Carla Hoch book signing

GUEST POST: “Best” Martial Art For Self-defense?

I’ve read a gracious plenty posts on the what the best martial arts are for self-defense. And, yes, there are a few in particular that I suggest when I teach self-defense classes. Unfortunately, knowing how to defend yourself will not keep you from being attacked. And, that’s really what everyone wants. We want to never be in a situation where we have to defend ourselves against an assailant. Although no martial art can put a hedge of protection around us, some can lessen the likelihood of our being a picked out as a victim.

In the early 80s, B. Grayson and M.I. Stein from Hofstra University conducted a study to see what it was that attracted violent offenders. A dozen convicted male assailants were shown CCTV footage of approximately sixty people walking down the street in New York City. In isolation, the violent offenders noted who they would attack. Time and time again the same people were chosen. And they were chosen, on average, in under seven seconds.

The violent offenders were asked why they chose who they did and most of the men couldn’t really say. So, the research duo went to work looking to see what the prospective victims had in common. What Greyson and Stein found wasn’t similarity in size, age or gender. It was much simpler than that. What communicated vulnerability the loudest to the attackers was how the person walked.   

Rather than point out what the “victims” in the study did wrong, I want to focus on what those not chosen all did right. Grayson and Stein broke each of these down with greater precision. But, this is the jist.

Those not chosen:

  1. Walked tall. Their back was straight and their head up was up.
  2. Had a fluid gate. Their arms and legs worked in tandem for balance.
  3. Were aware of their surroundings and made eye contact with passersby.

What is it about these three things that made these people safer? Well, basically, these attributes communicate that an individual is aware, confident and physically sound a.k.a. “ready, willing and able.” And, it seemed that was enough to deter seasoned assailants.

With all that in mind, what is the best martial art for self-defense? Ultimately, it’s the martial art that you will commit to, do consistently and take pride in. Whatever art gets you in better shape, makes you stand taller, gives you more confidence, makes you value yourself and see yourself worthy of fighting for.

Are there certain martial arts that better prepare you for an actual physical confrontation? Yes, I think so. But the fact is, not everyone is physically able to do or has access to those martial arts. And, if the martial art that will best prepare you for hand-to-hand combat is an hour away, how often can you feasibly get to class? I think you are better off going somewhere that you can easily get to, can easily afford and can make a part of your entire family’s lifestyle. 

The best martial art for you is the martial art that makes you the best you. Statistically, we aren’t going to be chosen off the street by an unknown assailant. Statistically, ladies especially, the assault will come from someone we know. Even in these cases, how we walk sends a message to others as well as ourselves. Yes, how we walk can change how we feel about ourselves. Walking as if we have confidence literally makes us more confident. And, the more confident we are, the more willing we are to defend ourselves even if that attack comes from, God forbid, someone we know.

Tomorrow, before you put foot to pavement, think about what your walk will communicate. Walk tall, upright and smoothly. Look around yourself and make eye contact with those you pass. Do the same at work, at school, everywhere you go because the fact is, we aren’t being chosen off CCTV footage. We are being sized up in person. So, be the best person you can be. And, yes, do a martial art. Do whatever one is best for you and makes you the best you. In doing that, you are less likely to be a target. You are defending yourself without even throwing a punch.


Carla Hoch book signing
Carla Hoch book signing

Carla Hoch is the author of the Writer’s Digest book, Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes. She is the voice behind the award-winning blog, FightWrite.net as well as the FightWrite podcast. Carla teaches writers how to write fight scenes and is a professional fight scene editor. She has dabbled in close to a dozen martial arts but is most at home on the BJJ mat. She trains at Mãozinha Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Woodlands, Texas where she is a purple belt.