April 10

Which Martial Art Should I Learn?



I often get asked by a wide variety of people "which Martial Art should I learn?"

The answer is surprisingly simple.

If you want to compete in Martial Arts, then you need to train one with a competitive sporting aspect to them such as Thai Boxing, MMA, Judo, Karate, Russian Sambo, Taekwondo, BJJ and others. 

If you want to learn to protect yourself, you would be best first to learn a system of self-defence such as Krav Maga, Defence Lab, Keysi Fighting Method, Combatives, Senshido and others.

And if your goal is to lose weight, get fit, make friends and improve yourself physically and mentally, then traditional Martial Arts such as Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Aikido, Ninjitsu and others may be better suited.

However, in this article, we will break down the various Martial Arts to showcase the reasons why you might choose to train in various Martial Arts and give you a list of things to consider before you start training.

Ready. Let's dive in.

What Are Combat Sports Martial Arts?

which martial art should I learn

Combat sport Martial Arts are martial arts that contain within them a competitive sporting element.

Many of these arts have come from more traditional beginnings that were for self-defence purposes; however, as the arts grew in popularity, these Martial Arts adapted into more commonly being known for their sporting prowess.

Pros of Combat Sports Martial Arts

Combat sport Martial Arts tend to offer rewards of high levels of fitness and greatly enhanced self-defence skills.

Cons of Combat Sports Martial Arts

These arts tend to require serious dedication and can result in injuries from either training or competition.

Examples Of Sports Martial Arts

If you like the sound of a sport Martial Art, then the following are great examples:


Judo is a grappling based Martial Art which has throws, joint locks, pins and chokes.

Students are called Judoka and compete in something called a Gi. A Gi is a jacket and trousers made from heavy-duty material.

There is no striking in the sport, and it is also an Olympic sport.


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or BJJ is also a grappling sport with no striking.

It is closely related to Judo and has throws, chokes and joint locks.

An opponent can either be defeated by tapping out, or they lose on points. 

These points are awarded for achieving some kind of positional advantages such as taking the back and sweeps.

Thai Boxing

As the name suggests, this sport originated from Thailand and is also known as Thai boxing.

Fighters use kicks, knee strikes, punches and elbows to defeat their opponents.


Taekwondo hails from Korea and is an Olympic sport.

Participants use kicks as their primary weapons to score attacks on the body of their opponent, and it is known as a Martial Art of high flying techniques.


karate for self defence

Karate is a traditional art with a strong sporting background. Participants use kicks and punches to gain victory, and in addition, there is a forms tournament variation known as Kata which is more dance-like in nature and is not full contact.

There are, of course, many other sport Martial Arts and these are just a sample.

What Is A Self Defence System?

If you step outside of a sports martial arts and seek a self-defence based martial art, you will enter the world of 'self-defence systems'.

This is often deemed a place of weird and untested techniques, and many combat sports will actively dismiss methods taught in self-defence systems.

As a former police officer with over 17 years of experience, a combat sports athlete and a self-defence instructor I can tell you that self-defence systems are valid and many have techniques and strategies can help to save your life.

However, a self - defence system should only use techniques that work when 'pressure tested'.

Pressure testing is when a technique is tested against fully resisting opponents.

Sadly, there are, however, many out there that do not teach pressure tested techniques and for this reason, many self-defence systems receive public abuse from Martial Artists.

While I will list a variety of self-defence systems that I trust, many instructors of self-defence use skills they have gained from training in numerous Martial Arts and also real-life experience to create their curriculum's and therefore sometimes an experienced instructor can be better than a system.

But here are some systems worth checking out.

Keysi By Justo

This system of self-defence comes from Spain and is based on the life of its founder Justo Dieguez. It is a brutal form of street fighting known for its elbows and multiple person defence.

Krav Maga

An Israeli form of self-defence that comes from the military it is efficient and focuses on self-defence only.

Defence Lab

Defence Lab is a system of self-defence and focuses on being attacked by a group of people. Used by Police in a few countries it also has sports add on available classes.

