Choosing the best martial art for beginners

Knowing a good martial art is vitally important for self defense.

However, finding the best martial for a beginner to learn is difficult when hundreds of martial arts are in existence. No need to worry, though – I will help you choose the best martial art for your needs and wants. For example, I’d recommend some different martial arts for an older person than a younger person.

No martial art is inherently better or worse than any other martial art. Each martial art is specifically tailored for certain needs, wants, and circumstances. Some focus on tournaments over real life practicality. Others focus on real life practicality and completely forgo any kind of sport-based competition.

Let’s check out my picks for the best martial arts for beginners to study.

Best martial art for beginners to study

What’s the best martial art for a beginner?

Understanding your needs and wants

First thing’s first, though.

To understand your needs and wants you obviously have to know why you want to learn a martial art. I assume you will want a self defense martial art, since we are on a self defense blog, so I’ll begin by focusing on those.

The other benefit of a martial art is the mental discipline it teaches you.

Martial arts will obviously (hopefully) teach you how to fight effectively. The more important thing is that martial arts will teach you the mental strength to avoid fights in the first place. Some situations obviously call for a violent reaction. However, many of the situations you will encounter simply call for the ability to use your verbal skills to calm the situation before it leads to a violent tipping point.

Location location location

It applies to buying real estate, just as it applies to choosing the correct martial art. If you live in Israel, the Philippines, or Japan, then you have some excellent self defense martial arts easily available.

Unfortunately, for most readers, the right location is not as clear cut as your country of residence.

I recommend that you focus on martial arts that have certified, experienced instructors in your area. If you want to learn Krav Maga, but the nearest instructor is based 5 hours away, then you might be better suited learning a different martial art. Make sure you have the martial art available in your city before getting too attached to the idea of learning it.

Honestly, learning ANYTHING is often better than learning nothing at all (unless it’s one of these types of martial arts…).

Best martial art for a beginner to study?

The 3 best martial arts for beginners

Krav Maga

This Israeli martial art was developed by the Israeli military for the sole purpose of self defense. The Israeli military thinks it is good enough for self defense, which means it is good enough for you.

I recommend this for a beginner because it offers a good stepping into the world of martial arts. In addition, it is not a tournament martial art. This makes it great for self defense purposes.

Further, this is one of the fastest growing martial arts in the world. New gyms are popping up in cities all over the world, which makes it easier than ever to find an adequate gym near you.

Check out this video for a look at the basic fighting stance used in Krav Maga:

Filipino Martial Arts

The Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) go by many different names, such as Arnis, Eskrima, and Kali. They are all fairly similar to each other and do not have much differentiation. You can pick any one you like an will be just fine.

These are good beginner martial arts because of the focus on self defense and use of improvised weapons. Improvised weapons are a good technique to train in the self-defense world. Punches and kicks are good, but using a chair, pipe, or baseball bat is usually even more effective. That is not something you will train with in many other martial arts, but you train that with FMA.

All this combines together to make the FMA much more “natural” feeling for a beginner. In other words, practicing with improvised weapons can be kind of fun.

An additional benefit to that common sense self defense attitude is that you are less likely to quit shortly after starting with Filipino martial arts. The dropout rate while starting a new martial art, just like joining a gym, is relatively high. Anything that helps you stay motivated to keep training is a definite positive in my opinion.

For the location factor, variations of Filipino Martial Arts are popping up all over the world. This makes it relatively easy to find a gym with certified instructors to train at and become well versed in that martial art. Also check out Jeet Kune Do schools, who often incorporate FMA into their training.

Here’s a quick video showcasing some of the techniques of FMA:


This Japanese martial art focuses on defensive techniques that do not cause harm to the attacker.

Most of the moves will be locks, submissions, throws, and blocks. This can be useful to those that live in jurisdictions with stricter self defense laws or for a good introduction into self defense. I recommend this to beginners because it is a fun way to get an introduction with a very interesting martial art, though I admit that it is not the most “realistic” or effective self defense art.

As for the location, the popularity of Aikido has also been growing across the United States with new dojos opening across the country. Steven Seagal actually introduced Aikido to the United States in the 1980s and it has been growing in popularity since the rise of Japanese martial arts in the 1990s.

You can find an Aikido gym in most larger cities in the United States.

Want to seem more? Here’s a look at some of Aikido’s wrist locking techniques:


Overall, you cannot go wrong with any of the martial arts listed above if you are a beginner. Keep in mind that any martial art is better than no martial art. If you can not find one of the above listed martial arts, then learning any other martial art will benefit you.

I still highly recommend looking for the above 3 martial arts to start your search.

Got a favorite art for beginners? Let me know in the comments!

What's the best martial art for a beginner to learn?

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