Every person, especially men, should be capable of protecting themselves and their loved ones if the situation arises. Having this ability will give you some peace of mind when you are out and about in public as you know you could handle yourself if danger approaches. There are many styles to choose from and it can be overwhelming to determine not only what suits you best, but what is ultimately the best martial art for self defense. This guide will break down the best martial arts and their effectiveness in a self defense situation.

Understanding Self Defense

Self defense is an umbrella term that refers to various techniques and strategies used to protect oneself from physical harm. There are many different styles of martial arts that can be applied in a self defense situation. When choosing certain martial arts for self defense, there are many factors to consider such as the ease of learning, the effectiveness of the martial art in a self defense situation, and the downsides the martial art can pose in a self defense situation. 

Many martial arts may look cool and effective in a controlled environment but you need to consider their practical application in a real-world scenario which could ultimately be the difference between life and death. 


Boxing is a striking based sport that focuses on punching, footwork, and defense. In my opinion, one of the easiest to learn and most practical in a self defense situation. You are able to deliver powerful punches and defend or evade any incoming strikes. Boxing is also beneficial if faced with multiple attackers as you can rely on strikes and footwork to attack and move to safety. However, the downside to boxing is that if you’re in a tight space or forced to grapple and clinch you may struggle, especially against a larger person. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) is a grappling based martial art that focuses on submission holds and ground fighting. BJJ enables you to be able to control and immobilize an attacker, even if they are larger than you (If your technique is advanced enough). However, there are no strikes involved and you must rely on grappling which can be hard to initiate in some situations. Another downside to BJJ is that it isn’t really effective for multiple attackers. Even if you are able to immobilize and subdue someone, you’re leaving yourself open to getting hit by someone else. BJJ is practical for a one-on-one situation. Bear in mind that BJJ does take some time to learn but is well worth the time invested.  

Muay Thai and Kickboxing 

Muay Thai and Kickboxing are striking based martial arts that focus on the use of punches, kicks, knees and elbows. Advantages for a self defense situation include having the ability to deliver powerful strikes with your hands or legs. However, kicking isn’t the most ideal in a self defense situation as there’s a chance of being off-balanced and ending up on the floor which must be completely avoided. Also, the lack of grappling can be a struggle if you end up in that situation.


Karate is a striking based martial art focusing on quick, powerful strikes with the hands and legs. Karate can be advantageous if you are able to let off and land a quick powerful strike to your attacker. However, there is a lack of emphasis on grappling, and isn’t really practical in a real world scenario compared to other martial arts. 


Taekwondo is a striking based martial art that is heavily kick focused. Advantages for self defense include the ability to deliver powerful kicks from a safe distance. However, kicks aren’t ideal to throw in a fight as there is a chance of you ending up on the ground and as there are no grappling techniques involved, you may find yourself in a bad situation. 

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a self defense system created and developed by the Israeli military. Advantages include its practical approach to real world scenarios and emphasis on quick instinctive movements. However, its aggressive nature and lack of traditional martial arts techniques may make it difficult to learn for certain individuals. 


Judo is a grappling martial art that focuses on grappling techniques and throws. Advantages for self defense include the ability to control an attacker and immobilize them. However, there is a lack of strikes and you rely on being in grappling range which may be un-ideal for a real world scenario. 


MMA is a combination of all the martial arts mentioned above and more. It includes striking and grappling techniques. Advantages for self defense include the ability to strike if needed, grapple if needed, and subdue or immobilize an opponent if needed. However, there is much more to learn and it does take some time to be efficient at being able to combine everything together.

Final Say

Each martial art has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to self defense situations. The best one for you will depend on your personal preferences and goals. 

If you want easy to learn striking martial arts, boxing or Muay Thai and Kickboxing would be the best choice to pursue. If you prefer grappling based martial arts, BJJ would be the way to go. If you want a well rounded approach that covers both striking and grappling, MMA would be the choice for you.

 Keep in mind that it takes time and dedication to develop skills and become proficient in martial arts. The more hours you dedicate to training, the better you will become while simultaneously building your own self confidence to apply these skills in any situation. Take the time to research and try out different martial arts. Take the time to research and try out different martial arts, Check out my guide on Which Martial Art Should I Learn First for a more in-depth review of the mentioned martial arts.

By Emil

Emil is a currently active professional MMA fighter. He was ranked 1st in the Aus/Nz region in his weight class as an amateur, with the most KO’s, and is now actively working up the professional ranks.

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