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Few people imagine they will one day be involved in a violent altercation or end up needing to defend themselves physically. We hear about muggings and attacks almost daily, yet we so often still believe it could never happen to us. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. Though many people may go their whole lives without experiencing a physical altercation, it is smart to prepare for the worst so that you’re able to defend yourself if need be. 

As a martial arts instructor, I understand that not everyone who comes to my gym is looking to get involved with the competition aspect of the sport. Many people sign up so that they can learn how to protect themselves or feel stronger and more capable in general. Below, I’ve outlined three of what I consider to be the best martial arts for self-defense. Through reading my descriptions and assessing your specific self-defense and wellness goals, you’ll be able to look into gyms that have what you want.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

You might claim I’m biased because this my martial arts forte, but I promise my opinion is impartial. The thing is, you don’t have to be a body-builder or super strong to pull off the moves, unlike other forms of martial arts. BJJ is an incredible martial art for self-defense because it teaches you how to use your wit and body mechanics in a way that out-maneuvers attackers who may be twice your size. What’s more, BJJ takes the fight to the ground which, for most attackers, is a foreign concept—and one that can give you a clear advantage.

Krav Maga

In the mid-1930s, Imi Lichtenfeld, an Israeli wrestler, began developing fighting techniques to help his friends and family protect themselves from anti-Semites. Eventually, he began working with the government’s military where he perfected the style and began teaching it to civilians—the technique is now called Krav Maga. Krav Maga is great for self-defense because it was designed for self-defense. It’s not the fanciest and most impressive looking martial art, but it is quick and effective at putting attackers in their place. 

Muay Thai

A favorite amongst UFC fighters and models, Muay Thai has gained quite a following in recent years. As a form of kickboxing, Muay Thai fighters often refer to the martial art as “the science of eight limbs” due to the use of elbows and knees in addition to hands and feet. Muay Thai is focused on sparring and fighting, whereas BJJ and Krav Maga first look at ways to neutralize the threat before fighting. In general, Muay Thai is regarded as a favorite for self-defense because of its ability to seriously hinder an attacker. 

BJJ, Krav Maga, and Muay Thai are all incredible martial arts. If possible, I recommend you explore all three before deciding which one works best for you, your body, and your self-defense needs. It’s also helpful to have experience in a range of martial arts so that you can adjust your style based on the situation you find yourself facing. Regardless of which martial art you choose, learning to protect yourself physically is a preventative measure worth investing in.