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[EXPLAINED] 9 Best Martial Arts For Close Combat

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There are a few reasons you might want to practice martial arts.

Either to get in shape, or as a sport, or most importantly – to use as a self-defense mechanism.

Many learn close-combat martial arts so they can defend themselves in dangerous situations.

In any close-combat situation, you’re going to need to use your body as a weapon.

In this article, we’re going to look at the 9 best martial arts for close combat fighting.

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9 Best Martial Arts For Close Combat

Here are the 9 most effective martial arts for close combat, in no specific order:

  1. Kickboxing
  2. Lethwei
  3. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  4. Judo
  5. Boxing
  6. Muay Thai
  7. Krav Maga
  8. Sambo
  9. Mixed Martial Arts

Let’s take a look at these martial arts in more detail.

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Kickboxing was created and developed in Japan in the 1950s but was only established in America in the 1970s.

It’s known as a strictly stand-up martial art.

Kickboxing was developed from karate with a mixture of boxing, Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and Savate.

Many of the offensive and defensive techniques you see in Kickboxing come from boxing, like head movement and footwork.

Why Kickboxing Is Good For Close Combat
Credit: Health&Fitness

Why Kickboxing Is Good For Close Combat

Unlike Muay Thai, kickboxing doesn’t allow elbow and knee strikes.

It only allows kicks and punches.

There are a few important striking techniques you need to know in kickboxing that’ll help in a close combat situation.

Basic Punches:

  1. Jabs
  2. Hooks
  3. Uppercuts

Advanced Punches:

  1. Overhands
  2. Spinning back-fists
  3. Superman punches

Basic Kicks:

  1. High kicks
  2. Middle kicks
  3. Low kicks

Advanced Kicks:

  1. Roundhouse kicks
  2. Teep kicks
  3. Spinning sidekicks

You’ll also learn to read your attacker and to respond quickly and effectively.

It’s a great martial art to learn if you want to learn how to defend yourself and evade attackers by keeping a safe distance between you and your opponent.

This close-combat martial art has many benefits like physical and mental toughness, focus, speed, and strength.

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Lethwei, also known as Burmese boxing comes from Myanmar and is considered to be one of the most brutal martial arts in the world.

This sport uses stand-up striking with various clinching techniques, but what sets it apart is the use of headbutts.

It’s known as “The Art Of

Adding to its brutality is its use of bare-knuckle striking, with only tape and gauze to protect your fists.

Burmese boxing or Lethwei is rapidly growing in popularity.

Why Kickboxing Is Good For Close Combat
Credit: Muay Thai Citizen

Why Is Lethwei Good For Close Combat

Lethwei teaches you to be tough and persevere through pain.

It’s a great martial art for self-defense.

It may be the most brutal martial art but you have to show respect to your opponents.

There are two ways to show respect to your opponent:

  1. Lekkha Moun (used to respectfully challenge an opponent)
  2. Lethwei Yay (performed before a contest, but also afterward as a celebration)

Lethwei is basically a no-rule martial art, you can use your whole body from headbutts to kicks to takeout your opponent.

That’s why it’s known as “The Art Of The 9 Limbs.”

Like Muay Thai, you’re also allowed to clinch fight which is great for close combat training.

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What You Will Need For Lethwei

Their arent much you need for Lethwei but here is the list of the few things you need.

  1. Freestanding Boxing Bag
  2. Mouthgaurd
  3. Boxing Short
  4. Groin Guards

That’s all items you need for Lethwei.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu originated in Brazil, with techniques derived from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and Judo.

The goal in BJJ is to use timing, speed, and technique to take down your opponent, control, and submit them.

The key components of BJJ include:

  1. Weight
  2. Pressure
  3. Leverage
  4. Timing
  5. Technique

BJJ relies heavily on throws, immobilizing, choking, and joint locks to finish a fight.

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Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Is Good For Close Combat
Credit: Eastern Europe BJJ

Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Is Good For Close Combat

BJJ techniques are especially useful for fighters with smaller people facing larger opponents.

In BJJ you’re taught to use your opponent’s size against them.

It was designed to be an easily teachable martial art, with many physical and mental benefits.

