Top eleven – best self defence martial arts

11. Boxing

When it comes to defending yourself in a street fight or from an attacker,  boxing – now considered a martial art, is a great place to start. Boxing teaches the the proper way to punch, which most people don’t know how to do. Although the hands may be weaker than your legs, they can move much faster. As seen in the video below (skip ahead to 0:40) one man trained in boxing can handle multiple attackers with proper technique and powerful blows.

10. Kung Fu (Wushu)

Kung fu, a Chinese martial art that literally means an accomplishment gained through hard, long work, is one of the oldest martial arts in the world. Traditionally taught by Shaolin monks, philosophy and morality are important to the practitioners of this martial art, with virtues such as humility, respect, trust, and patience being emphasized. As is the case with most martial arts, kung fu’s worth lies in its health benefits and self-defense knowledge.

9. Judo

Judo, which means “gentle way”, is a modern japanese martial art and combat sport, that originated in Japan in the late nineteenth century. Judo focuses on teaching its students how to throw opponents or attackers to the ground, immobilize or subdue one’s opponent with grappling manoeuvrs, or submissions withjoint locks and chockes. Strikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defence are a part of judo.

8. Taekwondo

Taekwondo or “the way of the fist and foot”, is the national sport of Korea and the worlds most popular martial art in terms of number of practitioners.Taekwondo training generally includes a system of blocks, kicks, punches and open-handed strikes and may also include various take-downs or sweeps, throws and joint locks.Taekwondo practitioners are skilled in strength, stamina, speed, balance, and flexibility.

7. Ninjustsu

The historic followers of this mysterious Japanese martial art were guerrilla warriors and assassins. Likely considered criminals today, these ninjas used the art of stealth to surprise and defeat their opponents. Born in Japan’s feudal age, ninjutsu was developed to kill. Hands and feet are used in this martial art, but followers also take weapons training, using devices such as throwing stars, staffs, spears, swords, and explosives. More valuable during its heyday, ninjutsu is not specifically taught today, yet many martial arts use some of its elements.

6. Karate

Karate or karate-do was developed in the Ryukyu Islands from indigenous fighting methods and Chinese kenpo. Karate is primarily a striking art using punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes and open-handed techniques such as knife-hands and ridge-hands. In most styles grappling, locks, retraints, throws and vital point strikes are taught.

5. Aikido

Created in Japan in the early 1900s, aikido’s followers learn how to use an assailant’s strength and energy against them. Aikido is performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack rather than opposing it head-on. Aikido requires vert little physical energy. The techniques are completed with various throws or joint locks.

4. Combat Jujutsu

Combat Jujitsu is used by US Military Special Operations Forces (Green Berrets, Delta Force and Seals) and Special Forces of other countries!  Unlike Regular Army hand-to-hand combat training, which focus on complex techniques for self-defense, combat Jujutsu is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Its techniques are meant for closing with an opponent and to cause severe bodily damage.

3. Krav Maga

When it comes to self defense Krav Maga is the SHIT! There are very few martial arts better suited to defend yourself from an attacker who may be threatening you with a knife or gun. Great for women looking to protect themselves from rape or other attacks, it emphasizes devastating attacks to the opponent’s vital areas, such as the groin and eyes, and encourages headbutts and the use of any available objects as weapons. This martial art features a three-step approach: Deal with the immediate threat, prevent the attacker from mounting a second offensive and then neutralize him.

Krav Maga is a military hand-to-hand system developed in Isreal and used by various Israeli Security Forces, which assumes no quarter will be given, and emphasizes maximum threat nuetralization in a “real life” context.

2. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Gracie Jiu-Jitsu)

Despite its country of origin, the founding father of Brazilian jiu-jitsu was Japanese. Mitsuyo Maeda, a Japanese fighter, winner of more than 2,000 bouts and considered the toughest man to have ever lived, arrived in Brazil in 1914, with the aim of spreading martial arts. There, he met the Gracie family, which is today regarded as the first family of the sport, with its descendants being popular in the UFC and its schools across the world. Like traditional jujutsu and judo, the Brazilian form emphasizes throws and groundwork, making it a popular tool for today’s mixed-martial-artists. With more than 60% of any steet fight ending up on the ground, Gracie jiu-jitsu allows size and strength of the attacker to be taken out of the equation. Anyone can win or defend themselves with this technique.

1. Muay Thai

Muay Thai is referred to as “The Art of the Eight Limbs“, as the hands, shins, elbows, and knees are all used extensively in this art. A practitioner of Muay Thai  thus has the ability to execute strikes using eight “points of contact,” as opposed to “two points” (fists) in Western boxing and “four points” (fists, feet) used in the primarily sport-oriented forms of martial arts.
Muay Thai fighters were originally trained to kick tree tunks in order to condition there shins, knees and feet. By repeatedly kicking the hard surface of tree trunks large calcium deposits would form on their legs and ultimatley deaden the nerve endings, allowing them to kick and knee opponents without feeling pain.


96 responses to “Top eleven – best self defence martial arts

  • Dragonfly

    I’m sorry but boxing cannot be defined as a “martial art”. It lacks the internal, mental aspect of the practice which teaches the practictioner things to learn to master oneself. This is done as you mention very nicely under Kung Fu with consistent effort over time through physical and mental training. There is the martial arts in the media and then there is the true practice. They are just not the same thing when martial arts is practiced as a true art and not an excuse to “fight”. Martial arts is meant to stop the fighting.

    • IlsonDanny

      The term martial art is a western one and it means “art of war” or “art of fighting. So yes boxing can be considered a martial art because it is a system of fighting.

