I often receive messages and emails from people around the world asking me the same question. “I want to learn how to fight and protect myself as quickly as possible. Which martial art should I train?” As my answer is generally the same, I have no problem sharing my opinion publicly.
If you want to learn how to fight, my advice would be to train in a martial art that produces fast results and is designed for that purpose, such as Western Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). After a few years of training and dedication in these arts, you will become proficient in unarmed one-on-one combat. You will develop speed, strength, confidence, and the technical skills needed to overcome, subdue, and, if you choose, seriously hurt an adversary. These arts are fit for purpose and are highly effective.
What about the traditional martial arts?
I have heard claims propagated within certain martial art circles that declare modern (sport) martial arts are not as effective as the traditional arts. Also, some believe that one will automatically develop fighting skills just by learning a traditional martial art. In my humble opinion and from personal experience, that is simply untrue.
If you want to develop the martial component of any martial art, you must train with a fighting mindset, engage in sparring, and test your skills regularly. There are specific physical and mental attributes needed to transform a person from an unskilled practitioner into a competent “fighter.” In some cases (certainly not all), the traditional methods do not have a way to develop those attributes efficiently. Even though they offer considerable benefits regarding cultivation, health, and general well-being, they are generally combatively ineffective compared to the modern martial arts I mentioned earlier.
And then, there are methods only taught in the traditional martial arts that are extremely effective and produce incredible results; however, developing those abilities can take many years/decades of unwavering practice. The practitioners who possess these skills are rare and generally couldn’t care less about “fighting” by the time they’ve acquired them.
Proficiently in combat is not the focus for everyone; however, it currently seems important to many. So if “fighting” is your number one concern, I recommend you study and train a “fighting art”—just my humble opinion.