If you feel that it is the right time to start learning self-defense and improve your physical fitness, you are at the right place because we created a list of best martial arts for real life situations and fitness. Unfortunately, these days having knowledge in combat sports is almost a must because you never know if you will have to defend yourself during your walk home or in a parking lot while walking towards your car. Luckily, people from all over the world have been developing different forms of martial arts for ages and the choice of martial arts is everything but scarce. If you are interested in the easiest way to learn to defend yourself we advise you to take a look at our 7 Easiest Forms of Martial Arts to Learn for Self Defense.
Martial arts and physical fitness go hand in hand because all martial arts combine strength training, conditioning, mobility, agility, flexibility, functional movements and technique. While you are getting better at each one of these aspects, your ability to defend yourself will grow more and more. If you are physically stronger, chances to fight off a bigger opponent are much bigger. When your stamina and agility improve, you have bigger chances of escaping from your attacker. Another outcome of training martial arts will be a perfect body that many people dream about. Physical benefits of martial arts are countless but mental training is often the crucial factor in stressful and dangerous situations.
One of the mental aspects of martial arts is learning how to react “properly” in a life-threatening situation. Fight-or-flight reaction will depend on instincts and experience. While in training, you learn what could happen if someone attacks you and you learn how to respond. Many people who do not have martial arts training often freeze in a critical moment. Martial arts practitioners, on the other hand learn, through sparring and techniques, how to react. As a person who spent quite some time in martial arts, I can definitely say that this is the biggest advantage of practicing martial arts. While for someone else certain situation seems like the end of the world, for you, it will be just another problem that you need to solve.
So, how to choose the most effective martial art? The answer to this question is never simple since most practitioners will be subjective and advise you to join them because their art is “the best one”. In order to compile our list of best martial arts for real life situations and fitness, I used several parameters: effectiveness of techniques, application to real life situations and most frequently recommended styles for real life situations. I looked at the opinions of Reddit and Quora users, Evolve MMA‘s advice as well as personal experience with martial artists from different styles and their experiences in the application of their martial art to real life situations. The ranking of martial arts on this list is random and according to my personal opinion since it is probably impossible to say that one martial art on this list is effective and the other one is not. After all, application to real life situation depends on the situation itself as well as the skill of a person involved.
Now let’s take a look at our list of best martial arts for real life situations and fitness:
While looking for effective martial arts in real life situations you can often come across Aikido. Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba. It is based on movements which redirect the momentum of the opponent’s attack as well as mastering various joint locks and twists. The focus of Aikido training is on inflicting damage on the opponent while receiving minimal damage yourself. This is sometimes crucial in real life situations. When it comes to impact on physical fitness, Aikido is a good choice for those who want to stay in shape but are not keen on hardcore physical workout. Why? Because Aikido places more emphasis on flexibility and endurance rather than strength training. When it comes to the effectiveness of techniques, I have to say that it largely depends on the situation you are in and the level of your knowledge.
We are continuing our list of best martial arts for real life situations and fitness with Taekwondo that is traditional Korean martial art, literally translated as “the way of kicking and punching” and Olympic sport. Taekwondo artists are well known for their fast kicks and good kicking range. This might be exactly what you need in a real life situation: kick, punch and run away. Techniques are pretty effective in real life situations but it might be a good choice to focus on basic and effective techniques rather than fancy, movie-style kicks. Training involves dynamic punching and kicking, strength exercises and stretching. According to a study published in Sports Medicine, Taekwondo practitioners show moderate to high levels of cardio-respiratory fitness, low percentage of body fat and high dynamic upper and lower body strength.
9. Kyokushin Karate
Kyokushin Karate is famous as “the hardest” style of karate. It consists of three sections: technique, form and sparring. Sparring aspect of kyokushin karate is very realistic and applicable to real life situations. It allows kicks to the head, body and legs as well as knee strikes and punches to the body. Strength and effectiveness of Kyokushin punches and kicks are undeniable. Of course, physical fitness naturally accompanies this training regime. Have you ever heard of “100 man kumite”? It is a hardcore version of sparring where one man or a woman does 100 rounds of kumite (sparring) with different opponents where each round lasts for one and a half or two. Don’t worry, your training will probably involve a couple of rounds of sparring but you never know, maybe you will become one of those warriors who have completed this challenge.
8. Krav Maga
Up next on our list of best martial arts for real life situations and fitness is Krav Maga that is one of the best known self defense systems in the world. Literally translated from Hebrew, Krav Maga means “contact fighting” and it is the official self defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces. Krav Maga is focused specifically on survival in dangerous real life situations. Unlike previously mentioned martial arts, Krav Maga has only one rule: do whatever you need to survive. This means that you will learn systematic attacks to the groin, eye gauges and everything else that can quickly disable your attacker. The style itself is adopted to suit every body type so it doesn’t matter if you like Rocky or as a school girl. Techniques are designed to disable your opponent with precise and fast punches and kicks. Since military uses this system, you can assume that it is very beneficial for physical fitness. If you are interested how the training looks like, you can read the article published by Live Strong. You will definitely burn a lot of calories during your Krav Maga workout.
