9 Best Martial Arts for Self-Defense You Should Learn

Martial arts

Today, there’s a variety of martial arts. Because of that, knowing which one to pick; is crucial. Here are the best martial arts for self-defense you should learn.

  • Krav Maga
  • Mixed Martial Arts
  • Kickboxing
  • Boxing
  • Judo
  • Jiu-Jitsu
  • Karate
  • Wrestling
  • Muay-Thai

As a general rule, each one is different. Consequently, before you pick the one you want to learn, I encourage you to read this article to its fullest. That way, I’ll be able to share my knowledge with you.

As I’m writing this, I’m super excited. I’ve been a special forces operator for a prolonged time. In my training, I’ve trained in various martial arts, including Krav Maga, Jiu-Jitsu, and MMA. As a result, I know plenty about the differences between most fighting styles

If you’re wondering which one you want to choose, you’re just before a crucial decision. Because of that, I want you to make the wisest choice possible so you can enjoy practicing martial arts as much as possible. 

Eventually, as long as you start to train in something, you’re fine. You’ll notice the results if you’re training hard and are consistent in your work. Because of that, I highly encourage you to start training from today. 

1. Krav Maga

Many martial arts are valuable but don’t fit today’s world. As a result, they’re not as effective for self-defense purposes. Yet, some are relevant in countering dangerous situations, such as a sudden knife attack. Krav Maga is one of them.

Because of its dynamic nature, Krav Maga allows the trainee to adapt quickly in dangerous situations to come out on top. The pieces of training the trainees go through reflect said self-defense scenarios. As a result, when one does happen, you’ll react effortlessly. 

The beauty in Krav Maga is that it trains you to respond to any dangerous situation and adapt to it without thinking. Your mind and muscles connect, and you’re able to act without any hesitation or thinking. That way, you’re putting yourself at a lower chance of getting hurt. 

Overall, Krav Maga is the deadliest martial art one can learn, and I have the data to prove that. 

Police officers with a Krav Maga background reacted to high anxiety situations, such as arrests and self-defense scenarios-effortlessly. Because of that, they had a lower percentage of injuries, and they completed the mission quickly. (PubMed)

That’s one of the prominent advantages Krav Maga has. You’re going to build that same muscle memory that’ll allow you to see similar results. Consequently, I highly encourage you to start training as soon as possible so you can too, notice these same benefits. 

Krav Maga is highly effective for self-defense. In my perspective, it’s the best, deadliest one. I wrote an article on the topic of why it’s as lethal as I say it is. I recommend you to read it to expand your knowledge in the Krav Maga realm.

2. Mixed Martial Arts

Like Krav Maga, Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, is a dynamic fighting style. It’s an international sport, and you’re most likely familiar with it. Yet, most people treat it as a sport, not a self-defense system. 

MMA is one of the leading martial arts worldwide. Although most people treat it as a sport, it’s a highly effective self-defense system. As a result, if you’re looking to learn one that’ll teach you how to protect yourself and others, consider beginning training in it. 

Overall, the training is similar to that of Krav Maga. Because of that, it resembles extreme situations that frequently occur in today’s world. Consequently, you’ll know how to react to them when they happen, which will shorten your reaction time and lower the chances of you getting hurt. 

Although some think otherwise, aggression levels correlate with the time it takes to disable a hostile. Because of that, being aggressive can be helpful; in self-defense.

According to a study conducted in April of 2020, MMA trainees noticed higher overall aggression. (PubMed)

Now, for self-defense, it’s an asset. If you’ve ever seen a knife attack happening, it’s an act of passion. As a result, to overcome it, you must be willing to come out on top no matter the circumstances, which is aggression. 

3. Kickboxing

One of the prominent martial arts in today’s world is Kickboxing. Many people believe it to be the best fighting style for most purposes. Because of that, the rate of people doing it is rising every single year. Additionally, on many platforms, you’ll see that the view count of this topic is higher than average. 

Kickboxing is a martial art that involves throwing kicks and punches to disable the opponent. It doesn’t include choking of any kind or ground pins. You’ll gain a massive advantage in a self-defense scenario; since you’re capable of powerful punches and kicks. 

Additionally, your pain tolerance will improve with training. For self-defense scenarios, you can’t be scared of getting hurt. If you are, you’ll have a difficult time disabling the attacker. As a result, you must know what’s it like to get hit constantly. That way, you’re improving the odds of you coming out on top. 

One of the most desirable aspects of martial arts is getting in shape. A recent study showed that Kickboxing is a fantastic way to improve your athleticism and overall physical condition. 

The Kickboxing group showed significant improvement in upper-body muscle power, aerobic power, anaerobic fitness, flexibility, speed, and agility after training (PubMed)

4. Boxing

Boxing is one of the most famous martial arts worldwide. Consequently, many people do it. In addition, it grants the trainee many benefits such as better physical condition. 

Boxing is a fighting style about throwing powerful punches to knock the opponent down. Because of that, from training, one can expect to get higher pain tolerance, more powerful hits, and better physical shape. Because of that, the rate of people doing it is rising. 

