Skip to content

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

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Martial arts offer more than mere athletic competition; they serve as a powerful toolkit for personal protection in an unpredictable world.

These ancient practices not only equip you with the skills to navigate challenging situations, but they also contribute to your overall physical and mental well-being.

Dive into this article as we unveil the top 10 martial arts disciplines that are perfect for practical, everyday self-defense.

ALSO READ: Boxing Gloves Buyers Guide | All You Need To Know

10 Best Martial Arts For Everyday Self-Defense

There are many martial arts to choose from, but some are more practical in a dangerous situation than others.

For example, studying Tai Chi (meditative martial art) or Kyudo (bow and arrow martial art) wouldn’t help against someone attacking you in the street.

The top 10 best martial arts for self-defense are:

  1. Krav Maga
  2. MMA
  3. Jiu-Jitsu
  4. Muay Thai
  5. Kickboxing
  6. Wrestling
  7. Boxing
  8. Judo
  9. Sambo
  10. Taekwondo

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

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a formidable combat methodology, originally crafted to train the Israeli Defense Forces.

Developed in the 1940s by Imi Lichtenfeld, a Hungarian martial arts expert, this system prioritizes swift and efficient threat neutralization.

Historically, Krav Maga served as a life-saving skillset during the precarious times leading up to World War II in Eastern Europe.

Why Krav Maga is the Ultimate Choice for Real-World Self-Defense

Rooted in real-world practicality, Krav Maga trains you to turn your body—and even your immediate environment—into an effective defensive arsenal.

This martial art form hones your situational awareness, equipping you not only to adapt rapidly but also to strike with lethal speed and precision.

Krav Maga zeroes in on targeting an assailant’s most sensitive areas, such as the eyes or groin, maximizing your chances of incapacitating them quickly.

What’s more, the learning curve is astonishingly swift.

Within approximately six months, you can reach a proficiency level that empowers you to confidently navigate public spaces.

The Eclectic Techniques of Krav Maga:

Technique CategoryInfluences and Origins
StrikesBorrowed from Karate and Boxing
Take-downs and ThrowsInspired by Judo, Aikido, and Wrestling
Ground CombatA Fusion of Judo and Wrestling Principles
Escaping Chokes and HoldsGleaned from Judo, Aikido, and Wrestling
Disarming AttackersA Skill Set Adapted from Aikido

While Krav Maga instills the skills needed for self-defense, it also emphasizes the importance of conflict avoidance.

However, in those dire situations where evasion is not an option, Krav Maga provides you the tools to neutralize the threat quickly and aggressively, ensuring your safety.

ALSO READ: Punching Bag Buyers Guide | All You Need To Know

Why Is Krav Maga Good For Everyday Self-Defense?
Credit: iStock

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

With roots tracing back to as early as 648 BC, Mixed Martial Arts was initially a form of combat training for the ancient Greek military.

Blending an array of fighting styles into one cohesive system, MMA achieved mainstream acclaim after Royce Gracie’s victorious appearance in the inaugural UFC tournament in Denver, Colorado, in 1993.

Since then, with the ascendancy of promotions like UFC and Bellator, MMA has claimed its spot as the most celebrated martial art globally.

Why is MMA a Robust Choice for Everyday Self-Defense

MMA crafts a resilient foundation for self-defense, eliminating any blind spots in your combative repertoire while diversifying your skill set.

This versatile martial art incorporates:

Technique CategoryComponents and Skill Sets
StrikingBoxing, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Karate
SubmissionsBrazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Sambo
GrapplingWrestling, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Ground CombatBrazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling
Clinch WorkMuay Thai, Greco-Roman Wrestling
TakedownsWrestling, Judo, Sambo
Defensive ManeuversBoxing (evasion), Jiu-Jitsu (escapes)
Elbow & Knee StrikesMuay Thai
FootworkBoxing, Taekwondo

This table encapsulates the rich tapestry of techniques and skill sets that make up the complex world of Mixed Martial Arts.

From striking to submissions, from grappling to ground combat, MMA combines the most effective elements of multiple martial arts disciplines to create a versatile and comprehensive self-defense system.

