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Best Striking Martial Arts: Top 8 Killer Self-Defense Styles

Best Striking Martial Arts

Last Updated on March 21, 2024

Engagement in martial arts practice better equips us to ward off physical harm, aligning with our survival instincts. Nowadays, many individuals worldwide practice systemized fight methods. 

There are various combat styles with strength and conditioning programs, ranging from very traditional to modern and contemporary.


Please read on if you wish to discover the best striking martial arts for you.

A hand-to-hand fight between opponents allows martial arts practitioners to utilize their fists, knees, elbows, and kicks in a standing position. Such a practice is well-known as striking in martial arts.

An Overview Of The Best Striking Martial Arts

Martial arts have been around for centuries, but only recently did Mixed Martial Arts become part of the mainstream. Understanding the nature of martial arts includes the distinctions between self-defense, combat, and sport, which may be a cultural concept.

Despite its practical uses and the rewarding experience, martial art comes in many forms that contribute to your overall well-being.

However, choosing the best striking martial arts might be one of the most challenging endeavors you have to encounter. The well-suited fighting sports for one person may not be the best choice for someone else because it all depends on your goal.

Everyone has varying goals and needs; some engage in the martial arts to learn self-defense, and others wish to succeed in a martial art competition.

Therefore, to help you decide which is the most effective striking martial arts that meet your preferences, here's an overview of some of the best ones:

1. Muay Thai

Muay Thai

Muay Thai, also well-known as Thai boxing, is a resilient form of kickboxing with an origin that started centuries back in Southeast Asia. It is a striking art that utilizes the fists, elbows, knees, and feet during ring battles.

Despite boxing being debatably the national combat sport for the English-speaking regions, Muay Thai is undoubtedly Thailand's national sport.

Thai citizens celebrate its importance to their culture and history every March 17th. Among the ancient full-contact sports, this Thai boxing is the most unique.

It is due to the leniency of Muay Thai rules, how long it has been in practice, and its immense fame since the beginning.

Its rules allow Muay Thai fighters to strike any body part, fully utilizing their fists, elbows, knees, shins, feet, and head. This combating style also allows grappling techniques so the fighters can hold the adversary while delivering strikes before slamming to the ground.

Individuals training Muay Thai can expect a boost in self-confidence and stress relief while enhancing their physical conditioning, strength, and endurance. However, there are several Muay Thai techniques that you can't use in other martial arts kickboxing competitions.

2. Boxing


Practitioners who'd like to train for a boxing match often want to start learning punches from the first day. Boxing is the traditional fist fight, with boxers in hand wraps and lace-up gloves.

A boxer employs a boxing system, which includes throwing combinations of straight punches, hooks, and uppercuts.

When a boxer masters relevant boxing skills, it will help to score a knockout. Training instructors typically start teaching beginners proper stance and footwork, as these are crucial boxing fundamentals they can't miss.

Learning appropriate punching techniques allows the boxers to use their hands to neutralize or destroy the opponent. Many fighting systems worldwide appear similar to the punching techniques you use in boxing.

Different martial arts offer the lead hand punch, reverse punch, hooks, and uppercuts; even the defensive moves are almost the same. But unlike other martial arts, such as Muay Thai, boxers employ a high guard and a series of elusive techniques.

In contrast with karate, the punches start from the shoulder instead of the waist in boxing. Moreover, boxing allows adversaries to miss before making them pay; the boxers preserve their undefeated record at all costs.

3. Taekwondo


Taekwondo is a Korean martial art from 2000 years ago but now employs other fighting systems, like Japan's Shotokan karate. It is an ancient martial art that favors kicking techniques.

Anderson Silva, Anthony Pettis, and Benson Henderson are some of the reputable names that popularized the craft.

Taekwondo fighters use spinning kicks, multiple kicking combinations, jumping, and high kicks as part of their fighting style. There are a lot of loose movements in taekwondo training, as the fighters constantly bounce on their feet and are ready to strike anytime.

It skillfully combines wrestling and kickboxing into one combat system, helping practitioners take their fitness, agility, balance, and movement to the next level. Grappling, throwing, and kicking are the main combative elements in taekwondo.

Taekwondo practitioners' footwork and kicks are remarkably fast, making them thrilling to watch in MMA. Even the most reputable MMA fighters started with taekwondo, significantly utilizing its fighting styles.

4. Wing Chun

Wing Chun

The Chinese combat style Yongchun is also known as Wing Chun outside Asia. Due to its emphasis on striking techniques using the hands or feet, it earned the classification of a boxing system.

Besides preferring hands over feet, Wing Chun emphasizes punches over kicks while teaching stable stances and close fighting distances.

Rather than flashy, complex maneuvers, Wing Chun emphasizes self-defense. In addition to wooden dummies, sticky hands or the Chi Sao technique is part of the Wing Chun training method.

Many combat systems require a decade or more to learn, but fortunately for Wing Chun enthusiasts, they can learn the art in a matter of weeks.

Furthermore, Wing Chun techniques are well-known for their immense speed, with the straight punch that sets it apart from the other combating styles.

5. Kung Fu

Kung Fu

Kung fu is a Cantonese word that could mean hard work, human effort, or skill, depending on the context applicable to the interpreter. The motivation behind Kung Fu emerged from political or religious communities disagreeing with the government, which made it a private practice.

It has various styles that continuously develop through time, despite its history that started as means of protection from the Chinese government officials.

Like taekwondo, kung fu employs techniques such as chokes, joint locks, and throws, with more emphasis on striking than grappling. Many MMA athletes and kickboxers find deep stances beneficial; such combat systems are initially from kung fu.

