The Most Effective Martial Art for Self-Defence on the Street
It has been two years since my last post regarding martial arts. In these two years, I have had the privilege to practice an extremely wide range of martial arts aimed at self-defence, bringing my count to 15 different martial arts in total.
Although some of them, in my opinion, would never work in a hostile atmosphere and would probably get you killed, there are others that I studied that will send the assailants in the opposite direction. I also picked up some practical experience on the way when I was attacked by a guy with a knife, so I can say which martial art I instinctively chose given the situation; it worked.
In my article, I will highlight the five best martial arts for self-defence, in my opinion.
I would also like to state that if self-defence is your only aim and you are not looking for an oriental lifestyle as well, I would stay away from traditional martial arts like karate or taekwondo or aikido. These arts take years to master before you can dare to take on muggers on the street, and even with years of practice, they won't guarantee your safety largely due to outdated training methods that don't prepare you for street fighting. I would like to state that there are exceptions to the norm, though, as with all things in life, but that's an article of its own.
I based my choice mostly on:
- The effectiveness of the techniques
- The speed and simplicity of the arts
These are the most effective arts of self-defence I have practiced and the reasoning behind my choices:
5.Fillipino Martial Arts in the Form of Kali and Eskrima
These arts have originated from the very wide scope of fighting traditions practiced by traders traveling through the Philippines, as the locals always kept an open mind to effective ways of fighting. The resulting art focused on stick and knife fighting.
Although Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) has a tight learning curve, especially regarding the sticks, it's definitely one of the most potent arts I have ever practiced. The knife fighting is ever developing since new ways to cut and defend with a knife are constantly incorporated into the syllabus. They even have legal live knife fights to the death in the Philippines.
FMA's hand-to-hand fighting follows the principle that the same stick techniques can be applied without the stick since the stick is only an extension of the body. Although the resulting techniques are not too bad, I have seen better.
The main focus of this art is the sticks and knives, and since a person can find some form of a stick or carry a knife around almost anywhere, this martial art is suited for self-defence on the street.
This is a Russian martial art based mostly on grappling.
Take note that there are three forms of Sambo, and although they mostly contain the same moves, the application and purpose of the techniques are completely different. There is:
- Sport Sambo, aimed at competition fighting
- Self-Defence Sambo, aimed self-defence and inflicting minimum damage to the attacker
- Combat Sambo, which basically is the military fighting form created to inflict serious damage
Combat Sambo is the form, in my opinion, that is the most effective for the street, although Self-Defence Sambo also carries some weight. Since it is a grappling art, you have to train your reflexes, and practice is an absolute necessity before applying the techniques in a life-threatening situation. Once mastered, the techniques taught are effective, since the whole art is based on real-life situations in the military. But as I said, dedicated practice is required. Their gun defence is also very tricky to master, and doing it improperly by just a bit will get you killed. It took me two months of hard practice before I was able to apply one of the defensive techniques. Their striking is also in my opinion a bit underdeveloped but then again with such effective grappling techniques you will rarely be required to strike an opponent anyway. The biggest challenge for the practitioner is mastering the proper reflexes to apply the art.
Pencak Silat is a term used for a collection of Indonesian martial arts that were developed to combat the Dutch. It has a wide variety of forms, and picking the correct one is crucial for effective self-defence.
The techniques I studied were similar to Muay Thai with the addition of knife and gun techniques. The reason I picked this art as one of my top five was its marginal simplicity, being a bit easier to master than the grappling forms of self-defence. It involves a lot of strikes rather than grabs making it easier to apply, since the area where the technique can be applied is much bigger than in grappling. I found almost all the techniques functional for a street situation. However, a few moves were exceptions and wouldn't be so effective if common external factors, such as the attacker reacting in a resistant manner, kicked in. All in all, though, this art will teach you how to defend your life if necessary, even if your attacker is wielding a knife or a gun.
2.Commando Krav Maga/Combat Survival
This is a grappling martial art developed by Moni Aizik based on Judo. It was specifically created for the purpose of self-defence in real-life situations of today, where guns and knives are usually present.
This, however, is not Krav Maga as created by Imi Lichtenfield, and one should not be confused by the two. I personally think Moni just incorporated the word Krav Maga as a sales gimmick to attract people. Nonetheless, it is an effective martial art, and all of the moves and techniques are applicable in real life. I actually found a lot of similarities between Combat Krav Maga (CKM) and Combat Sambo, probably because both arts have roots in Jiu Jitsu.
