Which Martial Art Should You Learn?

October 27, 2022

Martial arts call us for various reasons. Whether you were bullied when you were younger, you want to develop confidence in any situation you’re in, you just love competing, or you want to learn how to defend yourself, there is a martial art for you.

If you want to learn to strike, then you should learn Muay Thai as it has the most technical striking options. For grappling, BJJ is your best option to learn due to its ease of finding gyms. If you want to dabble in both striking and grappling, then MMA is your martial art to learn. For pure self defense, Krav Maga is your best option to learn.

In order to be able to choose which martial art suits you, we will need to give a thorough breakdown of each martial art to see which suits you best to begin learning.

Each martial art will have a video link below so if you’re not sure what is involved, you can see for yourself!

Table of Contents

Should You Learn MMA?

What Is MMA?

MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, is the newest evolution of martial arts. It was started by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to decipher the age old question… Which martial art is the best?

So fighters from all different martial arts disciplines came to fight in a tournament format in the early 1990s.

While the question was answered (at that time, it was BJJ), the UFC and MMA has evolved into its own style of fighting. It is no longer about pitting fighters from two separate martial arts disciplines to see who is best.

It is about who has blended all of the martial arts together most effectively. While some fighters will have stronger backgrounds in striking or grappling, all MMA athletes will need to be proficient at both at a relatively high level.

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How To Get Started Learning MMA

There are two ways you can get started in MMA. A direct and an indirect approach. The direct approach would be to join an MMA gym and start training MMA style striking and grappling.

The indirect approach would be to start either a striking or grappling martial art and becoming competent enough to compete then transition to MMA so you focus time on developing good fundamentals in one area.

The indirect approach allows you to focus on one area of MMA so you can progress faster than if you were to spread out your training week over multiple disciplines.

Is MMA Good For Self Defense?

MMA is a great option for self defense as you won’t be overwhelmed wherever the confrontation ends up with regards to hand to hand combat. You will be well versed standing up at both range and close distance as well as on the ground through MMA style grappling.

Because MMA is always fought no gi, as in with no uniform, you’ll be prepared when having to grab and control someone with minimal clothing.

Can You Compete Regularly In MMA?

As MMA has become more mainstream, there are many different amateur and professional promotions. In every state there are small events run by local MMA organisations where you can fight as an amateur or professional.

Can You Make A Living With MMA?

Yes, and a pretty good one if you’re some of the best in the world. The UFC, Bellator, and One Championship are all professional organisations that have hundreds of MMA fighters on their roster that essentially train and fight full-time.

However, it’s not an easy road to get there and even when you get your first professional fight, you will still need to work to make a living.

Who Is MMA Best Suited For?

MMA suits an individual who either:

  1. Wants to compete in MMA,
  2. Wants to learn striking and grappling but doesn’t want to take up and pay for two separate martial arts,
  3. Doesn’t mind being punched or kicked,
  4. Doesn’t mind having others in your personal space.

Pros And Cons Of MMA


  • Plenty of professional and amateur organizations so you can compete regularly.
  • Learn both striking and grappling.
  • Be comfortable in different self-defense situations whether it’s at a distance or close quarters.


  • With so much to learn, progress can be slow.

Should You Learn Boxing?

What Is Boxing?

Boxing has been practiced for centuries. In fact, the earliest depiction of boxing dates back to approximately 1350 BC.  It is the purest form of fist fighting. It is fought at both the amateur and professional levels with the top of the amateur ranks competing at the Olympic Games.

Amateur and professional boxing are almost two different sports where amateur boxing is fought with headgear and larger gloves over three rounds. Professional boxing on the other hand has no headgear and smaller gloves and is fought over ten to twelve rounds.

Boxing could be considered the ultimate mastery of throwing a punch.

How To Get Started Learning Boxing?

The first thing to do is to find a reputable boxing gym. Many of your Google searches will bring up fitness style boxing classes and gyms. You want to avoid those by any means possible if your goal is to learn how to box.

These are usually easy to spot as they have commercial gym titles and their schedule reflects fitness classes rather than technical boxing.

