I did a season of folk wrestling in high school. This was about 5-6 years ago. I'm trying to diet and exercise properly to reach my low body fat goal. Also, I want to learn some basic self defense. I am a short male (5'4") and weight about 170 lbs. I want to be able to be prepared against any kind of oppenent. My biggest worry is the taller opponents with long arm reach. What would be the best martial art to go into between wrestling (further into), boxing, and jiu jitsu? I have a slight preference in learning boxing of the three.

UPDATE: I've been doing martial arts for a bit over a year now (not including my high school wrestling experience). It's consisted of boxing, no-gi jiujitsu, wrestling, and MMA. On top of that, I do yoga and weight lifting. I've lost a lot of body fat (still got to lose more), and I'm much more confident at where my fighting skills lie. In my opinion, sparring is one of the best forms of learning self defense. Thank you for the help everyone.

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    If you must choose only one of the three then look at jujitsu. Otherwise... why not do all three until you get proficient?
    – slugster
    Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 4:55
  • I agree with slugster's comment with a slight variation; after trying all three I would stick to the one that you are best at or enjoy the most. Its best to work on the one you get to speed with rather than force yourself to do something which feels unnatural
    – Vass
    Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 8:55
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    please clarify: Japanese Jujitsu or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. There are significant differences between the two. Not that either is better or worse than the other. Also, general consensus states that it would be better to have a good teacher in a martial art that you do not, for whatever reason, prefer than a bad teacher in a martial art that you prefer. Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 16:01
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    The How to Ask is pretty clear that "What martial arts system is "best" or if art A is better than art B (not constructive)" is out of scope. "best" depends on the assumptions you make about the environment, the opponents skill, motivation and characteristics, weapons, the presence of innocents, and a host of other factors. Practice the one you enjoy the most.
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 15:44
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    I still think kicking someone in the balls is the best self defense move ever
    – Huangism
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 20:10

9 Answers 9


I want to be able to be prepared against any kind of opponent.

You are looking for a unicorn there. No martial art whatsoever is able to do that. There is no ultimate fighting art. That said, most martial arts (McDojo excluded) can give you an edge in self defence. It will shift the odds in your favour which is a good thing.

However, self defence is not just about fighting. It is about observation, preparation, awareness, and many other things. No Nonsense Self Defense is a good place to start if you want to learn more.

As to which martial art is best between wrestling, boxing, and jujitsu. It is like comparing apples, oranges, and mangos. None of them is better than any other. It depends on your personal tastes, who is teaching, where the classes are, and where do you have the more fun!

That said, both wrestling and boxing have a fairly narrow focus: one opponent, heavily sport based, and well structured fights. Jujitsu tends to have a wider focus. Then again, Jujitsu is a catch all term for most (if not all) Japanese martial arts before the Meiji restoration. So, "learning jujitsu" sounds odd to me.

The following questions might be useful as well: How to select the right Aikido dojo and What martial art should I start with?.

  • You are looking for a unicorn there. I realized that as I was typing the question lol. Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 14:49
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    Unicorn style is pretty dangerous... Their horns are nothing to mess around with. Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 15:48
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    Unicorn are dangerous and so are their hunters. Link to A Hunter’s Ode to His Bait by Carrie Vaughn. Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 6:34
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    So there ya go... learn Unicorn style. Qilin Chuan. The official kung fu style of MA Exchange? Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 13:12
  • That there is a "unicorn boxing" is very amusing. But on that video, while sifu has some good trapping-range moves, he never moves off his opponent's centerline. Ugh. He also wraps his own arms up in ways that are going to lead to bad outcomes when executed at speed. Worse if his opponent has any skill at all at trapping. You're not going to want to depend on that style for self defense. Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 21:59

"I'm trying to diet and exercise properly to reach my low body fat goal. (..)"

That said, boxing is the way to go. The workout is quite intense, because you need to build stamina in order to box properly.

"Also, I want to learn some basic self defense"

For self defense, i would include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well, since it has proven its effectiveness (see MMA). But let's talk about boxing:

It teaches you how to take a hit and not become desperate. No martial art makes you untouchable, and even when you have better technique you can still be hit. When i spar with guys way above my level, i can still land a few punches.