Up till now, our list of 11 best martial arts for real life situations and fitness dealt mostly with striking styles. Wrestling is somewhat different since it involves grappling techniques, clinching, throws, pins and various takedowns. It is one of the oldest combat sports mentioned even in ancient epics such as Iliad, Mahabharata and Ramayana. Despite the fact that wrestling is trained for competitions it can be very effective in real life situations. Well-trained wrestlers can take almost anyone down, especially persons who have no wrestling experience. Wrestlers rely on leverage, explosive power and technical ability to take down the opponent and end up in a superior position. What differentiates wrestlers from the majority of other combat athletes is the strength they develop from wrestling. The pressure they produce would take down any attacker you might encounter in a real life situation.
6. Combat Sambo
Combat Sambo is a Russian martial art designed for the military. It resembles MMA with the exception of allowing headbutts and groin strikes which are forbidden in MMA. Combat Sambo mimics real life situations and it can prepare you to properly respond if you happen to be attacked. It also increases stamina, agility, strength and overall endurance and it is a good choice for those who want to get fit as well as those who prefer hardcore workouts.
Similarly to wrestling, Judo that ranks 5th on our list of best martial arts for real life situations and fitness is also used to take down, pin and immobilize the opponent. A judo throw can often leave your opponent breathless and you can use the opportunity to run off. Judo combines stand up techniques (without strikes) and grappling techniques to effectively immobilize the opponent. While judokas traditionally use gi (blue or white heavy cotton kimono) for training and competitions, grips and techniques can be equally effective in real life situations where everyday clothes can be used as a gi. During competitions, judokas usually have a couple of seconds to submit their opponent by using joint locks or chokes. Just imagine the instinct of such a person when he or she takes someone down on the street! It is important to mention that Judo is a sport for everyone, regardless of their age, gender and body size. Judokas work on their strength every training and you can expect to become much, much stronger with each practice.
This list of best martial arts for real life situations and fitness could not be complete without boxing. You’ve probably heard many stories about people defending themselves with only one punch and this is exactly what boxers do: practice every day to throw that perfect punch. Boxers throw faster and more precise punches than any other martial artists; like Muhammad Ali said: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”. Posture and movement that you learn during boxing practice teach you how to duck opponent’s punches, protect your head and body as well as how to counter strike in a most effective way. You can see one example in this video, where an old man, who happens to be a retired boxer, knocks out two thugs who tried to rob him. Examples like this one are numerous. Boxing is great for your overall fitness as well and while it takes years to reach the level of a professional boxer, it takes only months to take hold of fundamentals.
3. Muay Thai
We are continuing our list of best martial arts for real life situations and fitness with Muay Thai or Thai boxing that is a combat sport that originated in Thailand. Known as “the art of eight limbs” It is characterized by striking techniques which include the use of fists, shins, knees, elbows and clinching. What differentiates Muay Thai from other stand up disciplines is its brutality, especially the usage of elbows which quickly cause a lot of damage. It also involves different ranges which means that you can use kicks and punches and in case that the attacker grabs you, you can use Thai clinch and destroy him with devastating knee blows. Being both, aerobic and anaerobic activity, Muay Thai helps you develop amazing cardio, burn a lot of fat and have stronger core muscles. Like a lot of other martial arts, Thai boxing is a great stress relief. What is better than punching a bag or sparring after a stressful day at work?!
2. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)
While many say that it is the best to keep the altercation standing, this is often not possible and you might find yourself ending up on the ground. Brazilian jiu jitsu that deserved the second place on our list of best martial arts for real life situations and fitness is the martial art which will give you the upper hand in these situations. Sometimes dubbed as “game of human chess”, BJJ forces you to constantly adapt your strategy in accordance with your opponent’s movement just as you would if you were playing chess. Learning how to choke your opponent from any position can save your life on the street. It is important to mention that BJJ was designed in such a way that a smaller and weaker person can successfully defend him/herself against larger and stronger opponent. Article published by Breaking Muscle, explains that BJJ has a positive effect on overall health. Besides improving your fitness and learning self defense, BJJ is a good choice for those who like to keep their minds busy and plot plans how to outsmart their opponents.
Some martial arts that we’ve covered so far are designed for striking, some for takedowns and some for ground control. You are probably wondering if there is any martial art that includes all of these aspects. Yes, there is. It is called Mixed Martial Arts or MMA because it uses techniques from various martial arts and the majority of those are listed on our list of best martial arts for real life situations and fitness. The plus side of MMA, among other things, is that you become a skilled opponent for every attacker, regardless of where the fight takes place. In a real life situation it is crucial to have the ability to defend yourself in every situation from striking to ground fighting. Interestingly enough, MMA fighters have knowledge in judo, boxing, wrestling, Thai boxing and BJJ under their belt and this is the reason they are branded as the most complete and well rounded martial artists on the planet. Training is very demanding, but the reward is definitely worth it.
Hopefully this list of best martial arts for real life situations and fitness will help you to decide to start training one of these amazing martial arts.