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What is the best martial art for self defense?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/2/2018 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 2 weeks ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 169 times Debate No: 106313
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
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I will be arguing for krav maga. Con can argue for any other martial art he/she pleases.

Round 1 is for acceptance only. Rounds 2 and 3 will be for arguments and counterarguments. Round 4 will be for final counterarguments only, no new arguments in round 4.

Good luck!


I accept, good luck!
Debate Round No. 1


Here are the reasons I believe that krav maga is the best martial art.

1. Krav maga is not a competition, an therefore has no rules.Many other martial arts (ie boxing) teach you nothing but competitive fighting. Obviously, this does not apply to all martial arts, but many teach nothing but how to fight in a ring, and learning how to fight in a ring with a referee does not prepare you for the unpredictability and psychological stress of being in a dangerous situation. Krav maga teaches no rules self defense.
2. Krav maga is one of the most, if not the most, brutal martial art, and in a self defense situation, you need to be brutal.
3. Krav maga teaches defense against weapons, like guns and knives. Some other martial arts do (ie combat hapkido, kali) but most ignore the subject altogether. Fact is, on the streets, there are guns and knives, and it's important to know how to defend against them.
4. Krav maga teaches things other than fighting, like verbal deescalation. It's not just important to know how to fight, it's also important to know how to avoid a fight.

I'm eager to see what martial art Con chooses to argue on behalf of, and how he counters my arguments.


Let me preface by saying the BEST tactic for self defense is running away - you never know what someone has in their pockets!

But if you can't run, I believe submission grappling (Sambo/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) is the best martial art for self defense.

The simple reason is that submission grappling is the only martial art that can be practiced and trained at 100% intensity against a live opponent without protective gear, making it the most realistic.

To Pro's point #1, the fact that Krav Maga has "no rules" is not a strength. You can't really train a martial art with no rules unless you want to get seriously hurt or killed.

It is probably true that Krav maga and other arts are more brutal and/or lethal. But this fact actually makes them less effective! Because they are so brutal, they cannot be realistically practiced on a live, resisting partner at 100% intensity without serious risk of injury. If you watch krav maga training, they are either always wearing bulky protective gear or are merely simulating the motions and not really doing the strikes. For example, watch this video of Krav Maga sparring:

Notice that they are all wearing bulky pads and head shields, and stopping short or lightly tapping elbows and groin strikes to simulate the moves. This is for obvious reasons - actually elbowing your partner's face hard enough to incapacitate him would cause significant injury. It doesn't look so smooth and fast once you're actually going live against a resisting opponent, it kind of just looks like bad kickboxing.

The bottom line is, the effectiveness of a martial art is not inherent. The TRAINING of that martial art is what makes it effective. It's about repetition and realism. As the saying goes, "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."

So, yes, Krav Maga is probably more brutal. But it can't be trained brutally on a resisting opponent because it's too dangerous, which means its effectiveness is limited. You might think you know how to elbow someone in the face and take their gun, but if you've never done it at 100% intensity against a resisting opponent, then you're not nearly as smooth as you think.

So why is submission grappling better? For the opposite reasons - its lower lethality means it can be trained more frequently, at higher intensity, against live resistance without fear of injury. People who train jiu-jitsu can and do spar every single class, with no protective gear other than a mouth guard, at 100% intensity against live opponents. This means that a grappler is better prepared for the intensity of a real fight and has lots of practice successfully subduing fully resisting opponents. I submit that it is better to master less brutal techniques at 100% intensity than it is to master more brutal techniques but never or rarely going full speed.

The other thing that makes submission grappling optimal for self defense is its emphasis on controlling your opponent, not just hurting them. Many if not most street fights go to the ground, and if you don't know how to fight off your back or on the ground then you are at a huge disadvantage. Grappling trains you how to control an opponent's body so that, if you're on top, they can't move, and if they're on top, they can't get enough room to attack you. All humans instinctively know how to throw a punch, which means even an untrained person can get lucky and land a haymaker (hence the saying, "puncher's chance.") But no one instinctively knows how to fight on the ground, and so the trained grappler has a distinct advantage once someone gets tackled.

As for training how to disarm knives and guns, that's all BS. Once a knife or gun comes out, we're not talking about martial arts anymore. That's when it's time to run. It's not the movies, you don't just snatch a gun or knife out of someone's hand. Teaching people to disarm knives or guns is likely to get them killed. It has a HIGH probability of going very wrong for you in a real situation.

