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Best Self Defense Martial Arts

Home » Best Self Defense Martial Arts

Welcome to the fascinating world of martial arts self-defence! In this article, we’ll look at the finest martial arts styles for self-defence so you can find the perfect fit for your needs. We’ll cover everything from the explosive strength of striking disciplines like boxing and kickboxing to the grappling skills of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling to the defensive strategies of Krav Maga and Aikido. But what makes a martial art effective for self-defence? Is it the techniques, the training methods, or the mindset of the practitioner? Join us on this journey as we answer these questions and uncover the top self-defence martial arts in the world.

Best Martial Arts List: Everything You Need to Know

Let’s start dissecting this subject piece by piece. In this section, we will be discussing everything you need to know about the different martial arts styles that are most effective for self defense. 

With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right martial art for your self-defence needs. But fear not, as we will be covering the key factors that make a martial art effective for self defense, and we will also be presenting a comprehensive list of the best martial arts for self-defence. So sit tight and get ready to dive into the world of martial arts!

Martial Arts History

The history of martial arts is steeped in the traditions of countless martial arts disciplines from all over the world. An epic tale of warriors and gladiators. The origins of martial arts being mixed together can be found in the ancient Greek Olympic games, where pankration—a brutal combination of striking and grappling—was a popular combat sport. 

Fast Forward to the 20th century, when the birth of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the legendary Gracie family led to the creation of mixed martial arts (MMA). Fighters from various martial arts backgrounds would compete in no-holds-barred matches in the early days of MMA to see which style was the most effective. 

Today, MMA has evolved into a highly technical and regulated sport, with fighters from all over the world competing in various promotions like, Centurion Fighting Championship.

How to choose the best for you

Choosing the right martial art for self-defence can be a daunting task, especially for those new to the sport. But fear not, my fellow fight enthusiasts! Here are some tips to help you choose the best martial art for your style and needs.

  1. Firstly, consider your physical abilities and fitness level. If you’re more of a striker, perhaps kickboxing or boxing would be your best bet. On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with grappling and submissions, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or wrestling could be right up your alley.
  1. Secondly, consider your goals. Are you looking to compete professionally or simply wanting to learn self-defence techniques? Different martial arts will have different training methods and styles that cater to specific goals.
  1. Lastly, do your research. Look up different martial arts schools and instructors, read reviews and watch videos to get a sense of their teaching style and approach. And remember, finding the right martial art for you may take some trial and error, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find the perfect fit.

List of the best martial arts for self defense

Let’s move on and investigate the best martial arts styles that have been shown to be efficient in practical self-defence scenarios. We’ll cover a variety of styles, from striking arts like Muay Thai and boxing to grappling arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, to give you the tools and strategies you need to defend yourself and your loved ones. This list has something for everyone, regardless of your level of martial arts proficiency. So let’s get started!


Russian for “self-defence without weapons,” Sambo is a grappling martial art created by the Soviet Red Army in the early 1920s. Sambo is short for “SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya.” Sambo teaches students how to effectively defend themselves in close-quarters combat. Sambo is renowned for its powerful throws and submission holds and incorporates moves from judo, jiu-jitsu, and wrestling.

Sambo is a great martial art for self defense because it teaches practitioners how to use their opponent’s momentum against them and knock them to the ground. Sambo practitioners are also instructed in attack avoidance and environmental awareness. To practise Sambo, you’ll need a gi, wrestling boots, and knee pads.

Sambo is a great option if you’re looking to learn a martial art that emphasizes useful self-defence methods.


Karate, which in Japanese means “empty hand,” is a powerful martial art that was developed on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa. Karate, which was created in the early 20th century, is renowned for its strong punches, kicks, and knee strikes. Karate is a fantastic way to get in shape and is also a very effective self defense method that focuses on deflecting and counter-attacking an opponent’s blows.

Karate students are taught a wide range of techniques and blows, such as punches, kicks, knee strikes, and elbow blows. In order to defend against takedowns from opponents, they also learn grappling moves and throws. Karate training requires the proper tools, such as a focus pad for practising strikes, a gi (uniform), and safety gear like gloves and shin guards.

Kung Fu

Kung Fu, also known as Wushu, is a Chinese martial art that originated in the Shaolin Temple in the Henan province during the 4th century. Kung Fu translates to “skill”, or “hard work and dedication” and is known for its fluid and graceful movements. It is a complete fighting system that focuses on both offensive and defensive techniques, using strikes, kicks, joint locks, and throws. 

Kung Fu is an effective self-defence system due to its emphasis on utilising an attacker’s own force against them. 

Training in Kung Fu involves various equipment such as punching bags, wooden dummies, and training weapons like swords and staffs.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The grappling-based martial art known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, was created in Brazil in the early 20th century. Due to its emphasis on ground combat and submission holds, BJJ is a martial art that works well in self-defence scenarios.

