The 11 Deadliest Martial Arts In The World | Full breakdown


martial arts

Today, there’s a variety of martial arts. While some are effective for many purposes, some hold less value. For that reason, knowing which ones are the deadliest is crucial to choosing the right one to train. 

The following list is the deadliest martial arts in the world by order.

  1. MMA
  2. Kenpo
  3. Krav Maga
  4. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu
  5. Kickboxing
  6. Judo
  7. Jeet Kune do
  8. Muay-Thai
  9. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  10. Boxing
  11. Firearms

Although I didn’t include many deadly fighting styles, everyone can choose whichever one they want. Eventually, these are from my and my colleagues’ experience. Consequently, you shouldn’t bother if your martial art isn’t on the list. 

I highly encourage you to read this article on the valuable benefits of learning martial arts. It’ll assist you in adapting your expectations to reality. That way, you’ll stay consistent in training. 

From personal experience, martial arts are a fantastic way to develop yourself and learn self-defense. You’ll better your physical shape- increase confidence and situational awareness.

Because such traits are desirable if you can achieve them by learning self-defense, why not jump on the opportunity?

Before jumping in, mentioning the importance of having high-quality gear is crucial. When I began my martial arts journey, I didn’t have suitable equipment to practice whatsoever. Thus I couldn’t progress while at home. I highly encourage you to buy this punching bag by Everlast (Amazon) and punching gloves (Amazon). Currently, they’re the best available. 

1. MMA

Pros
  • Dynamic
  • Suitable for self-defense
  • Has a massive following
  • Betters physical shape
  • You can choose which techniques to learn
Cons
  • Hard to master
  • Many techniques to choose from
  • Tough to train in

Today, MMA is one of the largest sports in the world. It has a massive following. In fact, it averages 1.17 million viewership solely on ESPN. We understand that it’s no joke. Consequently, it has something unique to offer worldwide. Let’s dive into what it is. 

Mixed Martial Arts is a dynamic fighting style that’s most prevalent worldwide. Today, the elite fighters aren’t using a single martial art, such as Boxing or Karate. Instead, they’re using a mix of many. Because of that, we witness especially effective ways of fighting other than following a single fighting style. 

Watching the different fighters have a unique way of coming out victorious is exciting. Currently, the world is transforming into a new direction. Many people rather learn a mix of martial arts instead of a single one. 

There are many rules restricting what you can and can’t do in the ring. While that’s vital to understand, there are no rules in real life. As long as you’re ensuring you’re not getting injured- you’re in the clear. You can use choking, submissions, grappling, elbows, knees, and strikes. In real life, everything is legal. 

The leading self-defense systems are a mix of many styles. As a result, they’re the most effective in countering dangerous situations. When you learn Jiu-Jitsu, you’ll be solid in it. Yet, when you train a dynamic- never-ending, martial art, you’ll adapt to every situation I put in front of you. 

According to a study conducted in July 2020, training in Mixed Martial Arts betters mental health amongst trainees. Although staying consistent is key to noticing such results, it’s possible to see such outcomes. (PubMed)

I wrote an article you might find interesting, Krav Maga VS Martial Arts. I highly encourage you to read it as it suits this post.

Eventually, there are many benefits you’ll witness from training such a dynamic fighting stylePrimarily, you’ll be capable of adapting to any self-defense situation I give you. As a result, you’ll become a master of protecting yourself and others around you. 

2. Kenpo

Pros
  • Effective for all purposes
  • Form of Karate
  • Following the training is comfortable
  • Lethal
Cons
  • Takes a prolonged time to master
  • Not as popular as other martial arts
  • Tough to learn the basics

In Kenpo, everything counts. You’ll learn to use eye gouges, crotch kicks, and plenty more crucial moves. These are all actions that will grant you victory in a real fight. As a result, it’s one of the deadliest martial arts out there. 

Kenpo is a Japanese martial art originally from China and arrived in Japan. Today, there’s an American style of Kenpo Karate suitable for self-defense. They practice learning how to defend themselves by using many deadly moves, such as eye gouges, strikes, choking, and many more. 

