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Best Martial Art for Military

Hey there. I’m never on this section, so forgive me if this has been answered already.

I am 17 years old and will be participating in ROTC in college in order to become an officer in the Army. I quit football this year due to too many injuries and currently compete in powerlifting. However, I would also like to take up a martial art. Not just to fuck around like a typical teenage badass who takes a couple of MMA classes and thinks I’m ready to step into the octogon. I want to take a martial art that will have legitimate carry over to the military and possible combat situations. So here’s what I have it narrowed down to:

Krav Maga
Muay Thai

Any suggestions?


If you are serious about a career in the Army, then your decision will be made for you. The Army has their own program, called Army Combatives, which is based on the MMA fighting principles. The Marines have a similar program, in which the Marine is awarded a different colored belt as He/She progresses. Special Operations, such as SEALS,Delta,Rangers , have their own programs, which incorporate a lot of the above, plus, a hybrid of knife/handgun/empty hand techniques. There is nothing wrong with the four disciplines you listed. I have, at time or the other, trained in all four. Like any fighting system, they each have their good and bad points.

Due to my current job, I get asked this question a lot, “What is the best?” Please dont take this wrong, because it is not meant to be a smart ass answer, but, my advise to anyone is the best martial art is the one you will seriously train, because, the best fighting system in the world is useless, if you cannot execute the system in a survival situation. Just pick one and train hard, both mentally and physically.

BTW, if you had to quit football at 17 due to injuries, have you been medically cleared to powerlift? Remember, the entrance physical for the Army/ ROTC is no joke, and, your mobility and flexibility will be tested. Just food for thought.

I was following your training log for a bit, awesome stuff.

Hopefully someone chimes in that has some LEO/Military experience. I have none. So take what I say with quite a bit of salt. I know there are quite a few that post/lurk here…

Short Version/TL;DR/FRAT:

From what I understand Krav Maga is much more applicable to your situation.

Long Version:

From my personal experience a mix of boxing and wrestling have been the most effective in street fights. You have have un-learn a bunch of bad habits from other martial arts because a lot of the strategies used to employ certain techniques are not designed for 21st century combat. The reality of knives, tasers, body armor, multiple attackers, urban terrain, etc changes things. You don’t throw head kicks in a street fight (that’s an obvious one) but clinching to throw your deadly-thunderous-thai-style-knees-of-doom-and-terror can get you stabbed as well. Getting into further detail you for instance want to get up off the ground with your holster side away from your opponent so they don’t grab your gun, etc and those are the kinds of things that ONLY drilling it properly the first time will save you because in the moment you won’t have time to calculate it all.

…and Krav Maga is the only one of the above listed that considers those type of factors.

Hapkido is excellent and has a smorgasbord of techniques. I don’t know much about how them employ their techniques strategically or what methods they utilize to drill them realistically but traditional martial arts tend to be sorely lack in these areas… And of course this also varies from instructor to instructor.

Judo is awesome and has been used for years by our military. The hardest part will be finding a legit Judo school and not a 4 week course type thing. If you can find a pretty good combat oriented judo school then you will be very happy with what you learn. Again you may encounter a lot of the same problems inherent with a lot of traditional martial arts. While I did say to avoid the short course route, don’t knock your local community college or YMCA. You’d be surprised the kind of talent that teaches in the oddest places.

Muay Thai is most often trained for sport, but it’s not very hard to employ the techniques in a street fight especially with boots and especially and with a good understanding of the difference between sport and a self-defense situation. The advantage of muay thai over judo is that it gives you very applicable skills in multiple ranges, meanwhile judo engages within a range you may seek to avoid in 21st century combat. The advantage over hapkido is thaiboxing is trained (typically) in a method that is easier to apply directly. With a good understanding of range and how to main it you can develop a great set of skills. Krav Maga uses a good bit of muay thai from what I’ve seen/heard, and I’ve met a few Krav Maga practitioners that eventually move onto thaiboxing to refine some of their stand up techniques.

Anyway I hope this gets the ball rolling and the appropriate people jump in… good luck in your military career and powerlifting!

