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What is the Best Martial Art for Self-Defense?

Updated: May 14

What is the Best Martial Art for Self-Defense?

In a world where staying safe is very important, many people are interested in learning self-defense. They turn to martial arts to find effective ways to protect themselves. A common question people have is, "What is the Best Martial Art for Self-Defense?"

Let's take a quick look: The best martial arts for self-defense are Krav Maga, Defence Lab, MMA, BJJ, Boxing, Judo, Jeet Kune Do, Wing Chun, Keysi Fighting Method, Karate, Muay Thai, The Approach, Silat, Aikido, Russian Sambo, RBSD/Combatives, and Savate. The right choice depends on what you like, how fit you are, and the specific self-defense situations you want to be ready for.

In this blog, we'll explore different forms of martial arts thoroughly, talk about how they can be useful, and help you figure out the best options for self-defense in today's changing world.

What is Martial Art for Self-Defense?

What is Martial Art for Self-Defense?

Martial arts for self-defense are methods of learning moves and skills to stay safe from physical threats. These methods usually include hitting, grappling, and ways to protect yourself from danger. The main aim is to help people defend themselves in real-life situations where they might be in danger.

Different martial arts styles are created just for self-defense. They focus on practical moves that can be useful in unpredictable and risky situations. These styles often teach a mix of —

  • hitting (like punches and kicks), 

  • grappling (like throws and joint locks), 

  • and ways to stay safe, giving a complete approach to personal protection.

Some popular martial arts for self-defense are Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wing Chun, Judo, and more. How effective a martial art is for self-defense depends on things like —

  • how fit a person is, 

  • how intense their training is, 

  • and how practical the moves they learn are. 

People interested in self-defense should pick a martial art that fits their goals and teaches skills useful in real-life situations.

Martial Arts History

Martial Arts History

Martial arts have a long history, starting way back in ancient India around 2,000 years ago in the 2nd century BCE. The Western world was introduced to martial arts in Ancient Greece. Some of the earliest martial arts were boxing and kalarippayattu. However, things picked up in the mid-19th century.

During this time, many popular martial arts we know today, like karate, judo, and jiu-jitsu, took on their modern forms. Greco-Roman wrestling became the first martial art included in the modern Olympic Games in 1896, and boxing joined in 1904. 

Since then, martial arts have become incredibly popular worldwide. Right now, they're at their peak, with top-notch mixed martial artists emerging from North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

What is the Best Martial Art for Self-Defense? 

Let's break down each of the 17 best types of martial arts for self-defense in a detailed manner in the following:


Savate is a French martial art that uses punches and kicks, with a special emphasis on kicking. While good for self-defense, relying a lot on kicks might have some drawbacks. Adding hand strikes makes it more effective.


This is about Reality-Based Self-Defense (RBSD) or Combatives. It involves realistic and intense combat techniques for self-defense. The effectiveness can vary because there's no standardized system. It started with William Fairburn's Defendu and is a quick way to learn self-defense, but the quality depends on the instructor.

For example, RBSD/Combatives might include techniques like swift strikes, joint locks, and practical defensive maneuvers tailored for rapid and efficient self-defense.

Russian Sambo

Russian Sambo is both a sport and a self-defense system. It includes punches, kicks, and grappling, with a focus on throws and locks. The military version even includes weapons training. It's effective, especially with its powerful throws and locks.


Aikido, created by Morihei Ueshiba, is good for controlling aggressive individuals. It might not be the best for skilled attackers, but its wrist locks and redirecting energy can be useful for professionals like police or security officers dealing with less skilled aggressors.


Silat is a martial art from Southeast Asia that features fast strikes, limb destruction, and dance-like movements. It's highly effective for self-defense, offering a mix of weapons, groundwork, and grappling.

The Approach

The Approach

Not exactly a martial art, but The Approach is a system of striking designed for quick and powerful self-defense. Created by Eddie Quinn, it focuses on delivering strong strikes and is known for its effectiveness in a short learning time.

Muay Thai

Also known as Thai boxing, Muay Thai is a powerful system involving kicks, punches, elbows, and knee strikes. Its strong leg kicks make it effective for street self-defense, emphasizing striking techniques.


Originating from Okinawa, Karate is a solid martial art involving kicks, punches, blocks, and grappling. It's known for powerful strikes and fitness training, making it effective for self-defense.

Keysi Fighting Method

Developed by Justo Duieguez and Andy Norman, this Spanish street fighting style, known as the Keysi Fighting Method, is designed for multiple opponents. It focuses on gritty and dynamic techniques, gaining recognition from its use in films like Batman Begins.

Wing Chun

Wing Chun

Wing Chun, a style of Kung Fu, is known for its direct approach and targeted strikes. It's effective for close-range self-defense, emphasizing straight punches and precise strikes to the face.

