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8 Worst Martial Arts for Self Defense

Photo by Gusjer

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author

Over centuries, humans have created hundreds of martial arts out of which many are effective as well as ineffective ones. Unfortunately, there are plenty of fighting styles that teach bad techniques that won’t help you much in a real fight or any scenario in which you have to defend yourself. In fact, some well-known fighting styles you think are effective, actually won’t teach you how to fight.

Be sure to read this article if you are thinking about joining one of the martial arts listed below because they simply will not help you in a self-defense situation.

8. Capoeira

Capoeira is a famous Brazilian art that is not that practical for real fighting. Although it looks very fascinating, you can’t rely too much on Capoeira when it comes to self-defense and here is what’s wrong with it.

Capoeira is a mix of dancing moves and martial art techniques, notably the kicks. Training makes you very flexible, improves core strength, and teaches you how to throw all types of flashy kicks. But the goal of the art is not on throwing kicks with violent intention and to knock the opponent out. No, the focus is on light contact and dancing.

Unlike some other arts on this list, Capoeira training includes sparring. But we are talking about light contact where you should always be careful not to hurt the opponent. To be fair, some kicks you learn in training work in real-life fighting as well. But dancing and playing around throwing soft strikes is the last thing you need to do when a fight breaks out.

At one point in time, Capoeira was very popular in Brazil and people saw it as useful for self-defense. But all of its downsides got exposed with the birth and rise of a more effective art called jiu jitsu.

7. Aikido 

Aikido is among the most popular martial arts in the world thanks to famous movie figures like Steven Seagal. But, this doesn’t mean that Aikido techniques work in real life at all. In fact, Aikido as a concept is really bad and far from being effective in real fighting. But for some reason, many people think the other way around despite all the proof.

The problem with Aikido is very simple and you don’t have to be an expert to figure out what’s wrong with it. The main goal of Aikido training is to overcome oneself and grow into a better person. And the second goal is to learn how to beat the attacker without aggression or violence. Or in other words, beat the opponent without hurting them.

Even though this concept sounds honorable, it probably works only in Aikido dojos. Street fighting or any self-defense scenario is intense, violent, and you have to use force to defend or escape out of trouble. Soft techniques and light contact have never worked in real fighting, and never will.

When it comes to techniques, Aikido focuses on using the attacker’s momentum against them. It teaches you various throws, wrist and elbow locks, or even how to defend against weapons. Actually, Aikido techniques are hard and you need to spend years on the mats to master them.

Aikido schools also forbid full contact sparring since the techniques are “too dangerous”. They never spar because students could suffer a serious injury from joint locks or powerful throws. But this is not true. Don’t look any further from throws and joint locks in Judo and BJJ if you need any proof. Both of these arts include even more dangerous throws and joint locks than Aikido, and their students spar on a daily basis.

6. Sumo

Sumo is one of those martial arts I don’t have to spend too many words explaining why it is bad for real-life fighting. You just need to look at a single sumo match or see just a picture of it to figure out all that’s bad about it. It won’t teach you how to fight or help lose weight, that’s for sure. 

You can often hear people referring to Sumo as “Sumo Wrestling”. But in reality, Sumo doesn’t have much in common with wrestling at all. The main goal is to push the opponent out of the pit area using sheer strength and some grappling skills. Sumo athletes are very strong and mobile considering their weight, but they are not fighters by any means. Yes, they look intimidating weighing over 400 lbs, but having that much weight doesn’t play a big role in a real fight. 

In MMA, we have seen a couple of Sumo wrestlers stepping into the cage and getting destroyed. The first one to get beat up was Telia Tuli who got knocked out after just 26 seconds at UFC 1 in 1993. But the best instance of how bad Sumo is for real fighting was a fight between the 600 lbs sumo fighter Emmanuel Yarborough and 170 lbs Daiju Takase. Despite such a huge difference in weight, Takase was able to finish the fight with strikes.

5. Tai Chi

Tai Chi school is not a place you should train in if you want to learn self-defense or any type of fighting skills that you can use in real life. Yes, Tai Chi training has many other physical and mental benefits. But when it comes to learning how to fight, Tai Chi is among the worst martial arts you can train in.