It’s a great workout for your body while training your mind as well, teaching you to stay calm in dangerous situations.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the few martial arts where you can learn effective self-defense that keeps you safe in a controlled environment.

Practitioners will usually train at between 80% – 100% of their full strength, so it’s perfect for understanding what a real confrontation might feel like.

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What You’ll Need For BJJ

Here’s a list of all the items you’ll need to practice BJJ.

  1. Mouthgaurd
  2. BJJ Gi
  3. Rash Guard
  4. NoGi Shorts
  5. BJJ Gi
  6. Rash Guard
  7. NoGi Shorts

Nothing more, nothing less.


Judo is a very old martial art that originated in Japan.

The word Judo translates to “gentle way.”

The main techniques in Judo are throwing, sweeping, taking down opponents, and submitting them.

Similar to BJJ, Judo is more about redirection unbalancing, and disabling opponents rather than aggressive striking.

Why Judo Is Good For Close Combat
Credit: KCP

Why Judo Is Good For Close Combat

The “gentle art” is teachable and easy for beginners to learn.

Judo relies heavily on a combination of throwing and grappling only, which helps to control an opponent in close combat fighting.

It focuses a lot on the principles of ‘maximum efficiency, minimum effort.’

Judo teaches you to defend yourself in worst-case scenarios.

It’s a good martial art for learning self-defense, especially in close quarters.

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What You Will Need For Judo

Similar to Jiu-Jitsu, you don’t need much to get started with Judo.

  1. Judo Uniform
  2. Mouthguard

That’s all you need.


Boxing is even older than Judo, dating back thousands of years but rising to popularity from about 1904.

It’s the most widely practiced stand-up fighting style across the world.

There are two types of stances in boxing, the southpaw stance (leading right-hand) and the orthodox stance (leading left-hand).

Boxing is strictly a striking martial art, only using your fists to defend and strike an opponent in close combat.

Why Boxing Is Good For Close Combat
Credit: USA Today

Why Boxing Is Good For Close Combat

Boxing has 5 different types of styles you can develop to help with close combat fighting:

  1. Classic boxer out-fighter (long-range jab-focused)
  2. Boxer-puncher (all-around close quarters fighter)
  3. Counter-puncher (defensive bob-and-weave)
  4. Brawler/slugger (fighter relying on pure power)
  5. Swarmer/in-fighter (fast close-quarters fighter)

Boxing offers many benefits like getting fitter, stronger, more agile and you’ll gain a lot more striking power and speed.

You’re also taught effective footwork and head movement to evade strikes and counter with your own.

Boxing has four main punches which every practitioner will learn:

  1. Jab
  2. Cross or Straight Punch
  3. Hook
  4. Uppercut

It’s a great martial art to do if you want to learn the basics of close combat self-defense.

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What You Need For Boxing:

Here’s the full list of gear you’ll need for boxing:

You don’t need all of the above to start boxing, you can get away with simply getting boxing gloves and a mouthguard.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai was created in the 13th century and originates from Thailand.

This combat sport is also known as “The Art of 8 Limbs” because you’re taught to fight with all your fists, shins, elbows, and knees.

There are 4 main striking techniques:

  1. shin and teep kicks
  2. elbow strikes
  3. shin strikes
  4. knee strikes

It’s a stand-up striking sport but also uses clinching techniques for getting opponents to the ground.

Muay Thai was a combat martial art used in battlefield situations, so it’s perfect for close combat fighting.

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Why Muay Thai Is Good For Close Combat
Credit: One Champion

Why Muay Thai Is Good For Close Combat

Muay Thai has many benefits like making you fitter, stronger, more flexible, and much more.

In fact, Muay Thai is one of the most physically demanding martial arts.

So it’s a great way to get fit while learning to defend yourself.

There are two main categories of techniques you’ll use in close-quarter fighting: Mae Mai (major techniques) and Luk Mai (minor techniques)

These techniques include:

  1. Jabs
  2. Cross punches
  3. Hooks
  4. Uppercuts
  5. Superman punches
  6. Elbow strikes
  7. Straight kicks
  8. Roundhouses
  9. Shin kicks
  10. Series of knee strikes

You develop your entire body into a weapon with Muay Thai.

