The Best Martial Arts for Women’s Self Defense

Rebecca Ahn
10 min readMay 23, 2021
Photo from “Kill Bill: Volume 2”

I love martial arts. I’ve been studying many different styles for many years and I highly recommend them for many reasons. But if you want to know the best martial arts for self defense, I have to be honest with you. There aren’t many styles I would say are useful in their entirety for self defense.

Some styles do prove helpful in some situations or with some of their moves, but martial arts alone are not a complete or thorough self defense training. That’s why I created my more comprehensive, realistic, women-focused Tough Cookie Self Defense Course, which would nicely build upon any of the martial arts styles I recommend below.

I mention this word of caution because most martial arts focus more on tournament sparring or demonstration rather than preparing you for real life fights. You’re taught not to hit at full strength in the spirit of friendly competition. So your body doesn’t learn what it feels like to hit (and take hits) at full force. Especially in an adrenalized state and un-choreographed, chaotic conditions. You also learn moves that are more pretty than practical and won’t help you much in a real attack. Real fights aren’t pretty or badass looking. They’re ugly and messy and awkward. There are no rules. People fight dirty. And everything happens a lot faster than you think, including your heart racing and cortisol spiking, making it near impossible to remember any complex martial arts moves and sequences.

All that said, martial arts are still excellent supplementary training to have under your belt (especially a black one). Each style I recommend below has a lot to offer, whether more traditional or more mixed martial arts. But if your goal is to learn how to defend yourself in real life situations, choose your martial arts style wisely. Be aware of its shortcomings, and make sure you round out your training with other self defense skills. Otherwise, you may well still find yourself unprepared and frozen when faced with real life threats.

So take all of these recommendations below with a grain of salt, and make sure you get a wide breadth of experience.

Krav Maga Self Defense

This is by far my top recommendation for a self defense-relevant martial art. It’s commonly known as the Israeli self…

Rebecca Ahn

Writer • Wanderer • Warrior | | Sharing stories that empower others to survive and thrive