The Gracie family in Brazil made changes to Japanese Jiu-Jitsu that led to the development of BJJ. The Gracie family made the art well-known by demonstrating its potency in no-holds-barred contests, such as the early UFC events.

BJJ focuses on techniques that can subdue a bigger, stronger opponent, making it a great choice for self defence. It emphasises timing, technique, and leverage over brute force, making it a viable option for people of all shapes and sizes. Some people may find the close contact nature of BJJ intimidating, however, this can be overcome easily in a trustworthy environment, where the focus is solely on the practice.

You will require a gi (uniform) and a belt to represent your rank in order to practise BJJ, (or just a rash guard and pocketless shorts if it’s No-Gi BJJ). Some schools might also demand extra safety equipment, like a mouthguard or a pair of grappling gloves.

Muay Thai

The combat sport of Muay Thai, also referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs,” has its roots in Thailand. Fists, elbows, knees, and shins are used as striking implements in this martial art. The Thai military has long employed this well-liked method of self-defence.

Muay Thai has its roots in the 15th century, a time when neighbouring kingdoms were frequently at war with the Thai people. Muay Thai was created as a fighting style to defend their nation’s borders and citizens. It is now regarded as one of the world’s most powerful striking arts.

Because Muay Thai is a full-contact sport and its practitioners are used to striking and defending themselves against actual opponents, it is perfect for self-defence. Additionally, it teaches how to be aware of one’s surroundings, walk correctly, and use angles to avoid attackers.

There are a few necessary pieces of gear you’ll need if you want to train in Muay Thai. These include headgear, mouthguards, shin guards, and gloves. You’ll have no trouble learning this potent martial art if you have the right tools and a top-notch gym.


Fast, high kicks and quick hand strikes are the main components of the Korean martial art of taekwondo. The Korean words “tae” (meaning “to strike with the foot”), “kwon” (meaning “to strike with the fist”), and “do” are used to form the name Taekwondo (meaning “way” or “path”). Taekwondo’s roots can be found in the Chinese martial arts that were introduced to Korea as well as the Korean martial arts Taekkyeon and Subak.

Taekwondo’s emphasis on quick, powerful kicks makes it a useful skill in a variety of self-defence scenarios. Additionally, flexibility, balance, and general physical fitness are all enhanced by taekwondo training. 

You’ll need a uniform (called a dobok) and safety equipment like mouthguards, shin guards, and hand wraps in order to practise Taekwondo.


Wrestling is a combat sport that involves grappling techniques such as clinching, takedowns, and pins. The objective is to gain control over your opponent and either score points or achieve a victory by pinning them to the ground. The origins of wrestling can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Greece and Egypt, where it was used as a form of training for soldiers. Wrestling has been included in the Olympics since 708 BC and has since become one of the most popular combat sports in the world.

In terms of self-defence, wrestling can be highly effective as it focuses on grappling and takedown techniques that can help a person control their opponent in a real-life situation. Additionally, wrestling can improve one’s balance, coordination, and overall physical fitness, making it a great option for those looking to enhance their combat skills.

As for equipment, wrestling requires minimal gear – typically just a pair of wrestling shoes and a singlet. However, headgear may also be worn to protect the ears and prevent injury.


The focus of the Japanese martial art of Judo is on throws and grappling manoeuvres. Jigoro Kano, is considered as the founder of Judo for his skills, and contribution to the art back in the late 19th century, and today it is an Olympic sport. Judo is a martial art that places a strong emphasis on using an opponent’s strength and movements against them. The word “judo” can be translated as “gentle way.”

Judo teaches methods for throwing, pinning, and submitting an opponent, making it a great choice for self-defence. Judo is a fantastic option for people of all ages and abilities because it places a strong emphasis on discipline, respect, and physical fitness.

You’ll need a Judo gi (Judo uniform) and a belt to represent your rank in order to practise judo. Tatami (Judo mats) are also required for practice and competition.


For good reason, boxing is one of the most practised forms of martial arts around the globe. Boxing, a combat sport with ancient Greek roots, has developed into an extreme test of one’s physical, mental, and technical abilities.

Boxers are renowned for their quick reactions, deft footwork, and accurate, resounding punches. Learning how to strike with lightning speed and devastating force with your fists is one of boxing’s many valuable lessons for those looking to protect themselves. 

Boxing is a sport that requires proper equipment (gloves, hand wraps, a mouth guard, punching bags) and instruction (a qualified coach).

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a martial art and self-defence system created for the IDF (IDF). In Hebrew, Krav Maga means “contact combat,” and it was created by a Hungarian-Israeli martial artist named Imi Lichtenfeld in the 1930s. It is well-known that the techniques taught in Krav Maga can be effectively used in a wide variety of real-world settings. It’s great for people of all ages and fitness levels because it relies on using only your body’s natural movements and instincts. 

Krav Maga is a well-rounded martial art for self defense due to its emphasis on striking, kicking, grappling, and ground fighting. 

