techniques that are designed to be effective in real-world situations. The techniques emphasize quick, explosive movements that are aimed at disabling an attacker as quickly as possible.
  2. Multiple attackers: Krav Maga training attempts to include techniques for dealing with multiple attackers, which is a common scenario in a self defense situation.
  3. Realistic training: Krav Maga training involves realistic scenarios and stress drills that simulate real-world self defense situations. This helps students to develop the skills and mindset needed to effectively defend themselves in a high-stress situation.

Its important to note that when looking for a Krav Maga school, you focus on finding a legitimate school that teaches practical techniques and includes live sparring. Krav Maga may often lead to non practical techniques if the school is not legitimate.


Finally, it should also be noted that Krav Maga borrows from other martial arts such as Muay Thai, jiu jitsu, boxing, and wrestling.

However, if you are more interested in those martial arts you may be better suited finding a school that only focus on teaching those disciplines.

Krav Maga Origins

Krav Maga is an Israeli self-defense system that was developed in the 1940s by Imi Lichtenfeld. He used his skills as a boxer, wrestler and martial artist to create this unique form of combat training.

It’s designed to be instinctive and easy to learn, so anyone can quickly become proficient at it.

Krav Maga is a highly aggressive style of fighting with an emphasis on offensive tactics such as strikes, throws and chokes. The goal is to disable an attacker as quickly as possible and get away safely. Training often includes rubber knives and guns so practitioners can learn how to defend themselves in real-life scenarios.

Krav Maga has grown in popularity worldwide over the years due to its effectiveness in self-defense situations. It’s also been adopted by many law enforcement agencies around the globe for use in their training programs. With its focus on using natural body movements combined with powerful techniques, Krav Maga has become one of the most popular martial arts today.

Why Does Krav Maga Work for Self Defnse

Krav Maga is quickly becoming one of the most popular martial arts for self-defense. It was created by Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1940s, and it has since been adopted by law enforcement agencies around the world as part of their training programs.

So what makes Krav Maga so effective?

It’s an aggressive style of fighting that emphasizes offensive tactics such as strikes, throws, and chokes. The goal is to disable an attacker as quickly as possible and get away safely. It also uses natural body movements combined with powerful techniques, making it easier to learn than some other martial arts.

Krav Maga is ideal for self-defense because it doesn’t necessarily involve grappling on the ground or any complicated moves – instead, its focus is on using your own body to create an effective defense.

BJJ vs Krav Maga – why don’t we see more Krav Maga in MMA?

Krav Maga is a self-defense style that emphasizes real-world effectiveness. It’s best for people looking to defend themselves in realistic scenarios. It is also well regarded for being quite dangerous, as it frequently employs techniques that may cause an opponent serious harm in a real fight.

Some of the striking in Krav Maga may be considered illegal in MMA as certain techniques such as eye gouging, ground strikes, and throat strike may cause unneeded permanent damage in the ring.

However, its real word effective remains somewhat of a mystery.

In the martial art, there is rarely if ever any live sparring against a fully resisting opponents so the techniques aren’t testing as frequently as compared to the sparring heavy martial art of bjj.

Kung Fu

Yes, Kung Fu can be used for self-defense.

However, modern Kung Fu schools that teach practical and effective techniques for self defense are likely very difficult to find – for this reason we recommend more accessible martial arts training like bjj or boxing.

Kung Fu is a martial art that encompasses a wide range of techniques from a variety of different types of Kung Fu.

These techniques can be adapted and applied to different situations and opponents, making Kung Fu a practical and effective martial art for self-defense when trained properly by a legitimate school.

Kung Fu Origins

The origins of Kung Fu are shrouded in myth, legend, and tall tales, but it is believed to have developed over thousands of years in China.

Kung Fu encompasses a diverse range of styles, including Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Wing Chun, among others.

According to legend, Kung Fu was developed by Bodhidharma, an Indian monk who traveled to China in the 5th or 6th century CE and taught a system of exercises to the monks at the Shaolin Temple.

Over time, the system evolved and was adapted by various martial arts masters, resulting in the many different styles of Kung Fu that exist today. Kung Fu has played an important role in Chinese culture and history, and its influence can be seen in everything from Chinese medicine to popular culture.

Why Does Kung Fug Work for Self Defense

Kung Fu can be effective for self-defense because it encompasses a wide variety of techniques that can be adapted to different situations and opponents.

