I am sure you will agree, when someone wants to learn how to defend themselves, the Martial Arts are the first place they look.
However, what Martial Art should a person choose?
Well, in this post I will walk you through the most effective Martial Arts and why I believe these this to be true.
The question of which martial art is best for self-defence has been debated and discussed on-line for years. However, it is a subject I have given a lot of thought to over the years due to my career.
As a policeman who joined the job at 18 years of age and was 10 stone in body weight, I quickly realised that I was not the biggest or strongest person in the world.
And this made me vulnerable unless I learned how to look after myself.
As a result, I went looking for a martial art that would give me the skills I needed to become great at self-defence.
I researched the use and functionality of every martial art and gave a lot of different ones a go.
And to help you, I have compiled a list of those martial arts for you.
Now while I have listed these arts in a number fashion that is not because I am ranking them in any particular order.
Everyone's needs are different and as such what works for one will not necessarily work for another.
However these are the most effective martial arts out there, and you can't really go wrong with any of them.
Let's dive in.
9. Keysi Fighting Method
I have reviewed
Created by 2 men, Justo
Sadly the two creators of this system split company a few years ago and Justo went onto create Keysi by Justo and Andy Norman created Defence Lab.However, Keysi is still a very solid self defence system and is highly recommended. The two video tabs below show the various keysi styles in action
- Video 1 Keysi in Batman
- VIDEO 2 Keysi By Justo
Wing Chun is a style of Kung Fu that has gained huge popularity in recent years, largely due to the success of the Ip Man movies starring Donnie Yen.
The actual origins of Wing Chun are open to debate but according to wingchunmasters.com
"The most popularized story of Wing Chun’s origin is that of the Buddhist Nun, Ng Mui. It is said that she was one of Five Elders of the Shaolin Temple that managed to escape prior to its destruction. With her high level of Shaolin martial arts, she created a form of self-defense which could transcend size, weight and gender. She drew her inspiration for Wing Chun from the movement of animals, primarily the crane. When applied to the human form, these delicate but natural movements required little force to block and strike effectively and efficiently.
Ng Mui’s first student of the yet unnamed form was a beautiful young girl named Yim Wing Chun who was being pressured by a bandit warlord into marriage. After mastering the art so as to defend herself and eventually drive off the bandit, Yim Wing Chun would have the form named after her as the first student of Ng Mui. This is how the lineage of Wing Chun began according to popular legend."
Wing Chun For Self Defence
With zero sporting applications, Wing Chun needs to be able to deliver solid self-defence skills, and I am pleased to say for the most part it does. Yes, as with any art there are going to be good and bad instructors but it is a very solid and practical close range self-defence system.
There are of course many people that would disagree, however having met a few Wing Chun instructors I have really had my views changed over the years, as I too failed to see the structure behind the art. The power of Wing Chun lies within its direct approach. In the art, the practitioner becomes very strong and has almost laser targeted strikes to the face, a bit like being hit with a pole, repeatedly.
Wing Chun for self defence is rarely captured on film however this amazing 'challenge match was captured on camera which shows a Karate student against a Wing Chun person, why would they do this? Who knows. The point is, you get to see the beauty of the technique of Wing Chun in action:
My personal view is that Wing Chun is one of those arts that is excellent for
Would you like to read more on Wing Chun? Check out my complete guide to Wing Chun for Self Defence.
7. Jeet Kune Do
Jeet Kune Do is translated into The Way of the Intercepting Fist, and it is one of the most well practised martial arts in the world. However essentially there
Created by the legendary film actor and martial artist Bruce Lee, the art is often described by many as a philosophical journey for the martial artist and not actually a system of martial arts.
Bruce Lee was himself skilled in Wing Chun having learned directly from Ip Man himself, however after years of exposure and study of different systems and experience in real fights, Bruce developed Jeet Kune Do or JKD as it is known.
