What techniques would you choose to train if your goal is self-defense and you have limited training time? Which would be the most effective techniques from any striking or grappling martial art?

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    If you have problems walking, why should you even bother to think about unarmed self-defence? What are the situations you are faced with where you feel threatened? Is this supposed to be a one-off training? What makes you think that self-defence is trained in "rounds"? Is this supposed to be in any specific art or system? What is available in the first place? This question seems to lack some critical information so that it seems to be a purely hypothetical, artificial scenario. I suggest thinking about the points I mentioned and address them in an edit. Nov 11, 2020 at 18:43
  • Yeah, this kind of question is outside of the normal range of experience for most people. Maybe someone has experience with this exact scenario, but I doubt it. I guess the main question should be more focused, like: What can you do if your mobility is reduced or non-existent? Nov 11, 2020 at 20:55
  • Kocking's first sentence is not very helpful. Why wouldn't you want to defend yourself, especially if you cannot run away and especially if you can still strike and grapple? Weigand's comment is accepted.
    – Waterman
    Nov 12, 2020 at 17:26
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    The problem is that "most effective" is circumstantial. It pretty much depends on what happens (multi-attacker? Weapons? Drunken brawling or someone who seriously wants to hurt/kill? Etc.). Also, I can fully understand the idea of wanting to optimise training time, but there is no magical technique out there. The question is built on false premises here. And the point was to highlight the "why" and "how" in all the questions in my first comment. It is about making the question focused and specific enough to enable us to write a meaningful answer beyond "Train Krav Maga as hard as you can". Nov 13, 2020 at 5:48
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    First C of being a champion is conditioning. YouTube team quest grappling circuit working. Nov 16, 2020 at 5:52

6 Answers 6


The highest priority for self-defense is strength & conditioning. This is 10x more true if you do not have a training partner.

Ideal S&C techniques for limited training time would include deadlifts, chin-ups, barbell squats, overhead press, distance running (by distance, between 1 mile and 5km; by time, up to an hour at a steady pace or fartleking), sprints (normal or up a hill), lunges, kettlebell or dumbbell swings and cleans, and yoga or mobility work.

If any of these are contraindicated by health, then eliminate them from the list and spend more time on the rest.

If, after some months, I had squeezed the juice thoroughly out of those, I would hit a heavy bag.

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    Okay, but I have a different viewpoint. I would select something that has both direct martial as well as conditioning benefits. For example, practice Muay Thai elbows on the heavy bag over deadlifts. With elbows, you have an effective self defense tools in close range. I think they probably have more benefit than deadlifts for fighting. I think the highest priority for self defense is training self defense techniques, not auxiliary exercises.
    – Waterman
    Nov 14, 2020 at 19:14
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    @Waterman I think the deadlifts are way more relevant to fighting for a lot of people. If you disagree then I respectfully would be interested to know your personal best deadlift. Nov 14, 2020 at 20:12
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    I don't see what my personal best anything has to do with it. Yes, I don't do deadlifts but it is not because I don't think they are one of the best strength building exercises around. My sprint times are pretty awful but I still believe running away is the best self defense if you can do it. I do believe that the best way to exceed in any activity is to do that activity. I haven't seen many fights where deadlifting was effective. I have seen many fights were elbows were. Simplistic, but there it is.
    – Waterman
    Nov 14, 2020 at 22:36
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    @Waterman The reason I ask is because I think a lot of fights have been won by a good deadlift. Being strong matters, a lot. A strong person's unpracticed elbows can be much more dangerous than a weak person's trained elbows. Nov 15, 2020 at 6:28
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    Just to illustrate the point of Dave: I once had a real good martial artist with excellent technique telling me that I would easily overwhelm her if I'd try for real by sheer mass and strength. Also, working a heavy bag might improve the technique - which is doubtful without a coach - but in self-defense, it is strength, footwork, and timing which decide whether something hits and even if it hits, whether it matters. There's a reason why the really dangerous people are strong and fast. And for strength and speed, the exercises described are most time-efficient. Nov 15, 2020 at 6:37

Self-defense doesn't mean fighting. Self-defense means techniques to ensure your safety/survival in a situation where someone/unknown may want/try to harm you. The first two major lessons in self-defense are awareness and situational capacity.

