Top 20 Best Martial Arts For Self-Defense (With Videos)

Martial arts have been around for centuries. They are used to protect ourselves, become more disciplined, and improve our health. There are many types of martial arts to pick from, and it can take time to decide which is best for self-defense. For those seeking to acquire a new skill, we list the top martial arts that are highly effective for self-defense.


Sambo is a martial art that originated in the Soviet Union in the early 20th century. It is a highly effective self-defense system. It combines elements of wrestling, judo, and other combat sports. In essence, Sambo is very much like that in MMA. This style incorporates other disciplines into a singular fighting system.

Why Sambo Is Practical For Self-Defense

Sambo is based on practical techniques. Unlike other martial arts, which focus on intricate movements and showy techniques, these are designed to work in real-life situations. Sambo emphasizes simple and efficient moves with the end result of quickly subduing a potential attacker.

Sambo teaches students how to control an opponent, both standing up and on the ground. This is important in a self-defense situation. The reason is it allows the defender to avoid being struck and to neutralize a potential threat as quickly as possible.

Training emphasizes physical fitness and endurance. Students learn to develop strength, speed, and explosive agility. This is done through a combination of conditioning exercises and technical training. This can be useful in a self-defense situation. The defender may need to fight off an attacker who is stronger or more aggressive.

Overall, Sambo is an effective self-defense system as it teaches practical techniques for controlling and subduing an attacker. It is a challenging and physically demanding martial art. It can also be a fun and rewarding way to stay in shape and defend yourself. Khabib Nurmagomedov, the UFC lightweight champion, is a two-time Sambo champion. This further showcases the efficiency of this Russian art.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or “BJJ,” is a martial art that has gained popularity worldwide. BJJ emphasizes grappling techniques. Typically techniques range from joint locks and chokes. This also allows smaller and weaker people to defend themselves, often against a larger and stronger opponent.

Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Is Practical For Self-Defense

BJJ focuses on realistic scenarios that might occur in a real-life self-defense situation, unlike some martial arts that rely on flashy moves or choreographed sequences. BJJ teaches practitioners how to react to unpredictable situations. BJJ teaches you how to defend yourself from a variety of positions.

Techniques rely on leverage rather than brute strength. This means that even a smaller person can use BJJ to defend themselves against a larger attacker. By using joint locks and chokes, sweeps, and transitions. A BJJ practitioner can immobilize and submit to their opponent. Often this is done without the need to strike. Those who practice BJJ will be strategic in their approach, using setups and traps.

BJJ is a great way to improve physical fitness and mental toughness. Practicing BJJ can help develop strength, flexibility, and endurance. The mental aspects include discipline and focus. The nature of the art involves a fair amount of “Rolling,” which is a grappling term for sparring in BJJ. This means techniques are rigorously tested. Thus making BJJ a highly practical form of self-defense.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that can be highly effective. This is especially the case in one-on-one self-defense situations. It focuses on realistic scenarios through the use of leverage-based techniques. As well as mental fitness and physical fitness make it a great choice for anyone.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is a martial art that originated in Thailand and is also known as the “Art of Eight Limbs.” This is because it uses eight different parts of the body for attacking and defending. These include fists, elbows, knees, and shins.

Why Muay Thai Is Practical For Self-Defense

One of the main reasons why Muay Thai is good for self-defense is. This is because it is a very effective striking-based martial art. This means that it focuses on using powerful strikes to defeat an opponent. Muay Thai fighters are trained to strike with their hands, feet, elbows, and knees. This makes for a versatile form of martial arts and combat.

Training emphasizes conditioning and strengthening the body. Practitioners are physically fit, durable, and strong. Muay Thai practitioners also learn how to move. They are quick and agile, making them harder to hit by an attacker.

Muay Thai also teaches self-defense techniques that can be used in real-life situations. These techniques include striking, clinching, throwing, and grappling. Clinching is a technique that involves grabbing and controlling an opponent. This can be helpful in situations where you need to restrain someone. Additionally, from this position, users can inflict damage. This is done through the use of knees, elbows, and dirty boxing.