First of all, Tai Chi is also known as “shadowboxing”. In some way, this gives you a great insight into why it is not effective in real life. Its students train alone and they practice techniques in pre-arranged forms. This form of training is very much like “kata” in karate. Tai Chi students never spar neither they do any type of live drills against the partner who is putting on resistance. No, there’s no sparring in Tai Chi, or any type of live drills where you can simulate real fighting scenarios.

Tai Chi focuses too much on meditation and improving oneself. And the techniques it teaches are bad and impractical. For instance, Tai Chi teaches you to stand in a wide stance while holding your hands extended in front, which is bad for real fighting. Standing in this type of stance against a skilled striker would get you hurt. This is just a single example, and there are many, many others.

4. Kyusho Jitsu

This martial art focuses on applying pressure or striking sensitive body areas. It teaches you how to target the pressure points to subdue the opponent and win a fight. Students learn how to attack nerves on the neck, arms, legs, and execute various throws and joint locks. There are videos online showing Kyusho masters putting people to sleep with a single touch.

But, there has always been one big problem with this type of martial arts that claim you can KO a person with one finger, like pressing a button. They are all fake and these things do not work in street fighting for instance.

Training Kyusho Jitsu could even be dangerous because it makes you believe that these techniques work in real life. Trying some of the Kyusho Jitsu moves in a street fight could get you seriously hurt. Yes, we all have pressure points, but they are not easy to strike in the middle of the street fight. While you are giving your best to find and strike a pressure point, the opponent would destroy you with simple strikes that every single person can throw.

If putting people to sleep just by touching their neck works in real life, everybody would do it.

3. Atma Raksha Tantra (ART)

This fighting style comes from India. It falls into a group of those no-touch arts that are not effective in real life at all. One has to be crazy to join ART school thinking they will learn how to win a fight without any contact. The thing is, over the years there have been many masters who claimed they can knock out a person without even touching them. But this might be the worst one we have ever seen.

ART is not just about stopping the enemy in their tracks with a mean look or loud shout. It even doesn’t focus on Chi energy like some Chinese arts, but rather on some type of Hypnosis. ART masters claim they can use the energy to put the attacker into hypnosis, and then manipulate their minds and movement with one finger. It’s like having a magic stick from Harry Potter or driving a remote-controlled toy car.

This martial art is really weird and like all no-touch fighting styles out there, useless for any type of fighting.

2. Ba Gua Zhang

Ba Gua Zhang is a Chinese martial art that comes from the same school as “Tai Chi” called “Wudang School”. On paper, it is a fighting style that covers all the aspects as it teaches you how to strike, grapple, and deal with weapons like knives. But in reality, Ba Gua Zhang is far from being practical in real life.

The main part of training is to learn how to walk in a circle while keeping both of your hands extended in front. The focus is on breathing, keeping the mind calm, and executing soft strikes in a calm manner. Although this sounds good, it’s actually not effective at all.

For instance, keeping your hands extended in front is really bad for self-defense as it leaves you open for punches and kicks. It’s always better to focus on blocking the strikes or use head movement to dodge/slip strikes. And although it looks fluid, the footwork and movement in Ba Gua Zhang is just weird. By moving this way, you are putting yourself off balance and out of position all the time. If you look at some videos, you can even see that they often cross their legs while moving around, which is really bad.

1. Yellow bamboo

Yellow bamboo is a martial art created in Bali. It focuses on using God’s energy to beat the attacker without any contact. The key is to use the negative energy of the attacker against them to knock them out with a loud shout. Although this sounds confusing and fake, it’s what Yellow Bamboo is. They even say it works against multiple attackers as well. Videos online show masters “knocking out” a group of more than 10 attackers without a single touch.

This art is clearly all about a heavy cult following. These so-called masters will sell you various stories about how Yellow Bamboo is better than other arts and why. Although these stories are crazy, they sound really convincing which is a reason why you can see so many people practicing Yellow Bamboo. But if we move back to reality, there are no words to describe how absurd this martial art is for real fighting.

One time, a skilled BJJ fighter challenged Yellow Bamboo masters to test his grappling skills. For some reason, Yellow Bamboo masters accepted to show how their no-touch skills work against BJJ. It all ended fast with BJJ fighter taking their back and placing a rear-naked choke in less than a few seconds.