15 Best Martial Arts for Street Fighting – With pros & cons

No one ever wishes to find themselves in a street fight, but unfortunately, it can happen. If you ever face such a situation, being prepared is crucial. Numerous martial arts can help you defend yourself in a real street fight, but not all are equal. While they all teach you how to defend yourself or your close ones, some are more effective than others. In compiling this information, I’ve tried my best to provide a comprehensive list of martial arts that are known for their practicality and effectiveness in real-world scenarios.

Combat Sambo

Very versatile
Very realistic techniques
It has both striking and grappling elements

Combat Sambo is a Russian martial art. It is a highly effective and widely practiced combat sport. Combat Sambo was developed from Sambo for the Russian military. Sambo is a martial art that originated in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. It is an acronym for “Self-Defense without Weapons”.

It was developed as a way to improve the hand-to-hand combat skills of the Red Army. Sambo is a highly effective form of self-defense. It has been used by the Soviet military, police, and security forces for over 50 years.

The techniques of Sambo are based on a combination of catch wrestling, judo, and other international styles of wrestling. Sambo allows for both striking and grappling. And is therefore well-suited for close-quarters combat.

In recent years, Sambo has become increasingly popular outside of the former Soviet Union and is now practiced in many countries. Combat Sambo can be used very effectively in a street fight. Here, you can find out the differences between sambo and BJJ or Judo.

Muay Thai

Great striking techniquesLacks ground grappling techniques
Teaches you how to clinch

Muay Thai is popular for many people who want to learn self-defense. It is a very practical and effective martial art. Muay Thai uses punches, kicks, elbows, and knees to strike the opponent. Also, it has clinch techniques that help to fight at a very close distance.

All this makes it a very versatile form of self-defense. It can also be used in a street fight very effectively. Since Muay Thai came into existence on the battlefield, it is a very good martial art to learn. Muay Thai is one of the main foundations for MMA fighters.

And that is for a good reason. Muay Thai covers all the basics of a striking combat sport and teaches you following things:

  • how to position yourself properly
  • how to use all your limbs as weapons
  • how to be patient. It teaches you how to take a punch or a kick
  • and how to clinch with your opponent

All of these factors are super necessary for a street fight. Suppose you are not really sure about the differences between Muay Thai and other martial arts, such as kickboxing, karate, or even taekwondo. In that case, we have prepared an article with all the important explanations for you.


Very versatile
Teaches you strikes, wrestling, and grappling

MMA is a full-contact sport that combines various fighting techniques from different disciplines. It combines techniques from boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and Muay Thai. MMA fighters use a variety of punches and kicks to score points and take their opponents down.

It is also one of the most controversial sports due to its violent nature. MMA has been criticized for being too dangerous and for not providing enough protection for fighters. For this reason, it is one of the best martial arts you can learn for a street fight or self-defense.

Not only will it teach you a large variety of punches and kicks but also grappling. It will teach you how to throw your opponent and put him into submission. It is also very good for a street fight since it gives you the least amount of protection possible.

Meaning it will teach you how to defend yourself realistically with almost no protection. MMA is often the go-to martial art for street fighters. A prime example is Jorge Masvidal or “The Street Jesus”. You may like him or not, but he has transitioned beautifully from street fighting to MMA.


Highly applicableLacks groundwork techniques
A good foundation for fighting Lacks the use of leg kicks

A common question that people ask is whether or not boxing is good for self-defense. The answer to this question is complex and depends on a variety of factors. First, it is important to consider the size and strength of the person attempting to use boxing in a street fight.

For example, a person is significantly smaller or weaker than the attacker. In this situation, boxing may not be an effective martial art for the fighter. Second, it is also important to consider the level of training of the person attempting to use boxing in a street fight.

A person may not have the skills necessary to defend themselves without proper training. They also might be unable to hurt their opponent in a boxing match. Boxing is a great foundation for other martial arts. Most street fights end up being boxing or wrestling fights.

However, if you learn to use your kicks, you could really surprise your opponent. So, if you are considering starting to learn boxing and somehow doubting it, take a look at the article with sure ways to know if boxing is right for you.

Krav Maga

Realistic techniques that can be used in the real worldIt gets a bad reputation from some of the McDojos practicing it
Good for disarming opponents

Krav Maga is also a great choice for street fighting, as it is designed specifically for self-defense. It was developed by the Israeli military. It is still used by the Israeli military, police, and special forces units to this day.

The goal was to develop a martial art to help defend against armed and unarmed attackers. It uses techniques from different martial arts like Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, Aikido, and Karate. Krav Magas’s philosophy puts an emphasis on aggression.

