martial arts for women

7 Best Martial Arts for Women

Though all martial arts are different in certain respects, one thing is for certain: they were all created for combat and self-defense purposes.

They were created so that the people who would otherwise come out under in a fight could now win, using all the practice and techniques martial arts provide. 

In this article, I will be talking about the 7 best martial arts for women, with the help of which they will be able to get out of a potentially deadly situation.

I will rank order them according to a couple of different criteria, the most important of which is pure self-defense utility. 

After that, I will also talk about the general benefits of martial arts for women; like building muscle, weight loss, self-confidence improvement, etc.

7. Taekwondo

Taekwondo, a Korean martial arts style, is one of the most recent ones to be created. It is a primarily kicking-based martial art that was developed with the aim of creating a martial art that can deliver stronger and faster strikes than the ones available in any other art out there. 

Though this claim is still to be tested, it is true that TKD’s kicks and techniques can be menacing when practiced enough.

As stated in Choi Hong Hi’s Theory of Power, kicks can generate a lot more power than hand strikes, thus learning how to use them equips us with better tools to solve an altercation. 

One of the main reasons I believe TKD is a great option for women’s self-defense is that it is something nobody would expect.

Realistically, when an attacker assaults a woman, they expect her to try to kick, strike, bite, or something similar. However, they don’t expect a strong roundhouse kick to the liver, or perhaps a front kick to the groin. 

This “surprise element”, together with the pure strength that can be achieved by practicing TKD, makes it an incredible self-defense tool, though perhaps not the best one out there due to its overemphasis on kicks. This brings us to the next art on the list. 

6. Karate 

Karate is arguably the most popular martial art on the planet, and it is also a surprisingly good foundation for self-defense. 

There is no debate that it lacks in many places, however, its use of strong attacks by both the arms and the legs does put it on a higher spot than TKD, which is focused on one pair of limbs too much. 

Though different types of karate-do provide different street-effectiveness (with styles like Goju-Ryu and Kyokushin being more effective variants), almost all types of Karate will prepare you for a variety of self-defense situations, where a strong, fast strike could save your life. 

If you would like to learn Karate, or just improve your existing skills, the course I highly recommend is the one by Lyoto Machida, former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion:

karate course

5. Jiu-Jitsu

Jiu-Jitsu is all the hype nowadays, and for a reason. This martial art puts a large emphasis on overcoming the opponent with technique in a bunch of grappling situations, and often to do so against someone more powerful. 

If this were a general martial art list, Jiu-Jitsu would definitely place higher, but there is a specific issue with the art when it comes to women.

The art itself is incredible, even for self-defense, but maybe not for everyone…

Quite simply put, men and women are biologically different. Women are weaker in general, and this puts them at a disadvantage by the standard.

And this is exactly why their priority when being attacked should be to move away from a dangerous situation as soon as possible. 

Since Jiu-Jitsu almost always takes the fight to the ground, it puts women at risk, since though they can outperform the attacker with techniques, but the ground is also not somewhere you might want to be with a bigger, heavier, aggressive opponent. 

Nevertheless, it can teach incredible skills which should be known by everyone, and it can and should be a vital last reserve for when you can’t handle the fight on your feet or are in a hold.

It provides essential survival skills, and might even be the first art women should train, but it is not the best first option when being attacked for women. 

If you would like to learn the fundamentals of BJJ, the course I highly recommend is the one by Bernardo Faria, 5x Black Belt World Champion:

bjj course

4. Muay Thai (Kickboxing)

When mentioning to someone in everyday life that Muay Thai or kickboxing would be a good option for women’s self-defense, the idea is met with quite a lot of disbelief and denial.

“It is way too extreme and rough for women”, many might say. However, they don’t realize, that that is exactly what makes it so effective. 

If a woman goes to a gym to train martial arts for self-defense purposes, always going too easy on them is literally lying to them about what might come on the street.

People who attack others are violent, they want to do damage of all different sorts, and they are not going to “play it easy” with women. 

This is why an art like Muay Thai, with incredible short- and long-range kicks, clinch fighting, strikes, elbows, and more is an excellent art for teaching women to use all their limbs effectively and to be able to deliver violent, brutal attacks. 

The one drawback of Muay Thai or kickboxing, specifically for women, is that it does rely on physical strength a lot.

Of course, any girl can knock out any guy with a well-timed hook, but quite simply put, a woman won’t generate as much power with a strike as a potential attacker might, which still puts the woman at some sort of a disadvantage. 

Regardless, if you want to learn how to fight violently and brutally, and exponentially increase your chances of survival, Muay Thai might be the way to go.

If you would like to learn the basics of striking, or just improve your existing striking skills, the course I highly recommend is the one by Anderson Silva, one of the greatest strikers in MMA history:

striking course

3. Judo

Also one of the most popular and widely-available martial arts on the planet, Judo is also a martial art with one of the official histories we know of, dating back more than a hundred years.

It is an art focused on grappling and throws, using momentum to destabilize opponents and damage them by throwing them onto the ground. 

Judo is a highly effective martial art, with some of the most effective and incredible throws. However, there is also a practical reason why it is one of the best for women. 

