The 5 Best Self-Defense Martial Arts (And Which Ones To Avoid!) - The Fight Talk (2023)

People often go about their lives unaware of the threats that surround them. This is because the people you want to hurt are not always identifiable.

However, whenever you find yourself in a situation where you need to act to save yourself or others, you need a solid martial art that you can use in self-defense.

In this article, we reveal which are the best martial arts for self-defense and which ones you should avoid.

The 5 Best Self-Defense Martial Arts (And Which Ones To Avoid!) - The Fight Talk (1)

Table of contents

martial arts and self defense

Let's start with a definition. Most people only associate martial arts with East Asian sports like karate or taekwondo. However, a martial art is actually any form of combat and self-defense practiced as a sport.

A good martial art is one that can be used for practical purposes..

It's a good thing that they all ensure good exercise and some also have meditative properties. But if you're just using your martial arts to get in shape, you might as well take a spinning class!

Self-defense in the real world should be the goal of any martial art. It should teach him how to win a fight when there are no judges, no rules and when it could be a matter of life and death.

Ancient cultures around the world understood the true value of practicing martial arts while fighting for survival.

Because so many different peoples learned the value of fighting early on, many forms of martial arts have developed around the world.

Martial arts to avoid if your goal is self-defense

Sometimes a modern martial art can fail in self-defense for various reasons. Here are just some of the martial arts that are popular but don't provide adequate self-defense tools:

  • Aikido
  • Tai Chi
  • Arnis

They are unique in what they teach and where they come from. Aikido is Japanese, but Tai Chi is of Chinese origin. Arnis is from the Philippines.

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Let's talk a little bit about Aikido

Although it involves some minor striking movements, Aikido primarily teaches students to use their energy to fend off opponents.

Furthermore, the training in this martial art is conducted by the attacking student (uke), who allows himself to be manipulated by the student applying the technique (tori).

So we see that the first problem in aikido is the lack of resistance from the opponent. In the real world, you can't easily take down your enemy.

This leads to the second problem.

Knocking down the opponent just to get them to get up and come back doesn't end a fight!

What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that focuses on internal benefits. For this reason, some modern Tai Chi is taught as a gentle exercise forreduces stress. However, some tai chi classes teach flashy movements.

Even when sparring, this martial art uses fluid movement and simply may not be as effective as other self-defense martial arts.

One element of Tai Chi practice is individual form. The aim is to "tune" the body without having an opponent. As with aikido, you simply cannot practice effective self-defense without sparring.

But tai chi also falls short because of the way countermovements are taught. Students learn a method called Push Hands, in which they yield to an opponent's attack and redirect their energy.

That's great unless you unexpectedly get hit from behind and therefore can't redirect the attack.

What is Arnis?

The last martial art I will discuss here is Arnis. In case you haven't heard of it, this is an ancient art that was developed in the Philippines but is still practiced around the world to this day.

Arnis emphasizes the use of weapons like staffs and various edged weapons, but plays a secondary role in empty-handed techniques.

No one can doubt the brutality of Arnis. If you're the type to carry a big knife or staff, this might be the martial art for you.

But most of us don't, and it just doesn't have the same appeal without the Arnis weapons.

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In fact, it's quite difficult to find information about Arnis that doesn't involve weapons.

the leadership

At this point I should point out that these martial arts have other enormous advantages.

The conclusion here should not be that Aikido, Tai Chi and Arnis are somehow useless as martial arts. Instead, they were used to indicate that there are less effective martial arts when it comes to self-defense.

The 5 best martial arts for self defense

Now you want to know in which artsSohnmore effective. Out of the thousands of martial arts that exist in the world, these five are the best to use to defend yourself if necessary:

  • boxing
  • Muay-Thai
  • Judo
  • Lucha
  • Brasilianisches Jiu-Jitsu

I'm going to go over each of them to show you why these five are superior to all the others.


What is it

Boxing has a long history around the world and can be found in almost every culture in one form or another. Although the rules may vary slightly, boxing is generally accepted as a sport in which the opponent is knocked out with a closed fist for a predetermined time or until one of the competitors is KO'd. Read more aboutboxing rules here.

what teaches

Boxing is an exceptional martial art to learn because it teaches you how to deliver an effective punch, how to block or dodge an incoming punch, and how to withstand a punch when your opponent lands one. During a fight, students wear helmets but are attacked with full force.

use it for self defense

Because you're actually taking and dishing out punches, boxing prepares you in the best possible way for a real-world fight. The techniques learned do not disappear when the actual fight begins. Learning this martial art can give you a significant advantage, especially when you are up against someone who has no boxing experience.


