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Which Fighting Style to Practice?

I have been researching and looking into different styles to practice and I am still not sure which one is the best fit for me? Can you guys help me out?

I am a tiny girl. I am 22 years old, 5’ 3" and about 110 pounds. I am in grad school and live in a big city so I have access to many different styles. I am a pretty aggressive person so I would want something that I can exert all my energy and stress on; something that can act as an escape. Also I would like something that I can use as a self defense mechanism if worse comes to worse (I have some night classes and my walk is about 15 minutes, and although I am in a safe part, anything can happen and I want to be prepared. I do walk with pepper spray, but I want confidence in the ability to protect myself). I am can run quite fast in short distances, but lack endurance I would say. I also have pretty quick reflexes and like to be aware of my surroundings at all times.

Sorry if this is too much information, and please ask if you need anymore! Any help and advice is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

Boxing and kickboxing training is the best for fitness and letting out stress and aggression. They also have the most full contact sparring. The best way to prepare for being punched in the face is by being punched in the face.

Honestly the best thing for real self defense is practicing situational awareness. Always know your surroundings and use common sense about where you go and when. It doesnt matter how bad ass you are if you get into a bad situation. Brian Shaw or George St. Pierre would be helpless against a bat to the head he didn’t see coming.

If you make a game out of situational awareness it can be fun. Try to look at every person you pass and describe them in your head like you’re filing a police report (white male, 5’8", blond hipster haircut, gauge in his ears, green shirt etc…)

Reverse game planning can be very informative. Take a look at where you’ll be walking at night during the day. Now game plan. If you were going to rape or rob a young college girl, how and where would you do it along that route? Make note of those areas and avoid them.

Lastly you’re a small woman. Even with perfect technique you won’t be able to KO the average full grown man. If you end up in a “fair fight”, you’ll lose. Plan for that and NEVER fight fair.


Thank you so much for the information and help! I will implement the ideas you have given me!

Depending if you have any experience with martial arts, it may be handy to go to several fighting gyms around your area to see what you enjoy and get a taste of what each of them offer. I would try boxing, Muay Thai (or kickboxing), a karate, BJJ and perhaps krav maga.

It’s common to think you know what goes on in each of these places, and be very surprised when you actually go. Also most places don’t charge for the 1st class.

I also 2nd situational awareness training. As Basement Gainz has said, you can be a world class martial artist but if you are starring at the ground and have headphones in, you can always be surprised and taken advantage of.

The martial arts mentioned above (including boxing) are cool, but I’d like to throw in a plug for judo. When I was your age my friends were into mixed martial arts before there was such a thing on TV, and I found that a little judo went a long way in sparring matches. Now that we do have mixed martial arts on TV, it seems anyone who can’t grapple just asking to lose. Back when I weighed 210 pounds and benched three hundred pounds, judo and aikido women not much bigger than you threw me to the mat regularly (but judo is a lot easier to learn than aikido).

Having said all that, if you have the time and money I’d suggest taking a punching class twice a week and judo twice a week, if only because you can’t know in advance which better suits the circumstances or which you will enjoy more.

Given that you are a small female and interested in self-defense, I would say to find a BJJ school that teaches self-defense. Striking arts are great but the reality is you are not beating a man in a fist fight and the worse thing that can happen if you train boxing exclusively is that you may end up believing you can. Besides, if you are attacked it will most likely start with a man grabbing you to control you. There is a good chance it will be from behind. Back to BJJ, just make sure it isn’t a sport oriented school, although what you would learn there won’t exactly be useless, it just won’t be comprehensive. A little hint: the older the teacher the more likely self-defense will be taught.

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I second BJJ. Unfortunately, one of the first signs of an attack on females is commonly being grabbed or thrown to the ground. With BJJ you will get real time experience dealing with that from larger training partners, and should it ever happen to you, the attacker will find themselves in the water with a shark. The physical fitness aspect of BJJ comes from learning new ways of moving, along with grappling full speed at the end of class (rolling). Look up a Gracie Academy in your area and visit a class, that will help make an informed choice.