If you are unsure of which gyms are appropriate for you, you can ask on boxing related forums such as Reddit.

Once you’ve nailed down a few gyms, most will have a free trial class that you can take advantage to see which one you like best.

Don’t try to teach yourself. Bad habits you learn on your own become much harder to unlearn compared to learning it correctly from the beginning.

Instead, to start conditioning your body for rigorous boxing training, start learning to jump rope to condition your feet and legs.

Is Boxing Good For Self Defense?

The great benefit to learning boxing is you have a singular focus. And that is throwing hands. You become a master at throwing punches and positioning yourself to evade punches.

99% of street fights start with fists. Having a solid background in boxing will help you pick up subtle cues that an aggressor may show before throwing a punch at you.

As most of these wild punches are haymakers, you should be able to see them coming quickly compared to the average joe and take appropriate action.

Can You Compete Regularly In Boxing?

Boxing events are common in all areas of the world. Most gyms will also have in house competitions to give their fighters some experience.

As with all striking based martial arts, competing cannot be done as regularly as grappling due to the damage to the head.

Can You Make A Living With Boxing?

If you do well enough in the amateur boxing scene, you could work to become a member of your National boxing team to compete internationally. However, this often doesn’t provide a living unless you fight for a country with heavily funds their Olympic sports such as many of the old USSR countries.

If you’re good enough to transition to professional boxing, there are plenty of opportunities to start making some real prize money.

Who Boxing Is Best Suited For?

Boxing is best suited for those who want a singular focus. Those that want to master one area of martial arts to the highest degree.

Due to the large number of blows received to the head during training and competition, those who don’t mind the potential risk of brain damage would do well in boxing.

Pros And Cons Of Boxing


  • Plenty of opportunities to compete.
  • Master the ability to throw hands and defend yourself against punches.


  • Potentially more damage to the brain due to the head and body being the only targets.

Should You Learn Kickboxing?

What Is Kickboxing?

Kickboxing is the art of 4 limbs. As the name suggests, you’re able to throw punches and kicks. Some organisations allow the use of knees such as Glory Kickboxing.

Compared to boxing, kickboxing is a relatively new martial art where American kickboxing originated in America in the 1970s.

Bouts are three to five rounds for amateurs and three to ten rounds for professionals with each round lasting two to three minutes.

There are many different rule sets that you can choose to compete in such as full contact, point fighting, and light contact. Depending on the level of contact you’re okay with, there is a kickboxing style that fits you.

How To Get Started Learning Kickboxing?

Finding a kickboxing gym can be more difficult that pure boxing gyms depending where in the world you live.

Like boxing, you should steer clear of commercial kickboxing classes that are geared towards fitness. Using forums such as Reddit can help you identify good kickboxing gyms in your area.

Take advantage of the free trial classes to find out which gym you like best. I would refrain from buying any equipment until you talk with your instructor and find out what is necessary and best for you as a beginner.

To start preparing you for class, start performing hip mobility exercises and jumping rope as you’ll need the flexibility and foot and leg conditioning.

Don’t try and teach yourself, the bad habits your ingrain are difficult to change.

Is Kickboxing Good For Self Defense?

Kickboxing is a great martial art for self defense as it gives you two more options that boxing. Not only can you throw hands and read an opponent doing the same, but you have the option of devastating leg, body, and head kicks.

Kicks allow you to keep distance from any attackers so they are out of range to punch you which can serve you at great advantage to protecting yourself.

Can You Compete Regularly In Kickboxing?

There are plenty of opportunities to compete in kickboxing at the amateur and professional level. Not as much as boxing but enough to have you competing regularly.

Can You Make A Living With Kickboxing?

At the amateur level, you can represent your country at WAKO kickboxing world championships if you are selected by your country. These events seem to be dominated by European countries.

Many countries may not even have a National kickboxing team.

Unfortunately, drawing a full-time living through amateur kickboxing is unlikely as it is not an Olympic sport like boxing is.

However, professional kickboxers can make a great living if signed to a premier organisation like Glory, Bellator, K1, or ONE Championship to name a few.

Who Kickboxing Is Best Suited For?