I’ll include a video from an American Kenpo Karate school. When watching it, I highly recommend you watch the details closely. On the first watch, you won’t notice many moves that If they were for real, they would have finished the fight right there. 

There are many variations to Kenpo which are suitable for self-defense. Although it’s not as popular as Mixed Martial Arts, it’s as deadly. I truly am a fan of the Kenpo Karate martial art. 

If you watched the video, you most likely noticed they use quick punches plenty of times. Consequently, it’s highly effective versus a single opponent. However, in Kenpo Karate schools, practicing multiple opponents drills is typical. Thus it’s effective for that purpose. 

3. Krav Maga

Pros
  • Effective
  • Suitable for self-defense
  • Many schools worldwide
  • Popular
  • Deadly
Cons
  • It’s a self-defense system
  • Mastering it isn’t as tough
  • First designed for soldiers

On my website, I have a large section dedicated to Krav Maga. It has a part in my heart that’ll never go away. Hence I’m excited to talk about it. Friends of mine had success in disabling an attacker with the skills they learned because you go through many drills that teach you lethal skills in training. 

Krav Maga is a martial art that first started in the Israeli Military. They wanted their operators to know basic self-defense skills to defend themselves in close quarters. With time, Krav Maga expanded and became what it is today. Its training reflects dangerous self-defense situations. Thus it’s relevant. 

Similar to Kenpo, everything counts in Krav Maga. You’ll learn choking, striking, grappling, weapons, and plenty more relevant skills to today’s world. 

If you want to learn Krav Maga, I wrote an article just for that. Follow the link to read whether learning Krav Maga is worth it. In it, I dive in-depth into this topic. 

According to a study, police officers who had a Krav Maga background (trained once a week) performed better under stress in high/low anxiety self-defense situations, such as arrests. (Source)

I went through a 14 month Krav Maga training. Because of that, I know enough about it to recommend it to you. Not only is it deadly, but it’s also remarkably relevant in today’s world. In training, you’ll learn all the dangerous self-defense situations one can encounter, such as firearms, knives, multiple attacks, and plenty more. 

Furthermore, it provides plenty of usefulness, such as increased self-confidence and better situational awareness. If you want to read all about the benefits- you’ll experience, follow the link to an article of mine. 

4. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

Pros
  • Teaches valuable skills
  • Dynamic
  • Solid schools
  • Suitable for self-defense
Cons
  • Tough to learn the basics
  • Doesn’t train punches and kicks

Today, most people are familiar with a mere few fighting styles. When digging in, you’ll find other martial arts that are more deadly. Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. It’s more effective for self-defense than most fighting styles

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is a form of Jiu-Jitsu that’s more suitable for self-defense. It utilizes a ground game to submit your opponent. With GJJ, you’ll maneuver around your opponent to eventually force him to tap out. As a result, you’ll come out victorious.

Forcing the hostile to surrender is crucial because if one does, you win. When an attacker taps out, you don’t have to stop. There’s no question about it. If the attacker is unconscious, you did your part. Furthermore, solely a large number of punches will cause a similar effect. 

Once you watch a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu match, you’ll understand why I’m such a big fan. If you end up sparring with a GJJ practitioner, you’ll have a difficult time when it comes to the ground game. 

A Boxing trainee who ends up on his back is a white belt in martial arts. 

Don’t get me wrong- I do Boxing myself. Yet, understanding that each fighting style has its advantages and disadvantages is vital for progress. Only that way will you understand that there isn’t a perfect fighting technique, not even MMA. 

5. Kickboxing

Pros
  • Betters physical shape
  • Suitable for self-defense
  • Simple
  • Increases pain tolerance
Cons
  • No submissions
  • No ground game

One of the most effective martial arts in the world is Kickboxing. Not only will it drastically better your physical shape, but it’ll also make you a solid fighter. When discussing self-defense, we can talk about techniques all day. Yet, if you’re a solid fighter, you’ll instinctively know how to defend yourself. 