Also, verbal de-escalation isn't really a martial art, that's just communication skills and it can be taught anywhere. So that shouldn't count.
Debate Round No. 2


Lots of things. First, I'm going to get to why I do not believe sambo and Brazliian jiu-jitsu are necessarily the best arts. I do believe that sambo and bjj are effective methods of self defense, but I do not believe that they are the best options. First and foremost, grappling is very unlikely to work against more than one opponent. If you're only fighting one guy, then fine, but if the man attacking you has a buddy, chances are if you try to put him in a submission, his buddy will just kick you in the head or something. Also, grappling techniques can be difficult against an opponent significantly larger than you.
Now for some rebuttals and comments on what you've said thus far.

1) Your point about running away is completely true. One should always avoid the fight altogether if they can. But if they can't, they need to be ready to fight back.
2) Sparring does not necessarily make you better off in a self defense situation. A lot of people believe that fighting in a controlled environment with a referee prepares you for the unpredictability and stress of a street fight. It doesn't. Even if it prepares you physically, it does not prepare you mentally. But what does? Practicing and repeating drills designed around practical self defense. As for the Bruce Lee line you quoted ""I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.", I agree with it completely. And in krav maga, you practice moves, get told what you did wrong, and practice it again.
3) I see no reason why practicing your drills on pads hinders you from doing them in a real life situation. As you yourself said earlier, if you go for a groin shot or eye gouge in sparring, it will seriously injure your opponent. If you use them in self defense, the results will be the same. The reason we cannot spar in krav maga is because the techniques are so effective that if we did, we'd get hurt. Even in competitive arts, they train with pads. Boxers hit punching bags in preparation for a fight, because they know that hitting objects will prepare you for hitting a person.

Here's the way I see it; competitive martial arts work better when competing, self defense martial arts work better for self defense. That doesn't mean you cannot use a competitive martial art for self defense, nor does that mean you cannot compete with a self defense martial art, that just means that different arts apply differently to different situations.

And yes, it is possible to disarm an opponent's weapon. Here, just look at this aikido student of only 3 months who stopped an armed robbery at a Baskin Robbins.
Now, if I were in his situation, I would have just given him the money. I do not believe that money is ever worth risking your life for. But regardless, the man does prove that with the right training, you can successfully disarm an opponent.

To look at the effectiveness of krav maga, just look at who takes it. Not only does the Israeli military (one of the best, if not the best military in the world) use krav maga, but it's used by more law enforcement agencies, police departments, and military groups than any other martial art in the world. I see no reason why all those people would use krav maga if there was a superior alternative.


Another disclaimer - I support ALL martial arts, so nothing but love to my opponent. Doesn't matter what you do, as long as you're training!

== Rebuttals ==

1. Grappling is unlikely to work against more than one opponent: True. Also true for ALL martial arts. Again, this isn't the movies. If you're facing multiple attackers, it's time to run. Sure, MAYBE you can learn some things to slow down your opponent and his buddy. But what if he has a 3rd buddy? And then a 4th? What if his buddy has a club? The "what if" game can go on forever, and I try not to apply martial arts to situations they're not meant to handle. Similar to weapon "disarm" techniques, I think training to defeat multiple attackers is BS and creates false confidence. For example, watch this Krav Maga instruction on fighting multiple attackers: (start at 3:20)

Notice, like I said earlier, he's not really doing the strikes. He's stopping short or lightly tapping. Also notice that his "attackers" aren't really attacking. They're kind of standing there, each lunging in one at a time allowing the instructor to alternate between them. If they all attacked at once (as they would in real life) the instructor would be overwhelmed instantly. At the end of the video when they're actually sparring the "attackers" aren't really attacking either. They're just dancing around allowing the defender to move about. In the few times where the students bring the intensity up a bit, the defender is instantly overwhelmed (start at 6:30). Training to fight multiple attackers is a fools errand and it's dangerous - it teaches people to try and fight in a situation where they should run. It's common sense really - think about two guys (let alone 3) who truly want to hurt you bum rushing you with all their might. I don't care what punches or kicks you know, you're going to get taken down, and then it's over. So I don't think training for multiple attackers is a very realistic advantage.