Kickboxing is best suited for those who want a more well-rounded striking skill set. The amateur level of kickboxing isn’t well funded or well represented by some countries so those wanting to compete at a high level would have to want to eventually fight professionally or transition to other martial arts such as MMA.

Pros And Cons Of Kickboxing


  • A more well-rounded striking skill set.
  • A great skill set to learn before transitioning to MMA.


  • Not as big of a competitive amateur scene as boxing.

Should You Learn Muay Thai?

What Is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is the National sport of Thailand. It is rooted in tradition from the way they enter the ring, the music, the way a bout is fought, to the wagering by the crowd.

It is known as the art of 8 limbs. Meaning punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. Muay Thai also allows clinching and sweeps making it a useful striking art of fighting at all ranges.

It was established in the 16th century for hand to hand combat in the Thai army. It evolved over time into an official sport in the 19th century.

As it has grown in popularity, there are more than 3,800 Muay Thai gyms around the world.

How To Get Started Learning Muay Thai?

As with all martial arts, it starts with finding a gym that teaches Muay Thai. As Muay Thai has grown in popularity, there are more Muay Thai gyms than there used to be 10 years ago.

Ideally, you would find a pure Muay Thai gym to give you the best instruction and the most number of class options to fit around your schedule.

I would wait to learn from your instructor before trying to learn the techniques yourself as changing bad habits is more difficult than learning the techniques correctly the first time.

To prepare yourself for class, hip and shoulder mobility exercises are a must. Further, jumping rope and conditioning the upper body for clinching through various pull-up variations can help prepare you for what will come in class.

Is Muay Thai Good For Self Defense?

Muay Thai is great for self defense. Mainly because of the vast number of striking options you have. In fact, if you were to pick one striking art to start with, I would pick Muay Thai.

With kicks such as the teep that allow you to keep plenty of distance to fighting in the clinch along with sweeps and elbows if you’re in close quarters makes sure you are equipped to handle most situations.

Can You Compete Regularly In Muay Thai?

Competing regularly in Muay Thai may be more difficult than boxing or kickboxing when outside of Thailand due to having less opportunity for competition. You may have to compete in kickboxing events to gain more experience.

Regarding the amount of damage you may take in a fight, you won’t be competing as regularly as grapplers do. And you’ll likely take more damage than a boxer would.

However, if you fight amateur Muay Thai, you will have headgear, shin, and elbow pads. While this may protect you from cuts, it won’t protect you from contusions and potential damage to the brain which is why you may not be able to compete as often.

Can You Make A Living With Muay Thai?

As the popularity of Muay Thai rises, professional Muay Thai is being fought outside of Thailand. ONE Championship showcases professional Muay Thai bouts inside their circular cage so there is opportunity to make a living from Muay Thai if you have the skills.

Who Muay Thai Is Best Suited For?

The art of 8 limbs is best suited for those who want to learn a martial art that makes use of almost every weapon available on your body.

For those wanting to learn a striking martial art for self defense, Muay Thai is your best bet due to its wide array of techniques that can keep distance or deal with attackers in close proximity.

Pros And Cons Of Muay Thai


  • Fight viciously at all ranges
  • Learn to keep distance from attackers through kicking techniques
  • Master striking techniques using 8 points of contact instead of 2 or 4.


  • Smaller amateur and professional competitive scene.

Should You Learn Lethwei?

What Is Lethwei?

Lethwei is Muay Thai on steroids. Lethwei originates from Myanmar as a hand to hand combat system for the Burmese soldiers to defend themselves.

What makes lethwei so different to other martial arts? It allows headbutts. Just like the old UFC events. Further, lethwei isn’t scored using a points system. It is scored as a ‘last man standing’ system meaning you can only win by KO or TKO.

Lethwei is known as the art of 9 limbs making it similar to Muay Thai with exception to the headbutts. Further, lethwei allows grappling techniques such as the suplex. To make the sport even more ruthless, it is fought bareknuckle.

It is fought over a maximum of five rounds until an opponent cannot continue. If they both go the distance, the fight is declared a draw.

How To Get Started Learning Lethwei?

