The Best Martial Arts for Self-Defense and Why
Based on my research, the best martial art for pure self-defense is Krav Maga.
If all you want to do is learn how to defeat someone, then Krav Maga is the one for you.
The best martial art for health and live-sparring, while also learning self-defense is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).
If you want to learn some useful self-defense skills along with improving your health and being able to spar with others, then BJJ is the best.
Here’s the rundown of all the ones we’ve considered:
Mixed Martial Arts
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a new sport that came into being in the 1990s. They shouldn’t be regarded as a separate martial art, however. It’s a sport more than art. It includes striking, throwing, grappling, etc.
The official beginning of MMA (1) goes back to the establishment of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). With the first championship held in 1993, and Royce Gracie demolishing the competition, a new chapter in fighting began.
MMA gained a lot of popularity in the 90s and has become one of the highest paying sporting events in the world. At this point, some of the most famous fighters include Khabib Nurmagomedov, Ronda Rousey, Connor McGregor, and Georges St. Pierre.
MMA has blurred the lines between fighting styles. It has allowed fighters to experiment with different techniques and blows to counter restrictive fighting styles. Due to the relaxation of rules, MMA has resulted in fighters melding techniques and finding the combinations that best work for them. As a result, the sport has garnered a lot of notoriety.
Pros and Cons
The most significant benefit of learning Mixed Martial Arts is the exposure to different forms of martial arts. The best part about MMA is that it doesn’t restrict you to one fighting style. That’s the point of learning fighting: to open up to as many techniques as possible.
By training MMA, you can learn the disadvantages and problems with each martial art.
As far as cons are concerned, MMA is a particularly violent sport, according to the National Institute of Health. BJJ has an injury rate of up to 38.6 per 1000 contact or fight participations. Compared to that, MMA has an injury rate of 28.6 per 100 fight participations. It’s particularly detrimental to the face, with nearly 48% of all injuries being facial lacerations.
According to a study conducted by the University of Toronto, MMA fighters get traumatic brain injuries in one-third of professional bouts. Others have reported that brain injuries aren’t as common. One study done by the University of Alberta revealed that it’s much safer than boxing.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or Jiu-Jitsu, is a modern martial art. It was developed in the early 20th century by the Gracie family in Brazil. Though its roots lie in Japanese Jujitsu and Judo, it has become a wholly different martial art.
In 1909, Japanese Martial artist Geo Omori began teaching Judo. Judo itself was supposed to be a much less militarized form of Japanese Jujitsu, developed for disarmed Samurai. One of his students, Mitsuo Maeda, traveled to Brazil and opened his dojo in 1914. There, he began to teach Carlos Gracie, the son of a friend.
Other members of the Gracie family learned Judo as well and made improvements to the form.
It was improved upon so that smaller people could defeat bigger people.
Thus Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) came to be.
Through training and hard work, the Gracie family became more and more famous.
In the 1990s, with the establishment of UFC, they achieved global fame. There, Royce Gracie, a descendant of Carlos, demolished the competition. This feat brought BJJ to the world stage.
Pros and Cons
Hailed as a sport that has changed the game for martial arts, BJJ is considered one of the most effective martial arts in the world due to the lack of dependence on strength.
BJJ practitioners can be tall, short, fat, thin, etc.
Since BJJ emphasizes groundwork and involves the development of flexibility in muscles, it’s considered a very healthy sport. It’s also a very safe sport since the chances of injury are significantly less than boxing, MMA, or Judo.
There is no striking in BJJ, so you wouldn’t be learning how to punch or kick.
Tae Kwan Do
Tae Kwan Do, or Taekwondo, originates from Korea. It originated as a combative sport in the 40s and 50s. The name came from fighting schools that originated in the time called Kwans. The schools opened up in Seoul (South Korea) after the WWII Japanese Occupation ended.
Teaching martial arts was forbidden during the occupation.
Hence, reopening these schools was seen as a return to tradition and freedom. Tae Kwan Do thus became a sport that combined a lot of martial arts traditions from Korea.
These included Taekkyon, Subak, and Gwonbeop. These three styles emphasized head-height kicking, jumping, and fast kicking techniques.
