Throughout history, humans have created hundreds of martial arts. But which is the deadliest martial arts style?
Considering all factors, Krav Maga is the most dangerous martial art in the world. It involves advanced self-defense tactics, physical and mental drills, hand-to-hand combat, and weapon-based training.
Some other deadly combat systems are Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Combat Sambo, MCMAP, Lethwei, and Eskrima.
This article will take a closer look into the top 10 deadliest martial arts, what makes these martial arts so lethal, and how practical these systems are in actual combat.
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art created in the 1950s. It is a unique system that puts a lot of emphasis on kicking techniques.
Over the years, Taekwondo has evolved into a popular sport. The concept and methods of training have switched from fighting to competition. But you can still find schools where you can learn the traditional version, which is far more brutal.
Practitioners learn to strike with kicks, punches, elbows, and knees and execute throws and sweeps. Training also includes pure self-defense drills and handling various weapons such as sticks and bats.
Kicks are the primary weapon because legs are longer and more powerful weapons than hands.
Skilled fighters are masters in using body rotation and balance to generate massive power in a single jumping, spinning, or roundhouse kick.
These kicks can generate a force equal to hitting some with a baseball bat. Taking such a kick to the side of the head or rib cage is enough to cause severe brain injury or internal bleeding.
Karate originates from Japan, and there are dozens of styles and forms.
Some karate styles are soft and oriented toward light contact, while others are quite the opposite.
Traditional styles are known as very brutal. The people of Okinawa designed traditional karate for actual combat on the battlefield.
Though the emphasis is on light contact and using attackers’ momentum against them, the system teaches valuable self-defense tactics, especially in attacking the pressure points.
However, Kyokushin remains the most dangerous and deadliest type of karate. The emphasis is on power, damage, and causing injuries.
Students use all types of kicks, straight punches, and knees at close range. They throw each strike with full force, and the goal is to knock the opponent out or hurt them as much as possible.
Practitioners train, spar, and compete without wearing gloves, a head guard, or any other protective gear, which gives you a good insight into how strong Kyokushin karateka are and how lethal their skills could be in a real fight.
Vale Tudo emerged as a combat sport in Brazil in the 20th century.
It was a popular event where people fought each other under little to no rules.
There were no weight classes, time limits, or even protective gear of any kind.
As the sport was evolving, athletes would train to develop “all-around” grappling and striking skills specifically for Vale Tudo events, and that’s how Vale Tudo evolved into a combat system on its own.
It mixes Luta livre submission grappling and Muay Thai standup skills.
Due to the lack of rules, Vale Tudo matches were brutal, dangerous, and banned in most countries outside Brazil.
Many see it as one of the deadliest martial arts since it prepares you for pure freestyle combat, where everything goes, just like in a street fight.
Muay Thai’s origins come from the brutal military system, Muay Boran. For many centuries, Siamese warriors used Muay Boran against armed or unarmed enemies on the battlefield, and the system later evolved into a violent and deadly combat sport.
At first glance, Muay Thai might seem complex as fighters utilize all limbs as weapons to strike with kicks, punches, elbows, and knees while also learning the basics of grappling.
However, the emphasis is only on a limited number of direct techniques that do not require much energy to execute.
However, these strikes can cause serious injuries when thrown with full power.
Thai boxers are masters at landing fast and powerful kicks from any distance. They also prefer dirty boxing inside the clinch and do massive damage with elbows to the head and knees to the midsection.
Applying Muay Thai skills in a street fight is dangerous as you can easily cross the line and cause severe injuries if you lose control.
People unlucky enough to get into a fight with a Thai boxer end up looking like they just survived a car crash.
Also known as Burmese boxing, Lethwei is among the most brutal and deadliest martial arts in the world.
In terms of technique, it is very similar to Muay Thai. But the concept also differs a lot as Lethwei fighters compete bare-knuckle.
They do not wear gloves, which takes the danger and brutality to another level.
Watching a single Lethwei match will show why people consider it too violent and deadly. Fighters hit each other with brutal kicks, punches without gloves, elbows, and knees in the clinch.
On top of that, headbutting is allowed and is, in fact, one of the primary weapons in Lethwei.
Broken bones, concussions, deep cuts, and severe bleeding are part of every Lethwei match.
Although this violent approach transfers well into street fighting, it could easily prove deadly.
Wrestling may be a surprise entrant on our list, but do not underestimate its powerful slams and takedowns, which make it one of the top martial arts in the world.
At first glance, you might be surprised to see wrestling taking a spot on this list.
Wrestling is one of the oldest martial arts, having been around since ancient times.