Honestly, unless you are in Myanmar or are lucky enough to join David Leduc (Lethwei champion) during one of his retreats or seminars, then you won’t find good instruction or any instruction elsewhere.

Soon, David Leduc will release an online course which may be great for learning the fundamentals, you will struggle to compete in the sport.

Is Lethwei Good For Self Defense?

Lethwei is great for self defense. It’s like having most of the benefits from Muay Thai while including headbutts and some grappling.

This makes it great for a messy street fight if things get into really close quarter combat.

Can You Compete Regularly In Lethwei?

Unfortunately no, lethwei competitions are rare. If you wanted to compete regularly, you’d have to look to fight Muay Thai or Kickboxing to gain experience competing.

Can You Make A Living With Lethwei?

David Leduc is an outlier regarding his success in lethwei. He’s the only foreigner to take over the sport of lethwei in Myanmar and be able to fight professionally.

Only recently has lethwei made its way into a professional format in the USA but there is a long way to go before there is any real organisation that can pay you a full time living.

Here are the only 9 countries to have hosted a professional lethwei fight:

  • Myanmar
  • Slovakia
  • Singapore
  • Japan
  • Thailand
  • Taiwan
  • England
  • USA
  • New Zealand

Who Lethwei Is Best Suited For?

Lethwei is best suited for the craziest martial artists among us. The unique rule sets and striking techniques make it more brutal than any other martial art so you need a little crazy to take part in lethwei.

Pros And Cons Of Lethwei


  • The most versatile striking art taking advantage of 8 limbs plus headbutts and some grappling.


  • The most brutal martial art can lead to injuries and a short career.
  • Not very mainstream so no gyms or regular competitions.

Should You Learn Karate?

What Is Karate?

Karate originates from Japan approximately 500 years ago. Karate comes in two forms, kata and kumite. Kata means form and is a choreographed sequence of karate movements.

Kumite is sparring which can range from full contact to point fighting depending on the organisation. It involves various punches and kicks to beat an opponent.

As a traditional martial art, it has a belt ranking system. Each rank represents a different level of karateka. Within karate, there are different styles such as Wado-Ryu and Shotokan.

How To Get Started Learning Karate?

As karate is a relatively old martial art, you shouldn’t have any problems finding a dojo. You will need to learn both kata and kumite to level up the belt ranking system. However, when it comes to competition, you will be able to choose which discipline you want to compete in.

This should come into your decision when choosing a dojo to call your second home. Some dojos will have sensei’s that specialise in kata while others will have sensei’s that specialise in kumite. Some will have an equal combination of both.

Those dojos with sensei’s that specialise in kata or kumite are likely to spend more time teaching that discipline so if you want to compete in one or the other, it would be good to know which way the dojo leans.

You will also need to invest in a karate gi. Some gyms may even have promotions where if you sign up you get a free gi so look around.

Is Karate Good For Self Defense?

While karate is a great martial art, other striking arts are potentially better for self defense situations. Karate is slowly moving away from full contact competition and uses semi contact or point fighting as their main form of competition.

Sadly, these don’t translate well to real world situations when you need to inflict damage.

Can You Compete Regularly In Karate?

When you become part of a club, you will be able to compete in regular club competitions and National events. If you have a competitive streak in you, Karate is a great option as you have the competition to make your way up the ranking system and to win club competitions.

Can You Make A Living With Karate?

Unfortunately, Karate is a completely amateur sport. Karateka do it for the love. Only at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics has Karate been accepted in their long fought battle to be included. That means the highest level you can compete are World Championship events for your country which unfortunately don’t draw a salary.

However, a newly formed organisation Karate Combat allows karateka to fight in a modified rule set where they can be fully professional fighters.

Who Karate Is Best Suited For?

Karate is best suited for those wanting to partake in a traditional striking art. If your goal is to compete in combat that is less brutal regarding contact, then karate may be your best option. Those who want to avoid contact altogether can opt to only compete in kata making karate a versatile martial art.

Pros And Cons Of Karate


  • Learn the roots of striking that have influenced martial arts such as kickboxing
  • Develop the ability to use speed to your advantage to move in and out and not get hit.


