There are hundreds upon hundreds of martial arts styles. Most of them can be used for self-defense, but some are more practical than others. These five martial arts styles are ideal for teaching you what you need to know if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation.
#1 BJJ for Self Defense
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or BJJ, is great for self-defense because size doesn’t matter. One of the founders of the system had medical issues, thus he was weak and small. Jealous of his brothers’ ability to fight, he developed fighting and defensive techniques that use leverage instead of pure strength.
Don’t be fooled by the traditional Gis worn by BJJ practitioners- this isn’t one of those martial arts that was meant to stay in the gym. It’s a combat sport, and very useful when it comes to fighting on the street. Although it focuses on ground techniques, you learn how to take an opponent to the ground using throws and trips.
More importantly, you learn what to do if you end up on the ground. This is important because it is where most fights end up. Knowing how to handle yourself on the ground can come in handy in a dangerous situation. You learn a variety of submissions. Arm bars, chokes and ankle-locks are only a few of the submissions taught to students. In training, you stop when your opponent taps. In real life, you could end up cutting off their air supply or breaking bones.
You also learn how to get out of bad situations by using sweeps. Through physics, you can turn a bad position into an advantage. Trapping the legs and arms of an opponent can put them off balance and move you from being pinned on the floor to being on top and in charge.
To practice techniques, you roll. Rolling is like sparring, and more like a real-world situation. It lets you experience what it would be like to be in a fight, but it is much safer. Instead of being injured, you tap when you (or your opponent) is caught in a painful position. Rolling makes it easy to apply BJJ techniques for self-defense.
#2 Muay Thai
Another combat martial art, Muay Thai, is known as “The Art of Eight Limbs.” Using elbows, knees, fists and legs, students learn how to strike an opponent. Unlike BJJ, it focuses more on standing techniques than ground techniques.
The striking techniques taught in Muay Thai are devastatingly powerful. All strikes start at the ground- even punches use power from the hips to generate more power. The round kick is regarded as one of the most powerful kicks in martial arts- you can use it to take out the legs of an attacker without letting him get too close.
Although Muay Thai is mostly about striking, you do learn how to use some trips and throws to knock an attacker to the ground. With the Thai clinch, you hold an opponent close and land loaded knees and elbows. You can control his movement, even if he’s bigger than you.
Sparring is one of the ways you can practice your skills, and it prepares you for what could happen on the street. You learn what it feels like to have someone coming at you, and even learn how to take a punch. Injuries don’t happen too frequently, because students are taught to spar controlled and not to go at full intensity.
Muay Thai is less intimidating to train because there is no formal uniform and (usually) no belt system. You can just show up and start learning. In addition to useful techniques, you also get a sense of confidence – and that goes a long way.
#3 Filipino Martial Arts
Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) isn’t a single martial art. It’s a collection of military martial arts from the Philippines developed to help the country protect itself from soldiers.
Hand-to-hand combat skills are the main strength of FMA. You learn weapons first. In addition to learning how to use them, you also learn how to defend against them. The list of weapons taught to FMA students is very long, and most of the techniques can be applied to weapons used today.
Once weapons are mastered, you learn striking techniques and some grappling. What you learn depends on the type of FMA school you attend. Some teach a variety of grappling techniques, while other schools teach none.
#4 Krav Maga
When it comes to fighting, Israel means business. That’s why you shouldn’t take Krav Maga lightly – it was developed specifically for the Israeli military. The founder of this form of combat based it upon many other martial arts. He borrowed techniques from jiu jitsu, boxing, and other effective combat martial arts.
Krav Maga is ideal for self-defense situations because it’s made for precisely that purpose. You’re taught to go for the vulnerable parts of an attacker. Eye gouging, foot stomps, and kicks to the groin are all practiced (and effective) techniques. Unlike some martial arts that spend time teaching students how to get points in competitions, the only goal of Krav Maga is to defend yourself.
Weapons training is part of Krav Maga. You learn how to use anything in your environment as a weapon and how to defend against knives, guns, and other weapons. If you’re ever stuck in a bad situation, Krav Maga can help.
#5 for Self Defense MMA
MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts – it’s a combination of many martial arts styles all combined to form one tough sport. It’s great if you want to learn a little of everything. You can learn how to defend yourself on the ground, standing up, and you get practical experience.
Most MMA gyms focus on BJJ, Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, and Taekwondo. And though it borrows from other arts, it really is its own sport as these borrowed techniques come together as one.
In MMA you’ll learn techniques for taking down an opponent, standing up and striking, and submitting them on the ground. You never know where a struggle will take place, and this prepares you for anything. Training involves sparring, so you learn how to use the techniques in a more realistic situation.
The only thing missing from MMA for self-defense is weapons training. Even without that, MMA is very useful for self-defense.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what type of gym you choose. All that matters is that you learn techniques that can protect you if you’re ever in a vulnerable position. The confidence and skills you’ll get from self-defense lessons can make a huge difference in your life.