martial artist doing pose

You want to take martial arts for one reason or another. Maybe you want to learn to fight or defend yourself if attacked. You may be looking for self-discipline or self-confidence for you or a child.

What martial art should I learn or train in? This is pretty straightforward when it comes to the answer. If you want to learn how to street fight or fight back if attacked then you should take MMA, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do, Boxing, or Judo.

If you are looking for more traditional training you should look at Karate, TaeKwonDo, Kung Fu, and Aikido.

What Martial Arts Should I Learn?

You have two options traditional martial arts or self-defense/street fighting martial arts.

#1 MMA is one of the top martial arts to learn to defend yourself.

#2 The next is Krav Maga which specializes in self-defense and in disarming tactics for knives, guns, and weapons.

#3 Jiu-jitsu is one of my favorites and a great equalizer for smaller people to submit larger attackers.

#4 Muay Thai is overall deadly with elbow and knee strikes.

#5 We like Jeet Kune Do which is Bruce Lee’s fighting art. It takes what is useful from all martial arts to use in a fight.

#6 Boxing is not a martial art but the punching skill of a boxer can defeat most opponents.

#7 Love Judo because of the throws and ground fighting skills.

Traditional martial art styles

#8 Karate is one of the most popular martial arts in the world.

#9 An Olympic sport Taekwondo is very popular worldwide.

#10 Aikido uses other people’s energy against them. This martial arts have a lot of locks and throws.

#11 Last is Kung Fu which has been around a long time. There are many different styles like Wing Chun made famous by Bruce Lee.

All martial arts will teach you self-defense but some are much more geared towards defending yourself in a street fight or an attack.

It is really good to know all aspects of fighting range from kicking, punching, and grappling.

You will need to visit schools or look at the training you can learn online to really see what you want to do and which martial art fits your needs.

#1 MMA

MMA is a mix of techniques from many martial arts that are used to win fights in a cage with very few rules. Here are the rules for things you cannot do when in the MMA cage.

  • No groin attacks but it can happen by accident
  • No eye-gouging, for obvious reasons
  • You definitely cannot do knees to the head on a grounded opponent
  • You can’t do fish hooking
  • No strikes to the back of the head or the spine because this is a sport, not Bloodsport
  • Not sure why someone would do this but you cannot put your fingers in your opponent’s holes
  • Headbutts are not allowed because of course that houses your brain which you need
  • No biting unless you are Mike Tyson
  • Hair pulling is not allowed
  • No strikes or grabbing of the throat
  • You cannot do any manipulation of the fingers or toes
  • You are not allowed to throw your opponent outside of the ring or cage
  • No intentional grabbing of the ring or cage

The training these men and women do is brutal and as you can see some of the rules could be used in a street fight but usually are not.

Most people just stand up and try to throw haymakers to knock you out or tackle you and start wrestling. MMA prepares you for everything and anything that might come at you.

MMA Used for Self-Defense

MMA Fighter beat up robber

I have read where people say MMA is not self-defense training and really it’s not like Krav Maga that teaches moves to get out of holds.

Yet MMA is a complete fighting system and should be at the top of your list if you want to learn to fight or start fighting in a cage.

Look at the picture to the right of an MMA woman fighter and want she did to a guy trying to rob her. You can’t tell me MMA does not work in the street.

I was training in MMA to keep my fighting skills sharp but to also get in shape.

On my first day of class, I was out of breath in the first minute and I was not in bad shape at all. You fast forward 6 months and I could go for the whole hour fighting without too much problem.

Most schools teaching MMA are usually teaching fighters so if you just want it for a workout you may have to find a gym willing to take you since you will not be doing any amateur or pro fighting.

What other martial art should I learn for self-defense moves? That would be Krav Maga which was built for self-defense.

#2 Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a very effective fighting system used for self-defense and combat training. It was developed in the 1950s and was originally taught to the Israeli Army. The ’70s is when this was introduced to civilians.

This system was created to fight and defend yourself in all situations that come up in this crazy world. When you are attacked, threatened, or harassed this training will use the most effective punches, kicks, elbows, knees, and movement to win.

Krav Maga teaches to first de-escalate and try to walk away from an altercation. Yet if backed into a corner then you need to use what you have learned to win the fight and escape.

Anyone can join Krav Maga because they have classes based on your skill level no matter if you are a new or seasoned fighter.

Let’s look at what martial art should I learn for ground fighting?

#3 Jiu-Jitsu

I believe this is one of the best martial arts in the world to learn self-defense.

This allows you to beat larger opponents than in a normal street fight where most fighters use their fists to try and knock you out.