  • May not be as effective during self defense as other striking arts.

Should You Learn Taekwondo?

What Is Taekwondo?

Taekwondo originates from Korea and dates back to 50 BC. Tae means kick, kwon means punch, and do means a way of doing things. Essentially, Taekwondo is a way of kicking and punching. With a heavy emphasis on kicking.

While Karate and Taekwondo may seem similar to the naked eye, Taekwondo is much more kick heavy than Karate. As Taekwondo has evolved into what it is today, there are 3200 techniques that can be used.

Like Karate, Taekwondo has a sparring and a patterns discipline. They also have a breaking discipline in competition where various boards are broken using different techniques. Patterns are choreographed Taekwondo movements similar to a Karate kata. Whereas sparring is either point sparring or full contact.

There are three main Taekwondo federations:

WTF: Olympic style that emphasises kicks over punches.

ITF: Traditional style placing more emphasis on fists over kicks.

ATA: A hybrid of the WTF and ITF that emphasises kicks over punches and is mainly performed in the USA.

How To Get Started Learning Taekwondo?

You will need to go through the same process finding a Taekwondo dojo as you would a Karate dojo. You will need to dabble in all disciplines of Taekwondo to see which aspect you like best. Many Taekwondo athletes will compete in multiple disciplines but specialise in one.

Due to the high mobility requirements of Taekwondo, start preparing your lower body for the extreme movements. Long duration isometrics at long muscle lengths such as deep split squats can help with your hip mobility.

You will need to invest in a dobok and gloves if you’re sparring. Your sensei at your dojo will be able to help you with that.

Is Taekwondo Good For Self Defense?

Taekwondo has a wide range of devastating kicking techniques. If you’re able to keep at range, these can be great for self defense as it keeps you out of range from your attacker’s strikes.

To the untrained, your attacker won’t see any of your attacks coming as Taekwondo kicks come from all different angles and fast.

If your attacker is able to close the distance however, you may be in a little trouble.

Can You Compete Regularly In Taekwondo?

There are regular competitions for Taekwondo. Many clubs will hold competitions where you can test your skills and you also have grading’s for moving up the belt ranks.

Countries will also host annual National championships where you can represent your club.

Can You Make A Living With Taekwondo?

Taekwondo is a fully amateur sport. If you practise the Olympic variation of Taekwondo, then your country may support you financially if they fund the sport. However, this is few and far between so you will be doing Taekwondo for the love of it.

However, the skills you learn in Taekwondo and the dexterity you develop in your legs translates well to other striking arts and MMA.

Who Taekwondo Is Best Suited For?

Those who want to master various kicking techniques will love Taekwondo. If learning to punch isn’t a major priority and you love to do damage with the legs, then take up Taekwondo.

Pros And Cons Of Taekwondo


  • Master multiple effective kicking techniques.
  • Unparalleled development of leg dexterity.


  • Kick heavy martial art so developing kicks is prioritized over effective hands.

Should You Learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

What Is BJJ?

BJJ originated from Japanese Jujutsu as was Judo. But it wasn’t until Judo was brought to Brazil that BJJ was formed. The Gracie’s turned traditional Judo into a martial art that focuses more on the ground than the throws.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu didn’t become mainstream popular until 1993 after UFC 1 when Royce Gracie won the tournament style competition in his gi against multiple opponents from different martial arts backgrounds.

Since then, BJJ has exploded with gyms opening all over the world making the sport even more accessible. It has evolved into various no-gi styles and competitions formats such as EBI and Combat Jiu-Jitsu.

BJJ primarily focuses on groundwork with positional control and submissions. The standup part of BJJ is only a small portion of BJJ training unless you are training for a more wrestling centric competition such as the ADCC.

How To Get Started Learning BJJ?

Finding a good BJJ gym can be difficult. It’s important that you use the free trial class to suss out the vibe of the gym, if you like how the professor structures the class, if it’s a gym that trains for specific competitions such as IBJJF or no gi such as 10th Planet, and if there’s friendly students!

In my experience, asking on Reddit for gyms that train for competitions in your area is the best way to get great recommendations.