Eventually, Boxing makes you an ultimate fighter. It increases your pain tolerance, which means you won’t be scared of getting hit. In street fights, putting yourself at risk of getting injured goes hand in hand with disabling an attacker quickly. As a result, if you’re scared of getting punched, you won’t do good. 

Secondly, it improves the power you can throw in a punch. Ultimately, the human body can withstand a limited amount of force, particularly the face. As a result, if you want to knock a hostile out, you must be willing to improve your punches technique-wise and power-wise. 

From my experience, Boxing has dramatically improved my willingness to get hit. Now, I know that doesn’t make sense. Well, hear me out. Because I’m more willing to get hit, I’m less scared to face dangerous situations, such as street fights. Consequently, I’m more confident in my abilities to use it for self-defense. 

5. Judo

In today’s world, self-defense situations may include the need to pin down the opponent. In Boxing and Kickboxing, there’s no emphasis on pins and ground control. As a result, martial arts like Judo and Jiu-Jitsu bring another aspect to the table.

Overall, Judo is a fantastic martial art about pinning or throwing the opponent down to the ground. In various self-defense situations, such a capability means coming out on top and successfully disabling the attacker. As a result, Judo is suitable and practical for such a purpose. 

According to a study conducted in 2011, martial arts, such as Judo, aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old. (PubMed)

From these results, we understand that doing Judo goes way beyond self-defense. It’s an art. If we ignore the sports aspect it has, it’s a solid fighting style that’ll assist you in defending yourself. 

Because it involves maneuvering to pin the opponent to the ground, you can implement the same principles in self-defense situations. If you throw the unfriendly to the ground, you win. Now, all it takes is for you to incapacitate the attacker. 

6. Jiu-Jitsu

In short, there are two types of Jiu-Jitsu I’d like to talk about with you. There’s Gracie, and there’s the Brazilian style. Overall, if you’re looking for a self-defense technique, Gracie will be a better suit. However, we all know Jiu-Jitsu as a sport, and that’s the Brazilian style. 

For self-defense purposes, Jiu-Jitsu is a fantastic fit. Yet, there are two types of it. While the first is suitable for self-defense, the second isn’t as effective. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is the martial art we’ll focus on in this section. Its focus is more on dangerous realistic situations, such as street fights. 

Because of that, if you want to know how to counter similar situations, I recommend learning it.

Today, the main scenarios one will stumble upon are street fights, knife attacks, and street robberies. In Jiu-Jitsu training, you’ll learn all about overcoming these particular situations. As a result, it’s highly effective.

For the Brazilian style, a recent study showed; an intense workout has many benefits to the trainee, such as an increase in blood cells responsible for antibody production. (PubMed)

For these reasons, Jiu-Jitsu is a fantastic martial art with many benefits. Yet, the Gracie style is more relevant for today’s world in terms of self-defense. 

7. Karate

While most martial arts focus on a single aspect of fighting, such as Boxing with punches and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with pinning, Karate doesn’t. Because of that, one who masters it will be a well-rounded fighter that you wouldn’t want to mess with him.

Karate is an ancient Japanese martial art that became popular because of its versatility. Its trainees are highly capable of many aspects of self-defense, thus making Karate effective for such causes. If you’re hesitant about starting to learn it, don’t be. You won’t regret it. 

In Karate, you’ll learn how to focus momentum and force onto a single body part. Hence you’ll be able to use it to create a more powerful hit.

In training, you’ll focus your efforts on the defensive and offensive sides. Because of that, you’ll become a more rounded fighter, which is valuable, especially in street fights. 

I’ve watched many Karate fights, and I can tell you that those who mastered it frankly are a show of art. They’re capable of getting hit and sending powerful punches and kicks to the enemy. In addition, their pain tolerance is up there. As a result, they’re not scared to get hit, which is crucial in self-defense. 

Because of that, they’re capable of disabling an attacker in a few hits, which shortens the fight time, thus slimming the odds of the trainees getting damages. 

I wrote an article on whether Karate is a solid martial art for self-defense. I highly encourage you to read it since there isn’t enough space in this article to dive in-depth about it. 

8. Wrestling

Much like Judo and BJJ, Wrestling doesn’t focus on throwing powerful punches. Instead, it emphasizes throwing and pinning your opponent to the ground. As a result, you win. 

Today, Wrestling has become extremely popular in the form of different styles. Most likely, you’re not watching the regular vanilla type of Wrestling. You may be viewing WWE or WWF, which is unrealistic in a way. 

Wrestling is a martial art that focuses on pinning your opponent to the ground. It’s highly effective for self-defense because if you’re able to do so in a real fight, you’re going to come out on top. In addition, Wrestling benefits the trainee in various ways, such as increased aggression. 

Like most martial arts that don’t revolve around throwing punches, Wrestling is a suitable self-defense fighting style for pinning the attacker. As a result, you’ll be able to hinder the hostile, thus resulting in your victory. 

I’ve never been in a Wrestling session. Yet, I believe that it’s an underrated sport that doesn’t get as much attention in the self-defense realm. As a result, if you’re hesitant about starting your journey on it, I would encourage you to look for clips on YouTube. That’ll increase your confidence in this martial art. 

