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The 6 Best Martial Arts for Self-Defence

What are the best martial arts to train? Which forms of self-defence are truly the most effective in a real-life situation?

I believe martial arts are one of the best vehicles for self-improvement. They foster health, fitness, discipline, perseverance, and confidence as you learn how to defend yourself and your loved ones. But not every fighting style is created equal.

Each martial art offers different levels of utility.

Some styles are geared toward sports and competitions; others are strictly for self-defence, and some offer a blend of both self-defence and competition applications. However, it’s safe to say that most become interested in martial arts for protection purposes.

With this in mind, you may wonder which fighting styles are the best. In no particular order, here are 6 of the best martial arts you can train in for self-defence.

1. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Photo by: frantic00

I won’t lie; I am a little biased since I’ve been training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu for a little over a year now.

But aside from my opinion, BJJ has been labelled as one of the most effective martial arts. BJJ is a self-defence method based on grappling and ground fighting. Its major appeal is that — with enough training — a smaller, weaker person can submit and dominate a bigger, stronger opponent.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu focuses on takedowns, submissions, strangleholds, and more.

And since most fights end up on the ground, BJJ is an obvious and practical choice regarding self-defence. A skillful practitioner (someone with at least a blue belt, although even white belts can be quite dangerous to an untrained person) can subdue and control opponents much larger in size and strength.

For these reasons — in addition to many others — BJJ is one of the best forms of self-defence.

2. Kickboxing

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Photo by: Geribody

Kickboxing is a standing combat sport based on strikes and kicks.

Believe it or not, it’s actually a very unnatural act for a human to throw a punch. Sure, it may look easy enough in the movies, but that doesn’t imply those big-screen fight scenes translate well into real life. The truth is that something as simple as striking actually requires a lot of technique and practice.

Most people are ill-equipped in skill and coordination to be throwing punches. Just look at any street fight YouTube video; people are unjustifiably cocky (and they often pay the price for it).

Kickboxing helps to develop your striking, kicking, and cardio abilities. Moreover, this martial art is practiced for competitions, self-defence, or even just your general health and fitness. All of this and more is what adds to kickboxing’s appeal and popularity.

Other benefits include:

  • Toned legs, arms, core, back, glutes, etc
  • Stronger body
  • Fat loss
  • Full body workout
  • Learn self-defence

And you can experience these benefits much quicker than you think.

As of this writing, I’ve been training in kickboxing for only two months, and I’m already noticing a difference in my body’s tone and appearance!

3. Muay Thai

best martial arts
Photo by: ArturVerkhovetskiy

Muay Thai is one of the most effective and dangerous martial arts.

Also known as the “art of 8 limbs”, Muay Thai incorporates the use of fists, shins, knees, and elbows. In fact, it’s this concept that separates Muay Thai from kickboxing. Kickboxing utilizes a 4-point striking system involving only punches and kicks. Muay Thai, on the other hand, uses an 8-point striking system that incorporates — as previously mentioned — knees and elbows, in addition to punches and kicks.

This combination makes Muay Thai one of the best martial arts for self-defence.

4. Wrestling

best martial arts
Photo by: galkin57

Unless you’re a martial artist, chances are you associate wrestling with the over-the-top theatrical performances of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) or WEF (Wrestling Entertainment Federation).

But wrestling is actually a hand-to-hand combat sport and martial art. It involves clinch fighting, grappling, pins, joint locks, holds, takedowns, and more. Many wrestling techniques are so effective that they’ve been incorporated into other martial arts and even military combat training systems.

Deemed one of the oldest sports in history, wrestling offers many benefits.

It can help you stay in shape and build strength, and yes, it is great for self-defence as well. Wrestling leans on leverage, robust balance, fierce intensity, and specialized proficiency to restrain and take down a competitor and maintain a dominant position.

Overall, wrestling is a highly effective martial art for self-defence

5. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

best martial arts
Photo by: creatista

MMA (mixed martial arts) is a full-contact, no-holds-barred combat sport that draws different fighting styles from other combat sports for competition purposes.

The rules authorize the use of striking and grappling attacks while standing or ground fighting. Regarding regulations, MMA is the least constrictive martial art, which is why it was seen as “human cockfighting” upon its inception. Due to this restrictions-free arrangement, MMA translates well into street fighting and self-defence applications — where there are no rules.

Besides being an excellent sport for self-defence, MMA is also great for your confidence, fitness, and mental and physical health.

6. Krav Maga

Photo by: guruxox

Most martial arts double as a sport.

This concept is apparent in the competition aspect in all the training disciplines itemized on this list. However, this idea is in complete opposition to krav maga, which is an Israeli-developed military training system created in the 1940s. Krav Maga is based on the usage of automatic reactions to threatening conditions.

With this martial art, nothing is off-limits.

You will learn groin kicking/stomping, eye gouging, throat punches, and chokes; even spitting and biting are fair game in Krav Maga. This training system isn’t interested in rules; it is based on real-world, life-or-death situations, which is why it was designed to inflict as much damage as humanly possible on opponents.

For this reason, there are no Krav Maga tournaments or competitions.

What is the Best Martial Art for You?

There are hundreds of martial arts to choose from.

Determining the best one for you will be based on your preference and your reasons for wanting to train in martial arts in the first place. Are you just looking for a fun hobby that will keep you fit and in shape? Do you want to challenge yourself by competing against others in competition? Is self-defence your main priority?

Or do you want a combination of everything? Once you decide WHY you want to train in martial arts, picking the right one for you becomes much easier.

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