Picking the right martial art for self-defense is a big decision, especially when it comes to your safety.
In general, the more comprehensive the martial art is, the better it is for self-defense. Some martial arts lack in some aspects of fighting, but they can still be highly useful in self-defense situations. MMA is the most versatile martial art when it comes to self-defense.
In this post, we have ranked 5 different martial arts, with explanations for you to choose, which one to start.
5. Brazilian jiu-jitsu
Even though Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) would not be my top pick for self-defense, it still deserves its place on this list.
BJJ is not on this list just because it’s one of my favorite martial arts, but it also allows you to handle bigger opponents than yourself, due to leverages and frames.
Pros of Brazilian jiu-jitsu for self-defense
A big percentage of street fight situations, where you have to defend yourself end up being ground fights. Brazilian jiu-jitsu focuses only on ground fighting, making it an excellent martial art for those kinds of situations.
As mentioned before, it also allows you to handle yourself, even against bigger opponents.
The locks and chokes allow you to hold your opponent in place, without breaking a sweat even for longer periods of time, until you receive some backup.
Taking the fight to the ground on purpose also removes the risk of you getting knocked out and hitting your head. That is where some of the serious damage from street fights can happen.
Cons of Brazilian jiu-jitsu for self-defense
The downside of BJJ for self-defense is the lack of punches and kicks. The fights seldom start from the ground, where BJJ shines.
That leaves the time period between the start of the fight until it goes to the ground where you have no training unless you have trained in other martial arts.
BJJ lessons also do not include dodging punches and kicks. Only sparring against other BJJ practitioners, might give you the image that you do not have to worry about punches and kicks. In reality, there are no rules in the streets.
More about BJJ for self-defense in this post.
Next up we have boxing. This is completely different from Brazilian jiu-jitsu and combined with it, they become a great combination for self-defense.
On the flipside, boxing, like BJJ only focuses on one aspect of fighting. Boxing is good at the beginning of the fight when you and your opponent are still standing.
However, when the fight goes to the ground like it usually does, boxing becomes less effective.
Pros of Boxing for self-defense
The best part about boxing for self-defense is that you learn how to dodge and block punches. They can do the most damage to you, especially if you fall and hit your head.
It is also a great option, for stand-up fighting, before the fight goes to the ground.
Cons of Boxing for self-defense
The downsides of boxing are that it only focuses on stand-up fighting. It also does not include any kicks that might occur in a street fight situation.
Another big minus boxing gets, is the lack of ground fighting aspect, where most of the fights end up in.
Then there is the damaged part. Punching someone, as well as getting punched, you could cause or receive some serious damage, especially if you fall and hit your head.
Therefore, I would highly suggest you use your skills only to defend yourself, such as blocking and dodging punches, instead of throwing them.
More about boxing for self-defense in this post.
3. Myau Thai / Kickboxing
Before you go all crazy, I do realize they are two different sports, with slightly different rules and ways. In a street fight situation, where there are no rules, they can be applied almost the same, that’s why they share this place.
However, Myau Thai and kickboxing both are more comprehensive martial arts, compared to boxing.
They both include kicks as well as punches, making it more whole martial art from a self-defense aspect.
Pros of Myau Thai and kickboxing for self-defense
What makes these two better for self-defense is the fact that they also include kicks, as well as other moves compared to boxing focusing only on striking.
Therefore, you will be more prepared to dodge, block, and receive kicks as well as use kicks on the offensive side.
Using kicks as an offensive method when defending yourself can be a safer option, compared to punching your opponent and risking them getting knocked out.
Cons of Myau Thai and kickboxing for self-defense
The downside of these two martial arts is that they still both lack the ground fighting aspect.
Here is a full post comparing Muay Thai to MMA for self-defense purposes.
2. Krav Maga
Krav maga deserved the second position on this list. It is purely designed for self-defense purposes, where the only goal is to survive at all costs.
The reason it is only in second place is that it is more difficult to find places to train Krav Maga than it is to train MMA, which holds the number one position.
Due to it being only used for self-defense, there are no competitions in krav maga. It is a really brutal martial art, with controversial moves such as targeting your opponents’ eyes.
Pros of Krav Maga for self-defense
What makes Krav Maga so good for self-defense, is the fact that it was designed for it. You will be taught to defend yourself no matter what the situation is.
It will teach you to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses and to survive the fight at all costs.
Krav Maga also includes defending yourself against armed attackers.
Cons of Krav Maga for self-defense
The downside of Krav Maga is that you can cause serious damage to your opponent. Krav Maga is considered to be one of the deadliest martial arts in the world.
Places to train Krav Maga can also be more difficult to find, compared to other martial arts on this list.
Krav Maga is like modern-day Wing Chun. Here is a post going through whether Wing Chun is illegal in MMA or not.
1. Mixed Martial Arts
Mixed Martial Arts holds the number one spot. The reason for this is the fact that MMA is a comprehensive style of fighting, covering all aspects of fighting.
A full post going through how suitable MMA is for self-defense can be found here.
With MMA, you can combine different martial art styles. You should be able to throw a punch, kick as well as handle yourself in a ground fighting situation.
Another aspect that makes MMA a good option, is the amount of MMA gyms there are. MMA gyms are not a usual sight, and they can be found almost anywhere.
You can even build your own MMA gym and start training by yourself. More about building your own MMA gym in this post.
Pros of MMA for self-defense
The great thing about MMA is that you can make it match your personal preferences. You can choose a striking martial art, combine it with ground fighting, and train both of them.
MMA is really versatile style of fighting, covering all aspects of fighting.
Therefore, you will also learn to handle yourself in different situations. No matter if the fight stays as a stand-up fight, or it goes to the ground, MMA got you covered.
Cons of MMA for self-defense
The downside of MMA is that when you are fighting in a ring, there are rules. In the streets, there are no rules. You won’t be taught how to defend yourself against someone, who has a knife, for example.
Things to keep in mind when choosing a martial art for self-defense
Even if a martial art is not listed here, that doesn’t mean it can not be used for self-defense. No matter what martial art you decide to start training, it will almost without exception help you, if you end up in a situation where you have to defend yourself.
Another thing to notice is that there are seldom winners in street fights. Therefore, always try to talk yourself out of the situation if possible. Use your skill only to defend yourself.
In conclusion: the more comprehensive the martial art is, the better it is for self-defense. Some martial arts only focus on ground fighting, while others focus on stand-up fighting.
Therefore, martial arts, such as MMA cover all the aspects of fighting and are the best options when it comes to defending yourself.
If your interest in martial arts increases, I have a lot of posts about different martial arts on my site. You can find them through the menu or from related posts below.
Here are also the best martial arts for beginners, who have no previous experience in martial arts.
Hopefully this was helpful, have a nice day!