For such reasons, you will mostly notice the horse or straddle stance in MMA competitions. Several athletes find this technique challenging at first; you must keep training against an opponent to master this position in an actual match.

The movements of animals in nature became the inspiration for many kung fu styles. Kung fu practitioners adopt such actions in a fight, like the praying mantis' powerful jaw movements and the tumbling and rolling monkey style.

6. Kickboxing


Kickboxing will seem complicated for any beginner because it focuses on MMA sparring, although limited to the standing and clinch positions. The fight begins with free striking before it moves to clinch striking; a throw and top position settled on the ground is what ends the fight.

Except for its strategy, kickboxing is hardly different from Muay Thai sparring in terms of techniques. In such a sport, throws are a more suitable means of winning than earning a few points. However, kickboxing reigned supreme when it came to realistic combat.

A kickboxer can use powerful kicks and punches; if Thai rules apply, the fighter also uses the elbows and knees. The combative elements of kickboxing differ from the boxing technique. If you notice, in a boxing match, the boxers focus on punches and footwork.

While boxers dance around the ring, they can only land punches with their hands, punching only above the belt of their opponent. On the other hand, kickboxing is fast-paced stand-up combat. Only brief clinches are permissible; you can even be penalized for inactivity and passivity.

7. Karate


Early in the 20th century, karate first became popular in mainland Japan. Karate joined the Olympics for the first time at the Tokyo 2020 Games and is currently one of the most popular combative sports.

The Tai sabaki, which entails using body movement for self-defense in sparring, is one of the most common maneuvers in karate training.

If you're training for Tai sabaki, you will learn to move from a full-distance to a close-range stance, repositioning your body from an opponent's reach. Karate and kung fu use combative sequences of blocking, kicking, and striking training to respond to an attack.

Karate allows practitioners to use various hand techniques in a fight, such as using the back of your fist and palm. During MMA training, you will also learn to use sweeps, throws, and takedowns to your advantage. Such styles are sometimes permissible in karate competitions.

Many of the best art techniques, whether a karate punch or a judo throw, deliver force and momentum on contact. But after proficiency in empty hand fights, and you want to proceed in using weapons, it will require special training.

Once you progress through the ranks, your level of commitment until you reach the pinnacle might earn you a black belt. 

The combination of physical strength and mental determination to conquer challenges, years of hard work, and discipline is how MMA practitioners become black belters.

8. Krav Maga

Krav Maga

There are no two attacks that are the same in Krav Maga, so the training focuses more on principles than techniques. Its combat style includes effective strikes, takedowns, joint locks, chokes, throws, and other offensive movements.

The nature of street violence is volatile and unpredictable, and the last thing any of us want is to end up unprepared in a street fight.

MMA training hones our mental and physical skills, allowing us to react instinctively and swiftly in such nasty situations. Krav maga teaches you to avoid being taken by surprise in the first place, which is one of its most effective methods.

You learn to move based on instincts to address the immediate danger and work against various attacks by defending and counterattacking your adversary. In violent attacks, Krav Maga students learn to react immediately to neutralize the attacker.

It is best to incorporate a system where your movements complement rather than contradict actions in another area, working effectively from a position of disadvantage.

Such are Krav Maga's training principles, which is how it differs from other MMA. MMA practitioners will typically engage in a fight in a controlled environment. Krav Maga teaches its students not to limit themselves and fight by rules by learning a defensive tactics system.

Knock-Out Point: One of the oldest martial art forms gained prominence because of its simplicity of movement. Read and learn more about this self-defense technique made popular by a renowned actor -- Is Wing Chun Effective.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What combat style features the best striking techniques?

Despite karate being a kind of art that concentrates more on striking, you will learn skillful hand strikes and powerful kicks in Muay Thai. Its fighting system employs the best striking techniques, teaching practitioners to use their elbows and knees in perfect synchronization.

How do you choose the best striking martial art for you?

Making the right choice of the best striking martial art is essential to enjoying and maximizing the benefits of the entire experience. The most effective striking martial art to learn must be the one that supports your goal and helps you achieve it.

Many martial arts can teach powerful techniques, but it's best to go for what meets your requirement for intensity level and the one you will enjoy. Ultimately, the best striking martial art will help you stay fit, improve mental alertness, and teach self-defense.

Which combat style has the strongest kicking technique?

The combat sports with the flashiest kicking techniques are taekwondo, karate, and Muay Thai. Several reputable martial artists, like Edson Barboza, have a combat style that combines tae kwon do and Muay Thai.

While Meia Lua de Compasso will likely help you get sure knockouts, Muay Thai also employs a high-powered kicking technique. The spinning hook kick you can learn from karate is also something to consider.

What Is the most dangerous martial art?

While many martial art practitioners find Lethwei or Burmese boxing as a brutal combative sport, what most individuals consider the deadliest sport is the Krav Maga. It destroys your adversary quickly and efficiently, inflicting extreme pain possible to your adversary.

This Jewish non-sport striking art bears a Hebrew name that means contact combat and focuses more on principles than techniques. Its core principle shows no concern while damaging your opponent; the unofficial slogan even means "hurt them badly and get away."


Martial art fighters and practitioners learn how to use their bodies to achieve the most effective fighting styles. Mastering grappling techniques help you take your opponents to the ground.

On the contrary, hybrid combative styles such as the one you learn from mixed martial arts allow you to learn grappling, takedowns and striking martial arts.

Once you discover the best martial art for you and learn how to use any fighting style while on your feet, the benefits are advantageous. The core principle of each type equips you to be well-prepared in self-defense while providing health benefits and helping you achieve personal goals.

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