For years I've had thinking if there's a martial art that teaches and maybe exclusively focuses on defence techniques without extremely hurtful bone breaking or organ damaging counter attacks. I'm aware that this might sound a bit awkward. Please forgive me for not elaborating on my motivation behind this issue but I think it would only lead to more confusion and unnecessary long discussions. Kind regards, Ed

P.S. Please forgive me if this is the wrong way to answer as I'm new to this forum. I just wanted to thank you all for taking the time to answer and help me thinking in possible directions. As of my personal believes I rather run than to hurt or get hurt. On the other hand I know that I'm not a hero type who doesn't mind to get beaten and also because of this "fearfulness" I remember finding myself beating an opponent way to hard, just because of this fear. This is something I never ever want to experience again, more so since I'm a father now and don't want to give my boy a wrong example. I have been attacked by a kick-boxer once while doing some voluntary work with friends. One of my friends had her son of 10 yrs. helping her. After all of this happened I felt so ashamed and couldn't even look this boy in the eyes. Later on I apologised to his mother and she just reacted with a smile that she and her son both saw what happened and that I didn't have any chance to avoid what happend. Maybe this helps to understand my intention. Nevertheless, having my own kid now who is the same age as that boy I mentioned (and while I hope that I've grown up to be a little more mature) I never want my son to see his father reacting like this. I would love to remain calm and maybe even lose that fear that caused my reaction in the first place. That's why I just admire people who stay in control and are capable of avoiding the use of unnecessary force even offer the opponent to get away without too much damages. If I don't get any chance to avoid this because my family or friends would be at risk, then this is something else though I want to avoid serious damages for others. Once again, thanks to you all. Your answers are very much appreciated.

  • I'm not gonna put my comment as an answer since it is opinion based. According to my dim understanding, you won't find a single martial art that allows you to defend yourself without hurting your opponent (unless you run away), but you can minimize the damage by trying some submissions on him rather than striking, because once you catch your opponent in a submission, you can simply warn him to stop trying to hurt you or you'll finish your submission and break his limb or arm or choke. So I prefer to use some wrestling or BJJ skills to defend yourself without hurting your opponent. Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 2:18
  • 1
    Honestly: if you want defense without hurting others then you better be prepared to dance battle your opponent to the bitter end, because that is all you'll be left with.
    – slugster
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 13:19
  • Please take the tour to learn how this site works. We are not a forum but a Q&A site and thus we work in a totally different way. Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 11:54
  • In answer to your edit: we don't train to avoid giving hurt - we train to apply just the right amount of hurt. Training gives you that control. Unless you come up with a never-seen-before mind control trick, you need to deliver pain and disablement to your opponent, this will incentivize them to stop. IOW, you cannot avoid hurting your opponent when defending yourself, unless you want to take your chances with just trying to talk to them (at which point you haven't yet reached the point of "defending yourself").
    – slugster
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 12:30
  • 1
    @slugster: The treat of harm is a useful weapon to wield as well… But otherwise, cannot agree more with what you said. Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 12:52

4 Answers 4


The most "defensive" or generally understood to be "gentle" martial arts often focus on either pushes & knockdowns and/or restraints through grappling. However, even in these martial arts there's always the chance someone falls poorly and breaks bones, suffers a concussion, or in a grapple that muscle, tendon, or joints are damaged. That's just the reality of forcibly moving someone - risk is always involved.

While you can focus exclusively on these methods, most of these arts benefit by adding some amount of striking techniques in order to stun or create openings for the larger control/off-balancing - in fact, you can find many of these arts will have lineages or variations which do include some amount of these methods.

Arts that often advertise as focusing on this include aikido and tai chi, but there's some schools of judo or jujitsu which look to do less harm but still successfully operate in self defense (Small Circle Jujitsu for example). If you're willing to accept more forceful actions - slaps, palm strikes, shoulder strikes etc. a lot more "internal" Chinese arts become available as options - a lot of these focus on shoving through the center to knock someone back/down - which then buys you time to run.

In terms of modern systems, you're looking for any programs or methods that focus on restraints and "pain compliance" options. Kris Wilder's Dirty Ground is a good book which gives variations on common grappling techniques for doing more or less harm - which might be a useful adjunct to any grappling stuff you might end up learning.

