The 7 Best Grappling Martial Arts for Self-Defense

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Learning self-defense is a necessary skill to protect yourself whenever the need arises. Someone could try to harm you by assaulting you at any time; if you are unprepared, you could lose your belongings or get seriously hurt. This is why you should invest some time to learn grappling martial arts.

You should always be proactive in learning proper self-defense techniques to keep yourself and those around you safe. While you may never have to utilize the self-defense techniques you learn, it is always better to be prepared.

If you are confronted by a stranger who is set on taking your belongings or assaulting you in any way, you should know how to protect yourself and move away from the unfortunate situation.

But What Happens If You Are Knocked Down?

While you can learn techniques to block and strike your attacker, you should also prepare for an instance where they knock you to the ground. Lying on the floor with an attacker standing over you is a very vulnerable position to be in.

However, you can use this situation to your advantage by utilizing the best grappling techniques to take down your attacker. On the ground, you will be able to subdue them, strike them, and escape if you take the time to learn and practice these grappling moves.

As I define grappling for you in this article, we will explore the main forms of martial arts that include useful grappling arts. If you are set on learning more about these techniques to protect yourself, you will find all you need in Ground Fighting Techniques to Destroy Your Enemy.

What Is Grappling?

Grappling is a style of fighting in close quarters that usually happens on the ground. The common grappling definition is to hold, seize, or fasten in a strong grip. This points to a person taking hold of another to subdue them.

In martial arts, grappling is the art of taking hold of your opponent at close range to gain an advantage over them by locking them in a difficult position or causing injury through the hold. However, in self-defense, grappling is more than firmly holding on to your attacker.

Grappling usually follows a fighting technique, including throws, takedowns, and ground-fighting, which leads to the submission of the weaker opponent. The stronger opponent isn’t necessarily physically stronger but rather has a better understanding and use of grappling techniques to overcome the opponent.

Who Can Learn Grappling?

You can engage in grappling-styled fighting no matter your size and the size of your attacker. If you train and practice the techniques, you can overpower any attacker who is unfamiliar with the grappling moves you engage in.

Grappling is an essential part of self-defense because your opponent is less likely to do damage from the floor as it is a more vulnerable position. It will help if you are knocked down and take away the disadvantage of you being on the ground.

Great grappling will also help you subdue an attacker and either force them into submission or give yourself enough time to escape the danger.

Grappling Limitations

There are limitations to learning self-defense through martial arts, as many forms of martial arts can take years to learn and perfect before you can use them to your advantage.

While you embark on a journey to fully learn certain self-defense techniques, it may be useful to learn easier elements to keep yourself safe while you learn. Grappling techniques are fairly easy to learn, and I’ve found the top forms of fighting to look into if you are interested in learning grappling moves.

Why Would You Need to Learn Grappling?

If you are interested in learning martial arts, you will want to learn some grappling techniques such as mixed wrestling grappling or submission grappling.

If you are worried about your safety or would like to know these skills to protect yourself if the need ever arises, grappling is a good skill to learn. This will come in handy if you are knocked to the ground by an attacker.

You could also be interested in grappling as a sport if you like martial arts. This technique of fighting will help you overpower your opponent using moves to maximize your strength while minimizing theirs.

If you are considering learning about grappling, you should consider a few things when deciding what form of martial arts you would like to learn.

Firstly, you should consider the amount of time it will take you to fully learn a type of fighting. Some forms of martial arts can take years and years to learn the principles and techniques enough to use them effectively.

The other consideration you should look at is why you want to learn martial arts. Reasons could include for sport, for the spiritual aspect of these practices, or for self-defense.

You should look for practicality in the type of martial art you choose. If you are learning self-defense, then make sure the techniques you learn are practical in the streets.

The 7 Best Grappling Martial Arts

I have selected the best martial arts that include effective grappling techniques for you to learn. This will help you improve your ground fighting techniques for sport or self-defense.

While some martial arts will take years to learn and perfect, there are techniques you can practice to give yourself a level of self-defense for protection. Here are the top forms of grappling martial arts and each type includes elements of grappling even if it is not the focus of the martial art.

1. MMA

Mixed martial arts, commonly known as MMA, is a form of fighting that combines various martial arts into one. MMA fighters utilize the best techniques from various forms of fighting to bring the best techniques to the ring.

While MMA is a combat sport conducted in a controlled environment, people can use these techniques in the streets to protect themselves. The contact sport includes grappling, striking, and ground fighting.