    • genta

      of course boxing is martial art.
      quote “Martial arts are extensive systems of codified practices and traditions of combat that are practiced for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, as well as mental, physical and spiritual development.”

  • Arne Midtlund

    This was a really nice list. I’ve trained judo since 1983, and this was a good collection of martial arts.

  • Steve

    Great post I learned alot! Thanks =)

  • J.c

    Sorry to disagree but shaolin Kung fu is by far the most effective form of martial arts. It is the oldest and most perfected art dated back 3000 years. All others are simply some form of Kung fu with modifications added. Shaolin monk would defeat any of the combatants you have mentioned

  • Nkuhn550

    re: “Shaolin monk would defeat any of the combatants you have mentioned”

    Does that include chuck norris?

    Just kidding – this was a great article. People can argue the order all day long, but regardless – the list is very good.

  • Spritzen

    JuJitsu, Aikido and Karate dont rate here. Close quarters non-ground combat is best street defense

  • Davide

    The best martial art is the one you practice every day for a long long time the best combat is the one that has the right mix of madness, rage, smartness and muscles the fighter who will win is the one who will hit last.

  • Jacob

    This is a great list. I am just geting into self-defense and I have chosen 5 out of the 11 to train in. It will be hard work but I am dedicated to it. I will give me all and more.

  • Alex

    Muay Thai and Boxing aren’t really “self defence” oriented though… both are powerful nonetheless. It really depends on who you’re defending yourself against and how good you are at a particular martial art.

    Good list though! And great movies. You should incorporate Baguazhang in here somewhere too 🙂 I’m just getting into it and it seems to have applications for just about everything.

  • JAB

    I have trained in Jujitsu and Karate before, and am currently training in Judo, Hapkido, and Taekwondo. I have trained in two different types of taekwondo, and can tell you that there are major differences *within* the styles themselves. The taekwondo training I am currently receiving is much more practical and applicable to self-defense than the taekwondo training I took about five years ago. You can’t even put the two in the same category. What really matters, as someone else said, is PRACTICE, fitness, and aggressiveness in a real-world self-defense situation.

  • Master

    Jujitsu is not the best self defence martial arts. if you are talking self defense then Juitsu is out. 250 pound man and 90 pound women, I would not want her to try and arm bar him or choke him out this would not end well for her. Also she would have to try and get him to the Ground. . Aikido Karate Judo Muay Thai. this is what i would suggest

  • John

    Good list and place to start, but based on what I’ve seen in MMA

    1. Brazilian Jujitsu
    2. Muy Thai
    3. Wresting
    4. Judo
    5. Boxing

    THe problem with Tae Kwon Do, Karate, etc you dont practive full contact, so you dont really practice full contact. Makes a huge difference. Thats why I rank Wresting, Judo, and boxing high.

    • jagdeep620

      you are wrong.with karate you dont practice full contact?how much full you want.more than a life?

      • mike

        I’d laugh so hard if you tried to fight someone on the street with Karate. The person fighting you would most likely tear you to shreds. Karate / Tae Kwon Do = 2 of the worst practical fighting styles in existence. This list sucks by the way, A good boxer would defeat most of the martial arts listed here. Krav Maga & Kung Fu are the 2 best by far. Krav Maga for weapons defense and Kung Fu for everything else.

  • craig

    You’ve got the listing totally wrong judo and gracie jiu jitsu are by far the best you only have to look on yuotube at the multiple karate, boxers, taekwondo experts who have challanged and lost badly to practioners of these also many more have tried and failed. Once they have been taken to the ground (in which 95% of fights end up) they simply don’t know what to do and will either tap out pass out or have a limb broken if you disagree I will challenge any competitor you have!!!!


    Everyone’s making really good points but keep in mind the title of the post isn’t: What’s the best MMA martial art. This is in reference to everyday people trying to find a martial art that that they can look into or study to protect themselves. One would argue that technically Krav Maga would be #1 as it deals with more practical and everyday (mugging, raping, assult, hold ups) situations that everyday people, not MMA fighter could be placed in.

    • jk

      I agree. Many are posting based on mma which is probably the most practical of the televised sports for SD but Krav Maga deals with more real world conditions from my understanding. Real world being ;ambush, weapons, terrain that isnt forgiving and many other things that may be needed for improvisation that will never been in a closed ring.

  • HA

    good points! btw to john, totally agree about contact, without it, youll have no feeling of the real thing. but there is one martial art i KNOW is insane in this matter….KYOKUSHIN KARATE. i think karate is under rated. its the best there is in the way of conditioning. any kyokushin figthers here back me up, you know what i mean..OSU! check up kyokushin there tournaments (kumite) are bare knuckle, literally full contact. punches from belt to clavicle. kicks to head allowed and knees. pretty deadly, fighter in the wind is a good one for this. so really yes practice gets you closer to perfect! but the martial arts which would be a perfect combination would be kyokushin, jujutsu, and perhaps ninjutsu to learn the deadly stuff.
    regarding kung fu… its pretty damn cool, but i think its far more traditional than it is applicable….no one is going to use snake fist or tiger claws to fend off an attacker. but some forms are more practical than others, kung fu is still good for conditioning. krav maga is definitely prac and brings the best things from other martial arts. other than that every martial art has its pros and cons…the point is have you practiced enough that its motions are secondary and “in built”. sometimes one punch to the jaw does the trick! PEACE!

  • andy

    Krav Maga is not from Israel, even though they use it in army. It comes from formal Czechoslovakia (Slovak part).

  • andy Bratislava in mid 1930’s and brought to Israel by Slovak emigrant Imi Lichtenfeld, after that was Krav Maga estabilished in Izrael..