Since you do a lot of sparring, you have something like a combat simulation. Of course, under rules and in a controlled environment, but one thing is to train with your partner "helping" you to execute the move, another is when he really wants to hit you. =)

I can talk about a lot more, but this text summarizes better: The martial art of boxing


Go to each school in your area and take a few lessons in each to find the one that you will stick with and agrees with you mentally and physically. Once you start back on that road you will mature and your goals will change.


There is no magic against "any kind of opponent," because your opponents are so potentially varied. Some are armed; others not. Some are individuals; others are groups or gangs. Some are simply angry; others are (pardon the now-obsolete psychological phrasing) psychopaths. Some are your drunk uncle Eddie, who you don't want to hurt, but you can't have him putting his hands on everyone at the family BBQ. Different weight classes, different weapons, different intentions--the variations are endless.

Pretty much any martial art will help train you in cardio fitness, in balance, in using your weight and strength more efficiently. But some--Western fencing, Kyūdō (Japanese archery), Iaido (the drawing and use of Japanese swords), or Kendo (Japanese swordsmanship with bamboo swords and armor) just to name names--however lovely and historical as arts, are simply not practical fight training for modern people. Similarly, in most Western countries, any art that assumes you will be always armed (e.g. Eskrima, Arnis and Kali) are just not practical. In most places you cannot carry bladed weapons. Even if you could/did, and then used them, you'd probably go to jail for slicing your opponent up in the ways they train/suggest.

For self-defense, I personally prefer training in arts that emphasize the the punching, trapping, and controlling range (arms-length or closer to your opponent) rather than kicking or grappling range. So, Japanese Jujutsu or its American Small-Circle derivative, say, rather than Taekwondo, wrestling, or BJJ. Some karate schools incorporate controls and throws in with striking moves, which is a nice mix. Some kickboxing or sport combat instructors who are savvy to MMA and BJJ teach similarly fluid styles that combine striking, control, and joint-locks. Any of these are preferable to the highly-refined, stylized arts.

There are also some martial arts that are specifically "combat engineered": simplified and refined, removing traditional flourishes and sport-fighting rules to focus only on defensive fighting. They're more "martial skills" than "martial arts." Systema and Krav Maga are often cited, though American Small-Circle Jujitsu, Combat Hapkido, and other variants are out there.

You've had wrestling experience, so why not focus on boxing, kickboxing, or jujutsu to extend your range/set of techniques? I know when I added kickboxing and Small Circle Jujitsu techniques to my bag of tricks (previously kung fu, Judo, and Eskrima), I felt enormously more capable in defensive situations.

Sardathrion makes an excellent suggestion about techniques like "No Defense Self Defense." They extend your awareness, posture, voice, and presentation, and are really the most effective defense you have. If you're looking for true self-defense training, it's not a matter of just "choosing a martial art." The "real world self defense" systems that incorporate awareness, the use of your voice (e.g. Verbal Judo), under-high-stress adrenaline dumps, and truly defense-focused techniques are worth seeking out. Rory Miller's Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected is a good place to start to bridge the gap between "martial arts," sport fighting, and real-world violence dynamics and responses.

Here is a recent podcast on this topic: PREVAIL Podcast #3: Self Defense and the Martial Arts. (Full disclosure: I am one of the participants.)


Anything you take to better yourself will help with self defense. I train BJJ, Muay Thai, and a little wrestling and in my opinion one of the best martial arts for self defense is Krav Maga.

My reason behind this is with BJJ, Boxing, and Wrestling - these are also considered sports. When you train, the focus is not to end the fight as quickly as possible which is what you want. BJJ won't help (as much) if your assailant is in a bar with 5 of his buddies. Boxing will be limited if you are short and your assailant is much taller with a longer reach. Same goes for wrestling.

Don't get me wrong.... ANYTHING you take will better prepare youself than doing nothing but if your main focus is SELF DEFENSE, my suggestion is Krav Maga.