This form of martial arts is good to learn for self-defense, as it provides students with all-around fighting knowledge. It incorporates a wide range of fighting techniques to equip students with everything they will need to protect themselves, including superb grappling moves.

Since MMA is a culmination of various other martial arts, the MMA grappling techniques largely stem from wrestling grappling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grappling, Judo, and Sambo. If you are interested in learning grappling through MMA, you will most likely learn at least two different types of martial arts.

2. Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a combination of Karate, Judo, wrestling, boxing, and Aikido. It was first developed as a military fighting and self-defense system for the Israel Defense Forces.

Most Krav Maga practitioners will tell you that you should follow the five-second rule, which is to not stay on the ground for more than five seconds. While the rule states you should get up as quickly as possible, in reality, it is not always possible.

In the event your attacker has you pinned to the ground, it is essential to know good grappling techniques to have the upper hand in this situation. Krav Maga has multiple ground-fighting techniques you can practice for these situations.

You can learn many grappling moves in Krav Maga such as the armbar and how to escape a mounted choke or a simple mount. You can also learn how to escape if your attacker has mounted you and pinned your hands; this is a good female grappling submission technique.

You can also learn the bridging technique, a shoulder or hip throw, and double or single leg takedowns; the last two will be effective if you want to knock your attacker to the ground.

You will also learn ground-fighting techniques in Krav Maga, including kicking from the ground such as a sidekick, round kick, or front kick. Another important technique you will learn is how to get yourself up from the ground since this should be your main focus.

3. Shuai Jiao

Shuai Jiao is a martial art originating from China around 4,000 years ago, which translates to “grab and throw.” This fighting style aims to quickly and skillfully take down your opponent. Using this style of fighting will help you get the upper hand in the streets.

During a fight, the key is to remain standing if possible as this stance gives your strikes maximum power. If you manage to take down your opponent first, it will give you a better advantage and provide more protection from a take down. From the standing position, you can subdue your attacker or safely run from the situation.

This martial art focuses on the technical quality of your fighting and speed. This type of fighting is also often referred to as stand-up grappling, since the aim is for you to stay standing while taking down your opponent.

This martial art doesn’t focus on your strength as much as your skill, speed, and technique when using the take-down methods. These include various ways of sweeping, tripping, and throwing to take down your opponent.

This type of stand-up grappling has influenced several other styles of martial arts, including wrestling, MMA, and Sanda.

4. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The main focus of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is ground fighting and grappling techniques, making this the perfect martial art to help you learn effective grappling moves.

The techniques are aimed to force your opponent into submission by using locks, chokes, and leveraging your opponent’s weaknesses. This type of martial art allows weaker fighters the advantage against bigger opponents.

The origins of BJJ can be found in Japanese Jujutsu and Judo, and it is one of the best martial arts to learn for self-defense. This is due to the effectiveness of the takedowns and grappling techniques in real-life situations. It gives you the ability to subdue your attacker enough to strike from a more dominant position.

BJJ has become a popular sport around the world with competitions such as Copa grappling games, Polaris, and Naga BJJ and Jiu-jitsu tournaments showcasing the top grappling fighters in BJJ.

BJJ grappling is a great skill to learn, and you can start training from a young age as this martial art enables smaller fighters to easily gain the upper hand. In BJJ, you will learn the mount or how to escape someone who has mounted you, a technical stand up, back control, a rear naked choke, guillotine choke, and the clinch.

If self-defense is your goal for learning these grappling techniques, then you should learn no-Gi grappling. No-Gi grappling is practiced without the traditional clothing, which creates faster-paced fighting. Since there will be no traditional clothes if you are attacked on the street, no-Gi is essential for you to learn.

5. Judo

Judo is an unarmed combat martial art aimed to throw, pin, or subdue your opponent using their force to your advantage. The techniques used in Judo originate from traditional Jujutsu practices.

The techniques used in Judo wrestling include hard throws to help subdue your attacker as you knock them down to the ground. You can then use Judo grappling techniques to control your attacker by choking them and forcing them into arm locks. These locks can even break their arm in extreme circumstances.

When you learn Judo, you will be introduced to the three main categories that make up the fundamentals of Judo. These techniques include Katame-waza (grappling), Nage-waza (throwing), and Atemi-waza (vital-point striking).