2. Grappling can be difficult against a significantly larger opponent: Quite the opposite actually. Grappling, specifically BJJ, is designed exactly FOR dealing with larger opponents. It's emphasis on control, leverage, and use of body position overcome brute strength easily. A grappler trained in the use of body control and leverage can easily subdue a larger opponent. Don't take my word for it, you can see for yourself in any BJJ or Sambo gym on any given day. For example, watch this untrained 270lb guy challenge a few Gracie BJJ practitioners:
(I know all these videos are anecdotal evidence, but I'm just using them to illustrate that I'm not just making unfounded claims).

3. Sparring doesn't prepare you for self defense: Of course it does. As I stated earlier, you can practice elbows and eye gouges and groin kicks all day long, but unless you ACTUALLY employ those techniques at full speed against a resisting opponent (aka, sparring), how do you know they really work? How do you know how hard you need to throw your elbow in order to actually stun someone if you've never done it? You don't. You can make moves look really fast and smooth if you're not putting real power behind them or going the extra few inches to connect. But in real life it's usually much more clumsy and awkward. Pro seems to think that sparring means fighting in a controlled environment with a referee. That's not really accurate. Yes, there may be a mat or a referee/instructor for safety, but beyond that it's full go. Both students going full speed at each other trying to win. What's unrealistic about that?

Pro says sparring doesn't prepare you mentally for the stress of a street fight. I think exactly the opposite. Unless you spar at 100% against full resistance, how do you know what a real struggle actually feels like? You don't. Sparring is the closest you can get to actual fighting without being unsafe, therefore it seems obvious that sparring prepares you THE MOST for the stress of a street fight.

This is why I'm critical of Krav Maga's training realism. Again, watch their sparring. They're always wearing bulky pads, gloves, chest protectors. That's not very realistic. It restricts your movement and cushions the blows. Conversely, watch what grappling sparring looks like in this video:
Yes, it's a controlled environment, and yes, there's a referee. But beyond that, it's highly realistic. No protective gear, no pads, and both guys are employing moves at 100% intensity trying to choke and break each other's arms. They know their moves work, because they've actually employed them at full go.

4. Hitting pads doesn't hinder you in real life situations: Yes and no. Yes hitting pads is good practice for learning strikes, but it's mostly for conditioning, not for actual fight training. Obviously, a bag never moves or hits back. It's a passive training aid. You can look really good throwing combos on a bag, but then stand against a live opponent and try to do the same - it will look much different. Again, I'm not hating on training with bags and pads, it has its place, but we all have to admit it's not very realistic.

Pro says, "if you go for a groin shot or eye gouge in sparring, it will seriously injure your opponent. If you use them in self defense, the results will be the same." But will they? How can you be sure if you've only ever simulated it with pads on? This is my whole point. I'm not saying a Krav Maga student couldn't do some serious damage in a real situation, but I'm saying a grappler is BETTER prepared to do so because they ACTUALLY practice doing so regularly. A grappler knows he can really choke and control an attacker because he practices doing so against live resistance all the time.

5. As for the video of the guy disarming an opponent, bravo to him. But he took a HUGE risk and in my opinion got lucky. If he were to replay that scenario 10 times, I'd be willing to bet he gets shot more than he doesn't. I remain convinced that teaching disarm techniques are mostly BS and instill false confidence. Martial arts are not meant to deal with people carrying firearms. If they were, the samurai would still be ruling Japan.

6. Look at who takes Krav Maga (Israeli military): Yes, the Israeli military does teach Krav Maga. But the claim that Krav Maga is used by more military/police groups than any other martial art is false. The American Army combatives system (called MACP) is jiu-jitsu/judo based. The Russian military invented and teaches Sambo. These are both very high caliber militaries that use grappling-based systems. So this point is not in Pro's favor.
Debate Round No. 3


As per my own rules, I cannot insert any new arguments, I can only rebutt previous arguments.