  • Griffonwc

    Personnally, i practice wing chun, but i guess we would put that in kung fu even though i think that some styles of kung fu are more suited for self defense than others.

    Besides WC, i think that Silat is one of the most effective arts i have ever seen. limb destruction, locks, vital points strikes, ground fighting, punching, kicking, everything is in there.

    That’s my take…

  • Sonny Crockett

    The best defence techniques are the ones that you’ve practiced many, many times and ones which you can perform with minimal thought at very short notice, even if you are intoxicated or overloading on adrenaline.
    It doesn’t necessarily matter which martial art grouping they belong to.

    As others have said, there are several variations within individual martial arts themselves. Training yourself in several of these couldn’t hurt your chances in a real life fight situation.

    If I had to choose just two from the list I would probably take krav maga and brazillian jujitsu; They involve simple yet very effective techniques which even the less strong of us can master.

    I think Kung Fu looks very nice but sometimes I doubt its effectiveness in a modern day fight (With the exception of Wing Chun; it focuses on very close range, fast effective attacks thus I would definitely consider it of use) however Kung Fu is an umbrella for a huge variety of chinese styles and I’m not going to pretend I know and have trained in them all. Knowing something well and having the confidence to use it is certainly better than leaving it up your attacked to decide how much damage they wish to inflict on you.

    As the video proves, even boxing can come into its own in terms of self defence. Sure, you wouldn’t be using the boxing that you see in the ring, constrained by rules and governed to a large extent by how much you weigh; You should surely allow yourself to make grapple attempts and maybe throw some elbows and groin attacksin the mix, and it wouldn’t harm your chances to master and execute a few weapon disarm techniques as well (punching a knife is rarely effective, unless its blunt and the assailant isn’t holding it tightly), but the boxing method adds a solid foundation to the overall fighting technique.

    And it’s important to remember that if you can leave without conflict, you should do so. If you are being mugged, giving away your wallet and some change is better than risking your life needlessly. And if you go around picking fights and letting your temper get the better of you, one day you could find yourself in some serious trouble which you cannot control.

    But yeah, just my 2 cents.

  • Sonny Crockett

    Ah damn typos.
    “Knowing something well and having the confidence to use it is certainly better than leaving it up your ATTACKER to decide how much damage they wish to inflict on you.” is what i meant so say. I also now realise that brazilian has only one “l”. But it’s early in the morning and I’m tired, so let me off okay? What? You want to fight about it? Okay but I warn you I know 67 different forms of martial arts and I’m not afraid to use them all!

  • houssem

    you forgot KickBoxing !!!

  • emma

    i want to learn martial arts

  • emma

    i live in Tanzania at arusha have started a little bit of tae kwondo but i need help

  • X Staralis

    Honestly the martial art doesn’t matter. Yes some seem to be more effective than others, But the truth is that it all depends on the fighters skill and knowledge of what works well in a fight and the situation. Also experience is a plus.

    Instead of saying which is better or worse, How about take and learn from each martial art or fighting style and apply what ever works the most effectively in combat.

    Oh and i’m sorry to say but i really dont think Aikido should be on this list because i’ve studied Most known martial arts and fighting tactics and Aikido is just way too exaggerated. Only few of there tactics Might work if you were fast, had keen eye, and muscled your opponent.

    Also my favorites would have to be…
    and im not saying they’re the best or anything, Just my favorites are…

    Ninjistu “New standard & Japanese”
    Judo “Japanese and new standard”
    Tae kwon do “Traditional Japanese”
    Krav Maga “Standard Isrealie Arms”
    Jiu Jitsu “brazilian”
    Mui Thai “But im not gonna kick bannana trees tho :p”

  • John

    Krav Maga is the best hands down, it teaches self defense in real life scenarios that play out daily, also Krav Maga’s creator was a Czech who taught the jews of his village the self defense for the nazis, he moved to israel where he taught it to the israel secret force

  • juho

    A lot of you guys refer to UFC or MMA, but that only applies for 1v1. If you guys would get caught in 1v2 fight, what would you think would be most efficient martial art on that situation? or what about if the thug had a knife?

    I personally think Combat Jujitsu and Krav Maga teach you best for these overall perspectives. I really can’t imagine how you can manage 1v2 situation as BJJ fighter or against a knife as a boxer. You could say “Then I’ll just run away”, but sometimes you just can’t. What if your girlfriend is with you? Surely you have to defend her.

    Please, tell me what you guys think 🙂

  • Galen


    This list is completely wrong, it suggests that you want to take the fight to the ground which is the worst possible scenario for a street fight, it’s only good 1on1 in the ring. On the street you cant be sure that you won’t face multiple opponents, and if you do, you are dead if you get to the ground cus even if you neutralize one person on the ground what will you do about the other guys standing over you? Trust me, you don’t EVER want to get on the ground in a street fight, EVER!

    • OUIMER

      ***WARNING*** Galen is an ass-hat who has no idea what he’s talking about and should go back to playing Tekken or Street Fighter. Over 70% of fights are taken to the ground: street fight, brawl, cage match etc. Might be a good idea to be able to handle yourself should that happen. Either way that’s why 2 of the top 3 are stand-up style, quick attack and defensive martial arts.

