[EXPLAINED] 7 Best Martial Arts For Beginners

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Learning martial arts is a great way of getting fit while also improving your self-defense skills.

There are dozens of martial arts practiced across the world.

Each of these is different in terms of fundamentals, techniques, training style, and ease of learning. 

People with no prior background in martial arts may be reluctant to learn one due to the steep learning curve associated with some of them.

However, there are plenty of great martial arts perfectly suited for beginners because they’re easy to get into and have great communities.

In this post, we’ll be looking at the 7 best martial arts for beginners, their pros and cons, and what you need to get started.

Let’s get into it.

[EXPLAINED] 7 Best Martial Arts for Beginners

To summarise, the seven best martial arts for beginners are:

  1. Boxing
  2. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  3. Muay Thai
  4. Kickboxing
  5. Judo
  6. Karate
  7. Krav Maga

As I mentioned, each of these martial arts has its own pros and cons.

Learning martial arts is often a lifelong commitment, so it’s important to choose the right one from the beginning.

ALSO READ: [EXPLAINED] 7 Best Martial Arts With Grappling

What To Consider

Here are some of the factors I considered when compiling this list of the 7 best martial arts for beginners:

#1 Availability of Gyms/Academies

One of the main challenges to starting martial arts is the availability of gyms or academies near you.

If there’s no one for you to learn from within a reasonable distance from where you live, then learning your desired martial art won’t be possible.

So this is the main factor you’ll need to consider.

#2 Community and Culture

If you don’t enjoy training with the people in your gym, you won’t enjoy your chosen martial art.

Some martial arts tend to be more competitive than others or promote more aggression than you might like.

Use the information in this article to steer you in the right direction, but I recommend visiting a gym and taking advantage of their introductory session to see what the people are like before you join.

There’s nothing worse than training with people who are overly aggressive, and unfortunately, some gyms and academies promote this type of thinking.

ALSO READ: [EXPLAINED] 3 Best Stand-Up Fighting Styles

#3 Fitness and Mobility

One of the main reasons you might be considering martial arts is to have fun and learn self-defense while getting fit.

If you’re not getting fit while training, you’re defeating the object.

So considering this benefit is important before choosing the right martial art for you.

#4 Opportunities for Competing

This might not be relevant to you, but many who start martial arts want to compete at some point.

It’s a great way of testing your skills against other trained fighters.

Fighting someone in competition is very different to sparring someone in the gym, so it’ll properly test your defensive and offensive abilities in a live but controlled environment.

I consider this an important factor to consider for any martial art.

ALSO READ: [EXPLAINED] 5 Disadvantages Of Boxing

#5 Realism of Training

It’s important that the martial art you’re training is properly tested against a resisting opponent.

Unfortunately, many martial arts don’t offer this, or if they do it’s very limited.

You might need to get used to the idea of realistic sparring, but this is necessary if you want to defend yourself in a real-life scenario.

There’s nothing wrong with training something like Aikido or Tai Chi, but don’t expect to use any of those techniques in an actual fight.

#6 Risk of Injury

Like most contact sports, martial arts have a very real risk of severe injury.

If your day job depends on you being mobile, considering your risk of being injured should definitely be at the top of your list.

Keep in mind, some injuries may take 6-12 months or even longer to recover from.

Other injuries, like CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), can lead to permanent brain damage.

So understanding the very real risks of the martial art you’re choosing is very important.

Below I’ve done all of this research for you.

So let’s look at the pros and cons of each of these martial arts, and what you need to get started today.

ALSO READ: [EXPLAINED] Can I Train BJJ After Getting A Tattoo?

Boxing For Beginners

The sport of boxing needs no introduction.

It’s existed for thousands of years and was one of the first Olympic sports to gain widespread recognition.

Modern boxing features a well-defined set of moves characterized by different types of punches, jabs, head and foot movement.

Boxers are skilled at delivering blows using their upper body while positioning and repositioning themselves using their legs.

This makes it a great form of self-defense that also gives you a good cardio workout.

boxing for beginners
Credit: Olympics

Pros of Boxing

  • Availability of gyms/academies
  • Community and culture
  • Fitness and mobility
  • Opportunities for competing
  • Realism of Training

Cons of Boxing

  • Risk of injury

Why Boxing Is Great For Beginners

The art of boxing is pretty straightforward.

Fighters simply need to learn how to deliver punches with their hands, use their head movement to avoid strikes, and reposition themselves with their feet.

It’s less physically strenuous than other martial arts that may require you to maintain a crouching stance, moving from standing to ground-fighting and back, or grappling.

Boxing also doesn’t require much athletic ability in terms of strength and flexibility.

