Practical Martial Arts for Self-Defense and Sports

People have used martial arts in one form or another for hundreds if not thousands of years. It is not easy to trace the absolute origin of the earliest fighting style but ancient Greece had the Olympics with combat and the Romans pitted gladiators against each other.

There are records of martial arts in Hawaii, ancient India, and of course, Japan, China, and other Asian countries.

Martial arts in the movies

For many, the first experience of witnessing martial arts would be on television or in the movies. Back when Bruce Lee was bringing his style of Kung Fu to the big screen most viewers had never seen anything like it. It is people like Lee and later, Van Damme who was responsible for many children wanting to take up martial arts.

In your life though, things can be a lot different. Flying kicks are less likely to be useful in a street fight than a sharp kick to the knee. Tips for self-defense in real life are not always like the movies. Some styles are suited to sports fighting and self-defense more than others. With the advent of UFC and MMA, it is interesting to see how professional fighters approach these match-ups and what styles they use. You can see some incredible kicks in these tournaments but more than likely you will witness a lot of groundwork and holds.

Here are some martial arts styles and who they could hold up in the ring and on the street.


This form of combat was developed initially by the Samurai. Fearless warriors from feudal Japan, they would fight with spears, bow and arrow, and guns. Mostly they favored their swords that are still famous today. Remember Uma Thurman in Kill Bill?

Sometimes in battle, they would find themselves disarmed, and rather than surrender they would continue fighting. They wore bamboo yoroi that would cause some restriction like all armor. Nevertheless, they needed a style of fighting that would suit and Jiu-Jitsu was born. As a method of self-defense, it is extremely effective. It consists of pretty much even amounts of striking and groundwork. It can take an opponent out and finish the fight swiftly.


This style came directly from Jiu-Jitsu. After the feudal period of Japan finished there was less need for a combat-based martial art. Judo was then developed by Jigoro Kano as a way for the police to defend themselves and many of the more devastating Jiu-Jitsu moves were removed.

Judo is a very popular sport and has starred in the Summer Olympics since 1964 (except 1968). It is the national martial art of Japan and is taught all over the world for sport and self-defense. How good is it?

This would depend on how well trained your opponent was. Perhaps someone who was a skilled Thai boxer would cause you a lot of trouble. The problem with Judo is the need for proximity to the attacker. Once you had that thought, you would be in control. People aren’t used to someone coming at them but a practitioner of Judo has practiced this many times and will know how to control their opponent.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

While on the subject of Japanese martial arts, there is the highly popular Brazilian version to consider too. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has grown faster in recent years than any other martial art. This is down to the use by MMA and UFC fighters and television.

It was developed by the Gracie family from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and then altered and adapted. The style is good for self-defense and leans more towards sport than the original Japanese version. There are no Samurai in Brazil but there are some very good fighters. The very first UFC was won by Royce Gracie using BJJ and he followed that up with two more triumphs over the next three tournaments.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu


Traditional boxing, not to be confused with Muay Thai and Kickboxing has been used for thousands of years as an effective form of fighting. As a sport, the rules have been refined from where it first began as matches could take dozens of rounds. As a martial art, it is extremely effective. Although this style of fighting doesn’t involve kicks it does have a full range of attacking and defensive moves.

As a sport, it is obviously popular and is watched in most countries around the world. It is an Olympic sport and has produced world-famous names such as Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, and Lennox Lewis. If it wasn’t for boxing you would probably have never heard of the George Foreman grill. As self-defense how does it stack up?

A boxer would beat most people in a normal street confrontation. If an untrained attack mistakenly took on a boxer they wouldn’t have hope. Against other martial arts, a boxer would win very often. One reason for this is that boxers train for full combat and a lot of other martial arts don’t.

Other forms of martial arts

There are many other types of martial arts in the world and their effectiveness varies greatly when applied to self-defense. Some are more akin to sports and others are very valid forms of fighting styles.

Kung Fu

Made famous by Bruce Lee among others but generally attributed to a Buddhist monk learning to fight in India and then adapting it for Shaolin Monks in China. This was used to fight against bandits robbing the monks on their travels. It is used in sports such as semi-contact points fighting (WuShu) although it hasn’t been allowed into the Olympics yet. However, as a form of self-defense, it is excellent.

Karate was developed as a form of fighting and self-defense much like Kung Fu. There are many differences in the stances, forms, and moves but one major difference is that Karate does not involve weapons. Mr. Miyagi’s dojo seems to contain several Kung Fu tools.

Because Kung Fu teaches practical usage of weapons and how to disarm an opponent it makes for good self-defense in a home invasion or against a possible mugger.

Kendo is a martial art you may not have heard of or even forgotten. It was based on Samurai moves but is now very much a loved sport in Japan and other countries. It has no real practical use as self-defense.