Gloves, hand wraps, shin guards, and a mouthguard are all recommended pieces of gear for Krav Maga practitioners.


The Japanese martial art of Aikido was created in the early 20th century by Morihei Ueshiba. Its name, which translates to “the way of harmony with the spirit,” comes from the zen philosophy of Japan. Instead of relying on physical force, Aikido emphasises channelling the attacker’s own energy to use against them. Although its circular movements and joint locks can prove useful in self-defence situations, it’s best to complement those skills with those from another martial art, such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu or wrestling, to ensure you know how to take someone down, or how to avoid being taken down yourself.

Flexibility, coordination, and general physical fitness can all see significant gains from practising Aikido. Comfortable gi (uniform) and, for more advanced students, hakama (skirt-like trousers) are required to try out Aikido. 

A bokken (wooden sword) and jo (staff) may be necessary for some exercises at some dojos.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Now for my personal favorite, MMA! Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combat sport that, as the name implies, draws from a wide range of martial arts disciplines. MMA is more than a sport; it’s a culture with deep roots. Mixed martial arts training is great for self-defence because it teaches you how to defend yourself in any situation. MMA is also great if you just want to get in shape, learn self-defence, or do both. 

The road ahead is not an easy one, but training MMA might just be the best option for self defence in general due to its variety of styles. If you think you got what it takes, get in the cage, put in the work, and prove yourself victorious!

Remember to take a mouth guard, hand wraps, and MMA or boxing gloves (ask the instructor which type of gloves are needed) to your first session.


Kickboxing! From legendary films starring Jean Claude Van Damme, to world-renowned champions like Peter “The Dutch Lumberjack” Aerts, everyone has heard of Kickboxing at some point in their life. The ideal martial art for those looking to combine karate, boxing, and muay thai techniques. In the 1960s and 1970s, kickboxing first appeared in Japan and quickly spread to the West and Europe. Its powerful kicks and punches are an excellent way to increase your cardiovascular fitness, burn calories, and gain knowledge of practical self-defence moves.

Kickboxing teaches you focus, respect, and discipline in addition to how to kick and punch. Kickboxing is a great choice for self-defence because it teaches you how to protect yourself in close quarters.

You will require a few necessary pieces of gear, including gloves, shin guards, and headgear, to begin your kickboxing journey. Kickboxing has the potential to be an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding martial art with the right instruction and tools.


The Malay Peninsula is where the Southeast Asian martial art of silat was created. The word “Silek,” which means “to fight” or “to spar,” is the source of the word’s name. Silat is renowned for its graceful, fluid movements and emphasis on self-defence methods. 

Silat’s history can be traced back to the 7th century, when the Malay people first used it for self-defence. Due to its emphasis on close-quarters combat, joint locks, and throws, silat is regarded as a useful martial art for self-defence. 

Practitioners typically wear a training uniform and safety equipment like gloves and shin guards.


The Dojo, ah!  It’s not a martial art per se, but a term we use to refer to a training hall or centre where martial arts are taught. Dojo is a Japanese word that translates to “place of the way.” Martial artists can practise and hone their techniques in this sacred setting, frequently under the direction of a sensei or master. 

Even though the dojo itself doesn’t help with self-defence, it’s an important part of martial arts training because it helps students learn focus, discipline, and respect. 

The right gear is essential for your dojo training, just like it is for training in any other setting. This equipment should include comfortable clothing, a water bottle, and possibly protective gear depending on the martial art being practised.


The best martial art for self-defence is the one that fits your lifestyle and your needs. After researching a number of the most effective martial arts for self-defence, we can say with certainty that they all have a few things in common. They’re great for learning self-defence, getting in a good workout, and bolstering self-control, strength, and confidence. Culture, history, and training methods for each martial art are all distinctive. If you’re ready to start learning self-defence, it’s important to take your time, do your homework, and have fun along the way.


Which martial art is better for self-defense?

It ultimately depends on the individual’s preference and circumstances, but some of the best martial arts for self-defence include Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Muay Thai.

What martial art do Navy Seals use?

Navy SEALs are trained in a variety of martial arts, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, Muay Thai, Krav Maga, and Wrestling.

What is the most realistic martial art?

It’s difficult to say which martial art is the most realistic since every style has its strengths and weaknesses. However, some of the most practical martial arts for self-defence include Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Boxing.

Which martial art is most effective in street fight?

Similar to the previous question, the answer to this question is subjective. However, some of the most effective martial arts in a street fight include Krav Maga, Boxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Is karate or jiu jitsu better for self-defense?

Both Karate and Jiu-Jitsu can be effective for self-defence, but they are different styles with different techniques. Karate focuses more on striking, while Jiu-Jitsu emphasises grappling and submissions.

What is the most useful martial art in a street fight?

The most useful martial art in a street fight is one that teaches practical techniques for real-life situations. Krav Maga, Boxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are all great options for street fighting.