Martial art styles can be categorized into two sections, based on how effective they are in a real life fight. Many fighting techniques are great for sport environments where points are being accumulated but they fall behind when it comes to fighting someone on the street or in any other confrontation.

You can also check out this interesting discussion on Quora where people talk about whether martial arts can be considered sports or not

In this list, we are going to talk about some of the best and most effective martial arts that one could actually use in a real life duel. Of course, in order to be able to defend yourself and defeat your opponent, you will have to practice a lot and learn the different fighting techniques and moves.

If you are wondering what martial art techniques and fighting styles are the best to use, this list should give you all the answers that you are seeking! Let’s take a look at the best martial arts for one-on-one combat:

12. Capoeira

This Brazilian fighting style was invented by slaves who had nothing to defend themselves with, so they decided to come up with a fighting method that they could use against their captors. If you look at the moves that are used in capoeira, you might think that this is a simple dance that could never harm anybody. This is not the case at all, as capoeira experts can easily defend themselves when it comes to a fight.

The Culture Trip wrote a great article about Capoeira and how it evolved, click on the link and start reading

The reason why this martial art has only received the number 12 on our list is because there are far better alternatives that you could use when it comes to defending yourself and defeating your opponent in a brawl.

11. Karate

Quick kicks and punches are the trademark moves of karate and this is exactly why it could be an effective way to knock your assailant out. The whole fight could be over in a few seconds, as one punch or kick to the right place can easily knock your opponent unconscious and leave you victorious.

This fighting style has been around for centuries and it improved a lot over the years. This martial art is not only used in Asian countries but all around the world as well and there are many masters who have been practicing this style throughout their lives. You are not going to want to start a fight with a karate expert, as most of the time you are not going to stand a chance.

If you want to learn a few stances, kicks and sweeps, check these tutorials out and start becoming a karate master!

10. Boxing

As we all know, in boxing, you cannot use your legs, only your fists. Some might think that this is a disadvantage in a one-on-one fight, but on the contrary, professional and amateur boxers learn how to hit their opponents hard and in the right places. This means that they don’t really need to use their legs to attack, as a series of punches is more efficient.

In this article by the Vice, they asked a professional boxer to explain how dangerous this sport really is

While an inexperienced average Joe might not know how to cause devastating damage using his fists, a boxer surely does! Boxing is a great way to start learning how to punch and guard your face properly.

9. Jeet Kune Do

Jeet Kune Do is the martial art that was created by the legendary Bruce Lee in 1967. The style revolves around lightning fast punches and kicks. Basically, masters of this technique choose to deliver a surprise counterattack, rather than blocking the incoming hit. Of course, you have to be very fast and have amazing reflexes to do this.

Instead of having patterned moves, you attack and counterattack based on the range that you are from your opponent. Bruce Lee’s philosophy heavily influenced the martial art and it is being used by many to this day.

There are so many interesting things to learn about the legendary Bruce Lee! For a nice summary, check out this Wiki article

If you want to see this style in action, this video shows you the basics of Jeet Kune Do and you can also learn five different ways to attack.

8. Kickboxing

As the name suggests, this fighting style combines punches from boxing with kicks. Knowing how to use your legs to attack can be very beneficial a lot of the times, especially if you are farther away from your opponent or you are being charged at.

Kickboxers undergo extensive training and through this, they are able to easily deliver kicks with immense power. Of course, they can just as easily punch you right in the face as well. In kickboxing, all of the kicks and punches are strong and most of the time they are chained together into a flurry of attacks.

7. Judo

While in all of the martial arts that we have talked about kicking and punching were the important things, it is different in judo. Judoka (practitioners of judo) prefer to get close and personal with their opponent, grab them and throw them on the ground. When their opponent falls, they use grabs and holds to incapacitate them.

If a judo expert is able to get into range, most people would not know how to react to fighting on the ground, as they have not been trained in that fighting style.

6. Taekwondo

Taekwondo might mean “The way of the feet and hands”, but experts of this art mostly use powerful, yet elegant kicks to defeat their opponents. Not only that these kicks are strong, but they are very quick as well. For most people, a taekwondo tornado kick would be unexpected and they would not even have time to react.

Jean-Claude Van Damme, as well as the Texas Ranger himself, Chuck Norris have both practiced and used taekwondo throughout their life and you can even see them deliver trademark kicks in most of their movies.

If you want to see nine additional fun facts about taekwondo, go ahead and visit this article by Martial Arts Guy

5. Brazilian jiu-jitsu

We have already talked about judo, but Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a lot better if the goal is to bring the opponent to the ground. Not only that these types of fighters are able to easily grapple you, but they also know how to choke or hold you in order for you to give up.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is mostly a close-combat, ground fighting technique, so if you ever need to fight against this style, never let them come close to you. Otherwise, you are surely not going to be able to continue the fight, as you will be lying on the ground, not knowing what happened.

4. Kyokushin

Kyokushin is actually a style of Karate, but here, fighters use a lot more devastating kicks to the head, as well as punches to the torso. One of the main aspects of Kyokushin training is being hit over and over again, in order to get used to constantly being attacked. This means that Kyokushin fighters are able to endure a lot more punishment, while still being able to dash out very strong kicks and hits.

The only reason why this form of Karate is not higher on the list is because of some rules that they have to follow. See, in Kyokushin, fighters do not punch each other in the head and this can be a very big disadvantage when fighting other martial arts styles that actually excel at punches aimed at the head.

3. MMA

MMA or Mixed Martial Arts is a fighting style that combines elements from a wide assortment of different arts. This can be a very effective martial art, especially when it comes to fighting one-on-one. Your opponent is never going to know what to expect next, as you will use a variety of different techniques and styles.

MMA has become a very popular sport as well and there are millions of people tuning into each fight from around the world.

Check out this list to see who are the most epic MMA fighters in the World

2. Kung fu

Kung fu is a very broad term, as there are hundreds of different styles that are being used, but this martial art is still an amazing pick when fighting against a random opponent. The reason for this is very simple; they are never going to expect the kicks and punches that are used in Kung fu and they are not going to be able to react in time.

Styles, such as Wing Chun are amazing at delivering a series of fast attacks and most people are not even able to register these punches, let alone block them. Not only that the punches and kicks are fast, but they are very precise as well. Watching Kung fu masters demonstrate the art can show you exactly why it has made it to the number 2 spot on our list!

1. Muay Thai

And finally, the most effective martial art when it comes to fighting someone who attacked you is Muay Thai. The meaning of Muay Thai is “Art of Eight Limbs”. The reason behind this is that when you use this style, you fight using eight points of contact: kicks, punches, and knee and elbow strikes. This gives you a wide range of attack opportunities and a surprise elbow hit to the head can bring down any opponent.

One of the other reasons why this is an effective fighting style is because of the fact that Muay Thai fighters have to endure painful training sessions, especially when they are working on their shin. Many experts repeatedly kick various hard surfaced, in order to harden their shin.

Take a sneak peek into the mind of the muay thai champion Kevin Ross who talks about his mindset and preparations in this Muay Thai Pros interview

Because of this, they can endure a lot more pain and they also have stronger bones. In Muay Thai, there are many fighters who are willing to fight anybody, anywhere. In their eyes, this is just one of the many fights throughout their lives and they never back down.

Muay Thai also teaches practitioners of this style how to keep their balance, despite constantly being assaulted by kicks and punches. This is why it has taken the top spot on our list as the most practical martial art!

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