Martial arts
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Kickboxing utilizes punching and kicking to beat the opponent. In training, you’ll wear boxing gloves to protect your hands. Additionally, Kickboxers are solid fighters because they have high pain tolerance and can throw a powerful punch. Thus their offensive and defensive game are on point. 

A punch is overrated for self-defense. As a result, if that’s all you can do, you won’t be able to disable an attacker. When I throw a punch, I expose myself to getting hit back. Thus it’s not as effective as most people think. 

However, if you’re a solid fighter, you can take a few punches. Additionally, you can send a powerful kick. While the odds of you getting hit increase, you’re more likely to knock out the hostile. 

Because you’ll become such a powerful fighter and learn to use techniques that can knock out an individual, it’s as deadly as I’ve ranked it. I’ve done it for plenty of time now, and I can tell you it’s as effective as I’m describing it to be.

Eventually, training in Kickboxing is highly beneficial. Not only will you improve your physical shape, but you’ll also be bettering your mental health. Consequently, it’s a suitable martial art for most people. 

According to a study, 17% of women enroll in self-defense classes because of the physical workout. (Source

Well, Kickboxing seems to be a winning choice for many people. Not only is it a fantastic workout, but it also teaches you self-defense. As a result, it’s a deadly martial art that you should learn. 

6. Judo

Pros
  • Improves stance
  • Suitable for self-defense
  • Submissions included
Cons
  • No punching or kicking
  • Tough to learn

How do most self-defense situations begin? While standing up. In Judo, every fight starts with a stance battle. Because of that, it’s highly relevant for self-defense. With Judo, you’ll learn to properly maintain your stance to ensure the attacker can’t attack you properly. 

Judo is a martial art all about cleanly pinning, throwing, or mastering your opponent to the ground. Today, it’s an Olympic sport because of its entertaining value and long history. As a result, it’s notably widespread. Because of that, learning it is highly recommended for self-defense. 

Knowing how to pin an opponent to the ground is a massive advantage in fights. To disable an attacker, you’ll need more than just a punch. As a result, if you can master them, you’ll obviously come out on top.  

In Judo training, you’ll learn all about how to perform such techniques. Thus in self-defense situations, you’ll be able to reflect them to disable the attacker in front of you. 

As I mentioned, every fight starts standing up. In Judo, the case is the same. As a result, you’ll have an advantage in every dangerous situation you experience. As a result, not only are your chances of disabling the enemy increasing, but you’re also lowering the odds of you getting hurt. 

Eventually, you’ll become a solid fighter who knows to maneuver the opponent. As a result, not only will you be able to handle a punch, but you’ll also be familiar with mastering your opponent. Such a trait is highly desirable in self-defense.

“Judo seems beneficial for improving anthropometric and functional fitness variables, relevant aspects of successful aging.”

(Source)

If we look at Judo as a sport, it may not be as effective. Yet, the martial art itself is highly effective for the purposes we’re discussing. As a result, Judo is deadly and relevant to today’s world. 

7. Jeet Kune Do

Pros
  • All-around martial art
  • Dynamic
  • Suitable for self-defense
Cons
  • Not popular
  • Not many good schools
  • Not suitable for multiple attackers

Bruce Lee is one of the most famous martial artists ever. He’s an actor that made martial arts truly prevalent and known worldwide. One of his notable prominent projects is a fighting style that’s on his unique style. Next, we’ll discuss why it’s as lethal as I ranked it. 

Bruce Lee
Image by SilviaP_Design from Pixabay

One of the most effective martial arts for self-defense and many other purposes is Jeet Kune Do. Bruce lee first created this fighting style and made it widespread. Many people, including elite MMA fighters, such as Conor McGregor, use Jee Kune Do’s techniques.  

It’s as effective as it is because it’s well-rounded. As a result, one can use it for self-defense or in a street fight. Both are suitable for the usage of this fighting style. Most people are unfamiliar with it, and that’s too bad. It’s genuinely superb watching Jeet Kune Do artists in action.

Jeet Kune Do utilizes everything other martial arts have. You’ll become a solid boxer, judoist, and all-around fighter if you do it. I read a quote Bruce Lee had said on his take on martial arts and fighting in general. If I were to define what makes a martial art deadly, it’s precisely that sentence.