Being a Krav Maga instructor I thought I’d give you my two cents…

Krav Maga was intially developed as a military system. However, since its creation it has been diluted and transformed to suit the needs of law enforcement, personal protection personel and civilians. If you chose to train in Krav Maga, you will undoubetedly be training in the civilian form, only military units are permitted to train in the military form. That being said, a lot of the techniques are identical its usually only the ‘finishing’ of the technique that is different. I have a couple of military guys train under me, teaching them only civilian stuff and they still find it applicable and useful.

Krav Maga will give you effective techniques designed for the real world. You’ll be trained using drills and methods which aim to simulate a real world scenario as closely as possible. The awareness, agression and skills that you collect in the civilian system will definitely carry over into your military career. But remember, you have to practice these skills and techniques relentlessly to keep them sharp.

If you have any other questions just ask.


As far as martial arts for the US Army I would read and re-read Idaho’s response. He is a subject matter expert.

With regards to general martial arts training I will say the same thing for Xen Nova.

I am not claiming to be either and will give the disclosure that I am not, nor have I ever been .mil.

As far as selecting a martial art to train during college I will just put it out there that the geographical, time, and financial constraints of your situation are going to have a hell of a lot to do with it. “Best” is going to be “best that is available to me, here, now” instead of “best of all”. Xen’s post is fantastic, but he is in a situation where in a given week of training he can take instruction from both Eddie Bravo and Erik Fucking Paulson. In the fly over country where most universities are your choices may come down to school clubs, and one or two external schools. My general advice is to find quality instruction(they now what they are claiming to teach, and are capable instructors), at a cost(time and treasure) that you can afford, and to make sure that what you are learning matches up with what you perceive you need and what you like. Once you know those options/your location you can get a lot of help from this board about choices.

It is worth considering that hand to hand/combatives is no longer the primary skill set for warfighters, so you may want to consider some firearms training. Past an initial beginner’s safety/fundamentals course I will offer the following recommendations. These are not meant to be High Speed Low Drag, but to get you practice at the fundamentals. That way if you do go combat arms those tasked with actually teaching you how to make bad people die in messy ways will have an easier time of it.

The Appleseed Project:
This focuses on traditional rifle marksmanship from standard shooting positions, using a shooting sling. It is set up to be taken with a .22 rifle so the cost is minimal. It is also a good primer for the more formal marksmanship matches.
Disclosure: I have no association with the Appleseed Project, either formal or social. However I have heard reviews ranging from good to great, and at the least it may give you a fun thing to do with a Father/Uncle/Brother/etc.

Civilian Marksmanship Program
This was set up specifically to help civilians be better military riflemen if the need be.

For hangun skills bullseye shooting at even a club level is a fantastic base to practice.

Again, all of these options are fairly low cost and very PC. However, accuracy is the first fundamental and friends and acquaintances who are/have been involved in teaching firearms use to serious end users(read You in a few years) tend to remark how much this stuff helps the learning process.

Final Suggestion:
This is very much hear say, and well out of my lane, so I hesitate to write it. However, I based on what I have been told the following may be the most/only value in my post.


Formal/Ballroom Dance Lessons.

I have heard multiple times that the young officer who is capable of dancing with The General’s wife and putting her in a good mood at formal events commands a great power. The goal is to be able to dance well enough to make your partner look good/capable. Even if I am way off base any kind of ballroom dance club/class tends to run a serious short supply of straight men, so you can at least fish out of a baited pond socially while you are in college.

Hope at least some part of this was helpful.

Seriously, listen to Idaho and/or Xen.


Robert A

You have received excellent advise from X-Nova, Robert, and SB. I would also suggest you read through the “2-vs-1 Road Rage Fight” at the top of this forum. There were real life situations discussed by forum members and their experiences could help guide you in your methods of training.

Carry over to the military? Once you have more experience in the military you’ll see how you are asking the wrong question.

[quote]CSEagles1694 wrote:
Hey there. I’m never on this section, so forgive me if this has been answered already.