Overall, Muay Thai is a great choice for self-defense. As it is an effective striking-based martial art. It builds physical fitness and strength with practical application in real-life situations. By practicing Muay Thai, you can expect training to toughen and harden your body. Additionally, gain practical skills needed to protect yourself.

Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA for short. Is a combat sport that incorporates techniques from various martial arts disciplines. While MMA is often associated with professional fights and competitions. It also has practical applications for self-defense.

Why MMA Is Practical For Self-Defense

The primary benefit of MMA for self-defense is its emphasis on real-world combat situations. Unlike some traditional martial arts that focus on rigid forms and routines. MMA training emphasizes practical techniques and drills. This means that practitioners are better equipped to defend themselves in dangerous situations.

Training can help develop physical and mental toughness. MMA fighters often engage in intense conditioning exercises. Such as strength training and cardio. This can help build strength, endurance, and conditioning. In a self-defense scenario, this physical conditioning can help someone defend effectively.

Training can improve one’s situational awareness. Additionally improves the ability to be aware of one’s surroundings and potential threats. Sparring and other training exercises teach practitioners to learn to read their opponents. This can be especially helpful in self-defense situations. Where quick thinking and action are necessary.

MMA is a practical and effective way to develop self-defense skills. Its emphasis is on real-world scenarios. Physical conditioning and situational awareness can help individuals better protect themselves.


Boxing is a “purist striking art. “This sport involves punching an opponent with gloved fists. It may seem aggressive, but boxing can be a good form of self-defense. It involves deeply understanding combinations, footwork, feints, head movement, and strategy.

Why Boxing Is Practical For Self-Defense

Boxing helps to improve physical fitness and coordination. Through training, boxers develop quick reflexes, strong punches, and footwork. These skills can be useful in a self-defense situation. They can help a person quickly respond to an attack and defend themselves.

This art can improve mental toughness and self-confidence. Boxers learn to stay calm under pressure and to think strategically in the ring. These same skills can be applied in a self-defense situation. It is important to remain calm and focused on assessing the situation.

Boxing also teaches self-discipline and respect. Boxers must follow a strict training regimen and adhere to rules and regulations in the ring. This discipline and respect can carry over into other areas of life. This includes instances where one would need to defend themselves. As well as remain calm to avoid escalating the situation.

The practical element provides an opportunity for people to practice their techniques. Boxers learn to defend themselves without causing serious harm to their training partners. Which is important in a self-defense situation. Where the goal is to protect oneself rather than harm others.

Overall, boxing can be a useful tool for self-defense. Boxers can develop skills that can be applied in various situations, including self-defense.


Kickboxing is a form of martial arts that combines punches, kicks, and knee strikes. Kickboxing is a competitive sport and a great choice for self-defense.

Why Kickboxing Is Practical For Self-Defense

This art teaches you how to use your body to strike an opponent with efficient power, speed, and technique. In training, you learn how to effectively deliver punches and kicks properly. This allows you to defend yourself more effectively. The nature of the art emphasizes sparring. This is to develop practical techniques and the skill required to defend oneself.

Kickboxing provides a full-body workout that builds strength, endurance, and flexibility. This improved physical condition can help you defend yourself. Practicing kickboxing can also help you to stay calm and focused in dangerous situations.

Kickboxing training helps develop situational awareness, which is an important aspect of self-defense. You learn to anticipate and respond to potential threats. Which can help you avoid dangerous situations before they escalate.

The physical and mental benefits of kickboxing can also be fun and enjoyable. It is a great way to meet new people and build a sense of community through shared goals and challenges. Kickboxing is an effective form of self-defense. It can improve your physical condition, mental discipline, and situational awareness. It is a fun and rewarding martial art.


Savate is a martial art that is efficient for self-defense. It teaches practical techniques that can translate into real-life situations. Savate was originally developed in the streets of Paris in the 19th century. Where people used their fists and feet to fight.

This is due to the governing law that prohibited the use of weapons on the street. The style originated from street fighting, and over time, this fighting style evolved. Savate is now a formal martial art. With the addition of rules, techniques, and a structured training curriculum.

Why Savate Is Practical For Self-Defense

One of the reasons Savate is good for self-defense is its versatility. Savate combines a variety of kicks and punches. This makes it useful for defending against different types of attacks. It also emphasizes distance management.