Most fights start and happen at close-quarters, at least on the streets, and that is especially true for assaults.

Of course, two drunk dudes in front of a bar might be throwing haymakers and running in circles, but when violence against women happens, it usually happens by the attacker quickly closing distance so the victim cannot have time to think. 

Aside from perhaps Muay Thai, not many striking arts focus on close-range striking, and even that might be ineffective if the range is too close. In this scenario, Judo comes into play. 

Assuming the attacker is a man and wants to, for example, throw the woman onto the floor from a bear-hug position in order to inflict damage, the trained Judoka can easily flip the situation, slam the attacker to the ground and move away.

Judo allows women to defend themselves in a range where striking loses all effectiveness, which is also the most dangerous range since it is extremely close. It also works on larger opponents if executed correctly and practiced often, which makes it ideal for women. 

If you would like to learn Judo, or just improve your existing skills, the course I highly recommend is the one by Jimmy Pedro and Travis Stevens:

judo course

2. MMA

In the second place, we have the jack-of-all-trades, MMA. Probably the most modern of all arts, and barely even art in itself since it is just a mixture of many different arts, it is a highly effective hybrid. 

There isn’t all that much to say about this, all the things that the above-mentioned individual martial arts lack is made up for in an MMA setting.

Are you a Muay Thai fighter, but have no experience in grappling? Add some Judo or Jiu-Jitsu to your game, and vice-versa. 

The essence of MMA is to perfect your fighting game as much as possible which means that a woman training in MMA would be on a journey to perfect their grappling, striking, ground-game, etc. 

By training MMA, you prepare yourself for nearly every possible combat situation out there, which makes it incredibly effective.

If you would like to learn MMA for self-defense, the course I highly recommend is the one by Greg Jackson, the head coach of UFC great Jon Jones:

mma course

However, there is one thing that is off the table in MMA, which makes martial art at spot number one just that much better…

1. Krav Maga

Krav Maga is a highly popular military combat style, used by the Israeli military to this day.

This combat style is focused on preparing every individual for violent, life-threatening physical altercation as quickly as possible. This is so that they can hopefully survive in a warzone. 

What this adds to Krav Maga that MMA doesn’t have are all the illegal moves. Eye-pokes, groin-strikes, throat-strikes, and more.

Krav Maga is designed for potentially lethal situations, not for a ring or octagon, which makes it more effective for the real world, and especially for women. 

If an MMA fighter who is experienced would meet a Krav Maga fighter to fight, the MMA fighter would probably win because of their wider and probably deeper knowledge of fighting, however, against an aggressor who is willing to do anything just to hurt, the Krav Maga fighter will have the advantage. 

Due to its original design and intention, Krav Maga is the king of self-defense for women, however, do note that this is only true if the school is a legitimate one.

If you do find one and have the means to train at one such institution, you can rest assured you will be able to protect yourself from 99.9% of potential human threats on the street.

If you would like to learn Krav Maga, the course I highly recommend is the one by Frass Azab:

krav maga course

Benefits of Martial Arts for Women

The Benefits of Physical Activity

Any physical activity is highly recommended and while martial arts/combat sports may demand a lot from you, they’ll also give you a lot of benefits.

You’ll be healthier, more mobile, and will generally look and feel better. 

If your main goal is to lose weight, I highly recommend you thoroughly read the 5 step process to lose weight with martial arts I wrote (although it is based on MMA, it can be fully applied to any martial art).


Although most martial arts/combat sports are individual sports, training sessions, going to the gym and sparring sessions all require close social contact and can, perhaps, lead to the formation of a strong friendship or relationship with someone.


Martial arts and combat sports require a lot of determination and are very demanding. Not everyone can practice them properly and if a person does not have the required discipline, he may quit.

Luckily, they build upon one’s discipline so it can be beneficial in that aspect as well. 

Learning Your Limits

Since doing martial arts/combat sports require a lot of discipline, they have to teach their fighters to control themselves.

You do not fight to kill someone; you fight to win and there are certain limits you’ll have to adhere to in order to be a good fighter. 


People who take up martial arts/combat sports while learning how to attack, also learn how to defend themselves.

Although you should always avoid confrontations when possible, life sometimes doesn’t allow you to escape or avoid a conflict. In such situations, it is better to know how to defend yourself than not. 

Building Confidence

While teaching you how to attack, how to defend and how to win, martial arts/combat sports also build on your confidence.

It allows you to create a better, a much stronger image of yourself and the confidence you have in the ring, during a fight, will emanate to all other aspects of life. 

New Knowledge

Martial arts/combat sorts aren’t just punching and kicking, they are a very complex system where tactics usually play a much bigger part in winning, than just pure physique.

Learning new tactics and tactical approaches, but also new fighting styles, doesn’t just increase your knowledge, it stimulates your brain as the adrenaline of a fight demands for a quick response.

You’ll Grow as a Person

Each new experience is special and enables you to develop yourself as a human being.

Martial arts/combat sports have a lot of different aspects and approaches, and learning (about) them will certainly enable you to grow as a person. 

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
Article by

Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
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