Wrestling is among the physically most demanding sports. It requires a lot of raw strength, flexibility, and explosiveness. Its athletes are often seen as the strongest people on the planet, who can dive for a takedown in a split second, pick you up, and slam on the ground upside down. And this is where the danger comes into play.
Scoring powerful takedowns in a controlled environment against another skilled wrestler is fine. But doing this on the streets against a person who never grappled before is dangerous.
Slamming someone on the ground with their head bouncing off the concrete is lethal. Powerful wrestling slams on the streets have caused many reported deaths.
There are many styles of wrestling, like Roman, Greco-Roman, Catch wrestling, and Folk Style, and all are equally dangerous.
Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP)
MCMAP is a hand-to-hand combat system developed by the U.S. Marine Corps.
The focus is on blitz attacks, causing pain and damage as fast as possible, and neutralizing the enemy. There are no rules – the entire focus is on survival, and this is what makes MCMAP one of the deadliest martial arts.
If you live in the US, finding a school to train in should be pretty easy, with many retired marines opening public schools to pass down the system to people who want to learn self-defense.
MCMAP will teach you all about combat’s mental and physical aspects. It is a hybrid mix of striking, grappling, dirty moves, and weapons. Training also focuses on situational awareness and tactical and strategic decision-making in a stressful situations.
Combat Sambo was developed in the 1920s to improve Russian soldier and police combat abilities.
It resembles modern MMA as it involves striking with all limbs, fighting in the clinch, wrestling, and fighting on the ground.
There are two main variations: Sports Sambo, which focuses only on grappling, and Combat Sambo, one of the deadliest martial arts.
Combat form combines judo, boxing, karate, wrestling, and jujutsu techniques.
Moreover, it focuses on advanced self-defense tactics and drills, teaching students to gouge eyes, target pressure points, and deal with various weapons.
However, the deadliest thing about Sambo is the emphasis and violent approach to training. The primary and only objective is to finish the fight in the fastest and most efficient way possible, making Sambo training brutal but, at the same time, practical in real life.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
BJJ is a martial art entirely oriented toward grappling and ground fighting. Founded in the 1920s by brothers Carlos and Helio Gracie, the origins of BJJ come from judo.
In martial art circles, BJJ is one of the best self-defense systems and the safest to train in, as it doesn’t include any striking. Instead, the concept revolves around the following elements:
- Throws and takedowns
- Dominant positions
- Joint locks
Although also known as a “gentle martial art” and “human chess match,” make no mistake – BJJ is one of the world’s deadliest martial arts.
It teaches you how to use chokes and strangulations that, when applied the right way, stop the air and blood flow to the brain, which results in the loss of consciousness.
Techniques such as the rear-naked choke, D’arce, guillotine, or arm-triangle come from Japanese jujutsu and are designed to kill the enemy on the battlefield.
And all of this makes BJJ one of the deadliest fighting styles.
Krav Maga is the most practical combat system for self-defense and street fighting and the deadliest martial art on this list.
The system, developed in the 1950s by the Israeli military, incorporates a mix of boxing, Judo, Aikido, karate, and wrestling techniques.
On top of conventional martial arts techniques, Krav Maga adds many other elements, such as survival tactics, weapons, and even dirty moves.
The entire emphasis is to prepare a person for intense combat in any scenario. Whether it’s a bar, parking lot, or street, Krav Maga covers most real-life situations.
There is no competition or deep philosophies. No, the main goal is survival and doing anything in your power to protect your life. Through various drills, students learn how to stay calm, assess their situation, and create a plan on how they will fight their way out in the most efficient way possible.
If there is a chance you can run away, Krav Maga encourages you to run away. If the only option is to grab a stick off the ground and hit your attacker over the head, Krav Maga advocates for this too.
The most appropriate word to describe Bacom is – pain. It was created in the 1980s by former marine Robert Puch for the Peruvian military.
The system is very similar to Krav Maga. Students learn how to use conventional striking techniques to attack sensitive body areas. Next, they learn how to apply bone-crushing joint locks, strangle the opponent, blast the groin area with kicks and knees, gouge eyes, and overall, do anything in their power to cause as much pain as possible.
And to learn it all, you must personally experience bacom. Training is brutal, mentally and physically intense, and certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.
Also known as Anis or Kali, Eskrima is a national martial art of the Philippines and a very brutal one. The term stands for traditional martial arts where students learn how to:
- Handle weapons like knives, sticks, and swords
- Disarm the attacker
- Intercept the attack and counter with fast and deadly blows
- Neutralize the enemy by attacking pressure points or applying chokes or joint locks.
For over 400 years, Filipinos have been upgrading Eskrima to create the ultimate martial art. Whether they have achieved this is open for debate, but for sure, they have created one of the deadliest martial arts.