    • Thomas

      I agree you don’t want to ever go to the ground in a street fight. I went up against 5-6 guys and got taken to the ground right off the bat, ended up doing a figure 4 arm break on him and his buddies literally pulled me off him. I would say in a situation like the one I was in, the martial arts i would suggest would be probably Krav Maga, Japanese Jujutsu, Judo, Wing Chun would have worked the best to be honest. I ended up with no broken bones, no stitches, and didn’t get knocked out even when a huge dude hit me in the back of the head full force. I looked the worst thou hehe. I honestly think the Phycological impact of the dude screaming so loud after having his arm broken helped me out a lot. My martial art background so far is Kempo, a little of Aikido and Wing Chun. It’s true that if you practice any martial art well enough, you won’t even think about it, it will be instinctual. Adrenaline too will make you a monster. 🙂

  • Galen

    On the street, you will very rarely (if ever) be laying on the ground wresling with your opponent.

    Sorry for all the split posts but this list is just so out of touch I can’t stop writing about it.

  • zakariya

    hey dudes i think you forgotten one well knowned fighting style Wing chun i belive that is a very effective style and most effiect style as u hardly need to use ur muscles

  • Ryan

    In my humble opinion (based on about 15 years as a martial arts instructor and having trained for years in many styles) I would say its hard to pin down what the “best” style is. A better question is what would be the best or most useful techniques to teach a person so they could give them selves the best chance of surviving a street fight.

    I would suggest (having fough full contact stand-up type events and MMA) that both stand up AND ground skills are needed. As some one else pointed out, you dont want to got to the ground in the street a lot of the time but if you end up on the ground and the guy sits on your chest in the mount possition and rains down punches at your head, having the skill to escape from there could save your life.

    Here is a list of easy to learn techniques that I believe would be good on the street:

    Mount escape [BJJ] (watch any backyard fight and you wull see what I mean)
    Standing side headlock escape [BJJ]
    Front headlock escape [BJJ]
    Rear bear hug escape [MMA’s figure 4 or leg pluck]

    Cross block to stop punches [just about all striking arts]
    Elbow head cover/block [Boxing & MMA]
    Duck and weave [Boxing]

    Thumb strike to eye [as used in the old US Military unarmed combat style]
    Elbow strikes to the face [Tang So Do]
    Knee stikes [Thai Boxing]
    Lower Thigh & inner thigh Kicks [Thai Boxing] (has a very powerful result aginst an untrained opponent)
    Palm strikes [most stiking styles] (fine bones in the hand are easily smashed when fighting bare knuckle and a broken hand in the frist few seconds of a fight can half your chances of winning the fight)
    Groin kick with shin and push combo [wing chun]

    Uppercut and Hook while in the clinch [MMA, Boxing, ect]
    Thai clinch [Thai Boxing]
    Hip throw [BJJ & Judo] (only learn one or two but learn them very very well)

    Double leg or Single leg take down [wrestling & Bjj]
    Standing Rear naked choke [BJJ or ask any bouncer/security guard]
    figure 4 arm lock from clinch[BJJ]
    front shoulder choke/Anaconda choke from clinch [BJJ]

    Basic defence and take down against a knife or batton [Kali Arnis stick and knife fighting & Tan Sao block from wing chun]

    Ground defence against kicks and punches [Tora bushido & MMA]
    Butterfly guard on ground against rape [BJJ]
    figure 4 arm lock from butterfly guard [BJJ]
    front shoulder choke/Anaconda choke from butterfly guard [BJJ]

    Hope that Helps! If anyone is reading this post because they are serious about learning self defence for themselves or their familys, look for a place that can teach you these or at leat know them well enough to explain why they prefer different ones. Feel free to email for more help in this regard at

    • Matt

      Just wanted to say thanks for your post, Ryan – it was exactly what I was looking for.

      I’ve been interested in martial arts since I was young but never got aorund to doing it. I’d like to start it after I leave university for several reasons: not only is good for, as you say, if you get jumped in an alley, but I haven’t seen too many martial artists who are massively overweight!

      In terms of “street fights”, or whenever you’re attacked suddenly, is looking for a submission the most effective method (i.e. to end the fight quickly with minimal injury)?


  • Ryan

    Im talking about on the street not cage fighting. Read my post again mate, would you need stick and knife defence in a cage? No. That’s for on the street. Can you use groin attacks or eye attacks in a cage fight? No. That’s for self defence on the street. Do you use palm strikes in a cage fight? No. That’s for real fighting where you are in a car park and don’t have gloves on and your attacker hasn’t got a mouth guard.
    In my experience those are the best techniques to use if you get jumped on the street late and you have to fight in your jeans and sneakers without a warm up. They arnt fancy or cool looking, they arnt the ones I would pick to train some one in cage fighting, they are the ones that would keep you alive on the street.    

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  • Ryan

    Hi Matt,

    That’s a good question: if you’re attacked suddenly, is looking for a submission the most effective method?

    I would say it would depend heavily on the situation. Against multiple attackers you never want to try a submission because it cuts off your mobility and mobility is key to surviving any battle (ask any military leader), so there is a very real risk of taking multiple blows to the head that you can’t block effectively because your arms are used up in the submission. This especially applies to ground submissions, where you cut down your mobility to almost nothing.

    Against a bigger guy on the street I believe it’s a good option. Force = Speed x Mass so a bigger guys punch can do more damage to you just due to the weight difference if you stand there trading blows. If you can take a guy down (make sure you don’t end up on the bottom, again this cuts off mobility and therefore your options) then you can usually end a fight quickly and have more control of the situation.

    But what submissions to use? How far do you take it? In cage fighting/MMA you can use a choke, the opponent taps out and the ref stops the fight. On the street what’s going to happen? Will the guy tap out and go home? I don’t think so. Just keep this in mind. I personally would prefer arm or wrist submissions because you can use them to cause minimal and non life threatening damage and still end a fight.