That’s why it’s so popular with MMA fighters wanting to master all elements of striking.

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What You’ll Need For Muay Thai

There are a few things you’ll need for Muay Thai:

  1. Boxing Gloves
  2. Mouthgaurd
  3. Handwraps
  4. Freestanding Boxing Bag
  5. Shin guards
  6. Boxing Short
  7. Meister Gloves Deodorizer

I highly recommend also investing in shin guards, and hand wraps.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is used by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and by many other law enforcement agencies.

This close-combat martial art was created by Imi Lichtenfeld in the late 1940s.

The word Krav Maga translates to “contact combat”, and focuses on real-world applications including weapon attacks.

The fundamentals of Krav Maga come from Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, Aikido, and Karate.

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Why Krav Maga Is Good For Close Combat
Credit: Krav Maga

Why Krav Maga Is Good For Close Combat

Krav Maga is all about fast-paced striking and knowing your surroundings.

It teaches you about survival and how to quickly adapt to dangerous situations.

Krav Maga cannot be practiced against a resisting opponent because the techniques could cause horrible injuries.

Much of Krav Maga’s training uses high-energy simulations.

This close-combat martial art has many mental and physical benefits, and it’s one of the best martial arts you can learn for self-defense.

What You Will Need For Krav Maga

There aren’t any specific uniforms needed for Krav Maga.

You normally train in black long or short pants and a black T-shirt.

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Combat Sambo was developed in the USSR and used in the 1920s by the Soviet Red Army.

The word Sambo translates to “self-defense without weapons.”

There are three categories of Sambo:

  1. Combat Sambo
  2. Sport Sambo
  3. Freestyle Sambo

Sambo has a combination of Judo, Wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Why Sambo Is Good For Close Combat
Credit: International Sambo Federation

Why Sambo Is Good For Close Combat

Sambo has a combination of take-down throws, ground grappling, joint locks, and chokeholds.

Like Krav Maga, Sambo is one of the more aggressive forms of close-combat martial arts, but it’s very good for self-defense.

Sambo teaches you to takedown opponents both smaller and larger than you, using very similar concepts to wrestling and BJJ.

What Will You Need For Sambo

Here’s a shortlist of what you’ll need for Sambo:

  1. Mouthguard
  2. Boxing Gloves
  3. Freestanding Boxing Bag
  4. Shin guards
  5. Gi Top
  6. Wrestling Shoes

Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed Martial Arts dates back to nearly 648 BC.

It only became well known in the modern world in 1993 when Royce Gracie fought in Denver Colorado, in UFC 1.

MMA is now one of the most popular martial arts in the world.

It’s watched and trained by millions of people across the globe.

Why MMA Is Good For Close Combat
Credit: Telegraph

Why Mixed Martial Arts Is Good For Close Combat

Mixed Martial Arts is an amazing close-combat martial art for learning self-defense.

It helps you as a fighter gain crucial fighting knowledge and expand your skills, both standing and on the ground – including:

  1. Striking
  2. Submissions
  3. Grappling
  4. And more

Mixed Martial Arts teaches you multiple different martial arts and doesn’t only specialize in one or the other.

This makes it the most complete form of close-combat self-defense you can learn.

Also Read: [EXPLAINED] 10 Best Martial Arts For Everyday Self-Defense

What You’ll Need For MMA

Here’s a list of a few things needed to train MMA:

  1. Mouthguard
  2. Boxing Gloves
  3. Freestanding Boxing Bag
  4. Shin guards
  5. Boxing Short

You will definitely need at least a mouthguard and gloves when you start training MMA.


All these martial arts listed in this article are good for close combat and also very good for self-defense.

Choosing a martial art for fighting knowledge and doing it more for the sport of it I would say MMA and Kickboxing is a great close-combat martial art to do because it teaches you more than one type of fighting style.

If you looking for a close-combat that will teach you all about self-defense I would say Krav Maga and BJJ is the martial art you should look into.

The most important part of choosing a martial art is making sure you will enjoy it and want to succeed in it.

So choose the best martial art for close-combat, and start today!