Everyone has a plan until they've been hit.” ~Joe Louis

Violence should be avoided as much as possible, but not at all costs. Unlike you and I, there are bad people in this world, and at times violence is unavoidable.

Because of this, one of the most important skills a man can have is the ability to protect himself and his family from an attacker.

There are hundreds if not thousands of martial arts styles out there but I've put together a list of the best of the best. Knowing any one of them (especially #1) can turn your body into a veritable weapon.

7 Best Martial Arts - Deadly Fighting Styles for Self Defense

The 7 Best Martial Arts Styles for Self Defense

While I consider #1 (at the bottom of this page) to be the most effective martial arts style for self defense, not every martial art is for everyone (so I suggest you watch the video on each).

7. Jujutsu

Country of Origin:

Also Known As:

“The Art of Softness”

Focus (Striking, Grappling or Mixed):

Famous/Notable Fighters:
Ice-T, Kanō Jigorō

History of Jujutsu

Many of today’s popular martial arts styles including Judo, Aikido and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, are derivatives of Jujutsu.

It’s been so influential on modern martial arts that a list of the most effective styles likely wouldn’t exist without it.

This ancient martial art was developed by the Japanese and taught as one of the foundational fighting techniques of samurais.

The samurai were deadly with weapons, like the sword and bow, but if they were ever disarmed, they needed a way to defend themselves. Jujutsu was developed to help these fierce warriors if they found themselves without a weapon.

In English, Jujutsu translates to the “art of softness”. While its English translation may not strike fear into the hearts of your opponents, Jujutsu’s powerful and effective moves will.

Why Jujutsu is One of the Best Martial Arts Styles

Jujutsu is one of the most effective martial arts in the world because it uses your attacker’s aggressiveness, and the momentum that comes with that aggressiveness, against them.

When attacked, a Jujutsu fighter will redirect their attacker’s energy and momentum in a way that they prefer. This redirection renders the attack useless and often gives the Jujutsu fighter an opportunity for a counter attack.

The majority of Jujutsu's moves are throws and joint locks (applying breaking pressure to a joint like an elbow or knee). The two used in combination are what make Jujutsu such an effective and deadly martial arts style.

As Jujutsu was developed for disarmed samurai, it's an extremely effective martial arts style against both armed and unarmed attackers.

Video of Jujutsu

You might want to mute this video. The music is… interesting.

Music aside, the video shows a lot of great Jujutsu.

It’s easy to tell when a fighter completes a throw. It’s a little more difficult to see that one of the fighters has the other in a joint lock.

You'll know a fighter is in a joint lock when you see them quickly hitting the ground, or their opponent, with an open hand. This is known as tapping. If one of the fighters “taps” it means that they've give up.

Jujutsu näytös kuopiohalli 2011

6. Taekwondo

Country of Origin:

Also Known As:
Tae Kwon Do, TKD

“The Way of the Hand and Fist”

Focus (Striking, Grappling or Mixed):

Famous/Notable Fighters:
Barack Obama, Stevan Seagal, Jessica Alba, Willie Nelson

History of Taekwondo

Over the past 5,000 years, Taekwondo and Korea have simultaneously developed.

There were originally nine kwans (schools or dojos) of Taekwondo that were recognized by the Korean Government. Each kwan had their own unique style of Taekwondo.

In 1955, the nine kwans united to form one kwan which created the style of Taekwondo that is most commonly taught today.

Why Taekwondo is One of the Best Martial Arts Styles

In martial arts movies, when you see fast and high spinning kicks, chances are the fighter is using Taekwondo.

These powerful high kicks are what make Taekwondo such an effective form of martial arts.

While it's often characterized by its kicks, Taekwondo actually translates (albeit loosely) to “the way of the hand and fist” (Tae means foot, Kwon means fist, and Do means the way or discipline).

Taekwondo is the only martial arts style, on this list, that is an Olympic sport.

Video of Taekwondo

This video highlights the strength of Taekwondo’s high spin kicks. As you’ll see, these kicks alone are enough to place Taekwondo on our list of the best martial arts in the world.

Mute the sounds again…

5. Krav Maga

Country of Origin:

Also Known As:

“Contact Combat”

Focus (Striking, Grappling or Mixed):

Famous/Notable Fighters:
Haim Gidon, Eyal Yanilov, Kobi Lichtenstein

History of Krav Maga

Krav Maga, Hebrew for contact combat, is easily one of the best martial arts for self defense in the world.

