Almost every day at Black Belt, we’re asked the same question: “What’s the best martial art for self-defense?” To find out the answer, we asked Dr. Mark Cheng, an expert in Chinese medicine and martial arts. “I chose the following arts because of my personal experience with them,” Dr. Mark Cheng says. “While I’m sure there are plenty of other arts, systems and schools that teach outstanding self-defense, I can’t recommend them on reputation alone. It’s the actual physical experience that makes styles recommendable in my eyes.”


Muay Boran

“It’s 100-percent application from the get-go. As Col. Nattapong Buayam taught me, its simple, brutal responses make it an outstanding choice in ‘shortcut’ streetwise self-defense. It’s the forefather of the ring sport of muay Thai.

Combat Shuai Chiao

“Nothing hits harder than the ground, and combat shuai chiao capitalizes on that debilitating impact. Unlike many systems that teach throws only from a pre-established grip, it uses high-amplitude throws against the full range of unarmed and armed attacks.”

Wing Chun

“Developed as a streamlined system of self-defense for smaller, weaker practitioners, it’s one of the best-known Chinese systems, and it was the basis of Bruce Lee’s jeet kune do. Wing chun earned its reputation as a street-fighting art in the mid- to late 20th century in Hong Kong.”

Sil Lum Fut Ga

“An archetypal system of southern kung fu, it’s part beauty and part brutality. Using open-hand strikes that can break the skin, along with deft kicks delivered to unlikely targets, it’s the perfect blend of artistry, culture and fearsome fighting techniques.”

Inosanto Kali

“The Filipino system taught by Black Belt Hall of Famer Dan Inosanto is far more than just the sticks and knives that the casual observer sees. Including every possible weapon and range of combat, Inosanto’s system is one of the most sought-after and imitated arts in the world when it comes to practical self-defense.”

Jeet Kune Do

“Made famous by its founder, Bruce Lee, it places heavy emphasis on streetwise dirty fighting that employs any and every means to achieve victory. Biting, eye gouging and all sorts of techniques and tactics go beyond the usual fare taught in most traditional arts.”

Krabi Krabong

“While some would argue that this ancient Thai weapons art has no place in a discussion of modern self-defense, I beg to differ. By training the practitioner to respond reflexively to a variety of weapons in countless ranges with both armed and unarmed defenses and counterattacks, it ranks toward the top for battlefield self-defense.”

Hwa Rang Do

“This comprehensive Korean art encompasses more techniques in just its joint-manipulation section than some systems have in toto. While that breadth makes the learning process rather arduous, it also develops superb combative attributes in all ranges.”

Savate

“The French kickboxing art makes it a point to use the tip of the shoe in street and ring combat. Not just another form of sportive kickboxing, it’s superb at developing a mastery of the standing range.”

Target Focus Training

“Former Navy SEAL candidate Tim Larkin created a system that ignores stylistic boundaries and focuses on a three-part goal: penetrate, rotate, injure. Its unique training methods allow everyone from the hardened combat vet to the stay-at-home mom access to its benefits.” Disagree with our picks? Let us know your choices in the comments field. (For more insights on the top martial arts for self-defense, check out the complete series in the August and September issues of www.facebook.com/DrMarkCheng.)
SUBSCRIBE TO BLACKBELT MAGAZINE TODAY!
Don't miss a single issue of the world largest magazine of martial arts.

To Master the Supreme Philosophy of Enshin Karate, Look to Musashi's Book of Five Rings for Guidance!

In the martial arts, we voluntarily subject ourselves to conflict in a training environment so we can transcend conflict in the real world. After all, we wouldn't knowingly train in a style that makes us weaker or worsens our position. The irony of all this is that we don't want to fight our opponent. We prefer to work with what an opponent gives us to turn the tide in our favor, to resolve the situation effectively and efficiently.The Japanese have a word for this: sabaki. It means to work with energy efficiently. When we train with the sabaki mindset, we receive our opponent's attack, almost as a gift. Doing so requires less physical effort and frees up our mental operating system so it can determine the most efficient solution to the conflict.In this essay, I will present a brief history of sabaki, as well as break down the sabaki method using Miyamoto Musashi's five elements

Keep Reading Show less

Enter our partner's current Sweepstakes. They are giving away a Grand Prize 'FKB Wardrobe'.

TAKE NOTICE!

FIVE KNUCKLE BULLET 'Wardrobe' Sweepstakes

Feeling Lucky? Enter our current Sweepstakes Now! We are giving away a Grand Prize 'FKB Wardrobe' which consists of our most popular sportswear items. Prize includes the following:

Keep Reading Show less

"Yoshiharu Osaka sensei was always the textbook of shotokan," one experienced karateka said."True," his colleague replied. "But Kanazawa sensei was always the book of its poetry."

Stories of Hirokazu Kanazawa are a soundtrack of post-training bull sessions. Kanazawa, who won the first All Japan Karate Championship in 1957 — with a broken wrist. (When his mother heard he was dropping out of the competition because of the injury, incurred only days before the event, she asked him why he couldn't win with the other hand and with his kicks, compelling him to stay in. Moms then, and Japanese moms in particular, were a little different.)

Keep Reading Show less

It's a difficult subject, but perhaps I'm finally old enough to examine it with some objectivity — and with some insight that's worth sharing. The issue, of course, is when one should retire in karate or other forms of budo.

A quick clarification: No serious martial artist "retires" in the sense that the person ceases to train, study and explore life by traveling along a martial way. There's an expression in Japanese that one should live one's life as a kara kyohi, a dry husk, one that's used up completely. In other words, one should leave nothing left undone. There is no retirement from any martial art; they all represent a lifelong path.There is a moment, however, if a budo teacher lives long enough, when he or she must contemplate retiring from a position of authority. More accurately, the person must be willing to step back, to allow a new generation to take over the active teaching role.
Keep Reading Show less
Free Bruce Lee Guide
Have you ever wondered how Bruce Lee’s boxing influenced his jeet kune do techniques? Read all about it in this free guide.
Don’t miss a thing Subscribe to Our Newsletter