What is it

Thailand has the privilege of claiming this martial art. Muay Thai literally means "Thai fight". This brutal martial art uses the entire body and includes punches, kicks, elbows and knees, and various blocking techniques.

what teaches

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In a Muay Thai match, fighters compete until one of them is eliminated or until the end of three rounds. Points are awarded in a round if one fighter can stop the other. You can read more about itMuay Thai rules in detail here. Like boxing, Muay Thai teaches you how to punch and shows you how to protect yourself properly by blocking.

use it for self defense

Sparring is the focus of Muay Thai training. This means you can practice your skills on a real opponent instead of having a heavy bag dangling from them. By using Muay Thai in a match, you will be poised to dominate an opponent who is unprepared for the devastating knees and elbows that the art teaches.


What is it

Although not as old as most other martial arts, judo is still a very popular and effective martial art today. Judo means "the gentle way" in Japanese, but make no mistake, this technique is anything but smooth.

The goal in competitive judo is to achieve "ippon" by throwing the opponent, resulting in instant victory, or subduing an opponent through shared blocks and chokeholds. You can read more about itHere are the rules of judo.

what teaches

Many fighting styles rely on the punch as the main starting move. Judo generally prohibits hitting or kicking. Therefore, the fighter must learn to rely on throwing or bringing down his opponent and forcing submission.

use it for self defense

We often think of using self-defense against a fully coherent malicious enemy. However, you may need to use self-defense and minimize physical damage.

Consider dating a mentally challenged person or someone who is high and out of control and a threat to others. In this case, you don't want to do undue harm, but rather submit until medical intervention can occur.

You can read more about why we think soJudo is good for self-defense here.


What is it

When you hear world wrestling, you probably think of John Cena jumping off the top ropes. The fight to think of here is what you would see at the Olympics. This is undoubtedly a martial art that trumps almost all other martial arts and focuses on grappling and joint locking to defeat opponents.

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what teaches

As you fight, you learn how to defeat opponents withdifferent falling techniques. Along with takedowns is escaping prize points in wrestling matches which can determine the winner if neither wrestler is pinned during a match. These takedowns and dodges are invaluable lessons in a fight.

use it for self defense

To win a battle in some situations, you need to defeat your enemy. Because of this, wrestling is one of the best martial arts to learn as takedown skills are an integral part of wrestling effectiveness. After putting your opponent at a disadvantage with a leg swing or two-legged takedown, you can apply one of several joint levers to gain the submission hold and end the fight.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

What is it

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) evolved from traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu in the early 20th century. BJJ doesn't focus as much on hitting and throwing as its predecessor, instead emphasizing ground fighting via levers, linkage locks and chokes. This means that the difference in size between the fighters does not determine who wins.

what teaches

There are many similarities betweenJiu-Jitsu and Wrestling. However, wrestling requires a lot of strength, while a jiu-jitsu fighter just needs the right technique to hit another fighter. Jiu-Jitsu training, also known as rolling, involves a resistance partner. This is a crucial element that allows you to translate jiu-jitsu skills into a real street fight.

use it for self defense

Generally,BJJ is perhaps the best martial art for self defense. If you end up being the smaller of two fighters, jiu-jitsu techniques will ensure you have a fair shot at victory. Another positive aspect of the Jiu-Jitsu style is that it closes the gap between you and your opponent and robs them of their ability to land effective punches.

What about MMA and Sambo for self defense?

Given that MMA is one of the fastest growing sports, and that Russian Sambo is best known around the world due to the success of undefeated former UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, many people are probably wondering why MMA and Sambo aren't on this list .

For starters, both MMA and Sambo are some of the best forms of self-defense, period. The reason they are not listed in this article is simple: they are not individual martial arts, but modern combat systems made up of multiple forms of martial arts, including all of the martial arts included in our list above.


Having some martial arts skills in your repertoire is far better than none. If you are just starting out figuring out which method to learn, there is a wealth of information available on each martial arts style. Consider these five styles and how they are superior to all other martial arts for a real combat situation.

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