What is the Best Self Defense Martial Arts Form?

Brasilian Jiu JitsuMartial arts provide many benefits to students. The martial arts improve physical and mental health. They also promote discipline and regular practice. Serious students develop improved strength, flexibility, and stamina. These are all excellent reasons to begin training, but they aren’t the primary reason students choose martial arts. After all, you don’t go to the dojo for just a nice workout. Ostensibly, all martial arts students want skills they can use for self defense.

Not all martial arts offer these skills, though. While you may learn to throw a punch into a bag without breaking your wrist, disciplines like Tae Kwon Do and boxing are designed for competition. Your teachers are unlikely to show you how to use these skills in a real life self defense situation. Assuming a saddle stance and following your most advanced kata won’t save you in an emergency.

Every martial art has its uses, but those who want to learn a discipline for self defense must choose more carefully than most. There are a number of combat martial arts emerging in today’s competitions, such as Krav Maga, that develop amazing self defense skills. The only problem is that most of these emerging martial arts do not have many schools. It can be difficult or impossible to find a school within a reasonable traveling distance of your home. We’ve taken this into consideration when making our selection.

The best, readily accessible martial art for self defense is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This martial art builds on a classic martial art by introducing new techniques and training methods to prepare students for no holds barred fights. Its history, use and even its introduction to the UFC ring prove this discipline is for more than fitness.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


Brasilian Jiu JitsuBrazilian Jiu Jitsu is literally a martial art made for the little guy. Any situation that requires self defense almost exclusively assumes that you, the victim, are at a disadvantage. Maybe your attacker is armed. Maybe your attacker is bigger than you are. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu uses the classic principles of Jiu Jitsu, such as using your opponent’s size and weight against them. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu builds on these principles. It’s a far more rough-and-tumble martial art than traditional Jiu Jitsu, but self defense is rarely elegant. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is perfectly adapted to fighting in self defense.

Historic Uses of Jiu Jitsu in Self Defense

One of the most surprising uses of Jiu Jitsu for self defense comes from the English Women’s Suffrage movement in the early 1900’s. The women demonstrating for their right to vote, suffragettes, practiced an altered method of Jiu Jitsu. They used these skills to fight back against police during rallies and to protect vulnerable leaders. It’s a testament to Jiu Jitsu’s effectiveness that it worked for fighters who were essentially all smaller than their opponents. During the suffragette’s era, women wore long, hampering dresses with tight fits and restrictive undergarments which further hampered their movements. Suffragettes used weapons of convenience such as umbrellas and small, easily hidden clubs against trained police armed with patrol weapons.

This historical footnote is an excellent demonstration of Jiu Jitsu’s potential. In another part of the world, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was just beginning to form. Like those who began Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the Suffragettes took advantage of Jiu Jitsu’s previously undeveloped street fighting potential. Rather than restricting the discipline’s dynamic-shifting moves with codes and rules, these people took their classical Jiu Jitsu skills and expanded on them. The history of Jiu Jitsu just goes to show that this classical martial art has always been poised to grow into a surprising self defense measure.

Development of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brasilian Jiu JitsuJiu Jitsu, or Judo, began in Japan. It was designed as a non-combative form of sparring and often appeared in competitions. Eventually, a man named Mitsuyo Maeda learned the style. He originally learned  and mastered the classic form of Jiu Jitsu. It didn’t take long before he began touring internationally, winning title after title. He fought and won over one thousand “free fights.” A “free fight” is a no holds barred fight in which punching and kicking are allowed. The variety of challenges he faced and his extensive expertise in “free fights” helped Maeda develop a new version of Jiu Jitsu. Unlike the classic practice of Jiu Jitsu, this form lent itself to self defense and street fighting.

Eventually, Mitsuyo Maeda’s travels brought him to Brazil. He settled there and opened a school for Jiu Jitsu. His best student was a man named Carlos Gracie. Gracie went on to found his own martial arts academy. The school became an important part of the Gracie family legacy. They issued regular challenges for no holds barred fights in order to develop and hone their skills. The family’s academy is still in operation today.

The rest of the world began to learn about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when members of the Gracie family emigrated out of Brazil. The Gracie family began competing in UFC tournaments in the early 1990’s. When the Gracie family brought their style to the ring, they dominated the competition. The style’s effectiveness against other disciplines changed the way fighters trained. Today, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighters train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If they do not, they face an extreme disadvantage in the ring.

Final Thoughts

Martial arts developed for military use may give students a particular edge in a fight, but teachers are difficult to find. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu uses the core of classic Jiu Jitsu, but it’s adapted for individual street fighting. It’s been used historically for self defense against stronger, more heavily armed opponents. The style came from a master martial artist’s unique experience from no holds barred fights around the world. He used this technique to achieve flawless victory, and his student continued to advance the style through constant practice and challenges. It’s difficult to find a martial art with such a driven history of innovation and improvement, especially with such practical goals. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is by far the average student’s best choice for self defense.


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