By mastering MMA, you essentially become a human Swiss Army knife of self-defense, instilling a profound sense of self-assurance.

Before opting for MMA as your chosen martial discipline, bear in mind that the training regimen is rigorous.

This intensity arises from the necessity to become proficient in multiple fighting styles simultaneously.

ALSO READ: [EXPLAINED] How To Make Money In Jiu-Jitsu Without A Gym

Why Is MMA Good For Everyday Self-Defense?
Credit: NYPost

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

Emerging from Brazil but drawing on ancient Japanese samurai traditions, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) was cultivated by the Gracie brothers, Carlos and Helio.

Their martial journey began when they encountered Mitsuyo Maeda, a world-renowned judoka from Japan, during his visit to Brazil.

Influenced by Maeda’s judo expertise, the Gracie brothers adapted its ground combat elements, molding them into a distinct martial art form we now recognize as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The essence of BJJ revolves around utilizing weight distribution, pressure, leverage, and precise timing to execute takedowns, gain control, and apply submissions.

Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Excels in Everyday Self-Defense

The beauty of BJJ lies in its reliance on technique and finesse, rather than brute force or sheer luck.

This makes it an ideal choice for individuals who may lack size or muscle mass.

BJJ fosters both bodily and situational awareness, integral qualities for effective self-defense.

It also cultivates mental resilience, equipping you to maintain composure in high-stress scenarios, thereby enhancing your problem-solving capabilities.

In circumstances where escape is not feasible, BJJ provides a tactical framework for controlling and neutralizing a threatening situation.

ALSO READ: [EXPLAINED] How To Get Your BJJ Blue Belt Faster

Why Is Jiu-Jitsu Good For Everyday Self-Defense?
Credit: CTN News

Muay Thai: The Art of Eight Limbs

Originating from Thailand in Southeast Asia, Muay Thai traces its roots back to the 13th century, when it was initially devised for military self-defense.

However, it only gained international recognition in the early 20th century.

Dubbed the “Art of Eight Limbs,” Muay Thai incorporates the use of fists, elbows, knees, and shins to create a versatile striking system.

It’s often regarded as the pinnacle of stand-up combat, even among Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) practitioners.

Why Muay Thai is a Stellar Choice for Everyday Self-Defense

Muay Thai offers a comprehensive striking repertoire that spans all ranges, from up-close elbow strikes to far-reaching teep kicks.

This martial art teaches you to engage your entire body as a weapon, transcending beyond mere fistwork.

More than just a striking art, Muay Thai also incorporates clinching techniques, trips, and throws into its tactical playbook.

Practitioners learn to rapidly adapt and respond to their opponents with a blend of offensive and defensive maneuvers, making it a highly adaptable art form for real-world situations.

Not only is Muay Thai an accessible martial art for individuals of all fitness levels, but it’s also renowned for being a high-intensity cardio workout.

ALSO READ: [EXPLAINED] 7 Best Martial Arts For Elderly

Why Is Muay Thai Good For Everyday Self-Defense?
Credit: One

Kickboxing: A Fusion of Striking Disciplines

Born in 1950s Japan and popularized in America during the 1970s, Kickboxing is a martial art that blends elements of karate, boxing, Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and Savate.

Primarily a stand-up combat system, it’s sometimes mistaken for Muay Thai due to its striking similarities.

A distinguishing factor is that most kickboxing competitions eschew elbow and knee strikes.

Instead, kickboxing places a greater emphasis on techniques commonly found in boxing, such as nuanced head movement and agile footwork.

Why Kickboxing is a Prime Choice for Everyday Self-Defense

Kickboxing centers on fundamental kicks and punches, offering a more straightforward, yet effective, arsenal for self-defense scenarios.

For those less interested in the elaborate elbow and knee techniques found in Muay Thai, Kickboxing provides a focus on mastering the core principles of striking, including:

Technique CategorySkill LevelTechniques
Punch TechniquesBasicJabs, Hooks, Uppercuts
Punch TechniquesAdvancedOverhands, Spinning Back-fists, Superman Punches
Kick TechniquesBasicHigh Kicks, Middle Kicks, Low Kicks
Kick TechniquesAdvancedRoundhouse Kicks, Teep Kicks, Spinning Sidekicks

This table succinctly categorizes the various punch and kick techniques in kickboxing, differentiating between basic and advanced skills.