I do not claim to be an expert of JKD but as Bruce died so tragically at a young age, we will never truly know what JKD would have ended up as. However for now, we can easily say that JKD is the embodiment of martial arts ethics and study. A good JKD school will often have instructors that are highly skilled in numerous arts.
Jeet Kune Do For Self Defence: Is It any Good?
If you take the time to read Bruce Lee's books on Jeet Kune Do you will see pure genius on paper. Every technical improvement is backed up with sound reasoning such as placing your strong side towards the attacker, and a range of other strategies.
As a result, JKD offers a really detailed look into the physical applications of martial arts with a variety of options. It is likely that no two JKD schools will be the same however all are based on solid fundamentals. JKD is a great martial art for self-defence, it has huge depth and variety, and I highly recommend it. Take a Look at some Jeet Kune Do instruction below
The sport of Judo is perhaps one of the most well known martial arts due to its inclusion in the Olympic Games. Judo is free to watch and is broadcast live across the world on YouTube. So what makes this sport so great for self-defence?
Judo For Self Defence
Judo has a rich history dating back to the samurai. However today it is a modern grappling sport with very strict rules.
Since 2008 there have been even more rule changes that have shocked the Judo world by taking away leg grabs from the competitive side of Judo.
Despite this, the sport is bigger than ever and for self-defence, it offers a unique journey.
If you train Judo you will do zero self-defence training, it is all about learning to throw, pin, choke and armlock an opponent. There are zero blocks and zero strikes (unless you look deep into the art).
For that reason, you would think Judo as being very poor as a self-defence system.
The thing that makes Judo so good for self-defence is its single-minded approach to throwing people on the floor. A throw on a thick Judo mat can take the wind out of your sails yet a throw onto concrete will cause serious injury.
Judoka spend almost 80% of their time learning how to throw people who don't actually want to be thrown, so how do you think a non-Judoka will do against the Judo player.
Simply put, if a Judo player gets their hands onto you then you will be hitting the ground with serious force.
What Judo Techniques Are Good For Self-Defence?
While Judo does not train specific self-defence techniques, many of the techniques are great for self-defence.
However, some more than others and in the video below you will see some great examples of Judo for self-defence.
I started learning boxing at an early age and the skills I learned are perhaps the ones that have allowed me to do well in other arts, the main reason I chose boxing though was simply that I wanted to learn how to punch.
And boxing does this really well.
On the surface boxing is simple, no grappling, no kicking, just a few types of punches. Yet it takes years to master boxing but only months to grasp its fundamentals.
It is this simplicity that makes boxing such a great art or self-defence. Like Judo is focused on just one thing boxing has become a specialist at punching.
It would be impossible to describe boxers as 'complete' in their training when their focus is on such a narrow field, however, they often possess amazing footwork, defence and fast powerful combination punches.
Boxers train on the heavy bag and pads using heavy bag gloves and use other gloves for sparring. This allows boxers to train by striking with full power, increasing skill, fitness and power quickly.
The video below shows a boxer in a self defence situation and it is easy to see just how useful boxing is.
Other great aspects of boxing are the fitness drills
The conditioning in boxing is one of the most strict and most punishing regimes in martial arts. Skipping, press ups, burpees and much more will make up a boxing session along with sparring and bag work.
4. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an art that needs to be mentioned. On a one on one situation, BJJ is pretty amazing as a system of self-defence. It does however have weaknesses when it comes down to weapon defence and group attacks.
The art is the offspring of Judo and is focused almost completely on the ground and it became world famous when it was the style used by so many to win in the early days of MMA.
The system is well known for its locks and chokes and as we can see from the footage of a street fight below it is a very capable style.
BJJ does not focus on sefl defence these days and has become more of a sport. Guard passing, mount and other postitions earn points for the player in competition.
BJJ is a great art to train in for fitness, fun and sport and yes it does have some great self-defence applications, however it also areas that are weak such as striking, knife defence a vulnerability to group attacks.
Read my indepth guide on BJJ for Self-defence.