    And remember that if your submission attempt doesn’t work then try something else. I have seen many people loose fights simply because they get an idea in their head and won’t stop trying the same thing over and over. It’s fine to come back to a submission if it doesn’t work the first time but you need to take their attention away from it before you try again, stunning strikes are good for this.

    Also remember that submissions should just be one part of your training, its not the be all and end all of self defence. I would defiantly advise knowing a few and learning them well though, but to be effective you need to have practiced them until you understand them completely, inside and out, upside down and after a few beers.

    On a final note I would advise to stay aware of your surroundings even if you have a good submission on some one. A passer-by might think your mugging them and wack you in the back of the head with a lump of wood, thinking he has done a good deed. If possible use standing submissions rather than ground ones, this allows you to abort the technique quickly and run away if you have to.

    Hope that helps!

  • Iain

    I would say that the best martial arts/fighting styles are the following (not in any particular order):

    1. Krav Maga
    2. Eskrima/Kali/Arnis
    3. Sambo
    4. Defendo
    5. Aikijujutsu
    6. Systema
    7. Kajukenbo
    8. Kyokushin Karate
    9. Muay Thai
    10. Jeet Kune Do
    11. Wing Chun

  • Anthony

    it doesnt matter who u are or what u practice its not the style that fails its the student

  • Be agressive

    Im learning BJJ right now. I have some training as a boxer but wound up with some little punk beatin my head into the asphalt (he still got the boot) but gotta know what to do on the ground even if you dont want to wind up there. Besides the conditiong required for BJJ is astounding, this alone is important if the shit really hits the fan. Best self defense technique, being ruthless when fucked with. (EG Break bones and gouge eyes)

  • Juhani

    style wont save your ass, fighting in the gym is easy. its about student and hes trainer, not style (if you are big and mean mofo, you can handle unarmerd welterweight girls any day, they got ma-background or not)

    brains & good legs > shoot in the concrete, break your knee, see that you are surrounded by more enemies and get kicked in the head

    I have trained mma and now i am practising fma, my weight is 110 kg…but i rather run than fight

  • BobRuns

    I’m a 45 year old diabetic. I’m too old to fight, but take TKD for the fitness, practical self defense, and to help remain limber. Will likely add BJJ to the mix.

    I’m not deluded, but in a real world SHTF situation, I try to use three lines of defense…

    awareness… always on alert and avoid

    escape… I run 40 and 100 yard sprints. Being in shape to run like the wind is vital IMHO. Gives you distance and time to assess. If followed they could be winded.

    defend… worst case scenario. If plan B doesn’t work, I typically carry a Glock or Keltec. As a last resort I’m looking to gouge, thrust and generally maim the attacker.

    There was a report years ago on police shootings in NYC for the previous 100 years. Once somebody got outside of a imaginary circle of death (20 feet or so) the probability of survival was like 90%. They surmised it was movement and finding cover. I think it applies here as well.

    I have no arguement on the top 3, but think Ryans post applies to most real world applications.

  • Julian Blair

    This article is really good. I think all of the rankings are appropriate. I have trained in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and both have very practical self defence applications. However, being good at any martial art is usually enough to help you out on the street. Most people on the street who want to pick a fight with you have learned how to fight from watching tv and movies, and really have no clue about range, throws, submissions, pressure points etc. So if you have been training any martial arts for a few years you have a leg up.

  • joe public

    I have tried many martial arts styles throughout my life i am 50 yrs old and of all the systems from aikido kickboxing bjj ninjutsu shotokan tae kwon do krav maga and some forms of kung fu also kenpo.

    none i repeat none of these so called systems i have found do not address the reality of a true street fight anything goes confrontation.
    I truly believe that you must think in terms of what vital areas will stop an attacker cold.
    this can be anything from a windpipe strike to temple strike or the entire neck region kidney strike kicks to the knees and shins or groin.
    temple strikes back of the head or spine and also hammer strikes to the incoming arm or punch to at least cause some injury to the arm.
    use your palm fingers fists elbows knees feet in the most brutal and unconventional way possible.
    because its your life or the other mofo.
    believe me there is no school that will teach you what you cant figure out for yourself
    I only gathered the above info through years of wasted money on martial arts schools and self training and thinking it through.
    last but not least or first i should say is buy yourself a gun and a knife so when you run out of bullets the knife comes into play.

    REAL IS REAL and no mcdojo or mma school thats right even the big bad mma guys are not up to what a real and i mean real street fight is about cause here is the final answer, its your life or the other guys do you have the guts to really face that.
    cause guess what i do and it still scares the hell out of me because if you sit there and say it didnt scare you then you are full of shit.
    but ya gotta do what you need to so if and when it happens use everything you got cause if not your ass is grass. oh and by the way i got into more road rage scraps than ever on the street the roads are the worst. but guess what i lived to fight another day cause i made it my business to know to hit where it not just hurts but fucks em up.

    from a for real guy concerned with todays street problems

  • Jordan

    I am 18yrs old, 6’3″ and 180lbs. I am very interested in learning some sort of Self Defense/Martial Arts. The reason is so I could defend myself in real life situations, with our without weapons.

  • Stev

    UFC will show you the best real world martial art which is wrestling

  • Mark

    My father was a professional boxer who also enjoyed Judo. He always told me that Karate and other related martial arts were soft sports and no good in a real life situation!!! I have only seen this put to the test once!! My 2 brothers, 1 who studied Tae Kwon Do for over 10 years and 1 who was an amateur boxer got into a bit of a scrap!! Rather than step in and break it up, I thought ‘this could be interesting’ lol! To cut a long story short, it only took one punch from my boxing brother to send the other flying clear over a table, nuff said!
    If I had to choose a range of disciplines for self defense then boxing would definitely be on the list. However, and very unfortunately, my concern is that whatever form you choose to work with, the chances are that if you end up getting the upper hand you’ll probably end up in the local police cell for your troubles. With this in mind I personally train in Aikido and Judo. The first lesson of Aikido is avoidance, which means if you can leg it then do so and avoid a night in the cells!!