The practice of Judo may seem gentle and safe; however, some of the techniques can be dangerous if you don’t learn them from a trained instructor. You should look for formal training when learning Judo.

6. Sambo (Martial Art)

SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya (Sambo) martial art is a Soviet combat sport practiced internationally. Sambo was developed using certain aspects from Judo and wrestling, which includes submission wrestling holds, throws, and stand-up fighting techniques.

Sambo was originally developed as a military technique to end a fight as quickly as possible, and it has now spread to become an international combat sport. This fighting style was designed to be weapon-free, and so, it became a useful self-defense practice.

There are several types of Sambo:

  • Sport Sambo
  • ​Combat Sambo
  • ​Self-defense Sambo
  • ​Beach Sambo
  • ​Freestyle Sambo
  • ​Specialized/special Sambo

While sport Sambo is enjoyed as a structured sport, the other types more practical for street fighting include self-defense, combat, and freestyle Sambo.

These variations include chokeholds and submission grappling techniques restricted from sport Sambo. Specialized Sambo techniques have been developed for specific use in law enforcement and military groups.

While Sambo may be similar to Judo in some ways, it differs in the inclusions of leg locks. This is a common grappling method for self-defense and one of the main features of Sambo.

7. Muay Thai

Muay Thai is a sport found traditionally in Thailand and can be translated to Thai boxing. It has similarities to kickboxing; however, it also includes clinches, elbow and knee strikes, along with punches and kicking.

Muay Thai was developed for self-defense and military use and is primarily a striking martial art. However, it does include aspects of grappling seen in the clinch.

This style of fighting is conducted under controlled circumstances when practiced as a sport, but it can become dangerous when used in the streets. This will benefit you when you need it to survive if you are being attacked.

The clinch technique from Muay Thai is often used in MMA fighting since the clinch allows fighters to land strikes with the knees and elbows. The clinch also helps prevent opponents from knocking you down, and you can wear out your opponent by pressing them against something.

This clinch can provide good tactics for you in a self-defense situation to help you subdue your opponent and strike them if you can get close enough for a clinch.

Tips for Beginner Grapplers

When you are learning grappling, you should contact a trained professional to teach you. Learning any type of martial art requires in-depth knowledge of the practice, the techniques, and the correct form.

You can easily hurt yourself if you don’t learn the proper form and methods of practicing these fighting styles. If you are practicing grappling with someone, you could also dangerously hurt them if your form and techniques are incorrect.

The key fundamentals to remember when learning grappling are:

  • Breathe
  • ​Relax
  • ​Practice patience
  • ​Focus Stay consistent
  • ​Watch you position
  • ​Know the fundamentals

While you should have the help of a professional instructor, you can use certain books and guides to supplement your training. You can find a great starting point to move beyond beginner grappling in Ground Fighting Techniques to Destroy Your Enemy.

Best Grappling Techniques FAQs

What is grappling in martial arts?

Grappling is a technique used in many martial art disciplines and is a form of close-range fighting. Grappling allows you to lock onto your opponent to wear them out or clamp them into a lock. You can do this with submission grappling, wrestling grappling, locks, clinches, or holds.

Several martial arts include various grappling techniques, and these include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, Krav Maga, Judo, Sambo, Shuai Jiao, and Muay Thai.

What grappling martial art is the best for self-defense and strength?

There are several effective grappling techniques found in various martial arts to provide you with strength in a self-defense situation. The most popular grappling martial arts include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, whereas Krav Maga and Muay Thai give you good techniques for self-defense and street fighting.

Which is more effective in self-defense grappling or striking?

Both grappling and striking are important for self-defense and street fighting. Each element has its use, and grappling will be used more for close-range fighting.

It is important to learn both as you will aim to strike your opponent to give yourself time to escape. However, if the striking fails or if they knock you down, you will need to know grappling techniques to survive.

Which martial art styles help improve grappling strength?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, and Muay Thai are the top martial arts to develop strong core muscles and strengthen your body. However, all martial arts that include grappling workouts will help you strengthen your self-defense.

The Final Clinch

Now that you have an idea about grappling moves, grappling holds, and the various types of grappling, you can decide which martial art you think will be best to learn for self-defense.

You can learn more than one type of martial art and combine these techniques to develop a mixed grappling style to protect yourself. Remember to find a fighting style that will give your body type an advantage.

Did you find this article about the different grappling martial arts for self-defense useful? If so, please share it with your friends.

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