Practitioners learn how to control the space between them and their opponents. This can be helpful in a self-defense situation where you may need to maintain a safe distance from an attacker. Savate develops physical conditioning and mental toughness.

Savate training involves a fair amount of endurance work. Which can prepare you for the physical demands of a self-defense situation. It also emphasizes mental toughness and discipline. Which can help you remain calm and focused in stressful situations.

Practitioners will find themselves drilling and sparring frequently to develop their techniques. By learning Savate, you can develop the skills and confidence to protect yourself.


Wrestling is a great form of martial art that can be very useful for self-defense. It is an ancient sport that has existed for thousands of years and is still very popular today. Wrestling teaches people how to control their bodies and use their strength and agility to overcome opponents. These skills can be invaluable in a self-defense situation.

Why Wrestling Is Practical For Self-Defense

In wrestling, the goal is to take down your opponent and control them on the ground. This is similar to what you would want to do in self-defense. Where your goal is to incapacitate your attacker and get away safely. The techniques and strategies learned in wrestling can help you do just that.

Wrestling also teaches you how to read an opponent’s body language. This allows you to anticipate their moves. This can be very helpful in a self-defense situation. Where you need to be able to quickly react to an attacker’s movements.

Additionally, wrestling teaches you how to fall and get back up safely. Which is an important skill to have during any physical altercation. Despite the lack of striking. A solid wrestler will greatly control their opponent’s body. Wrestling is a staple addition to many other mixed martial art forms, such as Sambo and MMA.

This art form can be a great workout that helps you to stay in shape and build strength and endurance. This can also help you in a self-defense situation. You will be better equipped to defend yourself if you are in good physical shape.

Wrestling is a great form of self-defense that can teach you valuable skills. The main skill is the ability to control your opponent. Wrestling is an excellent addition when accompanied by striking art for self-defense.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a self-defense system. It was originally developed in Israel for its military. It is designed to be simple and effective, making it a great option for people of all ages and abilities. The techniques used in Krav Maga are based on real-life situations. To allow practitioners to able to defend themselves in any case.

Why Krav Maga Is Practical For Self-Defense

One of the reasons Krav Maga is so effective is that it is focused on practical self-defense. Rather than relying on flashy moves or complicated techniques. Krav Maga emphasizes basic strikes and movements. These can be easily adapted to different situations. Strikes target vital areas such as the groin, eyes, throat, and kneecaps.

Krav Maga is a very dirty fighting style. In addition to this, there is a great emphasis on weapons training. Which covers disarming weapons as well as multiple attackers. They enact real-life scenarios as part of their training. This develops situational awareness of your options when under threat.

Another benefit of Krav Maga is that it is a full-body workout. You will engage your core, legs, and arms when practicing Krav Maga. It can help you build strength and improve your overall fitness. This is especially important for self-defense. Being in good physical shape can give you an advantage in dangerous situations.

Krav Maga can also help you develop important life skills like discipline, focus, and self-confidence. These skills can help you in all areas of your life, not just in self-defense situations. By learning Krav Maga, you can gain a sense of empowerment. You will better understand control and security in your daily life.


Lethwei, also known as Burmese bare-knuckle boxing. This martial art originated in Myanmar. Known as one of the most brutal martial arts in the world. Similar to Muay Thai with the added use of headbutts and minus the typical boxing gloves.

The rules sets in the competition are straightforward. Where you can only win via knockout or both fighters draw. There are no judges in competitions and no point-scoring system. It is a highly brutal and effective form of self-defense that can be useful in various situations.

Why Lethwei Is Practical For Self-Defense

One of the main reasons why Lethwei is good for self-defense is the emphasis on strikes. Stikes with the hands, feet, elbows, knees, and the hardest part of the body, the head. Making it a well-rounded striking art. In addition, Lethwei also involves clinching techniques, throws, and sweeps, which can be used to take down an attacker.

As a self-defense system, it teaches practitioners the most effective striking techniques. In Lethwei training, practitioners often spar and endure hard forms of conditioning. This is to better prepare them to fight in chaotic environments.

Lethwei emphasizes mental toughness and endurance. These are key qualities in self-defense. Practitioners learn how to remain calm and focused under pressure. This enables them to make quick decisions and react effectively. Lethwei is a highly physical and intense martial art. This makes it one of the most effective and practical martial arts for self-defense.

