What is
The Best
Self Defense Martial Arts?

Woman sitting on bench, with boxing gloves on the floor, waiting for her self defense class

At surface value and to be blunt the one that you can and are willing to use, that works! As you may suspect though the answer goes much deeper than that. There are literally hundreds of martial art styles out there, and tons of methodologies, doctrines, disciplines for self-defense. To determine the Best Self Defense Martial Arts you first have to determine if we are talking about self defense or are we talking about martial arts?

The Origins of Martial Arts as Self Defense & Fighting

The definition has changed greatly in the past 20 years, and even if you don’t agree on that, we can agree the disciplines have evolved since one of the oldest martial styles Kalaripayattu was established approximately 3000 BC. Martial Arts used to be synonymous with Self Defense training, and was commonly used by farmers and “peasant fodder” too poor to afford the craftsmanship of well made weapons and armor. They were also placed on the front lines in various armies and militias, so life expectancy was short in those conditions.

Peasants revolting against professional soldiers in the early 1500s
Photo Source: militaryhistorynow.com

When not fighting for their rulers they were often oppressed local villagers or rebels stripped of conventional weapons and armor by their lords or rulers. Facing professionally trained soldiers with swords, lances, armor, shields, etc. Which meant a lot of improvised weapons based around farm tools and concealed weapons, agile movement and guerilla warfare tactics to out maneuver heavily armored soldiers, typically in asymmetrical environments.

When not busy harvesting crops, which took up most of the day from dawn till dusk, some time would be dedicated to training to defend the village, and lessons learned would be brought home from the frontlines from the few survivors of the violence, disease and starvation experienced during war times.

The Difference Between Martial Arts & Self Defense Today

At some point in modern history though, there was a split. Martial Arts became popular as a sport with competitions, trophies, belts, ranks,  prided itself on family fun and building confidence for children, etc. Meanwhile self defense disciplines started breaking away to be functional specifically for protecting the life of self and family. On top of this you even had hybrids develop like MMA which combined the strengths of various martial arts and put it into full contact bloody televised sparring.

It becomes even more diverse when you look at self defense as a discipline, and the environment it is intended for. Is it being taught to soldiers for CQB (Close-Quarters-Battle) when clearing rooms? Is it Women’s Self defense focused on rape prevention and dating safety? Is it fire arms training, and tactical shooting for civilians?

What is the BEST?!

As an instructor teaching self-defense, I refuse to name one style, sport, or individual. There is no absolute best for EVERY situation, as you want to bring the right tool for the right job. So instead I want you to look for qualities that make a style or self-defense program right for YOU!

  1. Does the Program Fit Your Lifestyle? – Does the instructor specialize in training someone with your demographic? A tactical instructor teaching how to clear rooms will not be an appropriate fit for women’s self-defense, as the skills for the two environments are different. Additionally, a girl going off to college has no job requirement matching that of a professional soldier, nor would she have the time to train to such a level of intensity.

  2. What is Your Instructors Personality? – Is he or she a macho alpha male that has biceps the size of your legs, barking at you or does he take time to get to know you, your needs, what you are most afraid of, and combine that with well-researched and credible sources on crime data? Hopefully, he will have some background in exercise science, and the ability to modify techniques and movements for your body type and your level of fitness.

  3. How Does Your Instructor Approach Safety? – Is he or she teaching you safety concepts, risk mitigation strategies, how to identify red flags? Self defense isn’t just about knowing how to cause physical damage. A great portion of it should be on how you can avoid, mitigate, and reduce risk. The rule of fighting is that if someone brings a gun you will likely get shot, if someone brings a knife you will likely get stabbed. Real fights hurt, injury is almost guaranteed for both parties.

  4. What Are The Class Sizes? – Maybe you want a girls night out with you and 10 of your best lady friends? Maybe you are looking social activity, in this case large class sizes may be perfect for you. If you don’t like an audience when you are panicking and freaking out, if you want more specialized training in a shorter amount of time, then I would recommend smaller class sizes. Ideally family unit or smaller if you want really specific training and lots of coaching from the instructor.

Ultimately the best self defense martial arts… cough cough*! The best self defense or martial arts is the one that fits your goals, your schedule, with an instructor that teaches you according to your learning language, takes the macho out of the classroom, and tailors training specifically to what you can and will do.

I would argue every martial arts and self-defense has both terrible and terrific instructors that provide a night and day experience to even the same system. Meanwhile, you have some instructors that are so specialized and advanced they have gone on to develop their own systems of training based on years of professional experience.

There is no singular best self defense martial arts for everyone, and there never will be, only the one that is effective that you will use!

A girl smiling while holding punch pads during a self defense class

Womens Self Defense Classes

To wrap this up I want to speak to my personal niche about the training I provide. 

If you are in the Colorado Springs area, I provide private family and individual training for women wanting to feel safer in their day-to-day lives. Specifically, women going to college or traveling abroad for their first time. Training is 100% tailored to your body type, level of fitness, lifestyle, and concerns you have.

You will learn how techniques in abduction prevention and escape, dating safety, sexual assault prevention, risk mitigation, improvised weapons, and other skills not typically taught in traditional martial arts. This 15 week program is specifically tailored to empowering you to take control of your safety and reduce your risk.

If you would like to learn more please visit our page on Self Defense For Women!

Defense Instructor - Cody Rauh

Author: Cody Rauh

Cody has taught over 1600 students life-saving skills and has been teaching self-defense since 2015. He uses his background and training in hand-to-hand combatives, abduction prevention & escape, and improvised weapons to teach students going to college or traveling outside the U.S. on how to stay safe. 

View Defense Educations Training Programs or  Cody’s Instructor Credentials!

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