However, modern Kung Fu schools that teach practical and effective techniques for self defense are likely very difficult to find – for this reason we recommend more accessible martial arts training like bjj or boxing.

Kung Fu emphasizes the use of strikes, kicks, throws, joint locks, and pressure point attacks, as well as the use of weapons.

Kung Fu practitioners are trained to use their whole body to generate power and to move with speed and agility.

Next, BJJ vs Kung Fu

Kung Fu is a striking-based martial art that prioritizes punches and kicks. It is heavily philosophically influenced and touts many spiritual benefits such as self-discipline, confidence, calmness as well as physically benefits such as and improving coordination and endurance.

Kung Fu is frequently executed with grace and force, which makes it quite beautiful to see. Its real world effectiveness does remain unproven as seen by the below bjj challenge video:

Japanese Jiu Jitsu

Japanese jiu jitsu > judo > Brazilian jiu jitsu

Japanese jiu jitsu (while not popular as a modern martial art) likely spawned several martial arts including Judo and eventually Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Japanese JJ is the culmination of a variety of different martial arts styles and schools that has gone on to influence dozens of martial arts.

Ultimately, we recommend considering other more modern and accessible martial arts for self defense.


Japanese jiu jitsu when compared to bjj can be considered more judo based.

The way in which it diverts from judo is that it does have forms of striking (striking often similar to karate).

Similar to bjj, it does utilize forms of wrist and join locks to subdue an opponent.

This alludes to the fact that in order to successfully execute these techniques, one does not need brute strength, but rather focus and precision.

The big difference is that in Japanese jiu jitsu there isn’t as large of an emphasis put upon live sparring or performing techniques on a fully resisting partner.

Often it may resemble Aikido in this way. However, you may still learn some valuable techniques and principles in Japanese jiu jitsu for self defense such as:

  • kuzushi – off balancing your opponent
  • distance management
  • verbal deescalation


Finally, it’s important to realize that a Japanese jiu jitsu black belt is no where near as skilled as a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt – this is heavily due to bjj’s emphasis on frequent live sparring

Japanese Jiu Jitsu Origins

Japanese Jiu Jitsu, also known as Jujutsu or Jujitsu, has its origins in Japan in the feudal era, dating back to the 16th century.

During this time, the samurai warriors were the ruling class, and they needed effective unarmed combat techniques to use when their weapons were lost or unusable.

The origins of Jiu Jitsu are believed to be rooted in the hand-to-hand combat techniques used by these warriors.

Over time, Jiu Jitsu evolved and was refined by various schools and masters in Japan, each developing their own styles and techniques.

Jiu Jitsu became widely popular and was even adopted by the police and military in Japan as a means of self-defense and combat training. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jiu Jitsu was introduced to the West, where it would later influence the development of modern martial arts such as Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Japanese Jiu Jitsu for Self Defense

Japanese Jiu Jitsu can be used for self-defense.

Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that focuses on close-range combat and grappling techniques, including throws, joint locks, chokes, and strikes.

Since it likely spawned judo and eventually bjj, there may still be effective Japanese jj techniques out there, however, finding a legitimate school may be very difficult if not impossible.

Which is why we recommend a more modern, practical martial art like Brazilian jiu jitsu, boxing, or judo.

Japanese vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

If you’re trying to decide which of these styles to learn, it really depends on your goals and preferences. BJJ places more emphasis on ground fighting and submission holds, while Japanese Jiu Jitsu focuses more on throws and takedowns, strikes, and weaponry.

 As a result, many people consider BJJ to be more effective in self-defense situations. 

However, both styles require a lot of skill and discipline to master. They’re also both excellent ways to improve strength, flexibility, and agility.

Read More: BJJ vs Japanese Jiu Jitsu

What Is The Best Martial Art For A Street Fight?

Now that we’ve did a quick comparison of many popular martial arts, what is the best martial art for a street fight.

First off, walking or running away is always the best martial art for a street fight – it is 100% effective in avoiding needless injury.

In the real world, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to martial arts.

The ideal self-defense style for a street fight is situation dependent, with factors such as the attacker’s size and power, the number of attackers, and the amount of space available playing a role. 

There are certain martial arts that are generally more effective in a street fight than others.

For instance, if you’re smaller in stature, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu emphasizes submissions and can be especially useful against larger people. Muay Thai is a powerful striking art that excels in single combat situations. 

However, if you find yourself fighting multiple opponents at the same time, again running away is always the best option, but if forced into an unavoidable situation a striking martial art is highly recommended since any form of grappling will leave you open to attacks from others.

