Many people ask me which is the best martial art for self-defence. For context, I work in protective security. I am not a pro fighter. I did compete in amateur MMA for more than five years, where I trained in Muay Thai, Boxing, Submission wrestling and my focus was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I started working in protective security back in 2013 and have trained a fair bit in Krav-Maga over the last 7 years for my work. The vast majority of my “physical” training since I stopped competing has involved the use of firearms.
Over the years, people have asked me which fighting system is the best. I’ve heard fans of each system give very impassioned speeches about why their system is the best.
Here is the truth about which martial art is the best.
It depends on the threat.
Each martial art is based on rules. Even the ones that claim they’re not. Since I have trained in 6 systems if I include firearms, I have had this discussion with a large number of passionate people who just can’t seem to grasp concept this due to their paradigm being based purely the system in which they were trained.
Unfortunately, context matters when it comes to figuring out things that work and things that don’t. When it comes to self-defence, the only way to figure it out is to watch footage of real fights and assess them based on defined criteria and then test those scenarios in training. I have done this extensively and here how I suggest you make your decision.
Make an informed decision as to which fighting system is appropriate for you.
1- Watch professional Mixed Martial arts competitions like the UFC. The bull sh*tters simply can’t compete. Ineffective systems get soundly whipped.
Attend some trial classes of the sports in which those UFC fighters train. These are generally, BJJ, Muay Thai, Boxing and Wrestling. (Fighters from other styles who have open minds have also been able to learn these systems to use as a base. Some have then adapted these fighting styles for use as delivery systems for their favourite techniques from more traditional arts with great success.)
One gets a very sound reality check when you face a well trained live opponent who is actively trying to render you unconscious or break your limbs. Having been punched in the face by big strong opponents and choked many times, I can tell you it is not pleasant and will quickly sort out in your mind, what is real and what is just talk by some guru.
2- Watch footage of crime in your area. If you understand what weapons and methods the criminals use, you will make better decisions on what skills you need.
3- Watch footage of terror attacks. There are fundamental differences between crime and terror and your response would be different.
The bottom line on which martial art is the most effective.
It would be great I could simply say “use this style. It’s the best”, but that’s just not reality. In a perfect world, we could train in all the styles. Believe me, they all have strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately for me, as a working family man, I simply don’t have the time or the money to do that anymore. You probably don’t either.
In order to make a decision , look at the risk you face.
- What threats do you and your family face?
- Where and when are you vulnerable?
- What are the consequences of those threats materialising?
Once you understand these factors, you can start researching which fighting system will address them most appropriately. There are simply too many considerations for me to cover each martial art’s strengths and weaknesses here. Knowing all of them is best but it’s not realistic for most people. I’ll give a few examples. Take note that all the systems I mentioned before would be very valuable regardless, however, I’m trying to keep to specific examples so that this post doesn’t go on for 16 pages.
This is over simplistic but you’ll get the idea.
Example 1- There’s one big kid who bullies you in school every day, he’s bigger and more athletic than you. -Start by learning BJJ. The grappling skills you gain will enable you to control him without getting expelled for breaking his nose. Problem solved.
Example 2- You have to cross through a park on your way home from work every day. There are few creepy guys hanging around and you’ve heard of people getting assaulted. -Start by learning Muay Thai, this will give you the skills to use strikes in punching and kicking range and control a guy if he gets too close. It will buy you some time time to get away without risking taking it to the ground if he has accomplices.
Example 3- There has been an increase in knife attacks in your area. You live in an area where it is illegal to be armed yourself. Start by learning Krav Maga. Knife attacks are always dangerous but the knife defence techniques you learn will give you a fighting chance.
Example 4- You live in an area where guns are prolific and violent home invasions are common. Police response times are slow. – Start with firearms training. Get a gun and find the best training you can afford.
There really is no simple answer. I would love to just write a post saying that X or Y style is the best. I find tremendous value in training in a diverse range of systems. Start with one and grow from there. Don’t get analysis paralysis and do nothing for the next six months. Understand that your instructor will probably tell you their system covers everything but in truth, they all have flaws.
Look at how the fighting system you choose applies to your own context. Understand that your context will change. The skills and attributes that I need in order to do the type of security work that I do are different to those that a bouncer would need to work the door of a club.
My starting points as an adult were Muay Thai and BJJ and these are still my personal favourites. Neither one would help me much in a gunfight but they have been extremely useful to me over the years for other reasons. Your situation may be very different.
I personally feel that getting great basics in Muay Thai, BJJ, Boxing, Wrestling and then topping it off with the weapon defences from Krav Maga and following it up with extensive firearms training make for a great mix if you have the time and money.
There is a world of knowledge out there. It’s a long and enjoyable journey. Find a focus and start training now.
(Photo credits: Pexels.com)