It's one of the most common questions martial experts hear: Which martial art should I study for self-defense? Well, one of our resident experts succinctly explains which 10 martial arts might fit the bill!

I selected 10 systems that I’ve practiced and found to be self-defense worthy. It’s hard to say just one art does it all. The best advice is to try them all and get in combat shape. Ultimately, it’s not the art that’s important; it’s the individual. It’s not the technique that makes the difference; it’s the delivery. A smooth stone that hits its mark is going to be more effective than a .44 Magnum bullet that misses. Train with purpose; the more you sweat in the gym, the less you bleed on the street.


Arnis

This Filipino art contains the most street-lethal knife skills available. Read a profile of modern-arnis founder Remy Presas!

Your Filipino martial arts training starts with this FREE download!
Escrima Sticks 101: Julius Melegrito’s Practical Primer on the
Fighting Arts of the Philippines

Kyokushin Karate

If you complete the 100 fights required for a black belt in kyokushin karate, you possess the attributes required for self-defense. Learn how kyokushin karate master Kenji Yamaki endured the 100-man kumite!

Kobudo

A street-savvy warrior will take a weapon over his empty hands every time. When you become an expert with traditional weapons, you have an advantage in real combat.

Krav Maga

The gun and knife defenses taught in krav maga are perhaps the best in the field. Video: Darren Levine demonstrates how to use krav maga to survive a knife attack!

Muay Thai

Muay Thai’s a realistic combat art with an emphasis on training and conditioning.

Kano Jiu-Jitsu

The forerunner of judo, this early 20th-century art developed by Jigoro Kano was more streetwise than ringwise.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

It’s been proved effective in street combat in the toughest cities in the world. Watch six Gracie Jiu-Jitsu videos!

Extreme Self-Protection

It was designed by Mark Hatmaker to cover all ranges of combat. Video: Mark Hatmaker on martial arts training roadblocks and solutions for developing a practcial, diverse and effective technique palette.

Dirty Boxing

While many fights end on the ground, almost all fights start standing up. Dirty boxing, aka "clinch boxing” or “trap boxing,” prepares you for strikes that work in stand-up grappling and moves that are illegal in the boxing ring.

Jeet Kune Do Unlimited

Created by Burt Richardson, it’s perhaps the most combat-efficient interpretation of Bruce Lee’s method of "scientific street fighting." About the Author: Dr. Jerry Beasley was Black Belt’s 2000 Instructor of the Year. A professor at Radford University in Radford, Virginia, he is the author of Dojo Dynamics: Essential Marketing Principles for Martial Arts Schools.
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Kenneth Baillie: TKD has changed over the years. WTF changed to traditional TKD at our school because our chief instructor didn't like the Olympic status. He said the sport detracts from the tradition. We had a certain rivalry even back then with ITF. The two can merge, I believe. There are differences but anything can be achieved. Positives are easy to find here!

Boston George Legaria: I'm not a TKD practitioner but I've been in martial arts for 26 years (kyokushin, muay Thai and krav maga), and from what I can see, a solution is for those two organizations to come together and reform the art so it can stay relevant. In combat sports, a lot of people leave TKD in favor of BJJ or muay Thai, while in self-defense people leave TKD for styles like Russian sambo, krav maga or Keysi Method. As for a business model, they need to leave the black belt mill because even though that gets parents interested so they can show their little one's "progress" on FB, in the long run, TKD loses its credibility when people see a 6 year old "master."

Michael Watson: Follow grandmaster Hee Il Cho's lead — he does both styles and without the negative of the Olympic sport aspect. I studied ITF growing up, but I also researched a lot on grandmaster Cho and I love his way.

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