Since it is a grappling art, it also has a bit of a learning curve, and practice is required before you could apply the techniques in a life-threatening situation. The striking in CKM has its roots in Muay Thai, but not a lot of attention is given to this aspect. Although the techniques are quite simple, fast reflexes are needed to properly execute the moves taught. Its gun and knife defences are effective, but I still prefer Krav Maga's approach, which will be discussed next. Again there's no reason not to consider this as your primary form of self-defence; you will not be disappointed.
The first time I heard about Krav Maga, I was skeptical, partly due to the fact that I thought it was a marketing machine, an expensive art that couldn't teach me anything I didn't know. However, it was on the list of self-defence arts, so I decided to have a look.
Krav Maga is mostly a striking Israeli martial art created by Imi Lichtenfield for the IDF and originally had its roots in boxing, karate, and wrestling. Today, the art has been modified to include Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and various other arts. To put it simply, it's militarized MMA.
In all my life, I had never seen such a simplistic yet effective form of fighting. It is so simplistic, I almost felt insulted while learning it. As I am a MMA fighter, I knew 80% of the techniques already, and mastering the gun and knife defences was a breeze. At the same time, I was truly impressed.
The gun defence is so effective that proper application will always leave you with the gun in one second, whether or not you are smaller than your opponent. There is nothing the attacker can do once the technique is initiated except running as fast as he can in the opposite direction. The knife defence is basically Muay Thai blocks with extremely basic jiu jitsu to disarm the knife, also incredibly effective. It also incorporates ground fighting, which is actually just the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu syllabus.
Krav Maga can thus actually be seen not as one art, but as a combination of the most effective techniques for any given situation from any art: thus, militarized MMA. Since it is so basic, it also makes it possible to learn Krav Maga through a book or dvd series. I did the basic course then bought the book and dvds to master the rest. So even if you are a master in various martial arts, take the time to learn Krav Maga, it's truly a noteworthy addition. To beginners, if you are looking for self-defence, I would recommend this as my number one art.
There are a few other reasons I like Krav Maga so much. The whole Krav Maga system is based around natural reactions of the body in certain situations, and the techniques are then developed around this concept. Thus you could almost say Krav Maga will be the natural reaction of the body. This is important for one reason: Once you are in a life-threatening situation, adrenalin starts pumping into your system, and your brain loses its finer motor functions. Meaning if you are not extremely well trained in an art, you won't be able to apply techniques that require steps (which might play a role in the other self-defence arts). Since Krav Maga is based around natural reactions, even a person not so well-trained in martial arts will be able to execute its techniques under stress with relative ease. Krav Maga classes have a tendency to be extremely expensive where I live, though, and classes advance at a very slow pace, so if this might also be your problem, get the book and dvds and start practicing. If you are already a MMA or traditional MA practitioner where sparring is involved, in my opinion, don't even bother with classes, the book and especially the dvd series will be sufficient. That is just my opinion, though.
My Experience Fending off a Knife Mugger
When I was attacked by a knife mugger, I was actually curious about how my body would react and with what art I studied it would defend. It was indeed Krav Maga, but most probably because it was the most natural reaction.
But all of the above self-defence arts are effective, and with proper dedicated training, each one of these arts will make you a serious force to be reckoned with on the street or anywhere. If you truly have the time/years and really want to learn a traditional art such as karate, it is an option since most karate forms will include sparring, which in turn will sharpen your reflexes.
I cannot emphasize reflexes enough, because in the end that is the factor that will determine how good your self-defence will be. Having the knowledge of all these arts will help nothing if you do not have the reflexes to apply it. So actually studying any art that develops reflexes will be a step in the right direction.
One should also take note that striking arts require substantially less refined reflexes grappling arts since the application of a grappling art requires more accuracy.
If you do decide on a traditional martial art, take my advice and do a Krav Maga course in between classes. The knowledge you will gain will always be with you even if the art you study fails. The choice is yours.
If you are a MMA partitioner and wondering how effective MMA is for self defence, have a look at my article discussing the various points of debate around the subject.
Since the world is a big place, I have probably missed many martial arts that are also aimed at self-defence (or at least can be used for that purpose). This article is also based on my personal opinion so it’s not written in stone. So once again, speak your mind.
The list of martial arts that I practice and considered for this list is as follows: Aikido, Jiu Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, CKM, Combat Sambo, FMA, Pencak Silat, Taekwondo, Karate, Ninjitsu, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Pancration, Systema, and Krav Maga.