Some gyms will even have promotions to get a free gi when you sign up. You also need to decide if you want to join a no gi only gym such as 10th Planet or a traditional BJJ gym that does both.

If you want to focus on BJJ, in my opinion a gym that does both is best. If you want to use BJJ to transition into MMA, then you may want to join a no gi only BJJ gym.

You will not be able to start learning BJJ on your own, you really need instruction from a professor. When you are starting out, if there are not many gyms in your area, even a purple belt can be high enough level to teach you effectively.

Is BJJ Good For Self Defense?

The premise behind BJJ is that size doesn’t matter. To a certain extent, this is true. Royce Gracie made this apparent in the first UFC event.

BJJ works against individuals on all sizes because of leverage. You learn to be able to execute techniques with minimal effort. This is what makes BJJ such a great self defense system. Additionally, BJJ teaches you how to completely control another human being from the bottom or the top position.

You are also armed with multiple submissions to either choke someone unconscious, or do damage to limbs incapacitating your attacker.

The other benefit of BJJ for self defense is you’re not going to risk killing someone. If throwing a punch, there is a risk you knock the attacker out and their head hits the pavement. There have been many stories of people dying from the impact on the ground.

Instead, BJJ is the ‘gentle’ art and allows you to subdue an attacker without harm.

Can You Compete Regularly In BJJ?

There is an abundance of BJJ and grappling competitions in the USA and around the world. With many different organisations such as IBJJF, NAGA, and streamed organisations such as Polaris, and EBI means you can compete at many different levels.

As grappling doesn’t come with the same damage that is inflicted when striking, you can compete every month if you like.

Can You Make A Living With BJJ?

BJJ has exploded in popularity as it gains more TV time on platforms such as UFC Fight Pass and Flograppling. Because of this, top level BJJ athletes have made a full-time living not just from competitions, but from seminars and digital courses they’ve been able to create from their domination in the sport.

This has given birth to the professional BJJ practitioner. With the rise of Combat Jiu-Jitsu, EBI, and other professional BJJ organisations, pay checks are only getting bigger and bigger.

Who BJJ Is Best Suited For?

BJJ is best suited for those with a competitive streak. Who are patient and love the art of grappling. If you love being able to go hard during training without the risk of head injury, then BJJ is the perfect martial art for you.

I would recommend starting BJJ as your first martial art if you are going down the grappling route. It takes years to learn so becoming competent now can set you up nicely if you want to transition to MMA or other grappling arts.

Pros And Cons Of BJJ


  • Allows you to train hard often without the high risk of injury
  • A lot of competitions for those with a competitive streak.
  • Great for self-defense.


  • Lacks a strong wrestling foundation so can feel unprepared while standing up against good wrestlers.

Should You Learn Judo?

What Is Judo?

Like BJJ, Judo originated from Japanese Jujutsu. It was developed for Samurai to be able to throw and joint lock armored opponents.

Judo was then “modernized” once the Samurai were no more in order to spread it to the masses. Since then, it has become an Olympic sport since 1964.

Unlike BJJ, Judo is primarily focused on the throw from standing. Making a perfect throw can win you a match instantly. Groundwork will only be necessary if the throw isn’t perfect.

How To Get Started Learning Judo?

Finding your local Judo gym shouldn’t be too difficult especially since it is an Olympic sport. You will need to invest in a judogi so you have the correct uniform.

You will likley be able to buy a belt from your instructor. Using relevant forums such as Reddit will give you a feel for the best gyms in your area.

Is Judo Good For Self Defense?

If you can translate throws from a gi to no gi, then Judo can be a vicious self defense method. Slamming an attacker onto concrete can end anyone’s day or night. Obviously, this isn’t exactly fool proof as this can potentially be fatal.

Not to mention you have to be close enough to throw an attacker meaning you are in range to be struck.

Can You Compete Regularly In Judo?

Judo has regular competition as it is an Olympic sport. Meaning many countries host regular regional or state competitions where you can compete for your club.

If you show you are good enough, you may even be able to represent your country.

Can You Make A Living With Judo?