However, speed can still be an asset for new boxers who wish to outmaneuver their opponents and deliver some swift blows.

Competitive boxing can be quite grueling, but beginner boxers should be able to pick up on the martial sport’s fundamentals without much difficulty.

What You Need To Start Boxing

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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu For Beginners

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a popular martial art known for having the most extensive curriculum of all fighting styles.

It’s known as “the gentle art”, referring to Jiu-Jitsu’s ability to defeat larger opponents with little effort.

BJJ techniques include various joint locks and joint manipulation, strangles, and chokeholds.

The art uses leverage, pressure, timing, and angles to dominate an attacker.

Rather than relying on speed and strength.

Many MMA fighters have backgrounds in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because it contains useful offensive and defensive techniques that work very well in high-risk situations.

BJJ for beginners
Credit: The Guardian

Pros of BJJ

  • Availability of gyms/academies
  • Community and culture
  • Fitness and mobility
  • Opportunities for competing
  • Realism of training

Cons of BJJ

  • Risk of injury

Why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Is Great For Beginners

Beginners looking to learn their first martial art can’t go wrong with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

This martial art may seem difficult to learn if you’re only observing it from the outside.

However, it becomes much easier and more intuitive once you understand the fundamentals and basic concepts.

Beginner BJJ fighters may find themselves tapping out the majority of the time in their first few training sessions, but this helps to speed up the learning process.

Tapping out is a crucial part of Jiu-Jitsu, it’s what keeps you safe even while training dangerous or even life-threatening techniques.

However, like any sport, there is the risk of injury.

Fortunately, most injuries in BJJ are temporary and easy to recover from.

So you can train the art well into your later years.

Many beginners can become semi-skilled in BJJ after just a few months of practice.

Following this, most become skilled fighters both in and outside the ring.

What You Need To Start BJJ

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Muay Thai For Beginners

Muay Thai is a popular martial art practiced in many countries.

It originated in Thailand and primarily focuses on different striking techniques.

Since its inception, it’s grown into a popular martial art trained by fighters around the world.

Muay Thai fighters use their fists, elbows, knees, and shins to defeat an opponent.

This is why it’s widely known as “The Art of 8 Limbs”.

Fighters also utilize clinches while landing brutal elbow and knee strikes.

This makes it useful in many self-defense situations.

Like BJJ, most MMA fighters will include some form of Muay Thai training in their schedules.

muay thai for beginners

Pros of Muay Thai

  • Availability of gyms/academies
  • Community and culture
  • Fitness and mobility
  • Opportunities for competing
  • Realism of training

Cons of Muay Thai

  • Risk of injury

Why Muay Thai Is Great For Beginners?

Muay Thai can be more challenging to learn compared to ordinary boxing due to its wider variety of techniques.

However, this also means beginners can make great strides if they already have a good understanding of the fundamentals of boxing.

New fighters pick up on Muay Thai stances, footwork, and strikes relatively quickly.

You can become quite skilled in a short amount of time if you put in the effort required.

If you’re looking to lose weight, Muay Thai is a great option because of the amount of cardio you do, compared to many of the other martial arts in this article.

What You Need To Start Muay Thai

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Fairtex BGV1 Boxing Gloves

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Kickboxing For Beginners

Kickboxing is a fusion of many different martial arts.

It contains elements of traditional boxing, Taekwondo, and Muay Thai.

However, this martial sport does not include clinching or elbow and knee strikes, which are otherwise a core part of Muay Thai.

Kickboxers often use a wide range of boxing techniques including head movement and dynamic footwork.

Fighters also utilize a combination of punches and kicks to defeat an opponent, rather than sweeping them to the ground.

Kickboxers can be fierce opponents once they understand the various upper and lower body techniques in this martial sport.

kickboxing for beginners
Credit: Medium

Pros of Kickboxing

  • Fitness and mobility
  • Realism of training

Cons of Kickboxing

  • Risk of injury
  • Availability of gyms/academies
  • Opportunities for competing
  • Community and culture

Why Kickboxing Is Great For Beginners?

Muay Thai can be relatively challenging for newcomers due to the clinches involved.

Kickboxing does not include clinches, which makes it easier to learn than Muay Thai for many beginners.

You can become quite skilled in kickboxing with just 6 months of practice.

It doesn’t require much athleticism as Muay Thai, but you’ll still need to work on your cardio.

People with athletic builds may have an easier time learning kickboxing.

Kickboxing and Muay Thai have a lot in common, but Muay Thai is slightly more widely practiced as it offers more for those training for MMA.

For this reason, finding gyms and competitions that specialize in Kickboxing can be slightly more difficult.