Whatever you're studying, do make sure it does cover defending against harmful techniques, weapons, multiple opponents, etc.

  • Also consider researching if it would be legal, feasible, and within your goals to carry/use pepper spray and/or a stun gun. While these also have risks of doing significant harm, they are generally ways to incapacitate someone with less chance of doing serious long term harm.
    – Bankuei
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 3:41
  • Your answer would go better to the original question... Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 6:48
  • Pain and injury are two different things. This question is concerned with causing injury, which means pain compliance is an option, the other question is concerned with no pain, which is much more limited.
    – Bankuei
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 11:12

For years I've had thinking if there's a martial art that teaches and maybe exclusively focuses on defence techniques without extremely hurtful bone breaking or organ damaging counter attacks.

Sure, there is. Since you are not asking for "the best" or whatever, just for "an" art like this, I offer Aikido, simply because it is the only one I happen to do. What you ask for is the very cause of its existence - the founder of the art appears to have done so because he was horrified by the injuries sustained (by others) while training other arts in his youth/young adult life, and basically everything about the actual training is fashioned in a way to avoid any kind of damage to both parties whatsoever. No competitions, either.

It will likely take many years until it will help in real-life situations, though, so it is not a quick fix if you were looking for that (not suggesting you do, just saying).

I'm aware that this might sound a bit awkward.

Why so? Not every martial artist is interested in competition and/or breaking bones. Most competition arts have rules to avoid injuries. Breaking bones is objectively not the best defense strategy - an hyperagressive hulk loaded with alcohol, drugs and adrenaline will happily let you break a few of his bones while still pounding you into a puddle of blood with the other fist, and "pain compliance" will probably not work with them either.

On the other hand, using their own physical momentum against them with minimal effort (part of what Aikido and other arts teach), or simply stepping aside during their first swing because it is ingrained in your bodily reflexes, might just give you the few seconds required to start running.

For less explosive situations ("normal" people, not elite fighters, grabbbing or holding you, grabbing your hands behind your back, attacking you with a knife or sword (sic)), it has plenty of more or less realistic options). Great if working with problematic/aggressive adolescents where it just so happens that it is a very bad idea to hurt them... and so on.

Please forgive me for not elaborating on my motivation behind this issue but I think it would only lead to more confusion and unnecessary long discussions.

No need to elaborate, really, your question is clear as it stands.

  • Aikido owes much more to religious believe (omoto-kyo) rather than injuries sustained. And even so, this was towards the later years of his life. In his earlier years, his dojo was known as "Hell dojo" for a reason. Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 7:08
  • Sure, there was a development from hard to soft(er). But at least some (if not most) of the ryu in fashion today embrace the latter days. At least those I know first hand. If I compare this to any other popular art around, it surely is less injury prone. Regarding the religion/"ki" stuff, well, as far as I'm concerned most stuff works just fine if you leave that aside.
    – AnoE
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 8:05
  • Not most schools embrace the later days: Shodokan and Yoshinkan are but just two examples. Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 8:15
  • Well, I guess user7337 is only marginally interested in history and religion, so I'll leave it at that. ;)
    – AnoE
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 11:05

In order to negate the pain being projected at you, sometimes others hurt themselves whether you like it or not.

In real life, there's no such thing as self defense without inflicting damage to your opponent intentionally or not.

Even if you are running away from a conflict, your assailant who is chasing you trips over and hurts themselves. oops.


From my experience, with coming up on 20 years of combat sports, it seems to me that Jiu-Jitsu would be the main answer here. Why ? : because it's efficient, it focuses on position and locks (head, arms, etc) rather than hits or throws and it is (arguably) the base of one of the most complete combat sport today : M.M.A.

  • As a someone who hasn't got any idea about Jiu-Jitsu my first thought would be, "o.k., I think I understand what you mean. If an opponent get's me on de ground, JJ might be one of the few systems (or maybe even the only one?) to get out of problems and to force someone to give up or submit without hitting him".
    – user7337
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 12:12
  • it's not only a question of "if he gets you on the ground". Jiu-jitsu starts standing..so you will know how to avoid or take down your oponent (the techniques are preety straitgh forward). I'm also a total newbie at BJJ but I see its usability..and so I'll be starting BJJ in september myself :)
    – pegas
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 19:06

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.