The philosophy of Krav Maga practically says: “Either you win or your opponent”. Krav Maga is incredibly effective in close-quarters combat situations. That fact makes it ideal for street fights and self-defense.


Very similar to Muay ThaiLacks grappling techniques
It lets you use your head as a weapon Not as popular in the world
Very brutalHard to find Lethwei gyms

Lethwei is a form of Burmese martial art that is like Muay Thai. It is considered to be one of the most brutal and dangerous forms of martial arts in the world. Lethwei fighters often use elbow and knee strikes to disable their opponents.

Because of its brutality, Lethwei is not as popular as other forms of martial arts. But it is still highly respected by those who know about it. What makes it different from Muay Thai is the fact that fighters can use their heads for strikes.

There have been many cases of fighters getting knocked out using their heads. A well-placed headbutt can easily break your opponent’s nose or give him a huge cut. Lethwei also has an advantage over some other martial arts. It’s because it teaches you how to punch with your bare knuckles.

There is a very high chance that you will not have protective gloves during a street fight. By training Lethwei, you are conditioning your knuckles to withstand the punches you throw. Your fists will get used to hitting objects without any padding, which will be useful in a street fight.

BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)

Highly effective on the groundLacks any striking techniques
Teaches you how to perform takedownsIt can be dangerous for you when facing many opponents

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an excellent form of self-defense. It can be used effectively in a street fight. It is a grappling art emphasizes taking your opponent to the ground and then using joint locks and chokeholds to defeat them.

This makes it very effective against larger and stronger opponents. BJJ is also a great workout and can help you build strength, flexibility, and cardio. Learning this martial art can help you to take your opponent down during a street fight.

That will, in turn, help you avoid damage from their punches or kicks. You will also be able to control your opponent by various submissions. Plus, it can be one of the gentler martial arts if you want it to be.

By choking your opponent out, you cause less damage long term. If you instead hit your opponent, you can cause lasting damage to their brain or face. You can also force your opponent to surrender by various submissions. If you are unsure about this martial art, then get more info to find out if it’s worth learning BJJ today.


Highly effective at taking opponents downLacks ground grappling work
Teaches you to use your opponents’ clothes against themLacks any striking techniques

Judo is a Japanese martial art and an Olympic sport. Judo was created by Jigoro Kano in 1882. It is mostly known for its competitive element. The objective is to either throw or takedown an opponent to the ground. Also, to immobilize or otherwise subdue an opponent.

You can also force an opponent to submit with a joint lock or a choke. Strikes and thrusts by hands and feet and weapons defenses are part of judo. But only in pre-arranged forms (kata) and are not allowed in judo competition or free practice (randori).

A judo practitioner is called a “judoka”. Judokas are very tough people who will not hesitate when throwing you to the ground. Since many people rush in during a street fight, a judoka can use this to their advantage.

A judoka can use their opponents’ momentum and easily throw them to the ground. Judo is also very useful in a street fight since it teaches you how to grab hold of some of your opponents’ clothes. It shows you how to wear their clothes, especially jackets or hoodies against them.

Freestyle Wrestling

Effective for taking an opponent down to the groundLacks any striking techniques
Teaches you how to control your opponent
Produces very strong athletes

Wrestling is a martial art that is considered to be a combat sport. Its origins can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome, and it was even included in the first Olympic Games in 708 BC. In modern times, wrestling is still a popular sport.

It has many different tournaments and competitions held around the world every year. There are two main types of wrestling – freestyle and Greco-Roman. Freestyle wrestling is the most common type of wrestling. Each contestant aims to throw and pin their opponent to the ground.

Wrestling is a physically demanding sport requiring strength, speed, and agility. It is also a very strategic sport, where participants must have good cardio and technique. Wrestling can be a good basis for a street fight if you learn some striking techniques with it.

You will be able to easily throw and hold your opponent to the ground. But, if you want to damage your opponent, you will need to learn some strikes.


Very fastLacks hand strikes
Great kicking techniquesLacks any grappling techniques
Very precise

Taekwondo is a martial art that focuses on kicks and punches. It is one of the most popular martial arts practiced in the world. It is considered to be one of the most effective martial arts in the world due to its combination of power and speed.

It teaches its practitioners how to be precise and fast. It also teaches you how to hold proper distance during a fight. It emphasizes head kicks and fast kicking techniques. Taekwondo is also a very versatile martial art. It requires the ability to throw the kicks very fast.