“The best fighter is not a Boxer, Karate, or Judo man. The best fighter is someone who can adapt on any style. He kicks too good for a Boxer, throws too good for a Karate man, and punches too good for a Judo man.”Bruce Lee

Overall, Jeet Kune Do teaches you how to be a solid fighter. You’ll be able to use ground game, grappling, choking, striking, and kicking to your advantage. Because of that, training in it takes consistency and dedication. If you invest that effort, you’ll become a capable fighter. 

8. Muay-Thai

Pros
  • Makes you a solid fighter
  • Betters physical shape
  • Improves punches and kicks
  • Suitable for self-defense
Cons
  • No submissions
  • No ground game

Today, we see Muay-Thai trainees using techniques that disable an opponent rather quickly. As a result, it’s a valuable martial art for many purposes, such as self-defense. In MMA, for instance, elite fighters are beating opponents consistently using it. 

Muay-Thai utilizes punching, kicking, and various clinching techniques. As a result, it’s highly effective for self-defense situations, such as street fights. Unlike Kickboxing, you’ll learn additional clinching and grappling moves. Such moves can effortlessly disable an attacker. Thus it’s deadly. 

Unlike many fighting styles in this list, Muay-Thai is quite widespread. For that reason, many schools are teaching this art throughout the world. In training, you’ll first learn how to punch and kick appropriately. In doing so, you’ll build solid fundamentals which will enforce you as a better fighter. 

Today, there’s one particular fighter who utilizes Muay-Thai. As a result, he dominated his opponents by using various clinching movements and powerful punches. I’m talking about Rodtang. If you’re unfamiliar with him, I’ll include a video I recommend everyone check out. 

You’ll notice that Rodtang’s pain tolerance is up there. I mean, the guy doesn’t feel pain. As a result, he’s able to overcome his opponents, even if they’re bigger than him- by solely that fact. 

Furthermore, his punches and kicks are so powerful that he’s capable of knocking out his opponents smoothly. Thus the chances of him losing slim down.

Eventually, Muay-Thai is a fantastic martial art that makes solid fighters. Not only are they able to punch and kick powerfully, but they’re also able to clinch and grapple. As a result, it’s suitable not only for fights but also for self-defense purposes. 

9. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Pros
  • Suitable for self-defense
  • Popular
  • Many good schools
  • Improves ground game
Cons
  • No punching or kicking
  • Not as dynamic

Today, what are the skills required to defend yourself? Punching hard may be one of them. However, if you can master the attacker, you’re going to win no matter how powerfully he hits or kicks. As a result, learning a martial art that teaches us advanced skills is crucial to seeing success. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is about submissions. There’s no punching or kicking involved. Unlike GJJ (Gracie), BJJ is the sport. As a result, it may not be as effective for self-defense and other purposes as GJJ. Consequently, its ranking is lower than it. Yet, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaches us valuable skills. 

If we can choke our opponent until unconscious, we’ll win. Factually, when punching, you’re putting yourself at greater risk of getting hit. As a result, one may consider it a lousy move for self-defense. Yet, if you pin an attacker to the ground, you win. Because of that, BJJ teaches us skills highly effective for these purposes. 

The video I included in Gracie’s section applies to this one. Because the officer knew how to control his opponent- on the ground, mainly because that’s the martial art he does, he didn’t have to use lethal force. Not only did he not get injured, but he was able to disable the hostile without using his pistol. 

The following video is a collection of highlights from a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition. I highly encourage you to view it since it shows the true colors of the sport itself. 

That said, this martial art is fantastic and suitable for self-defense. Thus I recommend learning it to broaden your knowledge and skills. 

10. Boxing

Pros
  • Makes you a solid fighter
  • Master punches
  • Betters physical shape
  • Increases pain tolerance
Cons
  • No submissions
  • No grappling

One of my favorite martial arts of all time is this one. It made myself and most people who consistently do it solid fighters. It increases pain tolerance and boosts many sides in you. Today, it’s one of the largest platforms in the entire world for martial arts. 