The martial arts style was created by Imi Lichtenfeld, a world renowned wrestler, boxer and gymnast.

In the mid-1930's, anti-Semitic groups were common in many parts of Czechoslovakia. These groups terrorized the Jewish community that Lichtenfeld was a part of.

To protect his friends and family, Lichtenfeld gathered a group of young vigilantes to patrol the streets and defend the Jewish communities from the anti-Semitic thugs.

Krav Maga was born out of street fights and battles, between Lichtenfeld's group of vigilantes and the anti-Semitic thugs.

Why Krav Maga is One of the Best Martial Arts Styles

Krav Maga is designed to quickly neutralize threats.

The moves aren’t flashy; they’re simple and often dirty. I’ve heard many times “if it looks good, it’s probably not Krav Maga.”

There are three pillars of Krav Maga:

  1. Neutralize the threat. This is the main goal of the Krav Maga and can be seen in all of its principles.
  2. Simultaneous defense and attack. Unlike many martial arts styles, Krav Maga’s attack and defense are intertwined. Instead of blocking until there is an opportunity to attack, you block in a way that opens up the opportunity for a counter attack.
  3. Attack the body’s vulnerabilities. Krav Maga’s attacks target the body’s vulnerabilities such as the eyes, face, throat, neck, groin and fingers.

As you can see from #3 above, fighting etiquette is nonexistent with this deadly fighting style. It's designed for life and death situations and places survival over fair play.

This effective martial arts style is the official combative system of the Israeli Defense Forces (the army of Israel also known as the IDF).

Video of Krav Maga

The video below shows two men using Krav Maga to defend themselves in different real world situations.

Maybe you should just mute all the videos. I don’t know who’s making these…

4. Aikido

Country of Origin:

Also Known As:

“The Way of Harmony of the Spirit”

Focus (Striking, Grappling or Mixed):

Famous/Notable Fighters:
Steven Seagal, Matt Larsen

History of Aikido

This extremely effective martial arts style was created by Morihei Ueshiba.

In many ways, Aikido is not a traditional martial art. For example, Aikido fighters consider the safety and well-being of their attacker as much as they do their own. Rather than defeat their opponent, an Aikido fighter’s goal is to find a peaceful resolution.

Ueshiba was once quoted, "To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace."

Aikido is also a highly spiritual martial art. The word Aikido actually means “the way of harmony of the spirit” (Ai means harmony, Ki means spirit or energy, and Do means path or the way of).

Why Aikido is One of the Best Martial Arts Styles

As a preface, Aikido is one of the most complicated of all the different Japanese martial arts. If you’re looking to quickly learn how to defend yourself, try one of the more reflexive martial arts styles like Krav Maga.

Aikido is a derivative of Jujutsu. It combines Jujutsu’s joint locks and throws with the body movements of sword and spear fighting.

Also similar to Jujutsu, Aikido heavily incorporates the concept of redirecting and manipulating the energy of an attacker. Aikido fighters use their opponent’s aggression and momentum to throw them away or render their attack powerless.

The additional time to master the technique, and the fact that the Aikido is a more peaceful style, doesn’t mean that it isn’t one of the best martial arts for self defense.

For proof of this, check out the video below.

Video of Aikido

The video below shows Thambu Sensei demonstrating the power of Aikido in different real world situations.

Excellent Aikido Demonstration

3. Wing Chun

Country of Origin:

Also Known As:
Ving Tsun


Focus (Striking, Grappling or Mixed):

Famous/Notable Fighters:
Ip Man, Bruce Lee, Robert Downey Jr., Christian Bale

History of Wing Chun

The history of Wing Chun is a mix of fact and legend.

Most agree that it was developed in the 17th century as an offshoot of one of the more complex martial arts styles taught by Buddhist monks.

The most popular and commonly told history of Wing Chun is the story of the Buddhist Nun, Ng Mui. It's said she created Wing Chun to be a martial arts style that could be effectively used regardless of a person's size, weight or gender.

Mui developed many of the moves based on the movements of animals, particularly that of the crane. The combination of these different movements allow the fighter to block and strike much more effectively.

Part of the reason the above story is so commonly accepted is that it's the same story that was told by Ip Man, the Wing Chun Grandmaster and sifu (Chinese for teacher) to the iconic Bruce Lee


Bruce Lee training with Grandmaster Ip Man

Why Wing Chun is One of the Best Martial Arts Styles

Wing Chun fighters are some of the most well rounded fighters in the world.