If you take them to the ground before you get hit and they know nothing about ground fighting then the fight will be over in seconds.

This is the main reason I took my son from the age of 7 years old to 10 years old to train in Jiu-Jitsu.

He would learn techniques that can be used to defend himself in months not years. He could also take someone to the ground that may be bullying him but my son does not have to hurt the bully.

This is because the techniques will allow him to control the bully until the teacher shows up.

Kids and Adults also Benefit In:

  • Self-confidence
  • Strength and agility
  • Helps in teaching you how to solve problems
  • Helps with increasing your competition level
  • Makes you more aware of your body and its capabilities
  • Increases your reflex speed
  • Helps with flexibility

Bullies and Jiu-Jitsu

My son was in 2nd grade and a 4th grader was picking on my son’s friend. My son went up to the 4th grader when they were lining up to go inside and said, “Bully you need to leave my friend alone or there is going to be a problem.”

The bully said. “You are a second grader so leave me alone.”

The 4th grader was much taller than my son but my son did not care because Jiu-Jitsu instilled in him the confidence to stand up to a bully who was harassing his buddy.

I asked my son if he was scared and he said not at all. The confidence of my son together with no fear made this bully realize this was not an easy target.

The bully never bothered my son’s friend ever again.

My son knew if this kid attacked him his Jiu-Jitsu skill was good enough to take him to the ground and hold him till the teacher arrived.

Jiu-Jitsu Guard Control

#4 Muay Thai

I love training in Muay Thai. Personally, I did not train in Thailand under the great Thai masters.

I was taught some of the Muay Thai strikes from training in MMA, Jeet Kune Do, and Krav Maga.

Remember these martial arts take what is useful from other styles to use in their training.

This martial art uses the whole body to fight off attackers or to defend one’s self when needed.

Muay Thai uses fluid and swift motions to strike opponents using the elbow, knee, fist, and feet. You can easily use this martial art for self-defense training or you can also do it to keep in shape.

The rigorous training is one reason many people take this to stay or get into shape.

My hardest training in MMA was when we did Muay Thai drills on the Thai pads. These workouts were exhausting and really increased my fight stamina.

This video below is a pro-Muay Thai fighter in Thailand you would not train this hard unless you become a fighter.

What martial art should I learn if I want a mixture of martial art styles? You would train in MMA or Jeet Kune Do.

#5 Jeet Kune Do

Jeet Kune Do is probably not as well-known as many other martial arts. Bruce Lee developed this form of fighting before he had passed.

I took Jeet Kune Do for 3 years in my early twenties and loved it.  Jeet Kune Do means the way of the intercepting fist.

During the training, we learned how to intercept an opponent’s attack while attacking at the same time. This is not an easy thing to learn but it is really cool when you see practitioners do it.

I know when I trained we would start with learning western boxing and then progress from there to Muay Thai.

Once you were skilled in a certain aspect of the basics of fighting you would be able to learn more techniques for fighting.

I did learn to fight southpaw from taking JKD because the belief was to have your strongest arm and leg upfront to defend and strike.

I am right-handed but have fought southpaw all my life because of JKD training.

This is a great martial art if you like training in multiple styles because JKD takes what is useful and puts it into the training curriculum.

JKD is great training for self-defense the whole basis of the training is to only train in techniques that would be useful in a fight.

#6 Boxing

Boxing is not really considered a martial art but almost every aspect of punching comes from boxing. The jab, rear cross, uppercut, and hook are all keypunches when learning to fight.

Some of the martial arts programs will teach you how to do these punches properly so no need to take a separate boxing class unless you only want to be a boxer.

We teach boxing in our free training videos. It is actually the first part of training is learning to punch properly.

What martial art should I learn to flip people and fight on the ground? You would want to learn Judo or Jiu-Jitsu.

#7 Judo

Judo involves using various moves to lift and flip opponents onto their backs. Once you have them on their back you can perform chokeholds or joint locks to submit the opponent. Judo is a great martial art to learn for self-defense.

Judo does not teach kicking, punching, or striking techniques. If you want to be well-rounded in self-defense you would have to go somewhere else or train online in MMA or Muay Thai to learn to stand up fighting.

I believe in self-defense you need to know how to strike, kick, take an opponent to the ground, do locks, and chokes to truly be able to defend yourself.

Only learning one small piece of fighting or self-defense may one day put you at risk if you fight someone that knows both ground and stand-up fighting.

We offer free fight training, you just need to sign-up.

Traditional Martial Arts

If you are looking for old-school martial arts you may be asking what martial art should I learn? We list below many of the most popular traditional martial arts to study.

