As someone who’s spent a lot of time researching and learning martial arts, I (and most others) know they can be dangerous.
They have many health benefits, but their primary use of self-defense inevitably involves violence. You train to be ready to defend yourself in case someone attacks you.
In this article, I will look at five of the most dangerous martial arts of all time.
Some martial arts are more dangerous than others. At the same time, some are more designed around taking down the opponent using nonlethal methods.
Some involve using weapons, including clubs, spears, swords, knives, or firearms.
Many involve ground games or holds, and almost all take influence and move from one another.
Let’s crack on with this top list.
5. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (often abbreviated to BJJ) is one of the world’s most dangerous martial arts. BJJ is designed around taking your opponent down to the ground and usually choking them out or forcing them to submit.
You can get someone on the ground, and if you’re well-trained in BJJ, they’re in for a terrible time. Trust me, I know: it’s not a fun time if you’re on the receiving end of it.
An absolute master of BJJ can likely break or injure many parts of your body while you are both on the ground, and you will be practically helpless at the same time.
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Even those well-trained in other ground game techniques (e.g. wrestlers) can struggle against someone who knows BJJ.
BJJ isn’t hugely dangerous in most training scenarios.
If you were to learn BJJ from a modern dojo, you would be likely at minimal risk of breaking a limb or worse. Simply because Jiu-Jitsu promotes a ton of respect for your fellow practitioners.
On the street, no one is going to stop you. BJJ is extremely dangerous and one of the world’s most dangerous martial arts.
Kalari is another extremely dangerous martial art. Far older than most martial arts in this list, Kalari has its roots in India, almost 3,000 years ago.
Its full name is Kalaripayattu. Kalari was designed as a martial art that uses weapons, punches, and kicks.
Traditional Kalari is very dangerous because this was a complete combat system taught to warriors in ancient India millennia ago. I think it’s pretty cool just for its history.
While there’s no doubt been some advancement over time, much of the core material is likely pretty old.
Kalari is dangerous because it is a fighting style designed for war. It is designed to turn you and your body/weapon into something very dangerous.
Speed, armed fighting, usage of pressure points, striking, grappling, and more: Kalari is an incredibly dangerous martial art. One of the most dangerous in the world.
Karate is arguably one of the most well-known martial arts in the world. It has roots in the Ryukyu Kingdom, which existed in the late 1400s and 1500s.
Japan annexed these islands in the late 1800s and absorbed karate into their culture.
Karate is a highly effective and straightforward martial art. Mostly designed around direct striking and solid and brutal attacks.
Some versions of the style taught include additional aspects, such as grappling or ground game.
Karate is, without a doubt, dangerous. It has multiple avenues of causing severe injury to others.
From broken bones to injuries to the throat or sensitive areas such as the eyes or groin, karate has many ways to cause you pain.
Some karate self-defense techniques are just plain violent but pretty useful.
One of the most dangerous martial arts, without a doubt: enough solid blows and things like interior damage are also possible.
If your strikes are hard enough and you’re steady and consistent enough, you’ll be able to break the human body with karate.
2. Combat Sambo
Another extremely dangerous martial art that’s more regionally known rather than globally is Combat Sambo.
Combat Sambo is a martial art that’s only about a century old, give or take. It had its roots in Russia in the 1920s, though the style continued to develop significantly.
It’s now practiced around the world in various tournaments. MMA GOAT contender Khabib Nurmagomedov has significant training in this style.
Combat Sambo is primarily a mixed martial arts kind of style: It takes bits from many schools and styles and combines them. It’s as popular as MMA in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Combat Sambo was developed for military use and contains all kinds of different bits: from striking to grappling, holds, pressure points, weapon usage, and more. Combat Sambo (nearly) has it all.
Because of the practicality of this martial art, it is one of the most dangerous ones in human history, containing practical, straightforward techniques and information to nullify someone with your bare hands.
Combat Sambo is a very effective form of self-defense and is absolutely one of the most dangerous martial arts in history.
1. Krav Maga
Krav Maga is almost universally known as one of the world’s most dangerous martial arts. If I had to pick a fight with a person trained in a specific fighting style, Krav Maga wouldn’t be at the top of my list.
Krav Maga is popular in many parts of the world, and the martial art is practical: designed by the Israeli Defense Forces.
It is military in nature and one of the most straightforward and practical fighting styles.
Krav Maga is designed for street fights and military situations. It includes striking, grappling, use of weapons, holds, and various other martial arts techniques.
Krav Maga is dangerous because it is simple, easy, and intended to be lethal in various close-encounter scenarios.
One of the most unique aspects of Krav Maga is that it contains a lot of weapon usage as a martial art. Knives and sometimes even firearms are used as part of Krav Maga (though often to counter them).
Finally, one last point to make about why Krav Maga is both so practical and so dangerous is the intent for which it was created. Specifically, what Krav Maga was designed for.
It had military applications, of course, but it was also designed for real-life street situations. More than almost any other martial art, Krav Maga can prepare you for a real-life confrontation.
That’s why it easily makes the top spot for one of the most dangerous. It borrows pieces from just about any martial art or self-defense method to min-max success in eliminating a target or attacker.
Simple as that!
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Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.