The 16 Best Martial Arts for Self-Defense As Ranked By An Ex-Police Officer

Best Martial Arts for Self-Defense As Ranked By An Ex-Police Officer

Martial arts is an excellent form of fighting to not only learn but to master. The benefits that come from every different style are things that can improve all aspects of life. The most notable advantage being self-defense. In this article we’ll cover the best martial arts for self defense.

Learning a form of martial arts will not only get you into great shape giving you a good chance of holding your own in an attack. It will also teach you the right moves and techniques you can use to outsmart and outmaneuver any opponent. 

However, there are around 170 different forms of martial arts being practiced around the world today. Some provide fantastic tools in self-defense, while others were intended for various disciplines.  

If you are interested in taking a martial arts class mainly for the self-defense aspect, you have many choices. And who better to ask for advice on this list than an ex-police officer?

Top 16 Martial Arts Used for Self Defence

Martial arts has been a popular form of self-defense teaching for hundreds of years. It has trained samurai in battle many years ago and continues to improve skills and techniques today. Today, many careers still use art to help them with daily tasks or prepare them for unknown possibilities. Some of these careers are:

  • Military
  • Fitness instructor
  • Bodyguard
  • Fight choreographer
  • Professional sports player
  • Stuntman
  • Bouncer

The list could go on forever. Keep reading for a rundown of the top 16 forms of martial arts as ranked by an ex-police officer.

16. RBSD/ Combatives

Reality-Based Self-Defence (RBSD) is a style of martial arts taught using only reality-based situations. In these classes, students are put into a false attack that could actually happen on the streets or in combat. Because RBSD is taught based on the situation, there are no set rules or forms of teaching. Therefore, anything goes.

Each class you attend may differ from the last and may differ significantly if you change schools or the teacher/trainer you work with.

15. Russian Sambo

Russian Sambo is a Russian martial arts discipline created in the 1900s. This form of self-defense focuses on taking your opponent to the ground quickly and subduing him before a long fight breaks out.

The skills taught in Russian Sambo are close to those in Ju-Jisue or Judo. Getting your enemy to the ground and using moves such as leg locks, chokeholds, and wrestling maneuvers to keep them there.

14. Aikido

Aikido is a more modern form of martial arts created to be less aggressive and keep your attacker safe from injuries during the fight.

Aikido is more of a peaceful form of training, giving students the tools necessary to keep calm and focus on stopping a fight rather than ending it in a harmful way.

The main goal of Aikido is to make peace with the assailant and deescalate the situation without resorting to any bodily harm.

13. Silat

This form of martial arts originated in South East Asia and is based around attacks using footwork, hand movements, and pressure points. These types of movements were used to not only defend one’s self but to subdue, paralyze, or even kill an attacker.

This form of fighting is a derivative of headhunting skills and relies on weapons and animal-like movements to attack and defeat.

12. The Approach

The approach is not technically a form of martial arts training. However, a lot of the techniques and moves derive from various forms of martial arts, including:

  • Boxing
  • Wresting
  • Judo
  • Jujitsu

The truth behind self-defense is it is only as good as the person fighting. You cannot count on punches alone as no matter the skill lever, someone with more force can defeat you. 

In the approach form of self-defense, the martial artist is taught how to “approach” the assailant and get the leg up on them before they can take a single swing.

11. Muay Thai

Muay Thai, also called Thai boxing, is a form of traditional martial art done standing up using kicking and striking forms to fight their opponents. It is also known as the “art of 8 limbs”. This refers to using your fists, feet, elbows, and knees for a knee strike, elbow strike or kickboxing.

This form of combat was formed in Thailand hundreds of years ago as a self-defense course using close contact fighting. This practice uses each part of the body as a weapon. The hands are used as if they were swords, the shins take the job of armor and shields, and the elbows are used as swinging weapons like hammers or the axe. 

In Muay Thai, you will use these “weapons” as you would with their actual counterpart to defend yourself in the event of a physical attack.

10. Karate


Karate is probably the most well-known form of traditional martial art today. There are tons of schools that teach karate lessons, and it has become one of the most popular forms of martial arts taught to children.

Karate is an Asian form of martial arts, and it was developed as a weaponless form of combat, using your hands and feet to dominate your opponent, rather than resorting to guns, knives, or swords.

Karate is an amazing self defense system as the goal is to keep yourself safe in any situation even if the assailant is armed and you are not.

9. Keysi Fighting Method

The Keysi Fighting Method, or KFM, is a fighting technique that teaches a person how to defend themselves in an attack and act and react before, during, and after the confrontation.

The KFM method is a street fight style of combat, and unlike the majority of martial art teachings, KFM prepares the trained fighter for an attack coming not only from one person but a group of attackers. 