Pros and Cons
Tae Kwan Do, mainly a striking sport, teaches the identification of specific pressure points on the body. It is an excellent sport for self-defense in this regard. It also helps to improve agility and reflexes and strength and stamina.
However, since it barely focuses on punching, it does leave you open to an opponent’s close-range attacks.
Karate is one of the most well known martial arts in the west. The film ‘The Karate Kid’ popularized the sport in the United States. Karate originated in the 14th century in Okinawa, Japan.
The sport is a striking art that includes punching, kicking, knee striking, and elbow striking.
Pros and Cons
Karate is a very safe martial art and is great for learning self-defense. It is much less injury-prone than Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, and even Aikido.
A major con of the sport is that you will have trouble finding legitimate instructors. Most dojos in the west teach the sport for point-scoring.
You’ll need to find an instructor that also teaches self-defense techniques.
Boxing is a striking sport without a doubt. It involves a lot of bobbing and weaving, but it’s mainly about throwing punches.
The first signs of boxing were seen in the 3rd Millennium BC in Iraq. There, depictions of fights with fists are shown in caves. Other representations of the sport are seen in Classic Vedic scripts like the Ramayana.
However, the sport, as it exists today, was popularized in London, England, in the 16th century. There it became a sport taught in schools and universities. Boxing champions were touted as heroes and were labeled strong men. It’s one of the most popular sports in the world today, having gone through a golden age in the 20th century.
Pros and Cons
Boxing is one of the most disciplining sports around. It requires an extensive buildup of muscle, a strict diet, and agility. It’s not for nothing that Muhammad Ali’s motto was “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Boxing, of course, makes you tough. However, there are just too many cons to the sport to ignore.
Boxing is considered as one of the most violent sports in the world. It is proven without a doubt that it causes traumatic brain injuries and has even ended in fatalities. In1995, an estimated 500 boxers had died in the ring. The injury rate in boxing is 17.1 per 100 boxer matches. The majority of these injuries (51%) are facial lacerations.
While that injury rate may be lower than MMA, boxing is still considered the more physically damaging sport. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, 90% of all boxers sustain a brain injury. If you’ve watched any of the Rocky films, you’ll know that’s a topic that comes up regularly.
Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest boxer that ever lived, also got Parkinson’s disease as a result of boxing. If you are taking up the sport, know the consequences that you will probably endure.
Krav Maga is a fighting style that isn’t as popular as other sports. It was invented specifically for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). It’s a form of unarmed combat that is designed to disable the opponent. The Hebrew phrase Krav Maga translates to contact combat.
While Krav Maga is designed to produce maximum force and impact, it is not a unique type of martial art. It was created by combining various aspects of wrestling, boxing, Aikido, Karate, and Judo.
Pros and Cons
Krav Maga is considered a practical art for self-defense. Its emphasis on aggression and takedowns helps practitioners become adept at fighting larger opponents. However, one legitimate con is that there are very few genuine instructors of the sport outside the IDF.
Another benefit of Krav Maga is that it can be learned in a very short time. The art has been designed so that soldiers can learn it very quickly. For instance, some schools even offer a two-week training course within the army.
A legitimate con of Krav Maga is that it is designed to hurt opponents. Due to its use in the army, it’s not intended for point-scoring. It’s intended to hurt enemies seriously.
This is why the sport allows for hits on the groin, hair pulling, biting, and spitting. Gouging and pinching are even allowed. This makes the sport very violent and not suitable for community sport.
If you live in a particularly violent area and want to learn how to defend yourself, Krav Maga is the best. However, if you’re going to learn a sport with your children, give this a pass.
How to Choose the Best One for You
If you’re asking me which one you should choose, I’m going to be biased and say BJJ. I can back it up with all the statistics you want, but my bias will stay.
So instead, I’ll tell a simple truth. The best martial art that you can choose is the one you’re most comfortable with.
I’m not saying don’t do your research and go in blind; I’m saying work for it. If you want something, you can enjoy with your kids and learn self-defense simultaneously, go for something you love.
If you’re going to learn self-defense to beat an opponent, learn Krav Maga. If you want to learn a sport that will help your health and fitness, any martial art will do.