I am 17 years old and will be participating in ROTC in college in order to become an officer in the Army. I quit football this year due to too many injuries and currently compete in powerlifting. However, I would also like to take up a martial art. Not just to fuck around like a typical teenage badass who takes a couple of MMA classes and thinks I’m ready to step into the octogon. I want to take a martial art that will have legitimate carry over to the military and possible combat situations. So here’s what I have it narrowed down to:

Krav Maga
Muay Thai

Any suggestions?


This is actually a pretty good question and a fair one. There’s a lot that goes into it also.

See, in the beginning, martial arts were all meant for war - hence the “martial” part. It’s part of the reason they taught you to fight with a staff, a sword, nunchucks, etc. - at least in Goju-ryu - becuase the Japanese back in the day would not let the Okinawans use weapons, so they have to improvise with the tools that might be found on one of their farms.

Many arts started this way, and many of the moves, while people believe them to be empty-handed techniques, were really designed to be used on a battlefield, with weapons, against armored men on horseback.

The problem with many of those arts TODAY is that although their principles are still applicable, the game has changed totally. It’s kind of like football - essentially you score a touchdown the same way now as you did in 1920, but most of the stuff you’d see happen on the field back then would be totally anachronistic today.

So, although the principles apply and TMA’s can still be used today, if you were to take them out on to a real battlefield or war situation, you would have to adapt them. To a degree Hapkido, which seems to me to be a martial art that’s gaining in popularity, is like this - they incorporate high kicks, flying kicks, and other things that are wholly unrealistic.

However, from what I’ve read, the art is a pretty adaptable one that is trying to keep up with the times. They’re reacting to modern day stresses and trying to work that in. This, however, will depend heavily on the teacher - if you get one that wants you only doing kata, working with nunchucks, and bowing to the Korean flag (always a rub of mine with TMA’s - I don’t bow to other flags), then although the art is adequate, that teacher may not. Have a critical eye.

Muay Thai is going to figure into this the same way that boxing does for me. Everyone here knows that’s my first love, but it, like Muay Thai, is going to have some pretty big limitations in what qualifies as a “battlefield” today - most likely some Middle Eastern city that you would be tramping through with 70 lbs of gear and a rifle.

Muay Thai will teach you to punch adequately (not as well as boxing, but adequately) and its knees and elbows are vicious. But you must keep in mind that if you do MT, you’re going to have to do all the research on “self-defense” yourself. MT isn’t going to teach you how to tell if you’re being interviewed for attack, who looks suspicious and who doesn’t, and all the other things that are necessary for being in a hostile environment. Now, to a degree you won’t have to worry about that because the military is going to teach you how to deal with this. But it’s also not going to address guns, knives, fighting your way to a gun, how to fight while you have a pistol on your side, etc., and for the military, these are pretty key.

On the other hand, of course, it’s going to toughen you up and get you used to full-contact misery and definitely instill a fighting spirit and a callousness that won’t be gained from less stressful arts. So there’s good and bad points.

Judo is great, plainly put. In today’s changing landscape of the battlefield, it’s not like you’re landing on Okinawa anymore and just going in with a rifle and an entrenching tool looking to kill whatever’s in front of you. The job of the American soldier, many times, is peace keeper (or, some say, occupier.) This means that you’re trying to “win the hearts and minds of the people,” and just going around killing is not the way to do that. Restraining someone is more important than ripping their throat out, and arresting them and bringing them in for questioning and interviewing is closer to what is likely to happen. This kind of thing is where judo (and to a lesser degree, BJJ) shine. You can restrain them without seriously injuring them, if they engage closely you can throw them and knock the wind out of them, giving you time to get your zip ties on them again, without seriously injuring them and killing a potential source or getting yourself into trouble for using excessive force on the citizenry of a hostile country.