Judo is an Olympic sport and in certain countries, you will be able to make a full-time living training and competing in Judo. However, there is no professional organisation of Judo and no organisations willing to pay prize money as a way to promote professional Judo.

Who Judo Is Best Suited For?

Judo suits those who have aspirations to compete at a high level such as Olympic or World. It’s a martial art that doesn’t have much exposure outside of the Olympics. Those who want to take up a martial art for the health and fitness benefits, other grappling arts may be better options.

While Ronda Rousey managed to translate Judo into MMA, MMA has evolved since her domination and may not translate as well now. Especially against those with a strong striking or BJJ background.

If you love the different styles of throws, and other forms or martial arts don’t excite you like throws do, then Judo is right up your alley.

Pros And Cons Of Judo


  • Master the throws giving you a big advantage when standing up against untrained individuals.
  • An Olympic sport for those striving to reach the top.


  • May not translate to no gi
  • May be vulnerable on the ground.

Should You Learn Sambo?

What Is Sambo?

So you want some Russian influence in the martial art you learn? Sambo comes in many forms but most popular are combat and sport Sambo.

The sport of Sambo resembles a combination of wrestling and Judo. In fact, if you look at the uniform worn during a Sambo match, the upper body is covered in a Judo like gi named the kurtaka while the lower body requires wrestling style shorts.

Sambo is an acronym for a phrase that means “self defense without weapons” which originated in the 20th century as the hand to hand combat discipline for the Soviet Union Red Army.

Combat Sambo is similar to MMA (maybe better described as lethwei with grappling) as it allows groin kicks, head butting, and elbows and knees.

Sport Sambo more closely resembles Judo and wrestling which allows various leg locks. Essentially, it’s like reverse Judo. Judo’s focus is on the throw. Sambo’s focus is on the submission as it allows more time to work on the ground.

Did you know UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov has a Sambo background?

How To Get Started Learning Sambo?

If you’re not in Russia or the surrounding counties, learning Sambo is very difficult. If you’re lucky, you may find some Russian expat in your city that has started his own Sambo gym. If not, unfortunately you’re out of luck in regard to learning Sambo.

Is Sambo Good For Self Defense?

Sambo is great for self defense as a grappling art which also teaches some striking. It’s not limited to just the throws or just the ground game, it teaches both to a high level meaning you will be very effective in both scenarios.

If you have the opportunity to learn Sambo, take it over Judo or wrestling if your main goal is self defense.

Can You Compete Regularly In Sambo?

Unless you’re in Russia, you won’t have much opportunity to compete in Sambo. It is a very niche martial art from the Soviet Union area.

Can You Make A Living With Sambo?

It seems like combat Sambo is looking to expand its professional league which means there may be more opportunity in the future.

In the meantime, being outside of Russia means you will not be able to make a full-time living with Sambo.

Who Sambo Is Best Suited For?

If you are able to learn Sambo, it is best suited for those who want to learn a martial art that many others don’t know. It’s also great for those who want to learn various grappling techniques that blend Judo, wrestling, and BJJ.

Pros And Cons Of Sambo


  • Master the throws giving you a big advantage when standing up against untrained individuals.
  • An Olympic sport for those striving to reach the top.


  • May not translate to no gi
  • May be vulnerable on the ground.

Should You Learn Wrestling?

What Is Wrestling?

Wrestling is one of the oldest forms of combat sports. Evidence of wrestling dates back to 15,000 years ago making it one of the purest forms of grappling competition to test yourself against another opponent.

There are two styles of wrestling and both are in the Olympic Games, Greco Roman and Freestyle. Freestyle wrestling is considered the more explosive style while Greco Roman is more “grinding.” Freestyle wrestling allows both upper and lower body techniques to take an opponent down while Greco Roman only allows upper body techniques.

How To Get Started Learning Wrestling?

Many start their wresting careers at high school and college in the USA. In Europe, wrestling is in the sporting clubs leading to their National teams.

Outside of these areas, pure wrestling instruction can be harder to find especially in countries that don’t have a rich history of the sport.

Many MMA and BJJ gyms will teach wrestling as part of their curriculum. However, this is wrestling modified to benefit these sports.