Whether you’re a beginner or looking to elevate your game, this table serves as a quick reference to the diverse striking options in the realm of kickboxing.

Besides physical benefits like improved strength, speed, and endurance, Kickboxing enhances mental resilience and focus.

Practitioners learn to read their opponents quickly, react precisely, and employ evasion tactics, which enables them to maintain a safe distance during confrontations.

ALSO READ: [EXPLAINED] What Is Jiu-Jitsu? | The Best Martial Art

Why Is Kickboxing Good For Everyday Self-Defense?
Credit: One

Wrestling: A Time-Honored Art of Grappling

Among the most ancient martial arts, wrestling boasts a rich history extending back at least 15,000 years.

It has been a staple in various cultural and military activities, from local festivals and holiday gatherings to military drills.

Wrestling primarily features three styles:

Wrestling StyleKey CharacteristicsCommon Uses & Competitions
FolkstyleEmphasizes control and riding time; allows attacks to both the upper and lower body; mainly ground-basedPredominantly practiced in U.S. schools and colleges
FreestyleAllows for a wider range of techniques including throws; focuses on speed and agility; both standing and ground combat allowedInternational competitions like the Olympics
Greco-RomanRestricts attacks to above the waist; disallows use of legs for offense and defense; focuses on upper body strength and throwsInternational competitions; specialized wrestling events

This table provides a concise rundown of the primary wrestling styles, detailing their unique characteristics and common contexts where they are practiced or competed.

Whether you’re new to wrestling or looking to delve deeper, this table serves as a quick guide to better understand the diverse wrestling landscape.

Why Wrestling Excels for Everyday Self-Defense

Wrestling specializes in ground-based combat, focusing on takedowns and control techniques to subdue an opponent.

The art form teaches how to unsettle an opponent’s equilibrium through skillful footwork, throws, and sweeps, among other maneuvers.

In wrestling, striking is prohibited. Instead, the emphasis is on capturing your adversary unawares with quick, efficient takedowns— a trait highly valuable for self-defense.

Besides its practical applications, wrestling also hones physical fitness, strength, and mental resilience.

Additionally, mastering this martial art significantly boosts confidence and stability.

ALSO READ: [EXPLAINED] 9 Best Martial Arts For Kids

Why Is Wrestling Good For Everyday Self-Defense?
Credit: Evolve

Boxing: The Timeless Art of Fisticuffs

With origins dating back to 1400-1500 BC, boxing, also known as Western Boxing or Pugilism, is one of the most enduring martial arts.

Gaining Olympic recognition in Ancient Greece, it continues to be a universally acclaimed combat sport.

Why Does Boxing Shine for Everyday Self-Defense

Boxing goes beyond mere punching power or speed; it’s a nuanced art that places significant emphasis on skillful head movement and agile footwork.

Rather than just throwing punches, boxing equips you with fundamental fighting techniques and self-defense tactics that align naturally with human instincts.

Not only does boxing heighten your situational awareness and understanding of both your and your opponent’s positioning, but it also instills discipline— a virtue challenging yet rewarding to master.

The benefits of boxing are manifold, enhancing not only your hand-eye coordination but also contributing to your overall fitness and cardiovascular health.

Also Read: [EXPLAINED] 5 Best Martial Arts for Bullying

Why Is Boxing Good For Everyday Self-Defense?
Credit: ESPN

Judo: The Japanese Art of Grappling Mastery

Invented in Japan by Jigoro Kano in 1882, Judo specializes in ground combat, setting it apart as one of the world’s most effective martial arts.

With the distinction of being an Olympic sport, Judo enjoys global popularity, making it convenient to find a training facility no matter your location.

Why Is Judo a Top Choice for Everyday Self-Defense

Judo equips its practitioners with a variety of skills, including throws, locks, and sweeps.