I like judo for this because it’s a stand-up art that’s going to make you maintain balance, and with enough practice you’ll be able to employ it effectively even while armed and with your pack on. And as I said, grappling has its advantages here - my buddy was a prison guard in Baghdad for about a year, and when in the prison, you have no gun on you, just pepper spray as I recall. The things he used on the prisoners to “convince” them to do what he wanted were very, very simple grappling techniques such as grabbing them in the meat of the triceps with a firm grip and pulling hard, which causes more pain than you think it might.

The first time I learned a figure-four lock was from a buddy of mine who spent a couple years in Afghanistan - he applied it so quickly when I was fucking around with him that I made him teach it to me. Again, very basic grappling, very beneficial when you’re trying not to kill someone but you want to make it known that you’re in control.

Now krav maga, and to a certain extent all other “Reality-based self defense arts,” are going to be a crap shoot. As the above poster said, Krav isn’t really krav anymore - they’re not teaching the same shit to civilians that they taught to Israeli commandos or whatever, and the basic level of combatives taught in the IDF doesn’t appear to be any more complicated or better than a lot of what the US Army will teach you when you get there.

From the krav classes I have seen, they are kind of jack-of-all trade types - they don’t punch particularly well, but they do it well enough, they won’t win a NAGA tournament, but they know enough holds to restrain, etc.

The one thing that they do work with that the others (aside from maybe hapkido) don’t is weapons and multiple attackers. In a krav class, whether you’re armed or not will apply. They’ll teach you weapons skills, and real weapons skills, not shit with rice grinders, and they’ll probably go into more scenario based training that’s not dependent upon squaring off with someone in a ring. Krav is a military art, and it should be taught as such.

The problem, though, is that there are a million different teachers that vary GREATLY in quality. If you find a guy with actual battlefield experience, take that class even if he’s teaching tai-chi. If you find a suburban housewife teaching it, you may want to be more wary. But then also, we have Miss Parker on this board who, if you looked at her, would not intimidate you, but she’s one tough broad and really does her homework and trains her ass off in Krav. She’s an instructor I would trust. So there’s no easy answer… you kind of have to go with your gut on that.

Another possible problem with Krav is that being as they’re teaching you similar things that you’d learn in the army, you may have to unlearn some of it when you actually get into the Army, especially if you were further into the art where they start talking on more militaristic tactics.

At the base of this, though, Idaho is right - the best art is the one you love, because that’s the one you’ll train your ass off in. I took Goju-ryu for many years off and on, and although I progressed, it never truly became a part of me because the love wasn’t there. Once I started boxing, I found what I was looking for, and I live the sport. As a result, my skills have increased three times as fast in only a couple years as opposed to Gojuryu, which I took for a much longer time. When you love the art, nobody will have to FORCE you to train in it, and that means that every rep will be taken more seriously, and that art is going to benefit you far more.

Also, once you learn the basic principles of fighting, and you feel that you’re starting to ingrain them, you can begin to integrate other pieces in. I’ve done that with boxing by reading about crime, crime prevention, and self-defense in general to fill in the gaps that boxing leaves. You’re lucky because you’re going to have the military do that for you. But either way, checking out guys like Kelly McCann, who I highly, highly recommend, could only help you - guys who have really created new “martial arts” that deal with everything from hand-to-hand combat to guns and folding knives and batons.

I don’t like the current trend of moving towards BJJ for the army - its dangerous, simply put, to be on the ground, even more so when you’re in a third-world shithole where literally even getting mud or water in your mouth could get you sick as shit. I think the army is a bit misguided in doing that, but hey, what do I know…

Sorry for the long post… being sober on a Sunday morning makes me long-winded I guess.

This is a great, great article written by Tucker Carlson about his experiences touring Iraq. Kelly McCann and his guys were Carlson’s bodyguards, and there are several situations the writer talks about that could quickly turn into life-and-death affairs.


As a soldier, the positions you might be put in are not very different than this. Think hard about exactly which art is going to help you in these situations - the answer is “none.” You’re going to live and die by your pistol, your rifle, and your logistical support.

As far as hand-to-hand combat goes, you’re really going to be training it more for hobby than the one scenario that might arise where you’re even close enough to punch someone.