  • Ryan

    I work in a prison setting and have first hand experience as to what works and what is garbage. First off, I would not say BJJ is the best self defense for a street fight; their buddy comes up and kicks your head off, or you land on a broken bottle. Kickboxing is good, but you need to be stretched out to get a fast, high kick. I prefer to close the gap and that entails Wing Chun or Hapkido. Hapkido has great joint locks for joint manipulation. I don’t care how big the Inmate is; you put a joint lock or shoulder lock on them, they comply very quickly! It all comes down to 1 style not being perfect; you need to cross train in a few different style to make yourself ready for any situation that may arise. Be safe, and God bless!

  • sensei lee

    this is a load of crap, muay thai and gracie jj? you kidding me for self defense? maybe for ufc. ju jitsu is not geared towards multiple attackers and who wants to goto ground in a street fight? only time I will go to ground is against a much bigger opponent who is a more skilled standup fighter than me which rarely happens but has and only then I will go to ground if I have people watching my back so I don’t get blind sided or if I can have situational awareness and not suffer from tunnel vision. Saying that I do combat submissive wrestling and some jj so I can have a ground game when I go to ground, to not learn would be fatal. I do it mostly so I knwo waht to do and what to expect. But except for the above situations, I don’t take the fight to the ground if I can help it. I am a combat veteran, 2 tours, ex ranger, I train in five differnt martial arts and I train purely for self defense. I work as a bodyguard, self defense instructor and have worked in bars and clubs. I have been in over 100 street fights, I have kicked ass and had my ass kicked, its a learning experiance. Some great self defense systems you failed to mention which shit on most of your list, krav maga, defendo, systema, keysi just to name a few. I train in csw, jeet kune do, boxing, krav maga and bujikan taijutsu. I have done TKD, defendo, some systema and kick boxing in the past.

  • Danny

    There is no one “best” martial art. Instead having the most effective techniques from a number of them would be the best.

  • mb

    I have been in several street fights in India where I grew up. And all of them ended up on the ground. Most of them I don’t remember too well because it was almost 20 years ago. However, I remember one from what I remember involved a primitive grappling where I grabbed my opponents throat with both my hands and squished real hard till he passed out. There were about 10 of them and 5 of us and all of them stood and watched in shock as the situation unfolded. The others involved kicks, punches, stomps, slaps none of which belonged to any particular martial arts. These were primitive movements that came out of thin air. Later on I learned martial arts (karate). But that made things even worse becuase now I became really afraid to fight. My fear … what if I fall while trying to kick. Or what if I twist my wrist when I punch. So all it did was keep me away from fighting. All I knew was that if I got into a fight I would resort to my primitive form of fighting. Then many years later I learned Brazilian-Jiu-Jitsu in the US. That gave me a heck of a lot of confidence. I don’t have that fear anymore because I can now fight close-in. It is not the techniques that helped but the fact that I can now fight close to the opponent without fear of the fight ending up on the ground. I don’t know much about 1vs2 fighting because all my fights were so crazy that everybody else stayed away. Luckily my opponent did not have a knife. Not sure how that would have ended. But that is my experience. I am very glad I know jiu-jitsu. Atleast the fear of fighting has gone away. Karate did nothing but instill fear in me and not my oponent. You try one of those kata kicks, the opponent catches it and its over.

  • DJ

    Hey guys
    Im wondering which martial arts is the best for multiple enemies please tell thanks

    • IlsonDanny

      Im told that Keysi is one of the best sstyles for multiple attacker, however no amount of training will prepare you for that situation.

    • Thomas

      I wouldn’t doubt if more than half these idiots claim bjj is the best art to defend yourself against multiple street attackers, because they’re too ignorant to comprehend the difference between a one-on-one fight in a controlled environment, and a no holds barred attack by multiple street attackers.

    • Thomas

      I’m sure most these idiots will claim its bjj, because they can’t understand the difference between one-on-one in a controlled environment, and fighting multiple attackers who want to kill you. Hand to hand combat like Krav Msgs is very practicle in this situation, as well as Kenpo, because they utilize deadly strikes to the throat, spine, groin, and eyes…all of which you
      you cannot do within SPORT Muai Thai and bjj.

  • Niki

    Just a yellow green belt in tekwando i did not know that it is one of the most defensive martial arts.

  • Natalie

    …does throwing a pie in their face and running away count? it worked 4 me…..

  • bensdadfrank

    I am looking for the best system to study, for street defense, While all of the sites that I have visited contain very good info, everyone seems to get in a pissing match, in favor of what they have studied, which is only natural. Had some training from a US special forces operater years ago, but fell out of practice and out of shape. 52 years old now, and under threat from a customer 1/2 my age and 50 lbs. heavier. Gangbanger on top of it. After much research, feeling that Krav Maga is a great start for someone like me, however I don’t know how to find a legitamite instructer. Any suggestions?

  • bensdadfrank

    Sorry just checked back in to recieve email alert of any responses, as I did not check the appropriate boxes. Thank you for any input.

  • Eric

    From my experience you got much of it wrong and so you run the risk of misleading other people.

    Did you ever compete in a “mixed” setting such as MMA? Did you ever have to defend yourself in a real fight?