If you do find a wrestling gym, it’d make a great supplemental martial art to add to your grappling or MMA base. It would also make a good supplement to your striking training if self defense is your main priority.

To prepare yourself for wrestling, start hitting the gym. Much of the success in wrestling can be predicted by strength showing its importance in the sport.

Is Wrestling Good For Self Defense?

Wrestling is great to be able to take an attacker down and control from top position. However, you are vulnerable when standing and striking and if you land in bottom position. Wrestlers are trained to fight from top position.

Further, wrestling focuses on pinning an opponent which is great for controlling an attacker. However, submissions are not taught so finishing an altercation can be difficult compared to other martial arts.

For these reasons, I don’t think wrestling is a great self defense martial art.

Can You Compete Regularly In Wrestling?

If you’re in the USA, you can and will compete very regularly if you are part of the school system. You will learn about weight cutting and how to wrestle at maximum intensity every weekend.

If you’re in a country where wrestling competitions are rare, you can potentially compete in no gi grappling tournaments by adding some submissions into your game.

Can You Make A Living With Wrestling?

If you reach the Olympic level, your country may support you financially. Other than that, it’s a purely amateur endeavour. Making a living from wrestling may mean making a transition into MMA which has been done successfully by many high level wrestlers.

Who Wrestling Is Best Suited For?

Those who have a strong physical advantage over the average person is best suited for wrestling. Strength is of major importance to wrestling so being strong gives you a huge advantage over your competition.

Pros And Cons Of Wrestling


  • Learn to takedown and control an opponent like no other grappling art.


  • Lacking techniques to defend yourself off your back.

Should You Learn Krav Maga?

What Is Krav Maga?

Krav Maga isn’t considered a martial art. But I thought I’d add it anyway as it is often brought up as an option to learn when it comes to combat.

Krav Maga originated in Slovakia in the early 1900s and translates to “close combat.” It was developed as a way for the Jewish community to protect themselves from anti-Semitic groups.

The basics of Krav Maga are built on immediate counterattacks. The creator Imi Lichtenfeld soon brought Krav Maga to the Israeli military system as their self defense system.

Krav Maga has continued to grow into a full blown self defense system with special focus on techniques to incapacitate or kill an attacker.

How To Get Started Learning Krav Maga?

While Krav Maga might be niche like Sambo, it has moved worldwide with gyms in many countries. You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a gym in your area.

Be prepared to learn more than just hand to hand combat. You’ll also learn knife, gun, and other weapon defense.

Is Krav Maga Good For Self Defense?

Krav Maga is a purely self defense combat art. In that regard, if your main goal is to learn self defense only, the Krav Maga might be your choice.

Practising Krav Maga live is near impossible due to the techniques and weapons meaning if you want some real world combat experience, you may have to take up a striking art along side it.

Can You Compete Regularly In Krav Maga?

Krav Maga isn’t a sport. Which means there is no such thing as a Krav Maga competition. If you want to compete in a combat sport, then you’ll need to pick something different.

Can You Make A Living With Krav Maga?

Unless you are a Krav Maga instructor, you can’t make a professional living doing Krav Maga.

Who Krav Maga Is Best Suited For?

For those who are purely concerned with self defense techniques, then Krav Maga is for you.

Pros And Cons Of Krav Maga


  • A combat system designed for self-defense and dealing damage.


  • It is not a martial art or sport so you cannot compete in Krav Maga.

Which Martial Art Should You Learn?

As you can tell, you have many options to choose from. For striking enthusiasts that want to learn for self defense, then Muay Thai is your best option. For those wanting to learn a single skill, then boxing is a good option.

If you want to go the traditional route, then Karate or Taekwondo are both good choices. For the grapplers, BJJ is your best bet with its great skillset for self defense and its ability to translate to MMA.

If you want to learn both grappling and striking, MMA and Sambo are your options and will be dictated by what’s available in your area. However, I would advise learning a pure striking or grappling art before learning MMA.s

For those looking purely for self defense, the Krav Maga system was developed purely for this purpose.

About the author 

James de Lacey

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international level teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your combat training.


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