What You Need To Start Kickboxing

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Venum Elite Boxing Gloves

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Venum Challenger Mouthguard

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Meister Glove Deodorizers for Boxing

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RDX Boxing Hand Wrap

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Judo For Beginners

Judo is an ancient martial sport that originated in Japan and was trained by the Samurais.

It involves throwing, sweeping, and taking down opponents using momentum and leverage.

Often allowing smaller people to take down much larger opponents, by prioritizing technique over speed and strength.

Judo also includes a limited set of grappling techniques as a way of finishing an opponent once you’ve taken them to the ground.

There are about 100 techniques in total used in Judo, of which 68 are takedowns and 32 are ground fighting techniques.

Judo for beginners
Credit: British Judo

Pros of Judo

  • Community and culture
  • Fitness and mobility
  • Realism of training
  • Availability of gyms/academies
  • Opportunities for competing

Cons of Judo

  • Risk of injury

Why Judo Is Great For Beginners?

Judo can be learned at just about any age but is best suited for young to middle-aged people.

This is because the constant falls can be quite heavy on your body, especially when you’re older.

Judo was designed to be teachable and easy for beginners to understand. 

Importantly, it also teaches you how to maintain a steady mind in tense combat situations.

This makes it a great martial art for beginners who would like to learn self-defense.

What You Need To Start Judo

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Karate For Beginners

Much like boxing, Karate needs no introduction.

Used by prominent MMA fighters like Georges St. Pierre and Lyoto Machida, many are still drawn to this Japanese martial art.

Karate has been evolving as a martial art in recent years to keep up with more effective fighting styles.

Predominantly a stand-up style, Karatekas use a wide range of punches and kicks to keep opponents at a distance and counter-strike when necessary.

Karate also uses unique “sideways bouncing” footwork which many MMA fighters have utilized extremely well to move in and out of striking distance, including Conor McGregor.

karate for beginners
Credit: Olympics

Pros of Karate

  • Community and culture
  • Availability of gyms/academies
  • Opportunities for competing
  • Risk of injury

Cons of Karate

  • Fitness and mobility
  • Realism of training

Why Karate Is Great For Beginners?

If you’re looking for a martial art with less risk of injury, Karate is for you.

Karate focuses more on the discipline of specific techniques, perfecting them using kata and touch-striking.

Tournaments in Karate for the most part are all based on points, so fighters aren’t motivated to knock each other out.

Instead, fighters use fast and light strikes to less vulnerable parts of the body (usually excluding the face) to score points and win a fight.

Though Karate may not prepare you as well for a self-defense scenario as some of the other martial arts mentioned above, it still offers a great way to get used to confrontation in a controlled environment.

What You Need To Start Karate

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Krav Maga For Beginners

Krav Maga is a martial art developed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) for self-defense.

It borrows techniques from Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, Aikido, and Karate.

Since its inception, Krav Maga has grown into a globally trained fighting style and adopted by multiple law enforcement agencies, including SWAT.

Unfortunately, Krav Maga doesn’t offer tournaments as its main focus is for real-world applications.

Many of the defensive and offensive techniques you’ll learn are targeted at vulnerable areas of the body and even includes weapon defense.

Another skill Krav Maga practices that many others don’t is fighting against multiple opponents.

They use a combination of speed and strength to overwhelm opponents and safely escape.

krav maga for beginners
Credit: Wodify

Pros of Krav Maga

  • Fitness and mobility
  • Risk of injury

Cons of Krav Maga

  • Opportunities for competing
  • Realism of training
  • Community and culture
  • Availability of gyms/academies

Why Krav Maga Is Great For Beginners?

If you want to learn a fast-paced martial art that focuses mainly on survival, then Krav Maga is for you.

Unfortunately, Krav Maga cannot be trained against a resisting opponent because the techniques can severely injure you.

So most of what you learn is practiced against someone who isn’t fighting back.

However, this is not to say that you won’t learn some valuable survival techniques for hostile situations.

You’ll certainly be better off learning Krav Maga than nothing at all.

ALSO READ: [EXPLAINED] Krav Maga Vs BJJ | Which Is Better?

What You Need To Start Krav Maga

Unlike other martial arts, Krav Maga has no formal uniform or gi.

Most Krav Maga schools might require you to wear black tracksuit pants or shorts and a black t-shirt.

Other than that, you probably already have the necessary gear for Krav Maga in your closet.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are plenty of martial arts that are well-suited for beginners.

Some of these are certainly more complex than others.

However, such martial arts become much easier to learn once you understand their fundamentals and basic techniques.

My recommendation for beginners and the martial art I practice myself is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

However, any of the options mentioned above are great for beginners if you want to get into martial arts.

READ MORE: 10 Reasons Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Is The Best