Jeet Kune Do

Jeet Kune Do is a martial art that was created by the famed “Bruce Lee” in the 1960s. It is a highly efficient and practical form of self-defense. It focuses on using the most direct and effective techniques to subdue an opponent.

Unlike traditional martial arts that have rigid and stylized movements. Jeet Kune Do is a fluid and adaptable system that emphasizes the use of what works best in a given situation.

Why Jeet Kune Do Is Practical For Self-Defense

The core principles of Jeet Kune Do include simplicity, directness, and non-classical movements. Practitioners are encouraged to strip away unnecessary movements and techniques. This creates a style suited to their individual strengths and weaknesses. The goal is to be able to respond to any attack with the most effective technique, whether it be a strike, a throw, or a joint lock.

One of the key advantages of Jeet Kune Do is its adaptability. Because it is not tied to any specific style or set of techniques. Practitioners are free to incorporate techniques from other martial arts. This style is one of the first hybrid styles.

Similar to what is found in mixed martial arts. This makes it an effective form of self-defense in various situations. From one-on-one fights to multiple attackers and even weapons attacks. Jeet Kune Do is that it places a strong emphasis on physical fitness and conditioning.

Practitioners are encouraged to develop strength, endurance, and flexibility. This is to be able to perform at their best in any situation. As an efficient martial art, anyone can learn it regardless of age or physical ability. Its focus is on practicality and adaptability. This makes the art a valuable tool for self-defense and personal development.

Hand-To-Hand Combat

Hand-to-hand combat is a form of martial art that involves close-range physical engagement. This is between two or more combatants. This type of fighting is highly effective in self-defense situations. It allows individuals to defend themselves using their own bodies as a weapon. Its history can be tied to the military and law enforcement.

Why H2H Combat Is Practical For Self-Defense

Hand-to-hand combat requires a combination of strength, speed, agility, and flexibility. It involves striking, grappling, and joint manipulation techniques. These techniques are to inflict the most amount of damage on an opponent.

Some of the most popular hand-to-hand combat styles include various arts. Arts such as boxing, karate, judo, and wrestling blended into this style. In addition to being an effective form of self-defense, hand-to-hand combat also provides many physical and mental benefits.

It improves balance, coordination, and cardiovascular health while also building self-confidence and discipline. These skills can be especially useful for individuals who work in law enforcement or the military. As they may need to use these techniques in high-pressure situations.

To be effective in hand-to-hand combat. Individuals must be properly trained and thoroughly understand the various techniques. This includes learning how to defend against different types of attacks. How to quickly assess and respond to changing situations. With dedication and practice, anyone can become proficient in hand-to-hand combat.

Wushu Sanda

Wushu Sanda is a form of martial art. It combines traditional Chinese martial arts techniques with modern fighting strategies. This style is a combination of effective Chinese martial arts. Its use can be found in military applications.

The Chinese drew much of their inspiration from the Russian military fighting systems. It is an efficient and practical martial art. Gaining popularity worldwide due to its effectiveness in self-defense situations and competitive sports.

Why Wushu Sanda Is Practical For Self-Defense

Wushu Sanda focuses on strikes, kicks, throws, and grappling techniques. It emphasizes speed, agility, and precision. Practitioners of Wushu Sanda also learn to defend themselves against armed attackers.

One of the key benefits of Wushu Sanda Do is its emphasis on physical fitness and conditioning. Training in Wushu Sanda improves cardiovascular health, strength, endurance, and flexibility. It also helps develop discipline, focus, and mental fortitude.

In addition to its practical applications Wushu Sanda Do is also a popular competitive sport. Competitions include full-contact sparring with fighters wearing protective gear and following strict rules to ensure safety.

Wushu Sanda is an efficient martial art emphasizing practical techniques, physical fitness, and mental discipline. It’s a combination of traditional Chinese martial arts and modern combat strategies. This makes it an effective tool for self-defense.

Marine Corps Martial Arts Program

The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) is a unique and efficient martial art system. Developed by the United States Marine Corps. It combines techniques from a variety of different disciplines. This includes judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, wrestling, and Muay Thai.

