The Best Martial Arts for Self-Defense (2023)

There are many martial arts around the world, hundreds and hundreds of martial arts all with different variations. It is difficult to find authentic, realistic, and practical martial arts that actually work in a self-defense situation. It can be one of the most dangerous things in the world to learn a martial art that is not effective and develop a false sense of security.

Learning martial arts that are not practical, realistic, and that may not work can actually do more harm than good. Assume you have been training an ineffective martial art for years and you walk around with this false sense of security that you can defend you and your family. Someone comes up to you and is trying to mug you at gunpoint and this martial art has led you to believe you know proper disarming that is actually dysfunctional. You attempt to disarm this person improperly and it can be the last decision you make. This is the danger of learning ineffective and unrealistic martial arts. They can get you killed, hurt, or injured.

So what are good martial arts to learn for self-defense? What martial arts actually work? Well, there are two martial arts that actually work very well for self-defense; they are Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Both of these martial arts have been proven effective and they have been tested in several combat situations. They are some of the best martial arts that you can learn for self-defense conflicts.

(Video) Best Martial Arts for Self Defense Ranked

Krav Maga

What is Krav Maga? Well, it is a relatively new martial art that was developed by Imi Lichtenfeld. He had a lot of experience in boxing, muay thai, wrestling, and other martial arts. This martial art comes from Israel and is the primary form of combat used to train the IDF or Israeli Defense Forces. Imi migrated to Israel when it was recognized as a sovereign state and was the head instructor of a group of men that would protect Israel, these men would later develop the IDF. For over 50 years this martial art has made Israeli Special Defense Forces, The Mossad, some of the best and tactically trained armed forces in the world. The Israelie Mossad/Special Defense is actually one of the units that help to train our Navy Seals, Rangers, and Green Barets. In essence, Krav Maga is a military martial art.

Krav Maga has spread rapidly across the world and is now recognized as one of the best martial arts for self-defense. The only problem with Krav Maga, like any martial art, is that it is difficult to find authentic Krav Maga training. When a martial art like this explodes with popularity many people perceive this as a business opportunity and claim that they are “Krav Maga Instructors.” This is when people without the credentials to teach open schools and teach poor technique. It is very difficult to regulate who is opening schools and teaching any martial art, so if you want to practice a martial art always make sure to ask your instructor what their background is, what their credentials are, and ask the students how they are as an instructor, try to get some testimonials and gauge whether or not what they are teaching is authentic. Check out this video below with Rodrigo Artilheiro teaching a knife defense, he is one of the best Krav Maga instructors in the world.

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So why is Krav Maga so effective? Simply put, it has been tested in combat. People have actually had to use this system to defend themselves from real threats, and guess what, it saved their lives. Krav Maga is a combination of several different disciplines; it has techniques from Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Wrestling, Boxing, Wing Chun, Karate, Muay That, and Kickboxing. There are so many different variations of techniques, but it is very practical and the single goal at hand in Krav is to dismantle your opponent so you can walk away safely. In many of the martial arts we just mentioned above, they have a “sport” background as well, that is not to take anything away from them but many people that do Karate these days may be training for specific rulesets with points and this can deviate the authenticity of the martial art. It may not be as good for self-defense if the academies are training for tournaments. Krav Maga does not really have a sports bias. This is a martial art made just for defending yourself, whether it is against a weapon, one person, two people, a knife, or anything. Krav Maga is an excellent discipline that can provide you with the confidence to walk around and know that you can defend yourself. Check out this video below of Rodrigo Artilheiro showing us another excellent Krav technique.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the most popular martial arts in the entire world. Like Krav it is a relatively new martial art. It became extremely popular with the birth of the Ultimate Fighting Championship or UFC. Basically the UFC was a no holds barred full contact tournament that brought the best martial artists from each discipline together for a tournament. There was Karate champions, Wrestlers, Professional Boxers, professional Kick Boxers, and Street fighters. There were no weight classes, no gloves, and no rules. There were multiple fights in one night for victory. The UFC was won 3 times in a row by a small, undersized, lanky guy named Royce Gracie. He destroyed everybody every time. He was a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt. At the time nobody was really familiar with this style and Royce annihilated every single opponent with chokes, arm locks and more. BJJ teaches you how to defend yourself off of your back, joint locks, chokes, and takedowns. It is the most technical martial art and it has the steepest learning curve.

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu exploded with popularity after Royce killed everyone at the first three UFC tournaments. Everybody wanted to learn it, the proof was in the pudding, how could a measly 150 lb guy beat people up that were twice his size and had martial arts training? It was because the world had never seen anything like this. BJJ is the best martial art in the world for Self-Defense in a ONE on ONE conflict. That is the difference between bjj and Krav Maga. Krav is made to defend you quickly against weapons, multiple attackers, and several situations. BJJ is about controlling one person.