An excerpt:

“We were almost to the end of the street when we heard voices. It sounded like young men speaking in stage whispers, and it was, three of them. They emerged from the shadows directly in front of us. “Stop!” Chad yelled, pulling a .45 out of his leg holster. One of them kept coming, walking purposefully with a cigarette in his mouth. “Stop right there!” At about twenty-five feet, Chad leveled the gun at the man’s chest. At fifteen feet, he pulled back the hammer. The man was about a foot from being killed when he finally stopped. Without lowering the gun, Chad motioned for the men to turn around. They did, and so did we. We were outnumbered and had only a handgun; there wasn’t much to do but leave.”

Not sure about the Army, but the USMC actively encourages you to go out and practice some other martial art as a supplement to your MCMAP training. Personally I would lean towards Judo because it’s fairly well standardized, practiced at full speed everywhere you go, and the training is usually physical enough to work as your general PT a couple of days a week.

Muay thai can be great too, but thanks to the UFC there’s Bullshido muay thai places popping up all over so you have to look at individual school quality a little more closely than you would a Kodokan judo dojo.

I’ve heard great things about Krav, but it also seems to suffer from a pretty wide variation in instructor quality and it overlaps fairly closely with the combatives training you’ll already get. Not necessarily a bad thing, but if all you want is additional combatives training most military martial arts instructors would be happy to put you through hell a few times a week for free.

Hapkido is dead last here in my book. There’s nothing wrong with doing it (it’s about 10,000X better than playing xbox) but I think it’s going to have the least carryover to your combatives training and at least in my area most of the Hapkido dojangs are after school daycare with a little Korean thrown in. The adult students are an afterthought.

As mentioned, you will learn MACP (Modern Army Combatives Program) developed by Matt Larsen- he travels CONUS and OCONUS helping units establish and certify their instructors. When you go through BOLC (if you go to a Maneuver/Fire/Effects branch) you will become Level I Certified (total of four levels). This is 40 hours of instruction that gives you a base level understanding.

Lots of good advice in here, but I agree that Judo is probably the most applicable and mutable to MACP.

I’m not a subject expert (I’ve never been in the armed forces) but I suspect a lot of it will depend on what’s available in your area and the quality of schools. A good TKD school would beat a crappy Krav Maga school wouldn’t it?

Just a divergent thought to throw out…

Very, very little modern warfare is hand-to-hand.

Better to have top notch conditioning and become an expert with modern weaponry.

[quote]ranengin wrote:
Just a divergent thought to throw out…

Very, very little modern warfare is hand-to-hand.

Better to have top notch conditioning and become an expert with modern weaponry.


The guy’s looking for a martial art, and that’s never a bad thing - especially as a hobby. It’s certainly better than the typical soldier’s other hobby of boozing and banging other soldiers’ wives.

Plus it’s always good to be good with your hands. That’s something that becomes a part of you and your personality and is excellent for self-confidence, aggressiveness, and a lot of other shit that a soldier needs.

@Robert A,
Sometimes I forget how lucky I am, thank you. I’m in SoCal so I can throw a rock and hit a decent gym. Oddly enough one of the smartest things I’ve ever done was taking ballroom dancing for a year. Has helped me in NUMEROUS situations. From weddings to simple dates it is sorely lacking these days. Instantly moves you from “a guy at the bar” status to “the gentleman near the bar”. coughcough also the key to pulling cougars coughcough

standing ovation My god man! You’re gonna need to be bored and sober on more sundays! My mom actually took me out of a few karate schools when i was a kid because she didn’t like the flag bowing thing. And my mom is from another country but she LOVES america lol.

@idaho & SBguerilla & devildawg,
I figured there were some ACTUAL topical experts on here… great insights!