Its techniques are categorized as follows:

Technique CategoryDescription
Nage-wazaTechniques focused on throws
Katame-wazaGroundwork and grappling maneuvers
Atemi-wazaLimited but effective striking techniques

In Judo, the ultimate aim is to immobilize your opponent, either by pinning them down or by locking them into submission holds, much like those found in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

The training regimen in Judo is rooted in real-world effectiveness, often involving full-force sparring sessions.

Moreover, it cultivates a sense of calm and mindfulness, enabling you to maintain composure and strategic thinking even in high-pressure situations.

Also Read: [EXPLAINED] 3 Best Stand-Up Fighting Styles

Credit: KL Judo

Sambo: The Dual-Faceted Russian Martial Art for Modern-Day Warriors

Originating in Russia in the early 20th century, Sambo was conceived as a way to enhance the Russian military’s proficiency in hand-to-hand combat.

Drawing from the principles of amateur wrestling, Sambo incorporates a comprehensive array of throws and submissions.

Additionally, its more intense variant, Combat Sambo, even integrates striking techniques.

Why is Combat Sambo an Ideal Choice for Everyday Self-Defense

Sambo manifests in two primary forms: Sport Sambo, akin to traditional Judo, and the more aggressive Combat Sambo.

Each has its own unique focus and techniques, making them suitable for different self-defense scenarios.

Sambo TypeKey FocusTechniques and Allowed Moves
Sport SamboGrapplingThrows, Groundwork, Submissions; Striking is not permitted.
Combat SamboComprehensive CombatIncludes all techniques in Sport Sambo plus various strikes like regular punches, kicks, elbows, knees, soccer kicks, headbutts, and groin strikes.

Sport Sambo primarily centers around grappling techniques like throws, groundwork, and submissions, without the inclusion of strikes.

This form of Sambo is more commonly practiced than its combative counterpart.

Combat Sambo, often employed by military personnel, takes a more holistic approach by amalgamating striking with the throws, locks, and holds found in Sport Sambo.

It is designed for intense, real-world scenarios, making it ideal for military-grade self-defense.

Also Read: [EXPLAINED] 5 Best Martial Arts If You’re Overweight

Why Is Combat Sambo Good For Everyday Self-Defense?
Credit: Black Belt

Taekwondo: The Dynamic Korean Martial Art for Modern-Day Self-Defense

Founded in the 1940s by Choi Hong Hi amidst the backdrop of World War II, Taekwondo hails from Korea and embodies the essence of kicking, punching, and disciplined artistry.

The martial art is structured around Choi Hong Hi’s Theory of Power, serving as its foundational philosophy.

Why is Taekwondo a Robust Choice for Everyday Self-Defense

Taekwondo’s focus on kicking and punching techniques makes it an incredibly practical option for self-defense.

The discipline goes beyond mere physical skills to instill values like loyalty, respect, and self-discipline, while also enhancing your strength, speed, flexibility, and agility—attributes vital for self-protection.

Core FocusSkill SetNoteworthy TechniquesAdditional Benefits
Kicking & PunchingStrikingHead-height kicks, Jumping spinning kicks, Fast kickingStrength, Speed, Power, Flexibility, Agility
Distance ManagementProper punching and kicking techniques to keep an attacker at a distanceLoyalty, Respect, Self-discipline

By mastering a variety of specialized kicking techniques such as head-height kicks, jumping spinning kicks, and fast kicks, you learn to maintain a safe distance from potential aggressors.

The martial art is as much about self-improvement as it is about self-defense, rounding you into a balanced individual ready to face any challenge.

Also Read: [EXPLAINED] 6 Ways Boxing Can Change Your Life

Why Is Taekwondo Good For Everyday Self-Defense?
Credit: Paris 2024

Final Thoughts: Your Path to Empowerment Through Martial Arts

Embracing a martial art is more than just learning how to throw a punch or execute a kick—it’s about equipping yourself with practical skills for both offense and defense in real-world situations.

The key to effective training is a martial art that offers genuine sparring sessions, allowing you to gauge your abilities against an actively resisting opponent, much like you’d encounter in a self-defense situation.

So go ahead and select from one of these top martial arts geared towards everyday self-defense, and begin your empowering journey today.