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I currently train BJJ and thoroughly enjoy it. It’s a great workout and stress-reliever and, if you find a self-defense oriented school it CAN be very effective.

Sadly as a woman if you are ever tbe victim of violence it will most likely be at the hands of a romantic partner or male acquaintance. In those types of settings a foundation in grappling can be extremely valuable. If it’s a stranger, as others have pointed out you will most likely be grabbed in some fashion as opposed to having someone square off with you boxing-style (FTR, I frickin love boxing).

The downside of BJJ, IMO is that in a self-defense situation, especially if it goes to the ground, the goal is not to stand an fight but to get up and get out. In most BJJ schools you will get the benefit of training with a live, fully resisting partner, but for the most point you will be trying to “win” i.e. get a submission via joint lock or choke as opposed to trying to escape and disengage.

The two are very different, in fact almost opposite mindsets. Just bear that in mind. So-called ‘reality martial arts’ address this better, but the quality of instruction varies. In the end, the best instructor accessible to you is probably more important than what style.

Lastly, for true self-defense weapons are key. You need to have confidence in your unarmed ability, but you want to trade up to a better option ASAP. What you can legally carry varies widely by region, but carry the best weapon you legally can, carry more than one and whatever you carry find a way to train with it. Integrate it into whatever unarmed system you’re working. Practice getting it out and using it while under attack. Practice what to do if it doesn’t work. Just carrying a can of spray, a knife or a gun can be worse than useless if you aren’t skilled with it.

Be safe. Have fun.

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Thank you everyone for your input and information! The response was way more than what I expected and I am grateful you each took time to answer my question fully. It seems like I still have a lot of thinking to do. I plan to go to local gyms and talk to the trainers there. Thank you all!

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There have been lots of great responses on this thread, but this one is the most comprehensive and “Reality based.”

I LOVE Jiu-Jitsu (GJJ, BJJ, Small Circle, Yoshitsune, etc…) and feel that it’s a great skill set (especially for a smaller person who may not have the mass or ability to generate enough kinetic force to be able to incapacitate a large fully committed attacker). But, you need to beware of developing a “sporting” mindset and/or engaging in unnecessary ground fighting (and by that I am not suggesting that ground fighting isn’t a necessary skill but instead that if you wind up there it should be for good reason and you should have the goal of finishing things as quickly as possible or getting back up and disengaging).

Batman’s point about most assaults on women occurring at the hands of intimate or at least known attackers (and not some random stranger hiding in the bushes) is also an extremely important and unfortunate truth that you should consider. Skills like boundary setting, verbal and postural assertiveness skills, learning to recognize potential issues related to unhealthy patterns of behaviors, and most of all remembering that you have the right to both tell others how they can and cannot treat or touch you and cultivating the fighting spirit to defend those “boundaries” are equally if not even possibly more important than developing a kick ass Straight Right or Rear Naked Choke. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

More and more Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga, and other Self Defense oriented Martial Arts are starting to catch on about these truths and teach more “pre-Active” skills. But sadly, these cerebral, emotional, psychological, verbal, and postural are still neglected or at least under focused on in many Martial Arts and pretty much completely non existent in sport based systems (like Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, or Judo despite those all being excellent unarmed combative Arts).

At the very least I would suggest reading or purchasing instructional/educational materials on the non physical side of Combat by people like Tony Blauer, Melissa Soalt (Dr Ruthless), Gavin DeBecker, etc…and using those materials to not only round out your understanding/skills regarding combat, but to also use as a filter through which to judge/evaluate the physical skills you are learning. Most of us have limited time to train and even those of us who have practically unlimited time are not going to have enough time to develop every skill out there to a high degree. So, understanding which skills you are going to dedicate your time and energy into developing (and why) is important to getting the most out of your training as well.

Good luck and hope this helps.