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The Best Martial Arts for Self-Defense

the best martial arts for self-defense

Personal protection is mainly about three factors: willingness to be proactive about defending yourself, awareness of danger and avoiding it, and readiness to fight if necessary.

It is natural to wonder which martial art form is the best way to fight in a real-life situation. After all, there are no rules on the street like in the ring or the dojo. Discover which are the most street-proven martial arts and find out which form is the best for you.

What Is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is the traditional martial art of Thailand and is sometimes known as the “Art of Eight Limbs.” This nickname comes from the fact Muay Thai teaches you to use eight parts of your body as striking weapons: your fists, your legs (especially the shins), your elbows, and your knees.

The history of Muay Thai dates back to at least the 16th century, but it wasn’t until King Chulalongkorn accessed the throne of Thailand in 1868 that this martial art reached its golden age. The King’s lifelong personal interest in Muay Thai caused it to become Thailand’s official fighting and self-defense discipline.

Muay Thai is well-known for strongly emphasizing striking using many body parts less utilized by other forms, such as the knees, shins, and elbows. However, this martial art has more self-defense moves to offer, such as a full range of defensive techniques, including blocks, parries, and evasive maneuvers, as well as a type of grappling known as clinching, which can disable the opponent’s ability to hit back or use weapons.

Although you can find clinch holds in other martial arts, most famously, Judo. Muay Thai allows strikes while holding the opponent, potentially allowing fighters to inflict a lot of damage.

what is muay thai

Skilled Muay Thai fighters master the various clinch positions because doing so allows them to dominate an opponent completely. A well-executed clinch-hold renders the opponent unable to fight back unless they are specifically trained to avoid it or defend themselves from it.

Practicing Muay Thai demands a certain level of physical fitness. While this may discourage or even disqualify someone from learning it, keep in mind, regular practice of this martial art is a traditional fitness and healthy living method in Thailand.

If you train seriously, you’ll find it’s an intense sport that keeps you fit and builds your muscle mass, both advantages you’ll want in a real-life self-defense situation, no matter your preferences.

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What Is Kali Martial Arts?

Kali (also known as Arnis, Eskrima, Filipino Martial Arts, or FMA) refers to the traditional martial arts of the Philippines.

Kali is unique for two reasons: not only is it a martial art emphasizing the use of weapons, but students learn to use weapons before learning to use empty-hand techniques. The basic weapon in Kali is the yantok, also known as the kali baton

Kali batons are used in pairs, one in each hand. Each one is made of rattan (a type of vine) instead of wood. This material is durable yet lightweight, does not splinter, and is safer to train with than wood. An average kali stick is 24 to 28 inches long, although some may reach 36 inches.

Other traditional Kali weapons include the well-known balisong (butterfly knife) and karambit (claw-shaped knife), but also the bolo machete, the sibat (a type of spear), and the bankaw (a 6-foot pole). 

Another significant aspect of Kali as a martial art is you do not have to use the exact weapons to practice Kali fighting techniques. The art heavily emphasizes reliance on improvised weapons as replacements for the traditional weapons, such as steel pipes, long flashlights, mace pepper spray cans, icepicks, screwdrivers, or anything else you can find.

If carrying weapons is a possibility for you, you may find Kali a practical choice and an excellent alternative to firearms or stun guns, as it combines the advantages of learning a traditional martial art with the power and convenience of blunt and edged weapons.

Kali is an excellent choice for any individual lacking the fitness or the raw strength to get out of a fight through brute force alone. Additionally, the emphasis on improvised weapons also boosts confidence and teaches you that you don’t need expensive, dedicated equipment to make good use of this martial art.

If you’re looking to learn self-defense with self defense knives, batons, or improvised weapons, Kali may be the right choice for you.

what is brazillian jiu-jitsu

What Is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)?

The origins of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu go back to the early 20th century. In 1904, a traveling judoka, Mitsuyo Maeda, visited Brazil and took on a teenage student, Carlos Gracie. Gracie learned Maeda’s fighting form for five to six years, Kodokan Judo, also known as Kano Jiu-Jitsu.

Gracie then passed his knowledge on to his brothers. Because one of his younger siblings, Helio, could not practice the judo throws as well as his brothers, the Gracie brothers adapted the fighting style, increasing emphasis on ground combat and lessening the importance of throws. Thus, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was born.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is all about one-on-one combat and getting your opponent on the ground as quickly as possible. As a result, most BJJ techniques are takedowns, submission holds, joint-locks, chokeholds, and other grappling moves.

It is one of the best and most effective self-defense forms you can learn because the focus on ground fighting neutralizes most brute force advantages, such as size or strength differences.

Fighting experts have likened BJJ to chess. It requires the practitioner to find a way to trick the opponent into giving away an opportunity for a takedown, all while defending against the opponent’s blows. Therefore, a successful takedown is likened to a checkmate, as it is the form’s objective and the focus of most of its techniques.

Sparring and training BJJ techniques consist of live drills performed at full or near-full strength. This level of intensity means practicing BJJ will feel very close to the real thing and allow you to get a realistic expectation of your capabilities.

