best martial art for nerds

Are There Martial Arts That Are Good For Geeks?

This morning I was randomly browsing Facebook and came across a clip from a really old movie with Jean Claude van Damme. It was so outrageous it was incredibly funny to watch. However, when I was young, the same movie looked awesome. What I did not know then and I do know now is that a scenario with Van Damme fighting in real life would be completely different than in a movie.

The Problem

Martial arts movies gave people a completely false idea of martial arts and fighting in general. Here is the hard truth:

“Most fights finish in a few seconds.”

There is usually no time to pull off any advanced fighting technique. A real-world fight is brutal. Getting punched hurts.

Then, we have press and countless individuals that blindly promote different martial arts as supreme fighting styles for self defense. This makes people expect miracles from them.

Unfortunately, many geeks, like me, end up thinking the many wrong things. For me, things completely changed after the first punched that hit my face.

My Personal Experience

When I was around 6-7th grade, I started learning martial arts. I enrolled in a Qwan Ki Do class. I went to the classes for almost a year but then the TV schedule for Power Rangers was changed so I quit. Who can blame me? That was actually more productive.

Then, as time passed, I became a fan of professional wrestling. Yes, the WWE stuff, then WWF, and WCW. Everything was quite spectacular. I knew it was fake, obviously.

As all the children, we started doing wrestling moves at home and on the ground. This actually prepared me more to defend myself than the entire year of Qwan Ki Do.

After some time of fooling around, I got back to training. I ended up doing boxing, some Ashihara Kaiakan, some judo, some Muay Thai and some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

And I did get punched a lot. And got used to being punched a lot. I quickly learned that if you fight with someone that actually knows to fight, you will get hit a little or you will get a little hurt.

An example of effective self defense against knife.

Back To The Martial Arts For Self Defense Topic

The reason why I am writing this blog post is that I got really mad when I read THIS ARTICLE about the most effective martial arts for self defense. Whoever wrote that article has no idea what a self defense situation is.

Also, the article was really high in Google rankings. This means people looking for a martial art to protect themselves will most likely land on it. And if they believe what is written there, they are in trouble.

There is no problem with number 1 on the list. Muay Thai is actually a really good self defense style that can be very effective in a street fight. The problem with that post is that real Muay Thai and fighting in this style looks nothing like the clip he showed there, saying “one of the best fighting movies I’ve ever seen”.

And using movies as examples of self defense creates a horrible perception. This is how a street fight looks like. And as Joe Rogan said once, it is so surprising to see how many think that they can actually fight when they have no idea what to do in real life.

So what should you learn?

This is how training for self defense should look like. (I would prefer MMA gloves)

The Truth About Martial Arts For Self Defense

The truth is that in most situations you do not need martial arts knowledge to protect yourself in a real fight. Most of the fights you end up being in are won by pure attitude and how in shape you are or are not.

Go to a gym and start hitting the punching bag without gloves. Keep hitting it and see how long you last until you run out of stamina. Now remember the fact that a human body is much tougher than most gym bags.

Most fights are done in a few seconds because people run out of steam. If you run out of steam after throwing a couple of punches, you have no chance. And most people are like that, including those big guys that are loud mouths and are violent. However, they are violent. This counts.

Being aggressive is another factors that counts a lot in a real fight. Most people cannot actually punch someone with all the power they could and are not at all aggressive. They think of fights like they saw in movies. When someone comes at you with a fury of punches and a ton of aggressivity, you will end up being hit if you do not avoid them or if you are also not aggressive and you hit back.

A huge part of a real-world fight is mental and relies on your body. So, if you want to have a good chance, geek or not, hitting the gym helps. Like a lot.

The Best Martial Arts For Nerds

This is highly subjective. Some styles are better for some people and some body types are better suited for some. For instance, a guy that is naturally skinny would not be that great for wrestling or judo. But he would be great for boxing or Muay Thai.

Also, the only other thing I have to say is that it is better to learn any style than no style at all. You will quickly figure out what you miss if you are serious about it, as long as you actually train and you put effort in it.

Contrary to popular belief, the best martial arts for self defense are actually the “simplest” ones. I use this word very lightly as I only mean that they are simpler than others. For instance, boxing is a lot simpler than a highly complex traditional Kung Fu style.

So, the best martial arts for nerds, from my point of view, are:

I know the image is not appropriate but I really, really liked it. 😀 Sorry about that.


Many get boxing wrong because of the fights they see on TV. In reality, boxing is incredibly effective. It teaches you some of the best punching techniques and how to move your body, which is really important.