Because it can be used for both self-defense and competition. It can be used in a street fight pretty effectively. As long as you do not get taken down to the ground, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Karate Goju – Ryu

Builds quick reflexesNo grappling techniques
Teaches you to keep a proper distanceIt does not prepare you for an unorthodox fighting style
Has some brutal techniques

Karate Goju – Ryu is a martial art that combines hard, linear karate strikes with soft, circular jujutsu techniques. This style focuses on both offensive and defensive techniques. Its practitioners are known for their quick reflexes and strong fighting spirit.

Originating in Japan, Karate Goju–Ryu is now practiced worldwide. It is a popular choice for self-defense. Many martial artists consider it to be one of the most effective fighting styles available. If you’re interested in learning Karate Goju–Ryu, be sure to find a qualified instructor who can teach you the proper techniques.

But, the Goju – Ryu style of karate preaches that there is no first strike in karate and that cultivating intellect before strength is a must. Karate Goju – Ryu could be used in a street fight. However, the principles of Goju–Ryu would go against it being practiced in that sort of manner.


Teaches striking with hands, elbows, and kicksNot very popular in the world of martial arts
Teaches some takedown techniquesHard to find a Sanda gym in most of the world

Sanda is a Chinese martial art that uses both fists and feet. It is also known as Chinese kickboxing. It is a very effective form of self-defense and can be used to defeat opponents of any size. Sanda is a relatively new martial art developed in the late 20th century.

It has been developed by the Chinese military. However, it has quickly gained popularity due to its effectiveness. Many people are now learning Sanda for self-defense purposes or as a competitive sport. You would probably do pretty well if you want to use Sanda’s practices in a street fight.

Since Sanda is a type of kickboxing, it teaches proper striking techniques. It teaches you how to throw jabs, crosses, hooks, elbows, and kicks. Also, it teaches you some trips and takedown techniques.


Kudo is a martial art that focuses on using your opponent’s momentum against them. It can be used both offensively and defensively. Also, it is perfect for those who want to learn self-defense. Kudo is also a Japanese martial art that features stand-up striking with throwing and grappling techniques.

It is a relatively new martial art developed in the early 1990s. Kudo is growing in popularity, and there are now schools worldwide that teach it. It preaches a safe yet practical way to learn martial arts.

Kudo was established as a combat sport and was not meant to be used in a street fight. However, if you had to transfer your knowledge from Kudo to a real street fight, you would probably be OK. Since it teaches a wide area of attacks, it will probably give you the upper hand in the fight.

Teaches strikingRelatively new and still developing martial art
Teaches grappling
Teaches chokes

Japanese Jujutsu

Teaches both stand-up and ground grappling techniquesThe inferior version of BJJ
It teaches you weapons handling
Teaches you defense against weapons

Japanese jujutsu is a martial art that utilizes grappling and throwing techniques to subdue an opponent. It is one of the oldest martial arts in the world and has been practiced for centuries. Jujutsu emphasizes technique over strength.

It relies on using an opponent’s momentum against them. This makes it a very effective self-defense system, as even a smaller person can use their opponent’s size and weight against them. Jujutsu techniques can be used in both stand-up and ground-fighting situations.

The stand-up techniques involve using throws and joint locks to take down an opponent. While the ground techniques involve using submission holds to force an opponent to submit or tap out. Jujutsu is a very versatile martial art and can be used to defend against a variety of attacks. But, if you wish to learn a grappling sport, BJJ would be the superior option.

Kumite Karate

Teaches you speed and precisionNot as aggressive as other martial arts
Very little direct contact during a fight

Kumite is a type of karate. It can be used for self-defense or competition. In Kumite, two people face each other and try to knock the other person down. It is a very intense and physical form of karate. To succeed in Kumite, you must have good technique, speed, and strength.

The match ends when one fighter either submits or is knocked out. Kumite Karate does have competitions, and sparring is also used during training. Kumite could very well be used in a street fight. It teaches you strength, speed, agility, and explosiveness. All these things could come in handy during a street fight. To learn more about improving agility for martial arts, check out our list of the best agility exercises.


Various martial arts prove effective in street fights, emphasizing strikes or grappling. Muay Thai, Boxing, and Lethwei excel in striking; BJJ, and Freestyle wrestling in grappling. MMA, Combat Sambo, and Krav Maga integrate both. Regardless, learning basics, like stance and a few strikes, is crucial. However, consider Run-Jitsu as the ultimate self-defense: if attacked alone, just run. Prioritize avoiding harm, legal consequences, and personal injury. Stay safe out there!

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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