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Best Martial Arts for Self Defense

Best Martial Arts for Self Defense

Everyone should be prepared, or at least have some sort of experience training, to have a higher chance of successfully defending themselves from potential attackers.  Those with no prior martial arts knowledge or experience may be unsure of which discipline to start training in.  


Fortunately for them, there are very effective practices that many gyms around the world offer training for!  Let’s take a look at some of the most effective martial arts, with proven results, that are best suited for self-defense:



1) Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)

Jiu Jitsu is one of the most effective combat sports in the world.  It combines the takedowns and ground control of wrestling with the throws, trips, and sweeps from judo, while including a submission hold element.


When it comes to self defense, BJJ gives practitioners a lot of options when it comes to self defense.  If attacked, you will have the ability to take someone down to the ground and control the fight from there.

- If your attacker stops resisting, you could control them on the ground until authorities (or related personnel that can properly deal with the situation) arrive.  

  1. Brian Kemsley prevented a kidnapping using this method (see link at the end of the article)

- If your attacker is still fighting back, despite being controlled on the ground, you could throw strikes to deter further escape attempts or strike until the threat is neutralized.

- If your attacker resists and you do not want (or feel comfortable enough) to strike, you could opt to transition to a submission.  You could use a choke hold or joint lock to deter further escape attempts or neutralize the threat (by choking them unconscious or breaking/tearing one of their limbs).


Your safety is the #1 priority when it comes to self-defense.  You don’t have to do any of these options, especially if your safest option is to take them down to the ground (control them for a short period of time, if necessary) and escape, but having multiple options and knowing that you can successfully execute them will definitely give you confidence in these types of situations.


While strength and size can play an important role, technique has a similar sized impact.  Using an opponent’s size and strength against them is a big component of Jiu Jitsu, which is why it is not uncommon to see smaller people effectively control bigger people in gyms.  Manipulation of balance and capitalization on positioning mistakes can make all the difference in a self-defense scenario, especially as the smaller fighter.

We’ve linked a story that details a girl defending herself from a bully TWICE her size.



2) Muay Thai

Practitioners of Muay Thai will learn useful hand to hand combat skills.  The main strikes that you will learn and practice are punches, kicks, elbows, and knees.  You will learn different variations of each strike, when to use them, and how to defend against them all at either close range or longer range.  You will also gain fighting experience in a controlled gym environment, so that you will be prepared and not panic if a real-life situation arises where you have to fight.  Through consistent training, your strikes and clinch abilities will all improve to be quick, powerful, and extremely effective.


When it comes to self defense, training in Muay Thai can be extremely helpful.  During training,  you will become comfortable throwing, defending, and absorbing strikes (once you get used to it, you will be able to remain calm under stress).  This will translate well to any fist fight, as your mind will switch your body into auto-pilot mode: the muscle memory you develop in training will take over and you will have the capability to remain composed, while focusing on the task at hand – defending yourself from harm.  By training Muay Thai, you will develop the ability to manage distance, remain composed during high intensity situations, and use your strikes effectively on your opponent.



3) MMA

To those who do not train, MMA may seem like an uncontrolled blend of blood and violence between two people fighting inside of a cage.  While MMA fights do have their share of violence and blood, “uncontrolled” is not an accurate word to describe the sport of mixed martial arts.


Fighters and those who train understand that in a fight, it only takes one small mistake to lose.  One slip up and fighters may find themselves on the wrong end of a knockout or a submission, which is why their actions have to be extremely calculated and their techniques sharp.


MMA training combines the stand-up game with the ground fighting game.  Knowing how to strike, how to grapple, and how to transition from one to the other will ensure that you are efficient in every area that a fight may take place.  In addition, you will learn how to attack, defend, and reverse bad positions into dominant ones that can be used to your advantage - all  of which can be essential for protecting yourself and others from harm. 


From a self-defense perspective, this is all you could ask for and more.  MMA training will allow you to spend quality time in simulated fighting situations, in a controlled gym environment (ex. sparring, rolling live).  If you find yourself in a physical altercation, you will find comfort knowing that you have this experience to fall back on, as well as the knowledge from training to maneuver your way through a wide variety of different positions.



4) Krav Maga

Krav Maga practitioners learn a variety of different skills that can directly translate to a street fight scenario.  During training, they learn different defenses against attackers with weapons (gun, knife) in a multitude of different scenarios (attacks from behind, face-to-face, from the side, standing up, on the ground, etc).


The situational based self-defense system was developed to teach the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) a simple yet effective form of martial arts that could be easily understood and applied on the battlefield by new recruits.  If it is good enough to be taught to a military, it will more than likely satisfy your self defense needs.



Anyone who was ever great in anything was once a beginner.  As with everything, progression in martial arts training takes discipline, hard work, consistency, and patience.  


You will come across discomfort in your training.  But when you push past the discomfort and the pain, you will do things you never thought you could.  In the short term, it will suck.  In the long term, you will be grateful for it.  Martial arts training is a great way to push past your physical and mental limits on a consistent basis, which will inevitably strengthen both in the process.  Maintaining (or developing) the discipline to keep going and power through when things get tough is an incredible attribute to have, especially since it can be applied to many other things in life.



If you are still thinking about which martial arts to start for self-defense, you definitely have quality options.  Ensure that your training prepares you for as many variables in a fight as possible (fighting on the feet, on the ground, getting up, defending, etc).  Whatever you do, make sure you start as soon as possible - you will not regret it!



Here are the links we mentioned in the article:


Brian Kemsley using BJJ nonviolently to prevent kidnapping: https://sanabulsports.com/blogs/fighter-series/fighter-series-who-is-brian-kemsley 


Apolonia Nuncio uses Jiu Jitsu against Bully: https://bjj-world.com/watch-13-year-old-girl-use-bjj-to-beat-school-bully-twice-her-size/ 



Thank you for reading - we hope this was a helpful guide to the best martial arts disciplines for self-defense!



If you are looking for high quality gear to begin your journey, here are some of the products we offer:


Jiu Jitsu products

https://sanabulsports.com/collections/jiu-jitsu-gis 

https://sanabulsports.com/collections/no-gi-jiu-jitsu


Striking Products

https://sanabulsports.com/collections/striking-equipment 

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