1. You are right, trying to defeat multiple attackers will most often not work. But it is still a possibility you need to train for. It's like CPR; the majority of the time, CPR does not save lives, and those who receive CPR tend to die anyway (source: my dad, he's a doctor). But we still teach it. Why? Because a plan on what to do is better than none. If there is a method in which you could, at least in theory, defend yourself against more than 1 attacker, why not learn it?
2. As I've said before, you do not need to go full contact on your training partner in order to learn the moves well. Hitting a pad does prepare you for hitting another man's crotch, or their nose, or whatever part of the body you choose to strike. A simple move like a front kick to the crotch or a punch to the face is not a very difficult move, so I don't see why you need to train for it with a pad as opposed to training for it on an actual crotch. "But, how will you know for sure that you can do it." Well, how will one know that sambo/bjj moves will work in a street fight? Just because you did it in class doesn't mean you can do it when it really matters. So how do you know for a fact you can do something in a street fight? Well, never. We never know for sure we can do anything in a street fight until we're in one. Until then, you just have to keep training.
3. Con says pads are just a passive training aid. Not the case. They are meant to simulate whatever body part you are aiming for. When you're practicing shooting, you don't need to practice on an actual animal or an actual human to get better. You can just as easily get better by shooting at clay pigeons or paper targets. Same thing applies for martial arts.

4. As for the whole disarming thing, I don't think that was just dumb luck. I think it's proof that with training (even just 3 months of training), one can successfully disarm an opponent. And sometimes, you need to try. If thief just wanted my wallet or my car keyes, I'd just hand those over. That stuff is just stuff, it can be replaced, not worth risking my life over. But if a man ever pointed a gun or a knife at me and said "Get in my car." or "Come with me.", then I would do all I can to resist. In a situation like that, you will either die anyway or wish you were dead. I'm going to use my CPR analogy again; even if CPR (or in this case, firearms disarming training) is not likely to work, isn't it still better to know it just in case?

5. When you look at what military/law enforcement groups use, it clearly more resembles krav maga than submission grappling. Just look at the Marine Corps Martial Arts program. It clearly more resmelbes krav maga than bjj.
Same with systema, an art that is almost identical to krav maga. Systema has begun taking more prevalence in Russian military training, and if being learned by more and more outside Russia. I do think in time, it will overtake Sambo.

I hope none of what I've written came off me saying that sambo, bjj, and other grappling arts are not effective. I do not believe any martial art is ineffective, all of them have their strengths and their weaknesses. I simply believe that some martial arts are more effective than others, and that krav maga is the most effective.

segejuri, thank you for having this debate with me, I've enjoyed debating this with you.


== Rebuttals ==

1. I still think it's next to useless for the average person interested in self-defense to train for fighting multiple people. I understand Pro's point about CPR - better to try than do nothing. But the difference is that CPR is a scientific intervention that is proven to work. Training to fight multiple people is not. In fact, I think it's more harmful than helpful because it can give someone false confidence to stand and fight in a situation where they really should just run or deescalate. The truth is that not even the most highly trained martial artist could fend off 2-3 determined attackers. It's basic math - 4 limbs cannot block 8 limbs. So to Pro's question of "why not learn it?" I would answer: because it's useless and even deceiving information that has a greater chance of getting you hurt than helping you. If CPR more often hurt patients than helped them, no one would teach it.

2. Weapon disarming - I still think this is largely a waste of time. Once again, martial arts are not meant to deal with people carrying firearms. BUT, if you do want to train it, BJJ also teaches weapon disarming techniques. Just a simple youtube search of "jiu jitsu weapon training" yields over 70,000 videos. So Krav Maga cannot claim a monopoly in this area, and therefore it doesn't score any points over submission grappling.

3. What do military/police use most often? I don't think Pro can accurately claim that MOST armed groups base their training in Krav Maga. Some do, of course, but I see no data to indicate most do. From what I've seen, most of the combatives systems out there continue to be BJJ/Sambo/judo based. Once again, the US Army system is, the Russian system is, and many police departments are as well. For example, the police department in my town comes in and trains officers at my local BJJ gym. So I don't think Krav Maga scores any significant points in this category either.