RE: modern weaponry v. necessity of h2h skills

I think we’ve all acknowledged that any martial art you practice is going to be bit deficient. It’s not the techniques per say…fighters with similar numbers of limbs and structural vulnerabilities will eventually invent the complete range of techniques possible for that body, given sufficient time and creativity. The area that most fail are in tactics (FightinIrish26 went into awesome detail about). Becoming a technical expert in modern weaponry IS (vastly) more important. I think it was a Dick Marcinko interview I listened to where someone asked him how many people he killed hand to hand, he said something to the effect of “None, we always brought enough bullets”. That said, as a soldier and something reflected in martial artist it’s not just about the fight but about the perfecting of yourself. As a martial artist you are not only refining techniques but your inner world as well as a matter of fact you cannot aptly demonstrate your techniques in a combative arena without having both aligned. A casual understanding of the samurai illuminates that how you live and how you fight are inseparable concepts. Which is why most SF units focus so hard on their warrior ethos (SEAL teams especially). This kind of mindset and balance within himself is invaluable to a soldier. So as far as hobbies go… not a bad one.

Just found this. Pretty f’n cool. Real martial arts are just no joke.

A ton will probably depend on what schools and what instructors are in your area, their teachign schedule, and their costs…you can take any martial art but depending on the instructor it can be quite different than the same martial art taught down the road by a different instructor…then what class schedule do they offer and can you make enough classes per week to make it worth while? Can you afford the tuition? Are you going to train your nuts off with dedication over the long haul?

I like doing krav and muay thai, plenty of gross motor skills that you could drill and probably pull off for real under an adrenaline dump. Id also consider getting some audios and DVDs of Tony Blauer’s so you study the psychology of fights and pick up On Combat by Dave Grossman and study it thoroughly.

I think you got tons of good advice here from folks who have more hand to hand and LE/MIL experience than me, but those are my two cents. Sport and complex motor skill stuff will rarely work under real world stress and violence unless you are training 4 hours a day for years on end…find something that drills basic gross motor skills and that you enjoy enough that you get bitten by the bug and cant wait to train everyday or every other day…

Guys who grew up wrestling in their youth and high school and then take 6 months of boxing or muay thai are dangerous SOBs…

In the military God forbid you go hand to hand, unless you are an MP, you probably will not need to worry so much about control type moves, you will want to be dropping the hammer and smashing folks and transitioning to a weapon hopefully.

Anyhow when it comes to workout plans, diet plans, supplements, or a martial art system…if anyone tells you they know for sure whats best for you, it should throw up a red flag. Only you through your own journey can determine or will discover what is right for you.

Train Hard, Stay Safe

Awesome video about the program at Quantico!!

Okay, okay. Thanks for all the posts. Completely forgot about the thread over the past day since I’m never in here. I appreciate all the information that each of you has provided.

Idaho - it’s been broken bones and concussions. I’m completely healthy right now and have no health issues. I decided NOT to play this year in order to avoid further injury. I have my DoDMERB scheduled within the next couple of weeks, along with the other components of my scholarship application.

Irish - thanks for the long-ass post haha. I actually read it and got some good info out of it.

At this point I’m just trying to find SOMETHING other than just powerlifting right now so I can stay busy.


OP you are getting really good advice from everyone.

I couldn’t have put it better; fightinIrish is exactly on point with Krav Maga. As a practioner you have to become a jack of all trades but a master of none. The reason is simple, in a real world scenario there are so many possibilities; a knife attack, a knife threat, being on the ground, being choked, having your hair pulled, your shirt grabbed, I could go on forever. The point is you have to divide your time so you are efficient enough to deal with each of these problems. Its not as daunting as it seems as Krav Maga is based on a few core principles which if you adhere to, remembering techniques is a breeze. I hope your getting the point here, that because your training for the real world, you dont have the luxury of mastering any one area.

If you do choose to train in Krav Maga I strongly recommend that you cross-train in another art. This will help you to refine certain skills beyond what a typical Krav will give you. It will also depend on your instructor, some have a history in another art and it’ll show in how much they emphasize certain things.

And yes, there are so many Krav Maga schools and orginizations in both Israel and the world it makes it difficult to discern which is appropriate. A lot of Krav schools use techniques that have been either left behind or built upon by the more forward moving orginizations. If you do find that your only option is one of these schools, I recommend going for something else. Have a look if there is a KMG school in your area, that would be your best bet.