Why MCMAP Is Practical For Self-Defense

The official Marines fighting system. It teaches its users how to defend themselves in real-world combat situations. This defense system is practical and effective, with various armed and unarmed combat techniques.

MCMAP training is divided into four levels. Each focuses on different techniques and skills. The first level, called the Tan Belt, includes basic moves like punches, kicks, and throws. As Marines progress through the levels. They learn more advanced techniques like joint locks, chokeholds, and weapons disarmament.

One of the unique aspects of MCMAP is its emphasis on mental and emotional training. Marines are taught to stay calm and focused in high-pressure situations.

MCMAP is a highly effective martial art system that has been proven in real-world combat situations. It emphasizes practical techniques as well as mental/emotional training. This makes it an ideal choice for Marines and anyone seeking self-defense skills.

Vale Tudo

Vale Tudo is a style of martial arts that originated in Brazil. When translated, “Vale Tudo” means “anything goes” in Portuguese. This martial art is often referred to as “no-holds-barred” fighting. Mainly as it allows for a wide range of techniques. Which range from strikes, grappling, and submissions.

Why Vale Tudo Is Practical For Self-Defense

In Vale Tudo, fighters can use any technique they feel will help them win the fight. This includes strikes such as punches, kicks, and elbows. As well as grappling techniques like throws and submissions. Fighters are also allowed to use the cage or ring to their advantage. This adds an additional level of strategy to self-defense.

Vale Tudo is an effective martial art that emphasizes real-world fighting scenarios. Unlike many traditional martial arts, which focus on form and technique. Vale Tudo is designed to prepare fighters for real-life situations.

Another reason why Vale Tudo is so effective is that it is constantly evolving. Fighters always seek new techniques and strategies to give them an edge. This means that the sport is constantly evolving and improving.

This martial art requires fighters to be skilled in various techniques. While it is a highly competitive sport, it is also a valuable tool for anyone who wants to learn how to defend themselves in real-life situations.


Kudo is a Japanese martial art combining karate, judo, and kickboxing elements. It was developed in the 1980s by Takashi Azuma to create a more efficient and practical fighting system.

Why Kudo Is Practical For Self-Defense

Kudo is known for its focus on practical self-defense techniques. Unlike some other martial arts that focus more on tradition or sport. Kudo practitioners train for real-world scenarios like street fights or self-defense situations.

One of the key elements of Kudo is its emphasis on full-contact sparring. Kudo fighters wear protective gear, including face shields and gloves. They compete in matches that allow punches, kicks, and takedowns. This type of sparring helps practitioners to develop their reflexes and adaptability.

Kudo also incorporates grappling techniques from judo. This allows practitioners to control and subdue opponents without causing serious injury. Additionally, Kudo practitioners learn techniques from kickboxing. Which provides them with powerful striking abilities.

This is a martial art that emphasizes practicality, efficiency, and adaptability. It provides practitioners with a well-rounded set of skills. Which translates well in a variety of self-defense scenarios. With its focus on full-contact sparring and practical techniques. Kudo is a martial art that is both effective and exciting to learn.

Combat Sambo

This is a Russian martial art not to be confused with Sambo alone. It combines techniques from several martial arts, including Judo, Wrestling, and Boxing. It was originally developed for military and law enforcement personnel.

Combat Sambo is known for its effectiveness in real-life self-defense situations. The focus is on practical techniques to quickly incapacitate an opponent.

Why Combat Sambo Is Practical For Self-Defense

One of the key features of Combat Sambo is its focus on strikes, kicks, and punches. Striking techniques do not score points. Rather, practitioners must utilize throws, submissions, or knockouts to score or win. Combat Sambo permits clockwise leglocks such as heel hooks, toe holds, and headbutts.

Another important aspect of Combat Sambo is its emphasis on ground fighting. Combat Sambo practitioners are trained to defend themselves against attackers who have taken them to the ground. This is especially useful in real-life self-defense situations. Where attackers may try to take their victims to the ground.

In addition to self-defense, Combat Sambo is also used as a sport, with competitions held worldwide. The sport version of Combat Sambo involves wearing protective gear and following the rules to ensure the safety of the fighters.