Pro continues to disagree with my opinion on sparring, so let me try to rephrase and then summarize:

I'm not saying training with pads is wrong or ineffective. But when debating what is BEST, there is no substitute for realistic sparring. Sparring is as close as you can get to a fight without actually fighting. Therefore, it stands to reason that whichever martial art offers the most realistic sparring also offers the most realistic fight prep. Unfortunately, there is an inverse relationship between a technique's brutality and the realism at which it can be trained (i.e., the more brutal the technique, the more pads come on, the softer the blows get, the less resistance your partner gives, etc...). This is why I believe it's better for self defense to master less "brutal" techniques through frequent, high-intensity sparring against fully resisting opponents rather than practicing more brutal techniques in bulky protective gear against light resistance. In a sense, "effectiveness" could be defined by the following equation: effectiveness = brutality + training time + training realism. I'll admit that Krav Maga probably has a higher value for "brutality" (although, not by much, grappling is extremely brutal). But, since grappling is safer and less brutal, the grappler can train more often and more realistically (sparring at high intensity against live resistance with no protective gear). Therefore, grappling comes out ahead of Krav Maga in the effectiveness factor. You can never be sure the techniques you've learned work unless you've actually practiced them on live opponents in full-go sparring.

I've seen this time and again in various self-defense seminars/rape prevention classes I've seen. Instructors telling people to poke the eyes, kick the groin, palm strike the nose, etc... Then they go and practice these moves on a dummy or a guy in a padded suit. And they think they're now equipped to defend themselves. Except for one thing... the dummy wasn't actually attacking them, the guy in the suit wasn't actually resisting at 100%. Do they really know if that palm strike or front kick will stop a 200lb attacker at full speed? No, they don't, and they never will because it's too dangerous to simulate for both people. This is why grappling is better, because the smaller person actually CAN test if their moves work against a 200lb attacker at full speed, and if they don't, they can keep refining through sparring until they do work.

The bottom line is I believe the person who is most prepared to defend themselves is the person equipped with the most realistic training, not necessarily the most brutal technique.

Summary on why grappling is best:
1. The most realistic sparring of any martial art.
2. Emphasis on control - body posture, managing distance, creating space, etc.. rather than merely inflicting damage.
3. Ground fighting - many if not most fights go to the ground, where a trained grappler will dominate
4. Effective and safe techniques - punching and kicking an attacker creates a high possibility that you will break your own hand, leg, or foot. It happens a lot. But grappling techniques are very safe to employ.
5. Sometimes strikes don't work, but chokes always work. Some people can take a lot of punishment - you may land some good blows on your opponent but they just keep coming, maybe they're drunk, or on drugs, or just super tough. But if you know grappling techniques, especially chokes, it doesn't matter. Once blood is cut off to the brain, even the toughest guy in the world will be unconscious in 3-5 seconds.
6. Grappling is the best way for a small person to defend against a larger person. Punching, kicking, elbows, etc... all rely on power, which is generated by a person's strength, size, and speed. But grappling is mere physics - leverage, weight distribution, angles, and torque. In this way, it's very easy for a trained grappler to control and subdue a much bigger, faster, and stronger attacker.

In all seriousness, I think the best martial art is Mixed Martial Arts - taking the best aspects from all and putting them together. But if I could only pick one, I'd pick grappling.

Once again, no hate towards Krav Maga, I love all martial arts. Thanks for a fun debate. Oss!
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by sengejuri 2 weeks ago
that's great!
Posted by stschiffman 2 weeks ago
Agreed. I started doing taekwondo because me and my siblings had a few instances of bullying and my mom wanted us to be safe. Ever since, it's become my favorite hobby.
Posted by sengejuri 2 weeks ago
I've always enjoyed watching MMA fights and I enjoy competition and high intensity workouts. Also wanted to learn some self defense. Wasn't too keen on getting brain damage though so I was looking for a martial art that would be really challenging and competitive without all the head trauma. I've really enjoyed it, it's very challenging but fun!
Posted by stschiffman 2 weeks ago
Cool. If you don't mind me asking, what got you into BJJ? Self defense? Exercise? Just needed a new hobby?
Posted by sengejuri 2 weeks ago
yes I've been training BJJ for about a year and a half now.
Posted by stschiffman 2 weeks ago
I did for about for a short period of time.

I've been training in taekwondo for the past 5 years, and one day, the husband of my taekwondo instructor began teaching a krav maga class in her dojo. For a while, I attended both the taekwondo and krav maga classes. However, after a little less than a year, my krav maga teacher suffered a back injury that rendered him unable to keep teaching. Now, I just do taekwondo.

What about you? Do you actually train in sambo or bjj?
Posted by sengejuri 2 weeks ago
Do you actually train krav maga?
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