However, it also means if you are a beginner or not in good physical shape, most of your early training will be about physical conditioning and preparedness more than learning the actual techniques. As long as you’re not afraid of a solid workout, you will find Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to be a rewarding and effective martial art with plenty of street effectiveness.

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a boxer training

Is Boxing a Martial Art?

Traditional boxing is one of the oldest and most conventional contact sports in human history. Despite its age, it remains relevant for realistic self-defense for three reasons: distance control, relative simplicity, and explosive punching techniques.

Think about the greatest heavyweight names in boxing history, such as Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield, or the only champion to have retired undefeated, Rocky Marciano. What do they all have in common? Explosive strength and lightning-quick punches.

However, taking up boxing for self-defense is not all about overwhelming power. Before you can deliver the kind of punch that will bring your opponent on the floor, you will learn about the less flashy but more essential elements of boxing: the six basic punches (jab, cross, left and right hook, left and right uppercut), defensive moves (anticipating, blocking, dodging), and distance control (foot control and keeping your opponent out of range).

The relative simplicity of boxing emphasizes the importance of practicing them and conditioning your body to hit ever faster and harder. Practice boxing seriously three times a week and, if you aren’t yet in good physical fitness and condition, you will be within three months. The good news is boxing is accessible to everyone, regardless of sex, age, size, or shape. 

Not everyone has the constitution or the raw strength to punch as hard as Holyfield or Marciano, but everyone can train to punch faster and more accurately. If you’re fighting to defend your life on the streets, that may be all you need.

Boxing also teaches you early that most street opponents are untrained in fighting and rely on brute strength and crude brawling techniques, such as the haymaker punch (also called the wild overhand). An unprepared individual can be seriously hurt by one of these, but it’s boxing defense 101 to learn how to see these coming.

With a little bit of training and preparedness, these wild punches will feel slow and telegraphed, and you will be able to defend yourself against them and neutralize your opponent quickly.

what is mixed martial arts

What Is Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)?

MMA is the most versatile martial art on the planet and one of the best martial arts for self-defense. The point of MMA is to bring the best and most effective techniques of all other martial arts under a single form, mixing grappling, striking, and ground fighting to cover all bases.

Although MMA, as we know it, is a modern invention with rules and official competitions like the UFC, it is conceptually similar to Pankration, an Ancient Greek fighting art mixing all known techniques of its era. The concept of combining techniques from multiple martial arts has existed for thousands of years and is present in almost all fighting scenes.

Although competitive MMA fighters fight in a cage for the cameras in what seems to be equal parts show and combat, MMA has many real-life applications that can save your life and neutralize attackers on the streets.

Suppose you liked the stand-up power of boxing, the grappling and submission techniques in BJJ and Muay Thai, and the improvisation factor of Kali. In that case, you will find MMA can bring all these concepts under one training program, letting you build your very own toolset of self-defense techniques.

In other words, MMA lets you keep just what’s relevant to survive a confrontation, just as UFC fighters evolved the sport to retain just what they needed to win tournaments and championships.

If you’re wondering what to expect from a beginner MMA course, you will learn how to condition your body, increase your endurance level, and boost your confidence and how to take a hit. MMA is very intense; most untrained people cannot endure more than one or two minutes before going down.

Besides the technical aspects of MMA, regular training and practicing can improve your physical fitness, sharpen your mind, and improve your overall preparedness. Due to the wide variety of techniques you may need to learn, MMA training is complete and intensive, covering everything from cardio and flexibility to strength training.

MMA gyms bring together the best aspects of traditional martial arts to create a truly modern fighting style, preparing you for the modern-day and equipping you with the awareness, mental alertness, and physical preparedness required to survive a violent confrontation. 

Most MMA gyms are filled with passionate individuals who recognize the value of the art as both a sport and as a martial art. Joining a local MMA gym allows you to find a community of enthusiasts willing to help you turn into the best version of yourself.

your body is a weapon

Readiness Is Critical for Survival

No matter which martial art you choose, remember that using your body as a weapon is just one of the tools you should have at your disposal if you need to survive a confrontation. Don’t be stuck with just one option; be prepared for anything!

Having extra options at your disposal, such as self-defense weapons, stun guns, mace, or other personal protection tools, can increase your chances of survival and complement your self-defense toolset. 

At The Home Security Superstore, we understand better than anyone why preparedness for any situation is vital. Whether you’re looking for the best personal defense tools or a complete home security system for protecting your loved ones, we offer a comprehensive selection of products at affordable prices.

Take advantage of our 18 years of experience; we don’t stock anything we wouldn’t stand behind! If you need help, suggestions, or information regarding our home security and personal protection products, don’t hesitate to call us at (800) 616-5305, we are always happy to help our customers.


What should I look for when choosing a martial arts school for self-defense?

Ensure your local school teaches techniques that can help you survive a confrontation and doesn’t merely treat the art as a sport.

Do I need to be physically fit to learn martial arts for self-defense?

Not necessarily, but it can help. Physical conditioning is an essential part of survival preparedness.

Are there martial arts that will prepare me against armed opponents?

While some martial arts and fighting styles offer empty-hand techniques designed to deal with armed opponents, they are dangerous and require years of experience, so it is safer for you to carry a self-defense weapon of your own.


Image Credits


Miljan Zivkovic/



Ajan Alen/

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