In the end, martial arts are like any other tool; the best one to use will depend entirely on the individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

How to Learn Self Defense?

In terms of how to learn self defense, the greatest option will be determined by your goals, availability, and athleticism.

The best way to learn self defense is to join a local martial arts gym and dedicate yourself to learning and practicing the presented techniques.

If that isn’t possible for you due to other constraints, there has been a recent boom of quality online resources whether it be through Youtube or other martial arts instructional website such as bjj fanatics.

If you’re looking to get the most out of your martial arts instructional check out our post on how to do just that here.

 Many martial arts organizations provide lessons for all levels of expertise, allowing you to progress at your own speed. Martial arts training may also aid in the development of confidence, fitness, and discipline. 

Its important that after you analyze what martial arts for you that you find a gym that is welcoming, patient, and helpful.

Since you’ll be spending quite a bit of time at your chosen martial arts gym its important that you find the right one for you.

For our guide on finding the best gym for you take a look here

What’s the Best Martial Art to Learn?

So what’s the best martial art to learn?

You should choose to learn a martial art that has structured learning, physical and mental health benefits, and emphasizes live sparring

However, these factors will definitely be influence on your goals, constraints, and physical attributes.

Remember! There are several martial arts to select from, so it might be tough to determine which is best for you.

If you want to learn a full self-defense system that will work, we obviously can’t recommend Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu enough.

If bjj isn’t for you that’s totally okay, I’d also recommend signing up for wrestling or judo if your local school offers it.

I promise you will regret not having wrestled in your younger years if you want to pursue a future life surrounded by martial arts.

If you are looking for a striking martial art with real world effectiveness then the ones listed below are all great options:

  • boxing
  • kickboxing
  • Muay Thai
  • Taekwondo

All of these martial arts mentioned so far will have both mental and physical benefits and will undoubtedly enhance your life.

If you are looking for a more traditional martial art that has strong philosophical influences and less live sparring then maybe a martial art like karate or Aikido may be fore you.

The greatest martial art for you is the one you like learning and practicing every week, and one that you stick with the longest.

Related Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the most useful martial art for self-defense?

There is no one “most useful” martial art for self-defense as it depends on a variety of factors, such as

  • the situation
  • the individual’s physical abilities
  • their training experience.

However, some martial arts are often recommended for their practical self-defense applications, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga, Boxing, and Wrestling.

*Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is known for its focus on grappling and submissions, making it useful for taking down an opponent and controlling them on the ground.

*Muay Thai and Boxing both teach striking techniques

*While Wrestling emphasizes takedowns and grappling.


What are the top 3 martial arts for self-defense?

If we had to choose the top 3 martial arts for self defense, they would be:

  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  • Wrestling
  • Muay Thai

Which martial art is best for street fight?

Obviously a street fight should always be avoided, and we all know running away is the safest form of self defense however…

There are a few martial arts that may be useful in a street fight.

  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is effective in close-quarters combat and grappling situations, and can allow one to control and neutralize an attacker, potentially avoiding strikes while doing very little harm to an attacker
  • Boxing and Muay Thai are striking-oriented martial arts that teach punches, kicks, and elbows that can quickly incapacitate an attacker.

What fighting style do Navy SEALs use?

Navy SEALs are trained in a variety of fighting styles.

Their training includes techniques from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, Muay Thai, and wrestling.

These techniques are adapted and combined to form a style that is best suited for the specific scenarios they may encounter in combat.


Can Any Martial Art Effectively Deal with Multiple Attackers? (No)

Dealing with multiple attackers is one of the most challenging aspects of self-defense.

No martial art is entirely foolproof against multiple opponents. While some disciplines may be more effective in such scenarios than others, it’s worth noting that the primary goal should be to create an opportunity to escape rather than aiming to defeat all attackers.

When it comes to dealing with multiple attackers evasion and escape should be the goal.


Can Any Martial Art Defend Against an Attacker with a Weapon like a Knife or Gun? (No)

No martial art can guarantee complete protection against a person armed with a knife, gun, or any other weapon.


What Are the Best Martial Arts for Fitness?

The best martial arts for overall fitness are those that provide a complete workout and cover various aspects such as strength, flexibility, cardio, and endurance while also being highly accessible.

