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The 10 Most Effective Defensive Martial Arts for the Street

A trained fighter should have greater a greater ability to defend against bullies or street thugs. Someone who has never fought before will probably panic and start throwing random, easy-to-see strikes, and get demolished quickly.

most effective martial arts for self defense

Yet, martial arts experts might end the fight very quickly. Fighting knowledge helps, but which is the best fighting style for self-defense? Who will have better chances of destroying aggressive, cocky attackers in a split second?

Read on to get to know the most effective defensive styles in the world.

Ranking Criteria

Before we get underway, let’s explain which criteria we’ve considered for this list. Sometimes you may have to deal with an armed thug, so we must analyze every single aspect of the game:

  • How fast will you stop the opponent? The shorter time, the higher spot on the list.
  • Does the specific martial art teach you to attack weak spots?
  • Can you parry armed attackers?

These are the Best, Most Effective Martial Arts for Self-Defense (Ranked):

10. Boxing

A good boxer will have solid chances of defending himself against two or more attackers. All he has to do is fight on his back foot and counter everybody who tries to get close.

It’s not hard to aim for the chin of an untrained opponent. Thugs don’t expect a major level of resistance, so each fist to the face might lead to a knockout blow.

But there are few downsides of boxing – no ground game and takedown defense. When the attacker clinches up, the boxer might be in big trouble.

Overall, you can hurt your foe quickly, but you mustn’t let him get too close. If he traps your arms, you’re doomed.

9. Kyokushin Karate

Kyokushin is the most violent style of Karate. Full contact is allowed but you mustn’t punch or elbow your foe to the face.

Yet, it can be very good for a street fight, because Kyokushin fighters are trained to march forward and eat a shot to land a shot.

Kyokushin Karate is effective defensive style

A street thug will rarely fight toe-to-toe, he’ll mostly try to grab or grapple you. The ultimate advantage of Kyokushin fighters is a violent exchange and quick, powerful strikes.

You’ll rarely see a bully who can take such a brutal amount of damage.

8. Kickboxing

Kickboxers usually connect punches and kicks, but the good side of kickboxing is a low kick because, generally, street thugs don’t protect their legs.

Level change is very hard to defend, especially when you are talking about an untrained fighter who goes forward and repeatedly throws punches.

Clinching and takedowns are the downside of kickboxing. If the fight is dragged to the ground, a kickboxer might be in trouble because grappling is not allowed in the competition. Yet, it all depends on the fighter.

7. Wrestling

Slams and takedowns are fantastic ways to handle your attacker. Aggressive attackers mostly go forward and throw repeated punches or they try to grapple you (especially when they are bigger).

A wrestler might not be the greatest puncher in the world, but clinch and close combat are his home turf.

As soon as the bully gets a hold of a wrestler, he’ll probably be slammed to the ground and could be destroyed via violent ground bombs.

wrestling is super effective for street fight

Wrestling may be incomplete because strikes are not allowed, but these are some of the strongest men on the planet, which means they can absorb a strike or two against an untrained fighter.

6. BJJ

Have you ever seen Royce Gracie in the first 4 UFC events? He weighed 170 – 180 lbs and put 300+ pound fighters to sleep. Do you wonder how he did that?

Well, a BJJ fighter is a master of fighting off the back. Normally, it’s a terrible position because you’ll get mounted and destroyed, but the variety of armbars, submission switches, and various chokes turns this position into a death trap for an untrained fighter.

Bullies usually relax when they are on top and start unloading punches, but a jiu-jitsu expert will wrap his legs around the bully’s neck and choke him out.

BJJ is great for defending against heavier opponents

BJJ is an outstanding choice because skill wins, not power. You can deal with way heavier opponents and still win the fights.

5. Judo

Many will disagree with putting Judo ahead of BJJ and wrestling, but let us elaborate. Judo is performed in a gi, and the majority of street thugs wear at least a T-shirt. It leaves more options for grabbing and establishing a grip.

Once the position is locked in tight, a good Judoka can throw his opponent through the air and dominate him on the ground.

Sometimes, a light trip would be enough, but when you deal with a persistent bully, you might have to hit him on the ground too. Judo is one of the best defensive martial arts.

4. Muay Thai / Lethwei

Thai fighters are good everywhere – clinching, long-range and mid-range fighting. Great Thai warriors can hurt you with elbows, knees, fists, or kicks.

Lethwei adds headbutts to its striking arsenal, which makes it a perfect option for a street brawl.

We combined these two styles because there are a lot of similarities. Yet, excessive headbutts are good for smaller opponents because it is one of the easiest ways to cut your enemy.

The downside of both styles is ground fighting, but a good takedown defense should be enough to stop the untrained bully from dragging you to the floor. Sweeps are also a wonderful way to counter the aggressive enemy.

3. MMA

MMA is one of the best choices for one on one street fights. The mixed martial artist doesn’t have a weak spot and he’ll have a good chance for a win no matter where the fight takes place.

In MMA, you learn to throw the opponent, finish the fight on the ground, go for a submission, stuff a takedown attempt, or take part in a violent toe-to-toe slugfest.

mixed martial arts are effective for one on one street fight

But, unfortunately, MMA has one huge downside – fighting multiple opponents. When you slam one bully to the ground and go for the finish, his friend can sucker kick or punch you from behind and knock you out cold.

But when you deal with one aggressor, you’ll have a great chance of winning the fight.

2. Combat Sambo

Combat Sambo is pretty similar to MMA, with one huge difference – fights are taking place in the upper part of a gi, which leaves more options for throws, clinching, and close-range strikes.

Unless you live in a very hot climate or get into an altercation on the beach, your foes will mostly wear a jacket or a t-shirt. It means an advantage for a Combat Sambo fighter, because he’s good everywhere – on the ground, in the stand-up, even when the bully tries to clinch up.

Trained Sambo fighters can defeat multiple opponents with ease. They are trained to stand up and get back on their feet in the split of a second. It’s a combination of boxing, BJJ, Judo, and other unorthodox strikes.

Even a trained bully would have a hard time against the expert of this Russian fighting style.

Sambo warriors are well-rounded, good defensive fighters with a slick transition from defense to offense. It is so hard to read their next move.

1. Krav Maga

Krav Maga is undoubtedly one of the most effective martial arts in the world. The fighter is trained to defend against all kinds of the attacker. You’ll learn to fight with weapons too.

The Krav Maga specialist is trained to attack for weak spots (eyes, nuts, Adam’s apple) and to defend knife, stick, or even baseball bat attacks from all kinds of positions.

Krav Maga is best for self defense

Interestingly, the philosophy of Israeli martial art doesn’t encourage violence, it teaches you to stay away as long as you can.

When a Krav Maga expert reacts, the fight will be finished in seconds. The bully who tried to deal with the master of Israeli martial art usually finishes with a fracture or a life-threatening injury.

This is absolutely a legit form of martial arts; do not mess with Krav Maga fighters. They train self-defense from all kinds of positions every single day!

There are no competitions; it is 100% defensive style.


A trained martial artist should have an advantage over a bully, but there are no rules in a street fight, so you’ll have to be cautious.

Sucker punches, groin strikes, and eye gouges are all in play as everything is allowed. You must keep your head on a swivel.