Imagine getting a call to be an expert guest on a national TV show to help viewers deal with their fear of being attacked by criminals taking advantage of the Defund the Police movement. 

The reporter says, “Gun sales are at an all-time high, but you don’t always have a gun with you when you need it. As a martial arts expert, what’s the best martial art for self-defense?” What would your response be? 

I think the answer is a little easier when you look at it from the prism of what styles NOT to choose for self-defense.

My response, I hope, would say to:

  1. Avoid any style that is not updated throughout each year as the instructors learn more about self-defense by studying current events rather than trying to mimic ancient traditions.
  2. Avoid any style that takes 3-5 years to get to the black belt level of martial arts expertise. Expertise in self-defense takes a few months, not years. 
  3. Avoid any style that spends time teaching complex movements that are at best theoretically related to self-defense. 
  4. Avoid any style that has you train in your bare feet and a gi because the odds are you will be in street clothes and shoes if attacked. 
  5. Avoid any style that demands you learn moves and skills that break every principle of smart self-defense. Examples include:
    1. Pulling your hand to your hip instead of your jaw to guard your head.
    2. Squaring your body towards the attacker exposing your center line instead of turning it away.
    3. Aiming your punches and then holding them in the air for good form. 
    4. Advancing with clunky steps and blocks against an imaginary attacker who must be punching at you while moving backward.
    5. Keeping your chin up for good form instead of down for protection.

Styles vs Systems

As far as what style is good for martial arts, there is no such thing. The best self-defense instructors teach systems, not styles. 

Systems are constantly upgraded. Styles never change. That’s why it’s called a style. Any modifications have to be within the confines of the style. 

Given the choice of attending a martial arts school that takes years to learn self-defense vs signing up for a ten-week self-defense course taught by an expert with law enforcement training, the choice is easy. You will learn faster from a self-defense expert than a martial arts instructor.

Market interest for bare feet martial arts is dwindling vs the market for straight-forward self-defense training. That’s also why we’re seeing an increase in martial arts school owners who are either rebranding themselves as a self-defense school or closing the school and becoming a full-time self-defense instructor.

What do you think? How would you answer the question, “What’s the best martial art for self-defense?”