Martial arts like the below are all great options:

  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is an excellent choice as it focuses on grappling and ground fighting techniques, requiring both muscle strength and endurance. BJJ training sessions typically include warm-ups, technique drills, and sparring, all of which contribute to physical fitness.
  • Muay Thai, on the other hand, is a striking-focused martial art that offers a full body workout by incorporating punches, kicks, knees, and elbows.

Do Certain Martial Arts Complement Each Other?

Yes, specific martial arts do complement each other when combined, allowing practitioners to develop a well-rounded and versatile fighting skill set.

One prime example is the merging of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Muay Thai.

BJJ is a ground-based martial art that emphasizes joint locks, chokes, and submissions, while Muay Thai is a striking martial art using punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. When these two are combined, a practitioner develops proficiency in both close-quarter combat and ground fighting.

Another example of complementary martial arts is the integration of Judo and Wrestling. Judo techniques focus on using an opponent’s force against them through throws and joint manipulations, while Wrestling primarily emphasizes takedowns and controlling opponents on the ground. Combining these two disciplines can lead to a powerful and comprehensive grappling skillset.


How Long Does It Take to Become Proficient in a Martial Art?

Generally, mastering a martial art requires consistent practice and dedication. For instance, it can take 8-10 years to achieve a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, while earning the same rank in Taekwondo or Karate may take 4-5 years.

On average, from most martial arts, you can expect:

  • 1-2 years to be comfortable with the basics
  • 2-5 years be confident in your skills against others (especially against those who are untrained)
  • 6+ years be considered at a more advanced level

Why Muay Thai, BJJ and wrestling Is the Ultimate Combination for Self Defense

The integration of Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), and wrestling provides practitioners with an unparalleled edge in real-life confrontations. This powerful combination equips individuals with a diverse range of striking, grappling, and submission techniques to neutralize potential threats efficiently and decisively.

The combination of the below of each martial art simply make them the best combination for self defense:

  • the striking options taught in Muay Thai
  • the takedowns and standing grappling of Wrestling
  • the submissions and ground fighting focus of BJJ

A key advantage of Muay Thai lies in its striking capabilities, covering a wide range of powerful punches, kicks, elbows, and knee strikes. Known as the “Art of 8 Limbs,” Muay Thai empowers practitioners to use their whole body as a weapon. This martial art also teaches essential aspects like footwork, timing, and maintaining distance, ensuring that individuals can effectively control the stand-up aspect of a fight.

On the other hand, BJJ excels in ground fighting and provides valuable grappling skills, allowing practitioners to take control in close-combat situations. With its emphasis on technique and leverage, BJJ enables even smaller or physically weaker individuals to effectively subdue larger opponents through the use of joint locks and strangles. This aspect makes BJJ an essential addition to the self-defense arsenal.

Finally, wrestling shines in its focus on takedowns and control, bridging the gap between the striking prowess of Muay Thai and the ground domination of BJJ. Wrestlers are skilled at taking down opponents and maintaining a dominant position, often neutralizing an opponent’s power advantage or stand-up fighting skills. This gives practitioners the ability to dictate where the fight occurs, providing an essential edge in self-defense situations.


What’s the Easiest Martial Art to Learn?

Although no martial art can be mastered without dedication and practice, some have a more gentle learning curve.

One example of an accessible martial art is boxing.

While boxing, like other martial arts, takes year and years to master, you are essentially learning a limited number of strikes and basic movements that you can pick up within a shorter amount of time.

Another candidate for the easiest martial art to learn is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Although BJJ involves complex ground fighting and submission techniques, the art’s focus on technique and strategy over sheer strength makes it an attractive option for beginners no matter your skill level or athleticism.


Which Martial Art is Right for Me?

Which martial art is right for me? Is there even one?

With so many different martial arts styles available, it can be tough to determine which one would suit you best.

Martial arts are a great way not only to get into better shape but also learn self-defense and de-stress.

If you’re looking for a martial arts program to help you defend yourself, Brazilian jiu-jitsu or Muay Thai two good options that focus on realistic methods that may be used in real-world scenarios.

If you prefer martial arts for the mental challenge and discipline, Taekwondo or karate might be a better fit. 

Finally, martial arts are an excellent method to keep physically active and healthy. They provide a wonderful type of self-defense and may also be used as a form of self-expression.

Martial arts can be completed by people of all ages and skill levels, and they can be modified to fit any level of fitness. 

Whether you want to lose weight or simply learn how to protect yourself, martial arts may be the ideal sport for you.

Thanks for stopping by and have a good day – Zack