BJJ is by far the best martial art to defeat one opponent, it is perfect for that one drunk guy who is being bothersome, the guy tryingto mug you (without a weapon), and it is AMAZING for women. It will make in between their legs the most dangerous place to be. Jiu Jitsu fighters like to have opponents in between their legs, this is called the “closed guard” and in this position they can apply hundreds of chokes, locks, and submissions. Check out this video below of the Gracie’s fighting challengers at their academy. After the explosion in popularity, martial artists would walk into the Gracie’s academies to challenge them because they did not believe BJJ could be that effective, they always lost.

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If you want to learn some extremely authentic Krav Maga with friends or family from the comfort of your own home check out Rodrigo Artilheiro’s DVD set “destroy first ask questions later Krav Maga.” This is an excellent resource to learn authentic and lifesaving techniques that can be practiced with a friend or family member. Definitely worth looking into!

The Best Martial Arts for Self-Defense (1)


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

Self-defense: The Five Most Effective Martial Arts
  • On a collision course: Krav Maga. ...
  • (Almost) nothing is off limits: Mixed Martial Arts. ...
  • Raw but effective: Keysi. ...
  • Individual self-defense in the style of Bruce Lee: Jeet Kune Do. ...
  • Instinct rather than deliberation: Wing Chun.
17 Jan 2019

Which is better for self Defence karate or taekwondo? ›

Karate also tends to give equal time on foot and hand techniques, whereas Taekwondo focuses entirely on kicks. But when it comes to self-defense, Karate works more on-street self-defense with minimum preparation for tournaments, whereas Taekwondo focuses on tournaments more rather than self-defense.

What is the #1 martial art? ›

1) Mixed Martial Arts: the Most Popular Martial Art in the World. Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a practice of hybrid martial arts which blends all forms of combat.

What martial art do Navy SEALs use? ›

Muay thai is ideal for close combat situations and makes it a natural choice for Navy SEALs to incorporate into their training. While many people don't consider boxing a martial art, its application in a close quarters fight is just as effective as it is in the boxing ring.

What martial art does the CIA teach? ›

Combat and Basic Training

Extensive hand-to-hand combat skills are learned, including martial arts like krav maga, jeet kune do and Brazilian jiu jitsu, and you must learn to fight with improvised weapons.

Who is No 1 martial artist in the world? ›

1. Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee is ranked first among the top 10 martial artists in the world in 2021. Lee Jun-fan (27 November 1940 - 20 July 1973) was a Chinese martial art performer, star, film maker, martial art teacher, and philosopher.

Who will win Karate or Taekwondo? ›

If you're interested in learning more balanced, full-body moves, karate might be a better choice. For those interested in learning fast and more elaborate kicking moves, taekwondo is the better option. A good way to find out which martial arts style is best for you is to try taking beginner classes in both disciplines.

Does Taekwondo work in a real fight? ›

Taekwondo includes many techniques – such as blocking, dodging and footwork – for defending or evading the attacks permitted within the sport's rules. These techniques can be effective in defending yourself if you're caught in the chaos of a street fight, but they were not designed that way.

Is Karate better than Jiu Jitsu? ›

BJJ is better than Karate in self-defense since its techniques are more practical and effective. Karate is also good, but the modern practice is too oriented towards point fighting and light contact.

What is the toughest martial art? ›

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is considered to be the most difficult martial art to learn. Even to athletic students, mastering this discipline is unlikely to come easy. But the difficulty of learning Jiu Jitsu is attractive to many students.

What is the weakest martial art in the world? ›

8 Worst Martial Arts for Self Defense
  • Capoeira. Capoeira is a famous Brazilian art that is not that practical for real fighting. ...
  • Aikido. ...
  • Sumo. ...
  • Tai Chi. ...
  • Kyusho Jitsu. ...
  • Atma Raksha Tantra (ART) ...
  • Ba Gua Zhang. ...
  • Yellow bamboo.

What martial arts do Marines train? ›

Miller created the program from various martial arts such as Okinawan karate, judo, taekwondo, boxing, and jujutsu. Every Marine recruit that went through MCRD was instructed in Miller's combat curriculum.

What fighting Style Are Marines taught? ›

Yes, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), which draws influences from such disciplines as Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, wrestling, and boxing, does teach Marines how to utilize hand to hand combat, but it goes well beyond that.

Should I do Muay Thai or Krav Maga? ›

So, is Muay Thai or Krav Maga better for self-defense? Muay Thai is best for self-defense, even though Krav Maga was developed solely for self-defense. In reality, Muay Thai involves real-life combat training (sparring and fighting), whereas Krav Maga does not.

What martial art does mi6 use? ›

Systema is similarly a style of martial art used by Russian KGB and counter intelligence. This teaches how to take a punch, how to get out of the line of sight of weapons, and disarm opponents.

