The Shaolin Temple is considered the birthplace of kung fu (which is a generic name for the Chinese martial arts). From its humble origins, kung fu eventually developed into literally thousands of different styles.
Combined with all the other martial arts that have been developed around the world, there are a virtually endless number of possible ways to beat your enemies senseless. But some ways work better than others. Out of all the different martial arts, which are the deadliest?
Let me be clear that I’m not necessarily talking about the “best” martial arts, only the most practical. Swimming is a great sport, but it will never be as fast as running. Likewise, a martial art heavy on flashy high kicks and choreographed forms may be a great art, but not as deadly as the ones that appear below.
Also, I consolidated similar arts – no need to include judo when BJJ is on the list, Wing Chun when JKD is on the list, etc. Finally, while the arts below are numbered, they are not ranked.
You’re probably going to say that boxing isn’t really a martial art. While I’d tend to agree (even though I’m not exactly sure why), this list wouldn’t be complete without it.
Despite its apparent simplicity, boxing incorporates a number of elements critical to successful combat, such as timing, footwork, reading your opponent, and putting your weight into your strikes. Not to mention that the training is very practical, with a heavy dose of sparring against resisting opponents.
- Your hands are fast, accurate, and a short distance from your opponent’s head.
- Because of its simple style, emphasis is put on practical application rather than showy display.
- If your attacker won’t limit themselves to just using their hands, why should you?
- Anyone who attacks you is likely to be stronger, so trying to outpunch them is a losing proposition.
Notable practitioners: Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson
2. Muay Thai
Known as the Art of Eight Limbs, Thailand’s national sport uses punches, kicks, knees, and elbows for eight points of contact. It is generally considered the deadliest type of kickboxing, and is a staple of MMA fighters.
- A Muay Thai roundhouse kick has been compared to being struck by a baseball bat. Instead of using a chamber and a snap, the whole body is thrown into the kick, and contact is made with the rock hard shin.
- An elbow or a knee thrown from the clinch can easily end a fight, which is why they are sometimes banned in competitions in other sports.
- The only reason they can kick with their shins is because they’ve kicked enough heavy bags or bamboo trees to build up a thick layer of scar tissue. Do you really want to do that to yourself?
- No attention is paid to the ground game.
Notable practitioners: Saenchai Sor Kingstar, Anderson Silva
3. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
This derivative of Japanese judo is a form of grappling, using chokes and joint locks rather than strikes, leverage and technique rather than strength. It rose to instant prominence in 1993 at the first Ultimate Fighting Championship, where different martial arts were pitted against each other in a contest with minimal rules. BJJ practitioner Royce Gracie won easily, dispatching his three physically superior opponents in a total of five minutes.
- Most fights end up on the ground, where someone who only knows kicks and punches will be outmatched by someone who knows sweeps and armbars.
- When fighting a larger opponent, you take away much of their strength advantage by grappling up close instead of opposing their force directly.
- Since many people have now learned how to defend against takedowns, and since fights never start on the ground anyway, ground fighting can never replace stand-up fighting.
- The gi they wear makes it much easier to be grabbed and choked. It represents the suit that all Japanese men would have worn when judo was invented, but today you can’t assume that your attacker will be wearing something that sturdy.
Notable practitioners: Hélio Gracie, BJ Penn
4. Krav Maga
This is another one that people generally don’t consider a martial art, but we have to include it. This eclectic close combat system of the Israeli Special Forces uses wrestling, grappling, and striking to neutralize threats (even weapons) by any means necessary, often by attacking the body’s most vulnerable points.
- It teaches how to make weapons out of everyday objects, which are probably all you’ll have when you’re attacked.
- It teaches what to do in life or death situations.
- It’s just a bunch of eclectic crap thrown together. When you know a million techniques, it’s hard to quickly decide which one you need now.
- It can be very hard to find a good school.
Notable practitioners: Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer (well, can you name a real one?)
5. Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do
There’s always a lot of confusion surrounding Bruce Lee’s Way of the Intercepting Fist. People love to discuss what JKD is and is not, and how it is what it isn’t, and isn’t what it is. But here, I’m simply referring to his signature style without any of the philosophy.
Jeet Kune Do is a hybrid system that borrows heavily from several arts, especially Wing Chun, boxing, and fencing. But unlike most hybrid systems, it absorbs what is useful while casting off what is useless, arriving at the bare combat essentials. Movements are direct, straightforward, and non-classical.
- By training in four different combat ranges (kicking, punching, trapping, grappling), the practitioner becomes well-rounded.
- It stresses simplicity and efficiency, conserving time and energy in all movements.
- Although it’s theoretically very effective, it’s fairly obscure and hasn’t been tested very much.
- Good luck finding a decent school where you live.
Notable practitioners: Bruce Lee, Ted Wong
Mixed martial arts was originally a sport that saw people competing with very different styles. However, when it became apparent what was effective and what was not, a new hybrid style emerged, and this is what I mean by “MMA.” This style may be customized by each fighter, but generally combines boxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
- Combines stand-up and ground skills to produce a well-rounded fighter.
- The effectiveness of this style has been tested and proven more than any other.
- It’s only been tested and proven for a particular set of rules. The game changes when you allow 12-6 elbows, small joint manipulation, eye gouging, biting, groin strikes, headbutts, rabbit punches, etc.
- What works best on another MMA fighter is not necessarily what will work best against your attacker.
Notable practitioners: Fedor Emelianenko, Randy Couture
7. To be determined
Let’s hear it. What is YOUR choice for the deadliest martial art?