Kung Fu


How good a martial art is as a sport of self-defense especially is often down to how it is taught. The Healthline has some self defense techniques aimed at women. A good teacher with patience will be able to pass on his or her knowledge and skills to their students in the dojo.

What are the benefits of practicing martial arts?

From improving fitness to developing self-defense skills, practicing martial arts can bring many good things into one’s life. Keep reading to find out about the main advantages of practicing the ancient marts:

Releases stress

You don’t need to be a healthcare professional to know that regular exercise reduces stress. However, practicing physical activity together with a group is more beneficial than practicing alone. Additionally, many martial practitioners see their class time as time out from regular stressors.

It brings mental balance and peacefulness

In the movies, we have all seen it: the ancient martial arts master who never gets irritated and always calmly stops an opponent’s attack. However, you don’t need to get old to become mentally balanced and peaceful. Martial artists of all levels feel calm and efficiently deal with stressful situations. The peace and harmony that martial arts training brings also makes things look less stressful.

Boosts energy

If you have a regular workout, your energy levels will increase. It’s because physical exercise increases blood flow to the body and strengthens the cardiovascular system so oxygen will get to your body more efficiently. Also, regular exercise helps you sleep throughout the night.

Gives confidence

One of the many benefits of practicing martial arts is gaining or improving confidence. Some people will be less shy once martial arts, whereas others will win more presence or authority. Martial arts can help you balance confidence and humility and accept your flaws without needing to apologize or joke about them.

Improve mental health

People dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression can improve their mental health by practicing regular exercise, martial arts included. The benefits are excellent, especially for patients with depression, because being part of a community is another advantage. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you will feel better after martial arts training.

Overcome unhealthy habits

Children practice martial arts because it teaches them about discipline and self-control. But that doesn’t mean that adults cannot have the same benefits. Adults practicing martial arts will finally eat healthily, quit smoking, or overcome substance addiction. Martial arts can give you a focus point and a healthy alternative to bad habits.

Have a healthy relationship with your body

People practicing martial arts have noticed how the connection between their bodies and minds has strengthened. It typically starts with an awareness of the body as you begin to learn new things; when you develop a new physical skill, you need to pay attention to your body. In time, you will start to feel that you take care of your body and notice how some mental areas improve: patience, creativity, and energy. It might take you a couple of months before you start realizing that you want to practice martial arts to be strong and not because you want to get skinny.

Improve coordination, balance, and reflexes

Many people think that practicing martial arts will help them lose weight, improve cardiovascular health, and build muscles. Even if these benefits are also present, martial artists will first notice how their reflexes significantly improve. As you practice martial arts, your coordination improves and your reflexes become faster than before. Such benefits will help you in many aspects of your life, from driving to playing sports.

Many people associate balance with soft arts such as tai chi, but any martial arts will improve your balance. Sweeps and throws are excellent at improving balance, along with martial arts that involve a lot of focused kicking.

Helps with motivation

If you’ve been practicing martial arts for a few months, you will probably notice that your motivation to quit smoking, eat healthier, etc., will get stronger. Even if there are many reasons why this happens, practicing martial arts can also be why it offers extra motivation. When you practice martial arts and get better at it, bad habits such as smoking will impede your performance. You will find the motivation to get better at practicing martial arts and finally give up smoking.

Teaches one to make deliberate choices

With martial arts, you learn how to turn your body into a reliable weapon and control using this new weapon. However, such self-control will show its importance in many aspects of life. Even if you’re over 40, you can still benefit from practicing martial arts as you become more conscious of your decisions. Even if you indulge yourself with eating a brownie, you do it by choice and mindfully.

It helps with career

Self-discipline, boosted confidence, less stress, and improved energy will show their effects at home and the workplace as well. Some adults practicing martial arts will notice how their professional careers resemble the karate career. Every new belt you get in karate can also mean a promotion at work. Even if the two aren’t connected directly, the focus and purpose of training will also attract progress at the workplace.

It can glue the family together

Unlike other physical activities, martial arts can be practiced at one by all the family members (as long as they’re old enough). Let’s not forget that parents typically cannot join Little League teams with their offspring. Many styles can be practiced even at an older age, which means bringing both your children and parents to martial arts lessons. Practicing martial arts with your children is a fantastic way to remain connected even if they’re also adults.

It builds new friendships

Unless you start training in martial arts, you won’t completely comprehend the relationships that can be born between martial artists. They might throw punches at each other today, but they will also laugh about it the following week. Friendships that are born within martial arts are rich and long-lasting. Many martial artists find a second family in their colleagues practicing martial arts.

It’s fun

Martial arts have excellent mental, physical, and social benefits, and there’s no doubt about it. However, training is about having a lovely fun time as well. Many people are surprised about the fun they have when training. Even if your expectations are high, you will never be disappointed with practicing martial arts.

Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!

Practical Martial Arts for Self-Defense and Sports

Practical Martial Arts for Self-Defense and Sports

Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!