Is Scarlett Johansson trained in martial arts? ›

Scarlett Johansson, like many actors, took up martial arts training in preparation for a film role. In this instance, she was to play the Black Widow in the Marvel films. Johansson has completed extensive MMA and BJJ training.

Which country is best in martial arts? ›

For karate, kendo, aikido or judo, Japan is the right country to train in. If you want a serious, intense, and authentic education in these disciplines, you'll encounter Japanese schools that take things very seriously.

What are the 5 most popular martial arts? ›

By the most gyms: Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), Karate, and Taekwondo are the most popular sports based on their gym presence— these four styles combined make up over 70% of gyms. By the highest review count: Boxing extends its lead here —just over 25% of gyms make up 37% of Yelp reviews.

Can boxing beat Taekwondo? ›

When it comes to these two specific arts, boxing, and Taekwondo, there is a pretty straightforward answer to the question of self-defense effectiveness. The better of the two is boxing, though not by a too large margin.

Can Kick boxing beat Karate? ›

Apart from power, Kickboxing is better because it trains you to fight at all ranges and uses a lot of leg kicks. Karate fighters prefer to fight at a distance, and they do not use as many low kicks. The biggest downside of Kickboxing is the lack of footwork, as its fighters tend to stay flat-footed.

Is Karate harder than boxing? ›

A master boxer will beat a master karate practitioner. Boxers spar often and have mastered the art of doing damage with their hands. Most modern karate is point fighting with no full contact sparring. Or at least that is what the overwhelming video and practical evidence show.

Why is Taekwondo not respected? ›

Taekwondo is disrespected in martial arts society because in newer times it has been identified and redefined as an Olympic sport and game, and not as a 'real' martial art.

Is Muay Thai better than Taekwondo? ›

Muay Thai is more effective in a self-defense scenario as Taekwondo requires distance to be effective. Muay Thai has devastating techniques for close and far ranges. Further, Muay Thai makes use of 8 limbs for striking whereas Taekwondo makes use of 4.

What moves are illegal in Taekwondo? ›

The only penalty in taekwondo is a gam-jeom. A gam-jeom is declared when an athlete punches to the face, or punches or kicks below the waist. Also not allowed is attacking an opponent with the knee or the head.

Should I learn taekwondo or Jiu-Jitsu? ›

We'd be lying if we said Jiu-Jitsu is best for everyone. Practicing Taekwondo is better for flexibility, for instance, and Karate better for core stability. But if you're after a martial art for self-defence, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is unparalleled.

Is Krav Maga better than Karate? ›

It is so easy to become the victim of a weapons attack because few of us face its intensity in real life. But when comparing Krav Maga with other martial arts such as Karate, Kung Fu or Taekwondo ( given the same training time) – Krav Maga wins hands down.

Can Karate beat a street fighter? ›

Modern karate is ineffective in street fights because they are designed for sports competitions with rules and limits on where you can strike. In contrast, traditional karate is practical because it prepares you for real-life fighting where there are no rules and no limits.

What is the least lethal martial art? ›

The least violent martial art is Aikido. Its central principle is to avoid confrontation and to guide an opponent into submission or loss with the absolute minimum force applied.

What is the most effective martial arts weapon? ›

What Is the Most Effective Martial Arts Weapon? Spears are the most effective martial arts weapon because they are pretty easy to use and dangerous to attack enemies while also keeping a better fighting distance.

How much force can I use to defend myself? ›

Golden Rule #1: You may use no greater force than a reasonable person would deem necessary to defend against the threat proffered. What constitutes a threat varies significantly by state, but it always includes physical harm against you.

How many rounds should you carry for self-defense? ›

In the overwhelming majority of the incidents where an armed civilian fires a shot in self-defense, probably 70 to 90% of them are able to resolve the situation within 3 or 4 rounds, and usually closer to one or two rounds. Every once in awhile, the good guy fires more like 5 to 8 rounds.

Which martial arts kicks the strongest? ›

Muay Thai consists of flying knees, spinning back elbows, high round kicks, crushing leg kicks, and more. It's one of the most effective styles for kicking in all of martial arts.

What is the deadliest move in martial arts? ›

In karate, the most dangerous move is simply an elbow to the face, Ribeiro said. Elbows are harder than fists, and an attack with an elbow is more likely to make contact than a knee or kick attack, Ribeiro said. Whereas a punch can lead to a broken fist, an elbow will simply make a solid impact, Ribeiro said.


1. Best Martial Arts for Self Defense
(The School Of Self Defense)
2. 3 Best Martial Arts Styles | No, It's Not Yours
(Combat Self Defense)
3. Martial Arts For Women's Self Defense Ranked
(Martial Arts Journey)
4. Ryan Hall: Best Martial Art for Self Defense | Take It Uneasy Podcast
(Lex Fridman)
5. Best Martial Art for Street Fighting | John Danaher and Lex Fridman
(Lex Clips)
(Joshua Iyalla)
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