In a real fight, you do not want to get to the ground as you never know what happens there. The footwork that you learn helps you a lot as you start to understand how to move not to fall down.

Boxing also involves a lot of sparring, which helps you deal with a person, as opposed to an imaginary opponent as with many other martial arts. If you have a good teacher/instructor/coach, however you may want to call him, you will be drastically more effective in a self defense scenario.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)

Many say that BJJ is not effective for self defense because it focuses a lot on ground techniques. This is correct but you also lean how to take someone to the ground with trips and throws. You can EASILY finish a fight if you trip someone and he does not know how to fall (this is actually a thing) or you throw him.

Another very important part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that you learn what you have to do if you land on the ground. You can be the best fighter in the world and still lose your balance and fall.

When you practice BJJ, you roll, which is basically a form of sparring. This teaches you a lot about real fighting. Just grab a friend and tell him to sit with his knees on your chest or in a mounting position (you can Google that). You will quickly figure out how hard it is to deal with someone that is roughly your weight but sits on you.

Muay Thai

I can easily put this over BJJ since most fights do not end up on the ground. Muay Thai is different than boxing as it also incorporates really effective elbow and knee strikes. They come in really handy in a small area, like a bar or a narrow alleyway.

Striking in Muay Thai is particularly powerful. The round kick, in particular, is very strong when delivered with strength. In a fight it is not like in MMA or in movies. You do not really kick to the face. A strong Muay Thai kick to the legs, a properly hit one, can easily take down someone.

If you choose Muay Thai, be sure that you go to a gym where a lot of sparring happens.

A video of a grandmaster FMA instructor visiting a school. I put it here to show the body movements.

Filipino Martial Arts (FMA)

Most people did not even hear about these. They are practically different military martial arts that were developed in the Philippines. You learn really strong hand-to-hand combat skills, especially with weapons involved.

In FMA you learn many weapons. You learn how to use them and how to protect yourself from them. You never know when someone has a hidden weapon. A knife can be incredibly damaging in a fight.

Krav Maga

This is heavily debated among martial arts practitioners but the truth is that Krav Maga is 100% one of the best martial arts for self defense and people that are not in a particularly great shape. Also, this style is not actually about the techniques, although they are taught.

Krav Maga is more about building your attitude. One thing that many do not know is that when soldiers are trained Krav Maga, they are not taught many techniques that this martial art has. They are taught how to be aggressive and use this to their advantage.

Krav Maga is dirty. You are taught to hit the groin, knees, the neck, eyes and other weak body parts. This is not actually the case with other martial arts.

Just think about one thing. In Krav Maga it actually becomes a part of your fighting style to hit the groin. Do you know many men that can resist a blow to that area or even expect it?


When you choose what martial art to practice, everything becomes subjective. However, at the end of the day, everything boils down to attitude and your willingness to learn/practice.

Hopefully, you will never have to fight in your entire life. Most people do not have to deal with any fight, like ever. I hope that is you. However, if the unwanted situation in which you NEED to defend yourself appears, you have to be ready to:

  • Be aggressive – Even fighters with great defense can get hit. It is never pleasant to be hit. Being aggressive and actually becoming the attacker when you defend yourself helps A LOT.
  • Fight dirty – Never assume that the person you fight is honorable and that you go into a 1 v 1 against him, a “clean fight”. There was this pretty funny old street defense video with Bas Rutten. Although it is exaggerated and clearly funny, it does talk about the importance of the kick in the groin and more “dirty” techniques.
  • Be aware of what happens around you – Just because you won and the guy is down does not mean the fight is over. When you leave, even if you fought or not, always be aware of your surroundings. A punch to the back of your head or a bottle that hits you there will knock you out and are really dangerous. This is why they are illegal in MMA.
  • Do all that it takes to avoid the fight

I avoided many fights in my life by not acting like the “typical man”. Someone calls you stupid? OK. No problem. Someone says he is going to kill you? Apologize for doing something wrong, even if you did not do it.

There is this common misconception that being a man means fighting. No. You are more of a man avoiding the fight and taking all the insults, by turning the proverbial other cheek and by walking away. There is NOTHING wrong with that.

You should only fight when there is no other option available. But be prepared for it. Do not start learning Aikido, Wing Chun, Taekwondo or whatever flashy style is wrongfully promoted as the best for self defense, unless you are interested in long practice and have a personal interest in that martial art. If you want to PROTECT YOURSELF and actually fight, the styles above are much better.

And AGAIN. Avoid fights! Turn the other cheek! Unless you have to fight. Then, go full ham!


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