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What is the Most Effective Martial Art for Self Defense?



Watching MMA or any other combat sport has the potential to make a person ask themselves if any of those skills can be utilized in the real world, outside of the sanctioned fights and sportsmanship. The answer is obviously yes because a skilled boxer or a wrestler will have a huge advantage in a street fight. However, people that might attack you on the street will likely fight dirty, meaning they’re more liable to pull hair, go for the eyes, or look to attack your groin area. Even worse, there is a real possibility that the will use a potentially dangerous weapon, like a knife or a gun.

So, how can you protect yourself from these attacks? The best solution is getting some martial art training, and I’m here to help you figure out what is the best martial art for self defense.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

This is probably a skill that is very well-known among the MMA fans as it can be quite effective. One can argue that BJJ is the best martial art because the famous BJJ family, the Gracies, dominated the early UFC tournaments when the concept of MMA was still relatively new and a perfection of a one martial art meant really good chances at a victory.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a ground-based grappling discipline that requires a certain level of control over your opponent before you can put him in a hold. However, what makes BJJ really effective is the fact that it appears unorthodox to an untrained eye, for example, a mugger, and gaining this necessary upper hand can be achieved relatively easily.

Pure BJJ is based on the preposition of a street fight, meaning that it’s extra useful as it teaches you how to use a collar of a person’s jacket to put them in a choke hold and many other tricks.

In early UFC events, Royce Gracie wore his BJJ gi into the arena and absolutely destroyed fighters from other styles like boxing and Sumo.


Judo is a martial art founded in Japan, but it swiftly took the world by storm and became an official Olympic sport in 1964. What judo does best is utilize the opponent’s momentum and convert their energy into throws and immediately into a joint lock or a choke hold which is especially useful if an attacker charges you.

This is another discipline you’ve already likely heard of if you follow MMA and if that’s the case, you’re probably aware of the success Ronda Rousey managed to have with a strict Judo background. Another great Judo practitioner who transitioned into MMA is Karo Parisyan who might ring a few bells for older fans as he wreaked havoc in the 2000s.

Below is a really great video which highlights how different judo techniques can be used in a street fight situation.

Krav Maga

This is a martial art developed by Israeli Defense Forces which they called “The Art Of Staying Alive” and for a good reason. This is a self-defense system which means that it’s not really effective in MMA and in fact, it might even look too complex on a first glance.

Although it isn’t as complicated as it looks, Krav Maga doesn’t have a base approach in self defense. It combines martial arts like Boxing, Wing Chun Karate, BJJ, and more to form a unique blend which is focused squarely on ending the fight as swiftly as possible. Probably the best aspect of Krav Maga is that it specifically prepares you for the event of someone attacking you with a weapon, most often a knife.


Of course, boxing is one of the most popular martial arts among MMA fighters. There is nothing more exciting than a standup brawl between two elite strikers.

Boxing is not only effective for self defense – it’s a great workout too. All you need is boxing gloves and a heavy bag, and you can start working on your striking today. There are tons of good YouTube videos covering boxing workouts.

What Is The Best Martial Art For Real Life Self Defense?

The martial arts mentioned here are my top choices for self defense, but if I had to choose one, I would go with Krav Maga. It’s excellent in that it prepares you specifically for real life situations, like a knife attack, which is where you’ll find the biggest need for self defense.

Another pro of Krav Maga is that it teaches you how to be effective both against people who had some martial arts training, but also against untrained attackers. That way you’ve covered all your bases and can get out of tough situations unscathed.