Boxing is a martial art that utilizes punching in different variations to knock your opponent. Consequently, training in it is highly beneficial to empower your punches. In addition, Boxing makes solid fighters. Even if you get punched, you’ll know how to handle it since you’ve got hit dozens of times. 

From personal experience, it improved the way I receive punches tremendously. For that reason, I’m not scared of getting hit since I know how it feels. 

Eventually, you’ll practice punching in any martial art you do. So, what makes Boxing special? Well, you’ll punch all the time. Consequently, your muscle memory will tremendously increase to the point where you’re not even thinking about how you throw a hit. Instead, you’ll do it. 

That’s one of the most prominent advantages to training martial arts. You’ll repeat the same motion so often- you’ll do it automatically. As a result, not only will you react quickly in a self-defense situation, but you’ll also do it without hesitating. Thus it’s deadly for many purposes.

Furthermore, training in martial arts will provide plenty of benefits. In Boxing, you’ll notice you’re doing a full-body workout while training for self-defense. Because of that, you’ll burn more calories than the average workout. To clarify, you burn about 800 calories in an hour-long Boxing session.

11. Firearms

Pros
  • Lethal
  • Simple
  • Easily accessible
  • Not physical
  • Easy to use correctly
Cons
  • Inconsistent
  • Expensive
  • Mostly illegal
  • Tough to purchase

Many people would disagree with me on this one. Yet, I must mention it. Because of that, I ranked it as #11. I honestly believe it belongs here, if not in a higher spot. Whether you’re training in Karate or Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, in long-distance, firearms will win. That’s merely a fact. 

Firearms is martial art because you’re picking up a weapon and exercising with it. With consistent training, you’ll become more capable of using the firearm. Isn’t that similar to Boxing and using our fists? The weapon becomes a part of us when we’re carrying it. Thus it’s a martial art. 

Man shooting a pistol
Image by satellitov from Pixabay

I’ve been a special forces operator for a prolonged period. Consequently, I know everything about the different firearms and how to; use them. I can tell you- learning to shoot is as challenging as first learning to punch. Because of that, I treat it as a fighting style. 

If you miss the attacker in a dangerous situation, you’ll most likely end up losing. Consequently, if you shoot enough times, you’ll develop the muscle memory we discussed earlier. As a result, you’ll end up hitting your target, thus neutralizing the attacker. 

Overall, I ranked it because a single pistol shot can disable an attacker. Thus it’s highly effective. However, it’s inconsistent. If an attacker attacks you when you’re least expecting it, you may not carry your firearm. As a result, you turn into a white belt, whether you’re the best shooter in the world. 

Additionally, they’re usually illegal. As a result, you’ll need to invest plenty of effort until you put your hands on a firearm. I wrote an article on the pros and cons of pistols, and I highly encourage you to read it. 

Lastly, people use guns more to intimidate than for self-defense. If you’re looking for an intimidation method, buying a pistol may be more suitable for your case. (Source)

What makes a martial art deadly?

Today, martial arts are widespread. In the US, 3.42 million people did martial arts in 2017. (Source) We can interpret that it’s highly prevalent. Because of that, you may get confused about which one suits you the best. That way, you’ll be able to train more consistently and have more fun.

As a general rule, a martial art that teaches you to respond to all dangerous situations is deadly. Krav Maga, for instance, is dynamic. As a result, Krav Maga trainees can react to all self-defense situations, such as street fights, sudden knife attacks, and countering an attacker using a pistol.

I’ve ranked the various martial arts on performance in different self-defense situations. MMA, for instance, is a superb fighting style that’s highly dynamic. Thus it’s effective in countering any risky scenarios. 

To further explain my reasoning, I ranked firearms at #11. Because using a pistol is not as effective in a close-range fight, it’s not as dynamic. As a result, it’s ineffective for many self-defense situations, such as a sudden knife attack. As a result, it’s less deadly than Jeet Kune Do.

In addition, if a fighting style makes you into a solid fighter, it’s lethal. Boxing, for instance, is a suitable fighting style that’ll teach you how to get hit. Therefore, you won’t be afraid of getting punched in a real fight, which is crucial for self-defense. 