Wikipedia says it best: Krav Maga encourages students to avoid confrontation. If this is impossible or unsafe, it promotes finishing a fight as quickly as possible. Attacks are aimed at the most vulnerable parts of the body, and training is not limited to techniques that avoid severe injury; some even permanently injure or cause death to the opponent. Drills provide maximum safety to students by the use of protective equipment and the use of reasonable force.

The focus in self defense is protect yourself and get yourself out of harms way as soon as possible.

  • I would agree that if self defense is your primary goal, Krav Maga is the best bet. There are no rules, and as my friend said: "Krav teaches you to counter-attack to the point that the original attacker says 'Hey- you guys stop attacking me' -even if it's just you in the counter-attack" Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 21:14

I've been studying martial arts going on 2+ years and I have to say that a Good teacher is one of the most important thing you can find. Some things I would look for are these.

  1. Is the instructor Sports focused or Combat defenses focused
    • this can effect how they train their art.
  2. How do you want to fight
    • Do you want to be a controller, a striker , or breaker( bones) all style can fit this needs but some fit better then others.
  3. A book i would suggested would be Living The Martial Way By Forrest E. Morgan, Maj USAF
    • this was really good book my Sensei give me that help give me and insight into how I should view Martial Arts and the mindset I should have with it.

From my experience, it is not possible to be able to defend against all type of attackers. They are all different. One thing is for sure : you don NOT want to go to the ground. Here's why

The reality of the streets is that you never know if the "badguy" in front of you is alone, has friends hidden somewhere or has a conceled weapon. So if you go on the ground, maybe his friends are going to come, maybe he'll grab a knife in his back pocket and stab you with it. You don't want to take that chance...

Any martial art will give you a better chance of defending yourself if you get attacked. But the key here is to have enough self awareness to be able to know when you need to get out of there. Keep your distance and when you have the chance, run away.

If you do not want to take part in a traditionnal martial art, maybe you can look at Commando Krav Maga.

Just stay away of those empty force stuff.


Good advice from the different posts. The OP is a software engineer, he mastered skills more difficult than all martial arts in my opinions. What I am going to say is to be smart and avoid getting into dangerous situations. A computer software engineer is one of the brightest of all breeds, if he trains with the right philosophy, he'll go very far. All in all,know your enemy and know yourself--use whatever moves applicable to the particular situations--and in 100 battles you will not be in peril. Martial art has no boundary: It is fluid, and rather a way of life. If the OP help me program stuff, I'll share with him stuff that will be worthwhile. Enough said!


I was taught Kung-Fu by my brother at the age of 10-16, he had no one else to practice with, needless to say I did not have a choice but to, in doing so, it totally changed my life. He was taught by Master Lu of Salt Lake City, Utah, he by the way still practices today, he's approximately 88 plus yrs.

What I found in Kung-Fu was a whole new way of life, it led me to become a Buddhist, on which most of the the fundamentals of Kung-Fu are based upon. There are many different styles of Kung-Fu, I practice Wing Chun; you may know this style from Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Jackie Chan. It's a offensive style of fighting. In Layman's terms, you allow your opponent to use his force against him, which brings me to Tai Chi.

Kung-Fu and Tai-Chi go hand and hand, the only way to become a well taught student in the art you must be able to control your mind, Tai Chi and Buddhism are the corner stone for learning Kung-Fu, A Buddhist monk uses only a staff for a weapon, why? It is the least threatening weapon. It teaches you that we fight with our minds not weapons, and by using your mind you open up endless possibilities. Tai Chi teaches you how to become one with your mind and body--Yin-Yang a perfect balance.

I can tell you from my experience from learning the art, you never forget the steps you are taught, even if you don't practice it for some time. I was nearly raped when the skills I had been taught many years earlier saved my life. I had the man down by his pinky finger in less than a heart beat. He was begging me to let go! Explore your options, but know such styles of fighting like Jiu-jitsu, Karate or even wrestling, teach violence, remember cooler heads prevail! Wing Chun

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    -1, this does not answer the question instead it sings (badly) the praise of Wing Chung. Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 6:38
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    Welcome to Martial Arts! On this site we expect all answers to answer the posted question in a factual manner, preferably backed-up by references.
    – THelper
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 8:53
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    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 11:18

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