    From my personal experience, it’s like this:

    1. Training methods are more important than methods learned. Do you spar a lot and place emphasis on physical conditioning? Or do you rather spend a lot of time doing kata? Who is strong and seasoned will typically win, whether in MMA or in the street. This is why boxing and judo are pretty good arts while krav maga is less useful than some might think and aikido is often sadly useless.

    2. A grappler will beat a striker in a controlled setting all else equal because it’s easier to rush into the clinch/takedown than to prevent that from happening. But in an uncontrolled streetfight you want to stay off the clinch and ground because of the risk of weapons and other guys being thrown into the equation. Therefore, BJJ and wrestling (and judo and sambo to some extent) have been very useful in MMA while no-nonsense striking arts like Thai and boxing would still be the best primary options for self defense.

    3. For self defense, I would recommend people to train either Muay Thai or boxing for standup, and complement this training with a last-resort-type of art for grappling and ground, such as BJJ, judo, greco-roman or freestyle wrestling, sambo, or anything else which places emphasis on full-contact sparring. You might want to complement this with (or substitute the grappling-type training for) Krav Maga or a similar art such as Defendo in order to get more well-rounded, but your base should definitely be in a striking-oriented sport-type art such as Boxing or Thai because it really offers so much more opportunities for psychologically vital and strength-enhancing full-contact sparring compared with Krav maga etc.

    I am quite confident in my personal training plan, which is at least partly intended to improve my self defense abilities. I take boxing right now and plan to take at least one more year with the aim of standing my own in a couple of professional bouts. Thereafter, I will revisit judo (current orange belt) and spend some years to get a blue belt (maybe more if I get hooked again, who knows). I’ll round it off with 6-12 months of MMA training with a judo-proficient trainer who can help me combine my two sports and add some extra benefits such as ground-and-pound, ground defense and defense against kicks, and maybe even add some decent low kicks and knees to my offense : )

    What I would never do, however, would be to add flashy arts like Aikido, Shaolin Kung Fu or Tae Kwon Do to my arsenal, or for that matter start Krav Maga “cold turkey” before having a solid grounding in sparring-focused sports such as boxing, thai, judo, or greco-roman wrestling.

    Every art may have great benefits as such and even give the foundation for a life-long, generally beneficial, fascination. But every art will certainly not be useful for real-life self-defense.

  • Anonymous

    For those saying karate is useless in ground fights, the whole point of karate is to not end up on the ground in the first place by deflecting blocks and striking or takedown and then strike. Also where is Jeet Kune Do, Bruce Lee’s martial art which incorporates things like Kali, Wing Chun and Muay Thai and is designed for self-defense

  • adrian

    kung fu is very good martial art

  • George

    Sorry but u dont add one effective martial art the “Muay Boran” (Ancient Muay thai).

  • Sai krishna

    every martial art is equal it rated according to the person heart,mind and soul attached to it.

  • jojo

    Just a blow in a boxers fist can kill someone but yeaah boxing is not not a martial arts , but in these case we are talking about self defence for im not a boxer but boxing for is efficient type of self defence

  • Pablo

    I believe the USMC uses martial arts.
    The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) is a successful and continually growing effort, which was designed from its very inception to be both a character- and military skills-building program. Its purpose is to build better and more proficient Marine warriors, while creating moral and ethical Marines — eventually returning them to the civilian world as better American citizens.MCMAP not only builds better warriors and warfighters but also works to develop the most moral Marines possible, Marines who can differentiate between right and wrong. Recognizing the right road to take, they will then follow it with all the force and strength of their continually developing character and leadership. Combined with their advanced military skills, all objectives should seem achievable to them.

    In today’s world of blurred lines between friends and foes, civilians and insurgents, the clear-cut picture of a precise dividing line — beyond which is a free fire zone — no longer exists. Leathernecks are now faced with a frequently hazy and smoke-filled battlefield with moral and mental landmines just a few missteps away. MCMAP teaches not only the skills to win but also the mind-set to find the right way to win. (

    The USMC probably knows what they’re doing!

  • tom

    frankly speaking boxing is the best martial art for the following reasons.

    1. the training method is full sparring and only what works counts.
    2. the conditioning training is the best.
    3. a jab of a professional boxer hitting someone any where with out a glove usually will knock people out.
    4. the timing and distance are better honed through boxing training.

    just a few more comments.

    everybody is talking about mma and jujitsu is beating all the mma fighters will thats not true. lets see the best mma fighters are boxers with good take down defence like de santos, anderson silva, nick diaz. also remove the gloves and let me see if any jujistu guy can take one jab of professional boxer.

    lastly kicking in a street fight can be used with boxing effectively as people dont realise when kick and your wearing shoes is more devistating then kicking bearfoot. also go see soccer fights on youtube aind let me know what you think.

    so my advice is the base should be boxing. once you are really good at that. learn mua tai for the elbows and knees and kicking. once done with that. grappling jujitsu.

    then finally self defense courses with an expert self defence instructor for dealing with the situations where someone pulls a gun a knife or a stick. and how to use every day items to defend yourself like keys. and how to be aware of your surroundings.

    lastly, i have been in 2 street fights in my life and i want you to learn from my experience.

    the first street fight was with a redneck cowboy in a diner. he started yelling profanities because he thought me and my friends were talking to loudly. he and a friend of mine stood up and started shoving each other. I got between them and calmed the situation then was walking the cowboy back to his table and sat him down. before i left him i said to him relax man don’t be a cowboy and for some reason he got up set grabbed the steak knife hit on the table and started to swing back to stab me with it. i tell you Human beings have instinct all i remember was that i didn’t think i just punched him as fast as i could as a reaction and knocked him out. I took the knife from him called my friends over watch over him and then called the police. the police came and asked me what happend then they took the cowboy to jail. the police man said because i didn’t continue punching him after he was knocked out that it was truely self defense and i am free to go.

    please note 3 techniques. i use in a street fight.
    1, try not to get in a street fight.
    2. if you are sure there is going to be a fight and you cant escape hit first.
    3. don’t rely on any friends to help usually they don’t. so if there are 3 guys assume you will have to manage all 3 yourself.

    next fight i was playing basket ball and i was arguing a foul and a guy was in my face and we were about to go to blows when someone came from behind me and tried to punch me but missed now the guy behind me is attacking and the guy infront of me is attacking. i used my quickness to avoid there punches and ran away. i felt bad for not fighting back but good that i didn’t get hit. but when there is two attackers better to run away.