3. MMA Mixed Martial Arts
The sport of MMA has become a global phenomenon and for good reason, explosive takedowns, striking, chokes and leg and arm locks. The sport of MMA has created the modern gladiators proving ground.
The downside of MMA is the training is seriously hard on the body. I did it for a long time and suffered more from MMA than I ever did in Judo or boxing.
An average MMA class will be very testing on your fitness levels. You will perform grappling, striking, and a lot of sparring along with avariety of specilaised MMA drills for fitness.
The plus side of MMA is that your skills levels increase very quickly in all areas. As such you soon become a very skilled opponent for any attacker. The downside of this is of course that you are focused on sport and not self defence. There is zero knife defence and no multiple opponent training however your individual unarmed ability becomes very impressive.
P.S. If you want to get fit, why not check out our huge guide packed with MMA Workouts.
2. Krav Maga
Krav Maga is perhaps the most well know of any self defence system in the world. The word Krav Maga in Hebrew means "contact fighting" and it is the official self defence system of the Israeli Defense Forces,
It was created by Imi Side-Or (Lichtefield) and it is totally self defense orientated.
Sadly today's Krav Maga differs in standard across the globe. We have hard core self defense versions and far softer ones that appear as if they were kick boxercise classes.
However despite these differences Krav Maga is one of the best martial arts for self defense. You will learn both gun and knife defense along with striking, grappling and much more. You just need to ensure your instructor is qualified. T
1. Defence Lab
Defence Lab is a Martial Art that few know of but definitely deserves a place on this list.
Created by Andy Norman after he left the Keysi Fighting Method, it heavily features aspects of the training that made KFM so popular.
Defence Lab, however, has evolved the KFM model and taken it even further.
DL is now a brand of Martial Arts with several aspects to it.
From a fitness system, a self-defence system, a children's Martial Arts system, a Krav Maga programme and a combat sports system.
This broad group of programmes means that a DL instructor tends to have a background in many Martial Arts and can run a variety of classes, much like any MMA school.
However, it is the core Defence Lab self-defence syllabus of which I have experience.
Defence Lab's self-defence element is focused completely on self-defence situations that are both armed and unarmed, group attacks and also it now covers MMA style opponents with its growing technique range.
However, it is most known for it's unusual approach to group self-defence situations.
What Techniques Does Defence Lab Teach?
The students of Defence Lab are taught to simultaneously attack while defending their heads.
This has brought about the creation of a headcover system that they call shapes.
These shapes, all the students of Defence Lab to protect their heads, avoid strikes with body movement and then return strikes, while still protected.
The goal of always keeping your head protected is the core of Defence Lab and comes from their extensive study of groups self-defence situations.
But that is just one aspect.
Defence Lab's tactical focus is one which is often referred to as 'smash then enter'.
The idea behind this concept is that a DL student will move into the attacker, reducing their striking power, and allowing them to strike at close range and use their 'shape' system to good effect.
As for techniques, DL covers a wide variety.
They use hammer fist strikes, forearms shots, punches, low leg kicks, stomps and elbow strikes.
Both standing and groundwork situations are covered.
Is Defence Lab Any Good For Self-Defence?
Defence Lab is a superb system for people who want to learn how to protect themselves, yet do not want to engage in sports martial arts.
The techniques are solid and based on sound principles, in addition, most of their instructors come from a background in Martial Arts or professional security.
So, yes, Defence Lab is a practical system for self-defence and I have no issues in recommending as one of the most effective Martial Arts for self-defence
Want to learn more? Check out our review on Defence Lab.
So there you have it,the best martial arts for self defence.
So what are your thoughts?
Comment below and let me know.
And if your are looking beyond self defence reasons to study Martial Arts.
Then check out our guide covering 'Which Martial Art Should I learn'.
This article was written by Andrew Holland
Andrew is a UK SEO Expert and Copywriter as well as being a former Police Officer and Judo Black Belt
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