I wrote an article on whether Krav Maga is deadly. If you’re interested in reading it, follow the link as it has plenty of valuable information.

Eventually, if you practice martial art consistently, you’re going to be a solid fighter. However, many are more valuable than others. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Tai Chi. As a result, I believe Kenpo holds more value than it. 

Which martial art should I learn?

Considering the main factor when choosing a fighting style is crucial. That factor is, what is your goal? What are you looking to achieve? Do you want to become a solid fighter or improve your mental health and get rid of stress? 

If you want to become a solid fighter, you should learn MMA, Kickboxing, Krav Maga, or Muay-Thai. Yet, if you desire to become a calm person and get rid of stress, you should learn Tai Chi or Aikido. Eventually, there are many martial arts; all of them hold significant value. 

Martial arts
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Yet, if you’re looking to learn self-defense, training in one that’ll teach you that is vital. Today, there are systems for that exact purpose. I wrote an article precisely on that. I highly encourage you to read it if you look to know self-defense. 

Self-DefenseBeing a solid fighterFitness
Krav MagaMMAKickboxing
MMAKickboxingBoxing
Gracie Jiu-JitsuJudoMuay-Thai
Jeet Kune DoGracie Jiu-JitsuKrav Maga
FirearmsBoxingBrazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Which martial art you should learn based on goal in my perspective

The last sentence I want to say is every martial art has a purpose. Because of that, there are no useless martial arts. Thus learning one that suits your personality is crucial to seeing progress and having fun while training. That way, you’ll benefit most from training and the beautiful world of fighting styles. 

Which martial art is most effective for self-defense?

If you want to learn self-defense, choosing a fighting style that suits it is wise. Today, people created systems that are sole to learn self-defense as a form of martial arts. For instance, I’ve watched a guy on YouTube that constructed a self-defense system that’s suitable for such a purpose (CDS). Follow the link to visit him.

As a general rule, Krav Maga, MMA, and Muay-Thai are the most effective martial arts for self-defense. Because they prepare you for real dangerous self-defense situations, you’ll react quickly when such scenarios occur. As a result, you’ll know how to defend yourself using such systems. 

Overall, most people today who want to learn a martial art do it because they want to know self-defense. Now, that’s a totally valid reason. As a result, I recommend choosing a fighting style that’s suitable for such a purpose, like the ones I’ve listed before. 

Additionally, all martial arts provide some value. Because of that, all of them fit for self-defense. Judo, for instance, is a remarkable fighting style that will teach you how to defend yourself. You’ll learn about clinching, choking, and mastering your opponent. All of these are crucial to know for self-defense situations. 

Another example is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. While you won’t learn how to throw the most decisive punch to knock your opponent, you’ll learn to choke them correctly. That way, you’ll win no matter how powerfully the attacker punches. As a result, GJJ and BJJ are highly effective martial arts for self-defense. 

Lastly, there are many more reasons for you to learn martial arts. It increases confidence and situational awareness, for example. As a result, I wrote an article explaining the various reasons to train in martial arts. I highly encourage you to check them out as they correlate closely with this topic. 

Conclusion

Overall, there are many martial arts in today’s world. Thus knowing which ones are the deadliest is vital for choosing which one to train. In the real world, knowing self-defense is valuable. You may get into tricky situations where you’ll use martial arts to defend yourself. 

If you know a deadly fighting style, you’ll have no trouble protecting yourself. Because of that, I encourage you to consider the factors I listed in this post to make your choice wisely. 

From personal experience, it’s crucial information. When I began my Krav Maga training, I didn’t know anything about martial arts. As a result, I wasn’t aware of the various unique fighting styles I could learn. If I were to comprehend that, I might have chosen a different one. 

There isn’t a single part in my body that’ll tell you not to learn a martial art. In today’s world, knowing how to defend yourself is crucial. In addition, it’s a form of self-development. Hence you’ll improve many aspects in yourself that’ll better your quality of life, such as increasing your confidence. 

Levi

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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