Jeet Kune Do 

Created by Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do is a martial arts philosophy emphasizing practicality and efficiency. It provides a detailed approach to self-defense with techniques drawn from different arts.


Judo, a grappling sport with strict rules, focuses on throws, pins, chokes, and armlocks. While lacking specific self-defense techniques, its emphasis on throwing opponents makes it highly effective for self-defense situations.


Boxing is a simple yet powerful art specializing in punches and footwork. It focuses on striking, defensive skills, and intense conditioning, making it effective for self-defense.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Derived from Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) focuses on ground techniques, locks, and chokes. It's sport-oriented but has valuable self-defense applications, especially in one-on-one situations.

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

MMA combines various martial arts, including striking and grappling, making it versatile for self-defense. It enhances overall fighting skills, but its sport-based emphasis might limit specific self-defense training.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is the official self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces. It covers gun and knife defense, striking, and grappling. Known for its practicality, it's one of the most recognized and effective martial arts for self-defense.

Defence Lab

Created by Andy Norman, Defence Lab offers a comprehensive self-defense system focusing on armed and unarmed situations, group attacks, and MMA-style opponents. Its unique "shape" system for protecting the head and simultaneous attack/defense makes it highly effective.

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What is the Best Martial Art for Self-Defense?

Benefits of Learning Martial Arts

Besides acquiring self-defense techniques, learning martial arts offers numerous benefits, including:

  • Improved Physical Fitness: Training in martial arts includes different exercises that make the body stronger, more flexible, and overall healthier.

  • Increased Confidence: Getting good at martial arts makes people feel more sure of themselves and builds their self-esteem.

  • Discipline and Focus: Learning martial arts makes people more disciplined and helps them stay focused on their goals.

  • Stress Relief: Doing martial arts is a good way to release stress and tension in a healthy manner.

  • Enhanced Mental Awareness: Martial arts make people more aware of their surroundings, making them more alert.

  • Self-Control: Martial arts emphasize controlling oneself, which helps manage emotions better.

  • Social Interaction: Being part of a martial arts community allows for socializing and feeling connected.

  • Life Skills: Martial arts teach important life lessons such as respect, persistence, and humility.

  • Versatility: Different martial arts cover a range of skills, including striking, grappling, and defense.

  • Fitness Routine: Martial arts offer a fun way to stay fit, different from traditional workouts.

  • Mind-Body Connection: Many martial arts highlight how mental and physical well-being are connected.

  • Crisis Management: Martial arts training prepares individuals to handle crises and solve problems effectively.

  • Goal Setting: Setting and achieving goals in martial arts brings a sense of accomplishment and motivation.

  • Lifelong Learning: Martial arts are seen as a continuous journey of learning and self-improvement.

Choosing the Right Martial Art

Choosing the Right Martial Art

The best self-defense martial arts depends on what you like, how fit you are, and the situations you want to handle. Here's what to think about:

  • Fitness Level: Some martial arts need more physical fitness. Pick one that matches how fit you are now and what you want to achieve.

  • Realistic Training: Choose a martial art that practices real-life situations. This helps you get ready for possible dangers in the real world.

  • Personal Comfort: Try classes or watch them to see which martial art feels good and enjoyable for you.

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Contact a Pro

Get professional help in Martial Arts and Self Defense with Back Bay Fit. Learn new skills and improve your workout with private lessons from skilled instructors who were once professional fighters and are experts in self-defense. They specialize in Boxing, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Self Defense for Women, offering personalized programs. 

Whether you're refining boxing techniques or mastering Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Back Bay Fit welcomes all experience levels in a supportive environment. Women can join self-defense classes to learn essential skills in a safe and inclusive space. 

Book a free consultation to enhance your skills and fitness goals in Boston. Contact us at 617-450-0001 or

Wrapping Up

To sum it up, finding the best martial art for self-defense is a personal journey. It depends on what you like, how fit you are, and the situations you want to handle. Each martial art is good at different things, like Krav Maga for practicality, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for ground techniques, or Wing Chun for precise striking.

It's important to try and discover which martial art fits your fitness, training, and comfort. Remember, the answer to "What is the Best Martial Art for Self-Defense?" is different for everyone, so choose one that fits your goals and makes you feel better overall.


What should I wear to my first martial arts class?

Wear comfortable athletic wear such as a T-shirt and athletic pants.

Is prior experience necessary to join any martial arts gym? 

No prior experience is necessary to join any martial arts gym. Most gyms welcome individuals of all skill levels, including beginners.

Which martial art is the most effective?

Choosing the most effective martial art can be tough, but MMA is a great option because it includes everything from various martial arts. It's like having all the options available.

What is the number 1 deadliest martial art?

Figuring out the deadliest martial art is tricky, but for real-life danger, Krav Maga stands out. It's not for competition but for serious life-or-death situations.

How Many Belts Can You Get in Martial Arts?

The number of belts in martial arts differs by style, but typically, there are nine: white, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, red, and black.

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