  • Fighter

    Taekwondo, Ninjitsu and Karate will get you killed if you try it in street fighting. It’s not practical for CQC. Sport driven and impractical techniques. A world gold medalist in taekwondo got stabbed 14 times when he tried to disarm a robber in his house and the robber left.

  • jason15300

    can juit juitu kill some one???

  • Champion

    Train in 2 striking. (eg. Karate, Mauy Thai and BJJ. Karate or tae kwon doe are the 2 most important martial arts. All good fighters have a black belt in one or the other.

  • Sam L.

    Well, You said Kung fu, but you have said Wushu and not Wing chun

  • meo tornado

    i totally agree

  • Ambriel

    I want to learn something which is effective on the streets, with which I can deal violence and threats. Protect myself and people who are around me. I don’t want to learn a fancy style of self defense. I am planing to to go for Krav Maga. Any one here who practice Krav Maga or have any information or knowledge whatsoever will be helpful.

    My problem is when I fight I freeze or get slow because I start shaking and fear takes over me. I don’t know what to do in that kind of situations. I want to over come this feeling and be a brave heart and stand my ground for what’s right. 🙂

  • Zara

    @Iain. About that list: have you trained extensively in all those arts you mention or are you just listing martial arts at random? If not what is your basis for comparison? Making lists of ‘best’ arts is generally a useless exercise since a) your choice will depend heavily on your personal needs and b) the level & character of the instructor is generally a more important factor than the art/system itself. I train in a self-defense style that combines elements from very different arts (mainly Japanese JJ, JKD & Kali) to adress the reality of violence as good as possible. Japanese JJ is very good for dealing with grabs, chokes, putting people on the ground asap while remaining standing (contrary to the wrestling/BJJ approach of following him to the floor which is generally suicidal on the street)… and using locks for control in situations where brute force is not necessary, JKD shines in dealing with kicking & punching aswell as close-in fighting, Kali is one of the most practical arts with regard to weapons. For basic ground defence (the sort that focuses on doing damage and getting back up asap) we use standard judo/BJJ escapes coupled with what could be considered ‘foul tactics’ in a sports-context.

    The bottomline is this: it’s not about styles it’s about finding proper, effective solutions to problems and devising training methods that’ll get you ready asap. Every art has its strong points but also weaknesses, that is why training in one style will always leave you vulnerable in other areas. For those interested in self-defense I’d try to find an open-minded instructor who’s well versed in at least a few styles and who’s willing to adapt in order to overcome. For a quick and dirty solution krav maga is a good option, provided the instructor knows his stuff and is not just trying to cash in on the current fad. Sports MMA is not good for SD since it leaves out weapons and multiple opponents and will instill in you an unhealthy willingness to take the fight to the ground: if the shit really hits the fan you can count on facing more than one person and/or weapons. Having the proper training will at least give you a decent chance of surviving (in both cases this simple rule applies: hurt him bad and get the hell out of dodge) but then again running or simply avoiding places where danger lurks is always the best option. For pseudo or ‘social’ violence (i.e aking to a playground fight) nearly everything will do, if you’re concerned about real violence (the sort that can get you killed) you absolutely need to find both a good system AND study up on everything related to self-defense (avoidance, de-escalation, the criminal mindset…). Marc Macyoung’s website ( is a goldmine of useful information from a man who’s been there: from him I learned using your brain is at least as important as learning to fight. He’s also fond of debunking commonly accepted myths about the martial arts, including debates on effectiveness and lists like this one.

  • Zara

    @BobRuns: your comment is intelligent and well thought out. Avoidance and de-escalation are the best options in most self-defense situations, still it’s good to be prepared to fight (both standing and on the ground) but for the really bad situations gun-jutsu is still the best. It really is a shame the laws in my country don’t allow a civilian to carry a firearm or I probably would. About the single best means of protection against an armed attacker is to point a gun at him and pump him full of holes if he doesn’t back off. It’s also true that training has many benefits besides self-defense and being in shape will improve your life and make you better prepared to deal with violent situations.

  • Zara

    I just watched this ‘combat jiu-jitsu’ video and the inclusion of this style is ridiculous: he’s jumping on the guy (who’s standing perfectly still btw) in order to take him down (this’ll be nearly impossible in a real situation) and yet this is supposed to be good for SD? That punch defense is completely bogus too: you don’t just grab someone’s arm when he’s punching at you, then turn under his arm (lmao) and hope he’ll be nice enough to fall down and not punch you in the neck while you’re turning. This is pure showmanship, nothing more. Deadly fighting style my ass… If this is really used by American special forces they must not be planning on doing any CQC.

  • sakshikumarindia

    Reblogged this on JUSTICE FOR WOMEN and commented:
    List of Best self defense forms for women.

  • ILoveMartialArts

    taekwondo has good footwork, very effective for street fight even if you combine with little boxing…

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