Combat Sambo is an effective martial art for self-defense and for those interested in competitive fighting. Its emphasis on striking, grappling, and ground fighting makes it a versatile and practical martial art for real-life situations.


Known as Eskrima or Arnis, it is a Filipino martial art that has been practiced for centuries. It is known for its efficient techniques, practicality, and emphasis on weapon-based combat.

Why Kali Is Practical For Self-Defense

Kali is a highly effective martial art because it focuses on developing practical fighting skills that can be used in real-life situations. One of Kali’s key aspects is using weapons such as sticks, knives, and swords. Practitioners learn how to use these weapons for self-defense and how to defend against them.

Another important aspect of Kali is the emphasis on footwork and body mechanics. Practitioners learn how to move efficiently and effectively, which is essential in any combat situation. This focus on body mechanics makes Kali a highly efficient martial art.

Kali is also known for its ability to adapt to different situations. The techniques taught in Kali can be used in various environments, from close-quarters combat to long-range fighting. This adaptability makes Kali a versatile martial art.

This style is practical and efficient; Kali is also a fun and engaging martial art to practice. Practitioners learn how to use weapons in a safe and controlled environment, which can be exhilarating and empowering.

Overall, Kali is a highly effective martial art that emphasizes practical fighting skills, efficient techniques, and adaptability. It is an excellent choice for anyone looking to learn self-defense or improve their martial arts skills.


Judo originated in Japan roughly 100 years ago. The founder, Jigoro Kano. Strived to create a way to defend oneself that focused on using moves to throw and grapple opponents. Today, people worldwide practice Judo as a competitive sport and hobby.

Why Judo Is Practical For Self-Defense

Judo is a good way to defend yourself. More specifically, to throw or stop an attacker by using their attacker’s own strength and leverage against them. Even if you are smaller or weaker than your attacker, you can use timing and leverage to stop them.

Judo also teaches important values like respect, working together, and self-control. Practitioners practice using force as a last resort and avoiding fighting whenever possible. This can help them stay safe and avoid dangerous situations.

In Judo, you will practice your moves against resisting partners. This is to better simulate using these techniques in a real-life situation. Judo is for those with interest in making use of throws grappling techniques.

Those who may have a limited amount of strength or size can learn Judo. Where they can use leverage and timing to overcome their opponents, judo practitioners can develop their skills to defend themselves in potentially dangerous situations. Namely due to the practical sparring and live drills that encompass the sport.

Kyokushin Karate

Kyokushin Karate is a martial art that originated in Japan in the 1950s. This is one of the hardest Karate styles, which has an emphasis on practical self-defense techniques. This makes it an excellent option for those looking to learn self-defense skills.

Why Kyokushin Karate Is Practical For Self-Defense

One of the reasons why Kyokushin Karate is good for self-defense is its focus on full-contact sparring. Students learn how to effectively defend themselves against a real opponent. As opposed to practicing techniques on a stationary target. Kyokushin Karate also incorporates grappling and ground-fighting techniques. This style is useful, especially in close-quarters combat.

Kyokushin Karate emphasizes physical fitness and conditioning. Students of this martial art engage in rigorous training. To develop strength, speed, and endurance. This not only makes them better fighters but improves their health and well-being.

Kyokushin Karate also emphasizes mental discipline and focus. Students learn to stay calm under pressure. Where they can assess their surroundings and react decisively in dangerous situations. This can be especially useful in self-defense scenarios where split-second decisions can mean the difference between life and death.

This martial art can help individuals develop the skills needed to protect themselves. The focus on practical training techniques makes for an excellent choice for self-defense.


These martial arts offer valuable skills for self-defense and improve your physical fitness. These best martial arts for self-defense provide a useful starting point for anyone looking to learn a new skill. It’s important to remember that mastering a martial art takes time and practice, but the benefits are numerous.

Anyone can better handle real-world situations by developing discipline, new techniques, and overall fitness. So, why consider trying out a martial art today? It might be the first step on an exciting new journey.

Gregori Povolotski

I have been practicing martial arts since 2007. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a huge passion for combat sports, especially Muay Thai and boxing. Helping people on their martial arts journey is what drives me to keep training and learn new things. Read More About Me

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