I would like to learn how to defend myself in real-life scenarios. In order to do that, I decided to learn the following martial arts in the order I outlined. I would like these martial arts to be ordered in a way such that the most useful martial arts for self defense are on the top of the list, with the latter ones being less and less useful (because I already know the skills from the previous martial arts on the list).

Here is the list:

  1. Judo
  2. Boxing
  3. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (note: I may exchange Boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because I will potentially wear braces)
  4. Muay Thai
  5. Wrestling
  6. Krav Maga (weapons and multiple attackers parts)

If it's relevant, I'm probably going to be 24 or 25 years old when starting this training. I am around 6' 0" tall and weigh about 180 lbs. I intend to do each one of these martial arts for a year, then go train the next one on the list while dropping the previous one. I think that it won't be realistic for me, given my life circumstances, to train multiple martial arts at the same time.

I would like you to critique my plan. Is the ordering of the martial arts suboptimal (based on the fact that the most useful martial arts for self defense should be on the top of the list)? If yes, how would you order them? More generally, should I do martial arts separately or train in a self-defense system (such as Krav Maga) from the start?

The most likely scenario I see myself getting in physical altercations is in nightclubs, although I am a pretty level-headed guy and avoid trouble. But that is the most likely scenario I see myself getting into a physical altercation.

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    – mattm
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 13:57

2 Answers 2


Your plan does not account for messy realities of life, anyone you may meet, or anything you will learn along the way. Although most everyone has a preconceived idea of what training martials arts will do for them, these ideas often do not match up with reality.

Arbitrary time scales

Although you can request to be taught in a shortened one-year period, this may not be compatible with the martial art or the instructor. I suspect training in this manner will simply inform you about all the skills you will not be able to reproduce. At a minimum, I suggest having a milestone based on skills rather than time.

Instructor interpretations of martial arts are different


There are two opposing ideas about martial arts sport training and self-defense. These are not straw man ideas; I personally know people who advocate these positions.

  1. X is simply a sport.
  2. X as a sport is a tool for teaching you other lessons such as how to deal with others and defend yourself.

What you learn from instructors advocating these ideas will be different. Do you exploit protections from the sport rules to win, or do you use competitions to train fighting patterns?

Cross training

Every generation has cross-trained martial arts. Learn from those who have already done some of this work for you. Combining martial arts is not as simple as taking punching from boxing and mixing it with throwing from judo. The footwork and positions you take to set these up are not the same.

My first judo instructor was also a wrestler who emphasized groundwork. You can learn a lot more from someone like this than dabbling in both judo and wrestling on your own.


I advocate a simple approach:

  1. Start training something
  2. Be receptive to what your instructors have to teach you, especially when you do not expect it.
  3. Adjust if/when circumstances change and you learn more. Either something else becomes available, or you decide you want something different.
  • Nice answer! I never would have thought of what you are saying. It's always nice to learn from a more experienced martial artist :)
    – LemmyX
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 16:30
  • Thank you for your answer. Given your answer, would you agree with @LemmyX of the most useful martial arts for self-defense being Krav Maga and BJJ (assuming instructors focused on self-defense)? Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 16:48
  • @Eternal_Ether You will find recommendation requests on this site will be answered with whatever the responder practices. No, I do not agree on "most useful for self-defense". Krav Maga or BJJ are good choices, but I do not have substantial experience with them and there are plenty of other good choices. I think the primary point is for you and your instructor to agree on the training goals.
    – mattm
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 1:53
  • @mattm after re-reading your answer a couple of times, I think that your answer really "sinked in". I think that one thing that I can do is ask the instructors of these martial arts to do one-on-one training with me and ask them to structure it so that it's focused on self-defense. I think this will cost more money (as it's one-on-one instruction), but I will reach my goals faster and I will be sure that what I'm doing will help me in self-defense. Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 14:22

I usually don't like to answer questions like these, because they are mostly opinion based, but for the sake of giving you the information that you need, I will answer with as little opinion as possible.

Well, let me start of with this. It is a resource that was provided to me in an answer to one of my questions. Essentially, it is a study of hundreds of different recorded "street fights", showing how they ended, how they started, and stuff like that.

Now, to critique your list, I'm going to re-create it solely based on which martial arts were made for self defense, and which ones have the highest success-rate,

  1. Krav Maga Krav Maga was made for the single intention of self defense. After just a few classes you have enough training to properly defend against a common attacker (please, do not try to start a fight with someone in order to test out your training). You will also learn that the techniques you learn should not be used unless absolutely necessary. First you try to de-escalate the situation, if that doesn't work, get away, and if they start attacking you and you have no place to go, that is when you use your training.

  2. BJJ While Krav Maga will teach you how to get an attacker crying for mercy on the ground, it doesn't really go into depth for what to do once you have done that. BJJ is about 95% grappling, so this pairs really well with Krav Maga. If you want to only learn the self defense aspect of BJJ, your best bet is to enroll in a Gracie BJJ school. Another plus to learning this paired with KM is that many techniques in KM aren't taught until advanced levels (I believe you don't learn how to escape a rear-naked choke until you are E1, which takes about as long as a second degree black belt). A rear-naked choke escape is one of the first things you will learn in BJJ.

Since this is an opinionated question, I will say that those two is probably all you are going to need for self defense. Muy Thai and Judo are very competition-based arts, thus many of the things you learn in them will put you in a bad position in a real fight. Boxing is great for self defense, although Krav Maga pretty much covers everything you learn in boxing.

If you want my opinion, you should learn KM and BJJ, but don't only spend a month or two on each. If I were you, I would use the time that i was going to use learning other arts to perfect and master skills in those two. Learning and mastering one art is about 100 times more effective than spending a few months on 10 different arts. A few months usually isn't enough time to develop muscle memory, so chances are that you will lose all proficiency earned in the last art once you move on to the next. However, if you would like to base your life on martial arts and become a black belt or even a master in many different arts, that is a different story. I know many people who have done that, I think even a few people on this site have done that. But be warned, learning multiple arts can cause problems, and some things may overlap.

Remember, using your training in a real life situation can and will get you into legal trouble, so only use it as a last resort option.

Hope this helps.

  • 1
    @Eternal_Ether It really doesn't matter which one you start with. I started with BJJ and added Krav Maga into the mix while still doing BJJ, but it really depends on your preference.
    – LemmyX
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 15:25
  • 2
    @Eternal_Ether To add to LemmyX's comment, the really important thing is to never accept any teaching until you've tried it out with resisting opponents who feel free to innovate within the ruleset given (real like, that's anything, but within a sport like MMA, that is specific rules). Every martial art out there comes with certain assumptions, and their technique is generally built to work within those assumptions. As a bonus, train with people outside your given style. They'll lack certain assumptions, and may surprise you with their genuine reactions. Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 3:02
  • 1
    With all respect, but "try it out with resisting opponents" is nearly impossible to apply to KM - as long as it is "too dangerous" to have normal work in pairs. So, of course, other MA would surprise KM students in a rather bad way. Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 9:27
  • 1
    @user2501323 I disagree. It is not too dangerous to work in pairs, as long as you do so in the safest way possible. You also trail with resistance, otherwise KM would be some random MA where you just go up to random people and break their arm :). In all seriousness though, you do train KM with a resistant partner. At my school for regular techniques you wear a groin protector, and for the sparring-style activities you wear full protection (groin protector, chest pad, and face protector).
    – LemmyX
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 13:01
  • 1
    Didn't know that, thank you. Your experience gives me some more respect to KM as MA. Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 13:04

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