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The first thing any martial arts instructor will tell you is that the best defense is not to be in a bad situation in the first place. But unless you want to lock yourself in a closet, there is only so much you can do to avoid dangerous situations and so it can’t hurt to be prepared. While the practitioners of any martial art will tell you that theirs is the best for one reason or another, there are some that are clearly more effective for self defense than others.
5 Jeet Kune Do
It’s important to remember that Bruce Lee was an expert martial artist long before his fighting style led him to show biz. He developed JeetKune Do to focus on using extreme speed to get maximum effect, which is probably what makes it so impressive to watch. Lee had come to the belief that most martial arts systems had become too rigid and wanted something that was more realistic. He believed that the most important thing was to remain fluid and that a martial arts system should be flexible and customized for the individual and for the situation in which it was expected to be used.
Unlike KravMaga, there is a mental aspect to Aikido training and it does take into account the well-being of the attacker. It is primarily made up of throws and pins which are learned in response to various attacks. Many of the techniques show their origins as armed fighting style such as punches that are thrown the same way as you might thrust with a knife. By the same token, kicking, especially high kicks, are very rare in Aikido. Aikido is a great way to learn to use an attackers force and to work with the energy of a strike that is directed at you, which an important skill in all martial arts.
3 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is actually an offshoot of Judo and as such deals mostly with grabs and grappling with a special focus on locks and chokeholds. The primary goal is to allow a small or physically weak person to defend against someone larger and stronger, which makes it a great self defense technique. The person who had developed the art was MistuyoMaedan and had originally been sent to Brazil from Japan to spread Judo. He ended up teaching to a number of sons of a circus owner named Gastao Gracie who had given him the chance to exhibit. The youngest son however, was frail and so was unable to learn many of the Judo moves. Over time however, Maedan and the Gracie brothers adapted the system, which is why it’s also known as Gracie JiuJitsu.
2 Muay Thai (and kickboxing)
The most common criticism of KravMaga is that if by some chance the attacker isn’t neutralized quickly, KravMaga practitioners may not have training for a more drawn out fight. And that’s where Muay Thai comes in. Also known as Thai Kickboxing, it uses strikes with the hands, feet, knees and elbows unlike western kickboxing which only uses hands and feet. It’s used in sport and is a looser style that is more appropriate for a drawn out freestyle fight. Therefore some people recommend that those who have studied KravMaga complement it by studying Muay Thai as well. The system probably based on the hand-to-hand fighting method that was used by ancient Siamese soldiers who had lost their weapons. These days however, it is becoming particularly popular for use in Mixed Martial Arts competitions.
1 Krav Maga
This is considered the best self defense martial art by far. Unlike other systems, it was developed solely for self defense purposes by a combat trainer in the Israeli army in the 1940s who had been a boxer and wrestler but had adapted those skills. KravMaga’s most important goal is to finish any fight as quickly as possible, even if that means fighting dirty. This is not a sport that would make good Olympic competitions. KravMaga students are taught to aim for the joints, eyes, groin and other most vulnerable body parts so as to incapacitate attackers and get away. It takes bits and pieces from other forms of martial arts, including strikes, chokes, throws and pressure points. Because this was developed in the modern era, training includes learning to defend against common modern weapons, like baseball bats, knives and handguns. Although KravMaga was never even seen outside of Israel until 1980, many American law enforcement agencies now teach it.
Of the major styles of martial arts, these are the best for self defense purposes. Have you got other ideas? Let’s hear them!