9. Muay Thai

At times, explaining Muay Thai is challenging. To see and fully understand what it really is, I recommend watching a video. That way, you’ll be able to comprehend this martial art.

As a general rule, Muay Thai is a fighting style that involves striking, punching, kicking, and using elbows and knees to knock the opponent down. It’s highly effective for self-defense because its training will increase your pain tolerance and teach you to use your body to its absolute capacity. 

The first thing I think of when talking about Muay Thai is Rodtang. If you’re unfamiliar with him, he’s a fighter known to use this martial art and dominate his opponent. As a result, Muay Thai became more known to the public and, because of that, people understand what one can achieve using it. 

It’s incredible watching Rodtang being as aggressive as he is and dominating the arena. If you want to reach such levels, training hard and enjoying the process are two lessons I learned that you must follow. Watch the following video to understand the capacity you can reach by using Muay Thai.

What makes a martial art suitable for self-defense?

Today, there are many martial arts. As a result, people without a basic understanding of them will get confused quickly. Now, if you’re anything like me, you want to gain value in your efforts. Consequently, learning a fighting style relevant to today’s world is crucial. 

As a general rule, if martial art trains you to deal with dangerous plausible scenarios, it’s suitable for self-defense purposes. As a result, the trainee will react quickly to said situations. For instance, in Krav Maga training, you’ll practice disabling an attacker with a knife. 

Now, because such an event is plausible to occur, you’ll know how to react when it happens. Hence your reaction time will decrease, and you won’t hesitate. For that reason, the chance of you getting hurt and not coming out on top lower. 

Eventually, the best martial arts for self-defense are rounded. For instance, Krav Maga teaches you to throw powerful punches and pin an enemy to the ground. Consequently, from doing it, you’ll become a strong fighter. 

Why I picked the martial arts I listed?

Eventually, the fighting styles I listed for the best martial arts for self-defense are the ones I’ve seen people become ultimate fighters while training in them. 

The following list is the factors I’ve put into the list to ensure only the best ones are listed. 

  • Lethality
  • Relevancy for today’s changing world
  • Personal experience
  • Well-rounded
  • Practical techniques for dangerous situations

If a martial art had passed all of these factors, I’ve listed it in the previous list. 

From personal experience, I know that these martial arts work. Trainees who do them become well-rounded dominant fighters. In addition, training in them will grant many benefits, such as confidence and higher self-esteem. 

Should you train in martial arts?

Before choosing the fighting style, you want to learn, knowing the pros and cons of each is valuable. If you won’t, you’ll have a difficult time picking the one that’s most suitable for you. 

As a general rule, training in martial arts is practical because it develops valuable characteristics, such as assertiveness. Furthermore, it’s a form of self-development; hence one can expect to experience increased confidence, higher self-esteem, and better awareness. 

I’ve been through dozens of distinct martial art classes. As a result, I know the benefits you can expect to gain from training hard in such lessons. Don’t be hesitant to begin if you haven’t. 

I wrote an article on whether you should learn a martial art. If you’re still hesitant, follow the link to expand your knowledge.

Which martial art is best for street fights?

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Today, few martial arts work particularly well in street fights. Because of that, if your goal is to become a better fighter in such a realm, learning one of them is wiser. Yet, one fighting style has continuously dominated this area. 

Krav Maga is the best martial art for street fights because its training highly resembles the circumstances of street fights. As a result, when the trainee stumbles upon such a scenario, he’ll be familiar with it, thus able to counter it fast. Because of that, it’s effective for such circumstances.

Overall, any martial art that teaches you to be aggressive is suitable for self-defense. If you’ve been in a Krav Maga lesson, you’ll notice why it’s as fantastic for such purposes. 

I highly recommend you watch the video I listed in the Krav Maga section at the start of this article. That way, you’ll understand why I’m so confident in its abilities to teach you to counter street fights. 

Read more about the five reasons Krav Maga is effective for street fights by following the link to an article of mine


Overall, the best martial arts for self-defense you should learn is the following list. 

  • Krav Maga
  • MMA
  • Kickboxing
  • Boxing
  • Judo
  • Jiu-Jitsu
  • Karate
  • Wrestling 
  • Muay Thai

If you’re looking to improve your self-defense skills, I highly encourage you to learn one of these. They’re all fantastic for countering dangerous situations, such as sudden knife attacks and street fights. Because of that, they’re suitable for a purpose like self-defense. 

Doing martial arts grants the trainee many benefits nothing else does. It builds a powerful character out of you; hence it’s a form of self-development. 

Because of that, you’ll be able to be more confident, have better self-esteem, and be more aware of your surroundings. These are highly desirable in today’s world, and having these is a genuine asset. 

Some of the benefits you can expect from martial arts are the following list.

  • Higher pain tolerance
  • Better self-esteem
  • Better self-confidence
  • Being more aware
  • Better social skills
  • Self-trust
  • Knowing self-defense
  • Plenty more


I've served in the military as a special forces operator for 4-years. In that period, I've trained in many martial arts, including karate, MMA, BJJ, boxing, and even Krav Maga. I want to share my passion with you, so here it is!

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