#8 Karate

There are different types of karate taught around the world. Most everyone is familiar or has heard of karate at some point in their life.

Here are some different types.

  • Shotokan Karate
  • Uechi Karate
  • Goju Karate
  • Shorin Karate
  • Isshin-Ryu Karate
  • Shito Ryu
  • Kobudo
  • Kempo Karate

Karate people use to strengthen their body and mind. It offers self-confidence while giving deeper insight into you as a person.

The training helps with overall body fitness and the strength of the muscles. Karate will build stamina and quicken your reflexes. You can train on heavy bags or use focus mitts.

Learning Karate will help you as a person to be more respectful and help with self-control.

This art has a variety of techniques you can use to defend yourself including striking, blocking, throws, and joint manipulations.

The Three Aspects of Karate Include:

  • Learn the basics
  • Kata drills (Preset forms that you practice)
  • Kumite (Sparring to increase your fighting skill)

I did take Shorin Karate in my twenties and it was ok but I was looking for a martial art that was more geared towards actual training to fight.

That is when I found a Jeet Kune Do school and joined that to continue my training. Nothing wrong with Karate but it was just not what I wanted to do or how I wanted to train.

What martial art should I learn if I want to learn awesome kicks? That would be TaeKwonDo which is the next style we review.

#9 TaeKwonDo

TaeKwonDo was developed by Korean martial artists. This martial art is characterized by flashy kicks like head-height kicks, jumping, and spinning kicks while utilizing fast kicking techniques.

A Typical Curriculum for Classes and Training

  • Forms – This is a preset way to move while punching and kicking which is very similar to the kata in Karate
  • Sparring – you have point sparring and freestyle sparring
  • Breaking – students train to break boards or bricks
  • Self-defense techniques
  • Right mind – You will learn discipline, respect, and self-confidence
  • Self-Defense/Learn to Fight – Punching, kicking, blocking techniques, throwing and falling techniques are what you can expect to learn

TaeKwonDo is great traditional martial arts and many kids join to train in TaeKwonDo. This is also an Olympic sport which makes it very popular worldwide.

#10 Aikido

The martial art Aikido came from Japan. Aikido teaches strikes, grabs against opponents, defense of students use throws and pins.

Here are Some Techniques you Would Learn in Aikido

  • Front of the head strike knife hand to the nose
  • Side of the head strike knife hand to the head
  • Chest thrust punch to the ribs or stomach
  • Face thrust punch to the face
  • Single hand grabs one hand grabs one wrist
  • Both hands grab both hands grab one wrist
  • Both hands grab both hands grab both wrists
  • Shoulder grab shoulder grab “Both-shoulders-grab”
  • Chest grab grabbing the (clothing) chest

Aikido offers the spiritual, discipline, self-confidence, and respect training many of the other martial arts provide.

This can be used in self-defense but the practicality of it really working against a street fighter or someone with MMA or Jiu-Jitsu training is up for debate.

#11 Kung Fu

Kung Fu is primarily a striking art that uses punching, kicks, and blocks to fight against an attacker. The goal as with most martial arts is to stop an attacker as quickly as possible using the various Kung Fu techniques.

There are hundreds of styles of Kung Fu but here are the most popular styles.

Southern-style Kung Fu you have these popular ones. Southern-style was based on stable stances and short powerful attacks. They focused on the use of arms and full body techniques instead of high flashy kicks. These martial artists trained in short steps for stability but quick movement and close in fighting.

  • Wing Chun
  • Hung Gar
  • Choy Li Fut
  • Southern Praying Mantis

Northern Kung Fu, you would have these styles like the popular ones. The northern style was based on deep postures with quick fluid transition movements. They did leg kicks that were high-flying and acrobatic.

  • Shaolin
  • Monkey Style
  • Eagle Claw
  • Long Fist
  • Northern Praying Mantis

Kung Fu styles can be different so you would need to see what style would best fit you. I trained in JeetKuneDo and many of the hand drills I learned were from Wing Chun since that is what Bruce Lee learned under Yip Man.


If you want to learn how to fight to protect yourself and your family then you should look at training online or at a martial art gym near you. The martial arts we recommend for learning to fight in the street to protect yourself include MMA, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do, Boxing, or Judo.

You may be looking for more traditional martial arts which teach some self-defense and is good for staying in shape, discipline and self-control then you should look at these traditional styles. The styles include Karate, TaeKwonDo, Aikido, and Kung FU.

There are many more martial arts in the world but we wanted to review the most popular giving you some background on which one might fit your needs and wants.

Check out this article on Which Martial Arts is the Most Popular in the World or What is the Best Martial Art for Beginners

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