Hey guy so I'm pretty young as of now and I'm planning to learn some martial arts in the future so I need some help choosing the first one to start with. I plan on learning Southpaw boxing, Taekwondo, and Judo but which should I start with? I want to learn something that'll help me if I end up getting in a fight. I heard that for defense purposes that Judo is a good martial art, but I'm not sure if I should start with it or not.

  • How did you build that list of styles? Are those the only ones near you, or are those ones that you personally thought were good or which made sense to you? Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 1:39
  • I do some boxing. Never heard of anything called "Southpaw boxing". What is it? Are you saying you are naturally orthodox (right-handed) and want to do boxing in the southpaw stance? Where did you get this idea from? Give us some details.
    – RoundHouse
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 1:57
  • Does this question apply to the present or years in the future?
    – mattm
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 16:34
  • Ah sorry about that guys I must've really confused you all. This question is applying to what I should do in the future and I also meant southpaw stance boxing not 'Southpaw Boxing' . this is just clarify what I meant and the mistake is on my behalf. hope this clears somethings up.
    – V09C
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 16:43
  • @SteveWeigand I Recently constructed this list as an experiment to see which arts would go great with each other originally . But now I want to actually learn some martial arts and I wanted to see from a more experienced community if this list would work or not.
    – V09C
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 16:53

2 Answers 2


The questions asks which martial art to start with if the focus is on self-defense: Boxing, Taekwondo, or Judo.

Well first, I'd like you to read what I wrote in my answer at the following link:

why a perfect expert and trained taekwondo player or martial artist fear fights?

Read that answer and read the links that it also listed.

You might also want to look at this one, which restates the issues:

Effectiveness of Bujinkan Ninjutsu

I won't repeat much of what I wrote already. Suffice it to say, for self-defense you want to feel like all situations are already familiar to you. So you want to choose martial arts that cover the full range of fighting, from stand-up free fighting (no grappling at all) to the clinch to take-downs to ground fighting. And probably also add to that some training with knives, sticks, and guns.

Besides those ranges of fighting, however, what is even more important is the way you train. You perform the way you're trained. If you don't train realistically, you will not be prepared for a real fight. You could freeze. Or if you do fight, whatever you do won't work.

And you need to train safely, so there must be a minimal set of rules which prevent injuries and allow you to keep coming back to class and get better over time.

Taekwondo covers a very small subset of fighting scenarios. It only practices free-fighting (no holding on to one another, you're free to move around). And of that range, it prefers to spend its time at kicking distance. It offers almost no training in close-in fighting, the clinch, take-downs, and ground grappling. All of its strategies, stances, and style emerge from its rule set, which forbids all of those other things. It also emphasizes points over damage, and most TKD training will even disallow any real damage or hard contact. As a result, it is a poor style in which to use as a base of practical self-defense. You'd need to modify a lot of it to use it for real.

Which brings me to another one of my answers where I described what you'd have to do in order to make a style such as Taekwondo more realistic for practical self-defense. Please read the following link:

Doing MMA or a doing multiple individual martial arts, which is more effective?

As for Judo, it's actually not a bad style in and of itself for fighting. In Judo, you learn to deal with someone who is resisting you with all his might. And it covers the clinch, take-down, and ground fighting. It does not cover any free fighting and striking.

You could combine boxing and Judo fairly well to cover almost the full range of fighting scenarios. You'd be lacking kicks and defense against kicks. But it's probably going to be better than combining Taekwondo with Judo, because boxing teaches you defense against proper hits to the face and body at full force. It also teaches you how to punch with power, something Taekwondo often doesn't allow in sparring.

Judo does have less emphasis on ground fighting and more of an emphasis on throws. It's debatable which is better for practical self-defense. Throws are actually very effective in self-defense when used properly and cleanly. The problem is that you often won't complete a throw cleanly, and that will cause you to get pulled to the ground with your opponent. And on the ground, Judo gives you some ability to fight, but it's not generally as effective as Brazilian Jiujitsu's ground fighting style would be.

So in Judo, you do have to be much more experienced to make it work reliably for self-defense than you would if you trained in BJJ. Which is why you probably want to look at doing something like Gracie Jiujitsu instead of Judo, at least at first. Most of your time in Judo will be spent repeating throws.

Boxing is great. But like I mentioned in the links above, you will need to modify your boxing style if the "rules" allow grappling. This is already something they figured out in MMA. Which is why I recommend just doing MMA and be done with it. MMA would give you everything, and it would bring you up to speed pretty fast. One year of MMA training will give you the fighting skill you're looking for.

You can also supplement your MMA training with BJJ, judo, boxing, and muay thai. This is something already part of most MMA gyms. They either make it part of their MMA training to go over techniques from those styles, or they teach additional classes which encourage you to focus just on those styles in isolation. But the MMA class is there to bring everything together in a cohesive fighting strategy.

So that's my recommendation. Take MMA. If you're still only going to look at the three styles you mentioned, I recommend taking boxing first, because it's the most useful for self-defense. Following that, Judo. And I recommend skipping Taekwondo altogether.

Hope that helps.

  • Boxing and judo are great starting points for MMA.
    – marko
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 19:29

The only criterion you've given us is "help me if I end up getting in a fight". It's also useful to know in what circumstances you might get in a fight.

If you're say a high school student and there's sometimes a bit of push and shove on the playground, and some bullies tend to trip or headlock people or similar, then judo's an obvious choice - you should learn to control those kind of wrestling-like interactions, and you won't often break anyone's nose, knock teeth out, or give black eyes - things that obviously suggest excessive force and can get you into trouble with teachers or the law. Other students would also want to avoid that kind of trouble, so it's more likely they'll limit themselves to the areas where judo works. They might attack 2 or 3 on 1, but it probably wouldn't do their reputation any good, so hopefully they wouldn't....

And that's where boxing comes in: if you're concerned about attacks on the street, then 1) your opponents aren't likely to limit their techniques to avoid obvious damage to you, and 2) there could be several people attack you at once. For this, you want to be able to cover up and avoid taking a punch to the nose or jaw. You want to have a fair chance to drop an opponent in a fraction of a second, so you can put them out of play while you deal with others. Striking is better for that. And, boxing is about the fastest way to achieve practical striking skills. If you go up against a couple untrained, unarmed people with say 6 months of 3-times-a-week boxing behind you, at least you'll have a chance.

Taekwondo - as someone who started in taekwondo and finished as a 3rd dan instructor (would have been a lot more if I'd "played ball" in one of the big organisations), I'd just say avoid it... there's only a couple percent of people teaching taekwondo in a way suitable for self defence, and the big organisations - WTF, ITF - teach ridiculous body mechanics with little self defence utility.

Judo - even if you start with boxing because it addresses the self-defence situations you're concerned about, I'd suggest you add or switch to judo after 6-12 months of boxing, when the self-defence benefits from boxing will be accumulating more slowly, and you'll get more bang-for-your-buck covering other situations that arise during fighting by learning judo.

After maybe 2 years, you might want to learn a more complete striking style - Muay Thai is a good choice. That will teach you to deal with kicks, knees, elbows....

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