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[EXPLAINED] What Fighting Style Is Most Effective?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

When considering the most effective fighting style for self-defense, you need to compare each of these martial arts to each other. This is why MMA exists, and over the years we’ve found grappling to be the most effective style of fighting for self-preservation.

The most important factor to consider when choosing a fighting style for self-defense, is your own preference in style.

How do you prefer fighting?

You might prefer striking arts like Boxing, Kickboxing, or more traditional martial arts like Karate and Taekwondo.

Or you might be like me, drawn to grappling arts like Wrestling and BJJ.

There’s no use training something you don’t enjoy doing.

If you enjoy the art, you’re more likely to master it.

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

Most Effective Fighting Style For A Street Fight?

The most effective thing to do in the street is to walk or run away if you can. If you are forced to fight, grappling will be most effective against a single attacker. If you’re faced with multiple attackers and you can’t escape, then staying on your feet and striking is crucial.

What works in MMA might not be the most effective fighting style in a street fight.

In MMA you have rules of conduct under controlled circumstances that limit the damage to fighters.

In a street fight, you might be confronted by weapons, hard floors like concrete or multiple attackers which makes self-defense far more complicated.

READ MORE: [Explained] Striking Vs Grappling | Which Is Most Effective?

Grappling and striking are like peanut butter and jelly.

You need both fighting styles to effectively defend yourself.

How To Best Defend Yourself In A Street Fight

Your most powerful weapon in a street fight is distance control. By maintaining a safe distance between you and your attacker, you’ll be able to more easily walk away. Your pride is not worth your life or the lives of those around you, so de-escalating the situation should be your first strategy.

Remember, just because you might know how to fight, doesn’t mean you should.

Accidents happen, even if you don’t mean it.

Straightforward altercations can very quickly turn lethal if they’re not handled correctly.

Even if you win the fight but hurt your attacker more than is reasonably required to escape, you could end up in jail or worse.

Your first step for effective self-defense should always be to de-escalate and get away.

ALSO READ: [Explained] Can You Learn BJJ By Yourself?

Best Fighting Style For Single Attacker or Weapons

If you’re not able to keep a safe distance, then your goal is to get as close to your attacker as possible to reduce the damage you take. The best fighting style for an attacker with a weapon would be a grappling art like Wrestling or BJJ, which specializes in controlling an opponent.

Like I mentioned before, your best strategy for self-defense is always going to be escaping.

Keeping your distance if your attacker has a knife or bat is the most important thing you can do.

However, escape isn’t always going to be an option.

That’s why I recommend Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as the best self-defense art to learn.

Striking arts allow too much space and movement when an attacker is armed.

Grappling reduces an attacker’s freedom of movement by closing the distance and taking them to the ground for control and submission.

Wrestling For Takedowns and Control

If you’re not able to get away from a fight and creating distance is no longer an option, the next best thing you can do is close the distance and get your attacker to the ground.

When your opponent is on the ground you’re able to better control what could harm you – Their limbs or a weapon.

Wrestling specializes in quickly getting an opponent to the ground and keeping them there against their will.

By simply controlling your attacker you’re removing any possibility of being injured.

Is Wrestling Good For Self-Defense?

The benefits of learning Wrestling for self-defense have been known for thousands of years:

  1. Reduce damage while taking your attacker to the ground
  2. Battle-tested takedown techniques
  3. Dominant ground control
  4. Great for building effective fighting strength

Wrestling is one of the oldest martial arts in existence.

Its techniques have been developed over thousands of years of combat, so you know that what you’re learning is worthwhile.

It’s also a nice feeling to know that you’re probably training the same techniques as many warriors before you.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu For Control and Submission On The Ground

Jiu-Jitsu originates from the days of the Samurai.

They would train the ground techniques of Judo called Newaza, which allowed them to dominate hand-to-hand combat if they’d lost their weapons.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for self-defense

BJJ was developed as a self-defense art in the streets of Brazil, where different martial arts would challenge each other for dominance.

Jiu-Jitsu has proven itself to be the best martial art for self-defense over and over again.

Controlling an opponent on the ground to achieve submission, I.e. joint locks and chokes.

ALSO READ: Ultimate BJJ Gi Buyers Guide

What Are The benefits of BJJ For Self-Defense?

Learning BJJ for self-defense has been proven effective in the streets and in the octagon:

  1. Effectively close distance to get an attacker to the ground
  2. Dominate opponent on the ground to reduce damage
  3. End fight with less violence
  4. Neutralize your attacker with submissions
  5. Live training for combat experience

Learn more about Jiu-Jitsu and why it’s so good for self-defense here.

Effectively dominating an attacker on the ground reduces the damage suffered by both you and your attacker.

Very often you’re able to end a fight without much damage at all if you know how to control a resisting opponent, and fortunately, we train this type of control on a daily basis in BJJ.

Best Self-Defense For Multiple Attackers

Striking is the most effective fighting style for self-defense against multiple attackers. This is because your main goal with multiple attackers is to stay on your feet and manage distance until you can safely escape. Grappling on the ground is not advisable against more than one attacker.

Fighting multiple attackers is always going to be difficult to do.

All fighting styles are less effective if you have more than one person attacking you.

In a situation where you’re defending yourself against more than one attacker, it’s always best to stay on your feet.

ALSO READ: [Explained] What Are Leg Kicks?

Here are the striking-based martial arts I would recommend for dealing with multiple attackers:

Boxing For Standing Defense and Offense

Boxing focuses only on punching with no kicking involved at all.

But its emphasis on distance control and pinpoint striking make it well-worth learning.

Boxing is probably one of the first things you think about when you think about fighting.

It’s an age-old martial art that prides itself on turning fighting into a science of striking.

It’s been fine-tuned over years of hand-to-hand combat in the ring, so you know that what you’re learning will work in a fight situation.

Is Boxing Good For Self-Defense?

Boxing is a great option for self-defense. The key benefits of boxing include:

  1. Effective distance control with evasive footwork
  2. Battle-tested defensive techniques
  3. Variety of punching attacks
  4. Live sparring for full-contact training
  5. Great cardio workout

One of the most important qualities of Boxing is the ability to maintain a bubble of defense that you can maintain while staying on your feet.

If you’re able to land effective strikes as your attackers approach, you might be able to scare them off.

Sometimes all you need is to show that you’re capable of resisting and making them think twice about attacking.

ALSO READ: Ultimate Boxing Gloves Buyers Guide

Muay Thai and Kickboxing For Distance Control

If you’re looking for a more effective striking style that includes kicking, I’d suggest avoiding martial arts like Taekwondo and Karate.

Though both these arts teach kicking and punching, they prioritize point-scoring over knockout force.

Their strikes are normally much lighter and much less of a deterrent.

If you’re looking for a fighting style that can effectively stop an attacker or multiple attackers, I’d recommend Muay Thai or Kickboxing.

Are Muay Thai And Kickboxing Good For Self-Defense?

The benefits of these martial arts are huge, especially against multiple attackers:

  1. Kicks provide an extra layer of defensive distance
  2. Punches allow for defense at medium range
  3. Elbows and knees (in Muay Thai) provide a final layer of defense
  4. Clinch-work provides control of attackers while staying on your feet
  5. Amazing cardio workout

By using kicks and punches to keep a safe distance while staying mobile on your feet, you’re more likely to survive (not win) a fight against multiple attackers.

READ MORE: [Explained] Boxing Vs Muay Thai | Which Is Better?


Photos by Alessio Roversi, Chris Chow, Jonathan Borba and Pablo Rebolledo