Balance is one of the foundations of Wing Chun. Its fighter’s pride themselves on not being caught off balance or in a poor defense stance.

Similar to Krav Maga, they attack and defend simultaneously and, unlike many martial arts styles, are deadly at close range.

Video of Wing Chun:

The video below is from the movie Ip Man.

The man in black is Grandmaster Ip Man.

2. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Country of Origin:

Also Known As:
BJJ, Gracie Jiu Jitsu

“Human Chess”

Focus (Striking, Grappling or Mixed):

Famous/Notable Fighters:
Carlos Gracie, Helio Gracie, B.J. Penn, Joe Rogan, Chuck Norris, Paul Walker, Michael Clarke Duncan

History of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Similar to Aikido, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an adapted version of Jujutsu.

The founders and creators of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) are the Gracie brothers Carlos and Helio. The two brothers based BJJ off of Judo, which is a derivative of Jujutsu.

Many Judo moves favor the stronger and larger fighter. Helio Gracie, the smallest of his siblings, felt that he was at a constant disadvantage to his larger brothers.

Out of his frustration, he developed the foundation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This new martial arts style allowed him to use leverage rather than brute strength to control a fight.

Largely due to the popularity of professional fighting, like the UFC, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has exploded in popularity in the United States.

Why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is One of the Best Martial Arts Styles

No list of martial arts would be complete without Brazlian Jiu Jitsu.

BJJ is undoubtedly one of the most effective styles of martial arts in the world. Nearly all MMA and UFC fighters have trained extensively in BJJ.

The style teaches fighters to use leverage and proper weight distribution to defeat larger and/or stronger opponents.

BJJ is a mix of takedowns, ground control, passes and submissions (as well as defenses to each).

The submissions are what make the technique deadly. Fighters learn a mix of chokes, joint locks and cranks.

Chokes cut off an opponent’s air/oxygen supply, joint locks put add breaking pressure on a joint (such as the elbow or wrist) and cranks twist an opponent’s bodies into unnatural positions (which causes a great deal of pain). In most BJJ studios and tournaments, cranks are frowned upon or illegal.

Video of Brazlian Jiu Jitsu

It’s a little tough to tell what’s going on in any video showing BJJ, but believe me when I say these guys are complete badasses.

The following video shows two BJJ fighters, one brown belt (the second to highest belt) and one black belt (the highest belt) rolling. In the video, one fighter will take down the other and put them in some form of submission.

In the first series, the brown belt chokes the black belt. The second series shows the black belt putting the brown belt in an arm bar. In the third series, you see the brown belt put the black belt in an arm bar.

1. Muay Thai

Country of Origin:

Also Known As:
Thai Boxing

“The Art of Eight Limbs”

Focus (Striking, Grappling or Mixed):

Famous/Notable Fighters:
Tony Jaa, Buakaw Banchamek

History of Muay Thai

Muay Thai is a Thai martial arts style and has extremely deep roots in the country. The fighting style is Thailand’s national sport and their cultural martial art.

Muay Thai experienced an almost Darwin-like evolution.

The deadly martial arts style was passed down from older soldiers and fathers to the younger generation.

As Thailand is completely surrounded by other countries, the nations was under constant attack.

Out of these countless battles, the weaker fighters were killed off and the strong fighters survived. Out of this, only the best Muay Thai was passed down to the next generation.

Over the years, the deadly martial arts style became more and more powerful.

Why Muay Thai is One of the Best Martial Arts Styles

Muay Thai is not only one of the most effective martial arts styles in the world, it's also one of the best martial arts for self defense.

The technique is designed to convert the different parts of your body into different commonly used weapons of war.

The hands become daggers and swords; the elbows strike like a hammer or mace; the knees cut like an axe, the legs bash like a staff and the shins and forearms protect the body like a suit of armor.

Video of Muay Thai

If you haven’t seen Ong Bak, I recommend you stop reading this article, neglect all other responsibilities and watch it.

The movie has terrible acting and a terrible story line but, because of the incredible Tony Jaa, it's one of the best fighting movies I’ve ever seen.

Below is a clip of Tony Jaa destroying opponents using Muay Thai.

In Conclusion

Learning how to handle yourself in a physical conflict is one of the most important skills you can have.

I recommend you try a few different martial arts styles before committing to one. Like I said above, not every martial art is for everyone.

Most studios will even offer a free class to first time students so you have no excuse not to get out there and learn to protect yourself and the ones you love!