  • Avoid locations you know to be dangerous, best as possible
  • Arm yourself Buy a gun.....If you ever have to use violent physical force on another person, shoot em, the legal and ethical ramifications are easier to deal with. Like 90% of the shit you are taught in martial arts class doesn't work. Has never worked, and will never work. If gun laws suck in your state; Learn to knife fight and get a knife with utility appearance. don't buy a tactical looking knife.
  • Wow. You guys really have gone on a tangent here. Just asking which martial arts techniques would you train for self defense. Unarmed self defense. Anything is possible. If you cannot run, you've got to do something. Of course it is better to avoid. What if you are in it, you can't avoid it, you fight or you give up.
    – Waterman
    Nov 16, 2020 at 16:33
  • IFFFFF, you must fight to defend yourself, conventional martial arts aren't practical. Learn MCMAP, Marine Corps Martial Arts program, It's basically a crash course in th martial arts techniques Marines learned from the cultures they killed worldwide. American Kenpo is another one
    – LazyReader
    Nov 17, 2020 at 4:00
  • And yet not one suggestion of any technique.
    – Waterman
    Nov 17, 2020 at 13:46
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    Because fighting techniques are a small part of self-defense. Nov 17, 2020 at 18:53

I’m not sure of your context. If this is temporary, your instructor is your best bet.

But in the complete absence of an instructor, then the way I’m reading your question is “how do I learn self defense by myself”. In which case, there’s not a whole lot you can do.

Strength and conditioning are useless, IMHO, because such does not teach self defense concepts. If you already have SD training, perhaps that can help. But with none, forget that.

You could practice sprinting, running is a good form of self defense. But if you don’t know how to run, you’ll need a coach.

You could practice firearms, but without an instructor, you’re just firing bullets without any guidance on improvement and technique.

You could work on some conditioning, such as aerobics, like running, biking, hiking, etc. there’s no martial applicability here, but it is nevertheless good for overall health.

You mentioned a hanging bag. That’s fine if you have an instructor to help; barring that you’re just solidifying bad technique.

There’s no shortcut for self defense. If you don’t have an instructor, your self defense capabilities are suspect.

About the only thing you might do is read.

Read about self defense technique, concepts, styles. Learn about lifestyle changes you could do, such as your clothing, your route to school or work, your landscaping, your car, etc.


Time under the bar is certainly important and helpful, in a self defense situation you may need to use muscle to survive so don't ignore that. Alone, with no instructor, I would go with heavy bag. Strikes and kicks. You may not gain the best techniques but you will gain some coordination, speed and ability to actually hit a target.


Fighting techniques are a small part of self-defense.

Just a few other parts: Situational awareness, good safety habits, staying out of rough areas at the wrong times, the ability to defuse situations, the realization that in heated arguments YOU'RE being an a-hole just as much as the other guy, the willingness to leave a bar or area when someone gets in your face, carrying a small flashlight to check out dark parking lots and corners before you approach your car, carrying an old wallet with some cash in it to give to muggers, and the ability to run faster and farther than your assailants and sometimes a bullet or two.

See http://nononsenseselfdefense.com/ - lots and lots of great information that takes several read-thru's to absorb.

A gun is the best self-defense tool, but if you use it you'll probably go to jail, maybe for a few hours, maybe for months until you go to trial for assault or manslaughter or third-degree murder, in which latter case you'll lose your job and have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers.

About actual fighting techniques - there are dozens of scenarios. Against a single opponent...

Wrestling / ground fighting? Training by yourself, you can probably only watch videos and mentally practice over and over what you'd do if someone grabs your leg or grabs your jacket and trips you.

Striking - Watch videos for tips, then spend lots of time working on a bag, and maybe you'll be able to punch without breaking your hand and not be heaving for breath after 30 seconds. To the head, use palm-strikes to the nose or chin rather than punching. Don't kick above the waist, and only kick above the knees unless you can do so very quickly and powerfully.

Without a coach or training partners, your footwork will be amateurish, you'll be off-balance to some extent without recognizing it because you don't have a partner to take advantage of it, you'll have only makeshift and artificial experience in moving in and out, you'll probably hold your breath too much, and you won't keep your guard up and use head movement consistently.

I enjoy the YouTube channel "How to Defeat Dudes" - seems like sensible self-defense combinations and is entertaining.


fwiw, alternate answer to Dave Liepmann's—work up to a thousand pushups a day on your fists on a hard surface. Will harden your fists without damaging the joints, & strengthen your wrists for punching. If you get attacked, you'll have explosive power and good conditioning.

(This worked for me very well before I started training in martial arts, and I was 110 lbs. at the time. If you don't have solid training, and I'm talking 3 to 4 hours per day for at least a few years, pure viciousness is your only avenue to prevail. Fight like an animal, but have the strength and conditioning to back it up.)

Also read Book of Five Rings, the supreme strategy manual for understanding the warrior mindset, regardless of whether your weapon is a fist or a sword.

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