Although this is one of the most “violent” and “aggressive” forms of self-defense, the core values still remain the same. 

8. Wing Chun

This form of self-defense values softness and swiftness with strong kicks and fast arm movements. Wing Chun, also known as Wing Chun Kuen, is a similar martial arts style to Kung Fu.

Quick moving strikes and grappling techniques are taught to students to outsmart and outpace their enemies in a self defense scenario to protect themselves. In this style, relaxed and controlled moves are important to take down your opponent.

7. Jeet Kune Do

Bruce Lee created his own form of martial arts “self-defense” style fighting in 1967. Bruce took the tools and moves he had mastered in his lifetime and combined them into Jeet Kune Do. 

This different martial art form is known as the interception style. The main objective when using Jeet Kune Do in combat is to intercept an attack or strike before it can connect to its target and then counter it with a strike.

Bruce Lee’s goals for this form of fighting weren’t only designed to teach self-defense through combat but also to apply them in real-life situations to help with personal issues. Jeet Kune Do is meant to help make quick decisions at the moment.

6. Judo

Mixed Martial Arts

Judo is one of the most popular forms of martial arts taught in the modern-day. Created hundreds of years ago, Judo was used a person’s physical fitness and body form to overpower and take down an enemy swiftly.

The practice is mainly used as a sport now but can still provide great tools and techniques to get your opponent from an upright fight to being pinned on the ground in one quick move. Judo’s main components are clean throwing skills, throwing your opponent to the ground, and mental discipline to clearly think about the moves before acting on them.

5. Boxing

Not many people are aware that boxing is a form of martial arts. However, it is one of the oldest forms ever practiced. Western boxing is most noted for its quick moves and powerful punching, which are very effective in self-defense and teach quick moves and balance.

When boxing around a ring, you are taught how to duck, dodge, and slip when you are on the defensive side. When you are the one in control of the fight, you learn self-control, effective punch styles for specific situations, and breathing techniques to keep you centered, focused, and never winded.

4. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a form of self-defense-style martial arts that closely relates to the Judo style of fighting. However, instead of spending a lot of time standing to fight, Jiu Jitsu teaches a lot of ground combat skills. 

The unique forms of ground fighting teach students how to use their bodies and minds to subdue an attacker without weapons or brutal force. This form of martial arts is based on putting an opponent into a submissive hold.

3. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is also well known as “cage fighting.” This form of martial arts is what it sounds like and combines multiple martial arts skills and moves to defeat an attacker. This is an aggressive form of self-defense using full body contact to overpower and injury your opponent to disarm and defeat them.

MMA is used today as a combat sport but is a controversial one in some areas around the world due to the violence it entails. Although it may be a controversial sport, it is a highly effective and powerful form of self-defense. 

2. Krav Maga

Krav Maga is another highly aggressive form of self-defense. It is a military-style form of defense that is used in combat to stay alive. This fighting style is commonly used in the training of Navy Seals, Israeli commandos and special forces tactical units.

Krav Maga is a mixture of other martial art styles such as Judo, Boxing, Wrestling, and Karate, using forceful jabs, body maneuvers, and quick moves to defeat your enemies. These tactics are great for self-defense and can prepare anyone for an aggressive attack, whether in combat or street fighting.

1. Defence Lab

Defense Lab is a very new form of martial arts training. Recently designed within the last decade or so to teach self-defense in a whole new way.

The program was designed through scientifically study forms of fighting and self-defense styles that were successful and helpful in different situations. This form of fighting doesn’t specify a preferred form of combat but keeps an open mind about what works best for each student.

Defense Lab acknowledges that martial arts practice is constantly changing and evolving to adapt to the changing world around it. These classes are created as a freestyle type of combat, allowing skills and techniques to be combined and improved, giving them a way to find what works for them and incorporate them into their own lives. 

With Defense Lab, the core of the practice is to teach students inner strengths and the way to use every move properly and in a way that will produce the most effect.

Why is Martial Arts the Best Forms of Self Defence?

Martial arts originated thousands of years ago, focusing on religious and spiritual beliefs and the need to stay safe from animals and enemies alike. These forms of fighting have been modified here and there throughout the years, but the core principles still exist. 

The practice of martial arts was intended to teach self-control, critical thinking, and the ability to protect one’s self if ever in danger. 

Our Final Thoughts

There are no other classes or forms of fighting that will teach you the important fundamentals needed for self-defense like martial arts. Learning any of the forms of combat mentioned above will prepare you for a future of safety and mindfulness. 

Self-defense is not meant to inflict the most pain and damage possible to the attacker. Instead, it is meant to teach you the best way to counter an attack and protect yourself from any harm or injuries. Martial arts is the most influential form of fighting practiced today to prepare our military, police forces, and any individual interested in keeping themselves and their loved ones safe.