Eddie Quinn's The Approach

Not really a system of self-defence but a system of striking in self-defence systems. Eddie created a way to generate massive amounts of force that can be learned in hours and having seen it first hand...it truly is terrifyingly powerful.

What Are Traditional Martial Arts

Traditional Martial Arts are systems that were developed years ago, sometimes hundreds.

They may have been developed to deal with a feudal issue within their nation or perhaps created to meet the needs of their communities.

Many are no longer very useful for self-defence purposes (without significant adaptation) however they provide superb ways to exercise the mind and body well at the same time giving interest/ hobby for those who train in them.

They are great for those who are not looking for a street fighting system of self-defence and who do not wish to compete. Yet still want to be active within the Martial Arts.

Here is a small selection of those types of Martial Arts:

Kung Fu

It comes in a wide variety of forms, but Kung Fu is an art that hails from China, and while does have self-defence uses, it can be a superb art to study due to the depth of information available.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi has several offshoots. Some combat orientated, but mostly Tai Chi is used as an exercise to improve the mind and body.


The art originates from enslaved African slaves in Brazil.

It uses acrobatic dance-like movements and is often studied along with music.


A more modern Martial Art Aikido was designed as a system of self-improvement and also self-defence.

However, generally, it is not considered an effective Martial Art for self-defence purposes.

It did gain a massive resurgence with the films of Steven Seagal, and it uses circular motions to deflect attacks. 

Things To Consider Before Choosing A Martial Art

While it may be tempting to jump straight into becoming a cage fighter, it might be worth considering if your chosen art is for you.


Your budget is a serious issue that might prevent you from training.

Kendo, for example, is a Martial Art that focuses on the use of wooden swords and the armour for this is quite expensive. You will be able to borrow some at the beginning of your training, but eventually, you will need to purchase your own.

Also, some arts cost more than others to train in. 

Professional instructors often require you to commit to a set number of months and have contracts that could lock you in.

And things such as membership, gradings, uniform, weapons, gloves etc. can all add up.

So before committing to training, you need to think about your own finances and if you can afford the costs.

So make sure you speak to clubs and ask what it costs to train there and also what the ongoing costs are such as equipment and clothing.

Health and Fitness

You might want to do Judo, but your body might not be in the best possible state for training.

Sadly as we age and for other issues, we might not be ready to jump into Martial Arts training.

It might be worth speaking with your Doctor before signing any contracts and also thinking about your injuries and illnesses.

For example, as a 40-year-old asthmatic with hip back and knee issues, MMA is not going to be something I take up.

So you need to consider if you are healthy enough to undertake the training.


What do you want to achieve from this training?

Do you want to feel stronger, less stressed, more confident, a bit more active, or do you want to have your hand raised in the ring?

Your goals will dictate which Martial Art is right for you.

For example, you might love MMA, but age, passion and issues within your life prevent you from training. So BJJ might be a good alternative.


How much time can you realistically dedicate to Martial Arts?

Once a week, twice? More?

If you want to be a Thai Boxer you might need to train 3 times a week.

If you want to improve in Martial Arts and reap the benefits you need to, at least, have one night of training a week. Some arts require more due to the intense fitness demands.

Geographical Location

This is a hidden issue that most ignore. For example, you might have heard about the great club near you that you want to train at.

And you look at the training times, and you think 'sure I can make those'.

Yet, you fail to consider things such as rush hour traffic, petrol costs, training time, and travelling home time.

For example, I used to train at a club in Manchester on a Thursday and Sunday.

In reality, it meant that my entire evening was spent doing Martial Arts, and sadly I couldn't keep it up.

Choosing a local school that might be more expensive could pay off in the long run.


Finding a Martial Art is easy....finding the right one can be tough.

The good thing is that we have so many Martial Arts you are bound to find one that is right for you. Take a look at the arts locally to yourself, read up about them and maybe take a trial class.

Consider all of the things we have talked about in this article before committing to any contract, and I am sure you will be pleased and train in your chosen art for years to come.

Thanks for reading.


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