Choosing a Self-Defence System

Written by Andres Salazar

Living in Alberta is usually a pretty calm experience. Though it isn’t perfect, living in southern Alberta generally doesn’t bring about too many problems. For the most part, the only intruders most Alberta residents have to worry about are the deer in front of people’s houses.

Although southern Alberta is relatively safe, it never hurts to be at least a little prepared. Learning to defend yourself is an important skill to learn in case anything arises, but it can be hard to choose between many different martial arts and self-defence systems. There are so many out there, with each style focusing on different things. Sometimes, the hardest part of doing martial arts is choosing the right one for you. Although none of these are 100% effective, this guide will show you what each martial art entails and what it brings to the table in terms of self-defence training.


Both of these martial arts are incredibly common, with every town having at least one of each. These two focus mainly on straight punches and a variety of kicks, helping to stay at a distance from a potential attacker while you counter with your own strikes. For striking self-defence systems, like karate and taekwondo, height and size are significant advantages, making these good options for taller people. The problem with these, however, is that the training focuses mainly on the sports versions of karate and taekwondo. Because the sports are point-based, with the fighters earning points for hitting first, lots of people who train in taekwondo and karate have good speed and technique but might not focus on striking power that translates directly to a street altercation. Another potential issue comes with its heavy emphasis on kicks. While incredibly effective if landed properly, slipping while throwing a kick could leave you in an even worse position.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

BJJ has become more popular as of late. Due to its importance in modern MMA and well-known figures like Joe Rogan being dedicated practitioners, BJJ is becoming the “it” thing in the world of martial arts. The great thing about Brazilian jiu-jitsu is that, as a grappling form of fighting, it relies mostly on leverage and mechanical advantage. Technique beats out strength when using BJJ, making it useful for smaller people to defend themselves against larger attackers. Though it’s great to learn how to choke your opponent, break every limb and tear every tendon from any potential attacker, it does have a weakness. In order to use the grappling techniques from BJJ, you have to get close; if an attacker has a knife or something as common as a sharp pencil, the chances of you getting hurt are very high. The same applies to wrestling, as the techniques require you to be as close as possible. It is a good choice for those looking to even out the physical differences of a real fight, but as with most things, it’s not 100% perfect.

Muay Thai/Kickboxing 

Muay Thai and kickboxing are the most complete forms of striking-based self-defence. Taking classes in these will make you proficient in all sorts of punches, kicks, knees and elbows. Even better than the actual techniques, most kickboxing and Muay Thai gyms participate in lots of sparring, helping you learn how to use the techniques against a resisting opponent. However, more importantly, through sparring you will also learn to stay calm under pressure, an essential skill to have when trying to defend yourself.

Kung Fu

Kung fu has an incredibly long history, with hundreds of styles of kung fu existing for supposedly thousands of years. Some of the most popular examples are Wing Chun, Hung Gar, and Wushu. While learning a style of kung fu can be a great source to pick up some flashy striking techniques, there are a handful of criticisms. Unfortunately, many kung fu schools focus a bit too much on the “art” of martial arts, focusing a bit too much on the beauty of certain techniques and not emphasizing enough on sparring and on the application of those techniques. So, while it may not be the best to prepare you for a real-life altercation, you’ll look totally awesome if you manage to land something. On the bright side, however, many kung fu schools also teach students how to use weapons, including improvised weapons, helping you learn how to always have a tool at your disposal in your moment of need. 


Whereas all the other self-defence forms so far specialize in either grappling or striking, MMA offers itself as a jack of all trades. Being part of an MMA gym will make you proficient both in the standup and on the ground. Whether an attacker grabs an arm or tries to hit you, you’ll have a strong enough base to strike or grapple in your defence. Training in MMA is the closest to a real fight, as it teaches you to be comfortable in any position and prepared against any type of fighter. While it’s a very complete fighting system, it also has some downsides. Being practiced mainly as a sport, many practitioners forget about defending themselves against things that would be illegal in a formal MMA competition, such as strikes to the back of the head. This is the most comprehensive combat system, but as is with most things, it’s not always perfect.


Self-defence is a tricky subject. On one hand, learning a form of self-defence is a good idea, as it can help you stay safe in potentially dangerous situations. This list also does not cover every choice of martial art; these are simply some of the more commonly found examples. However, the best-case scenario involves not having to use it at all. Karate, kung fu, BJJ, and MMA are all valid choices if you want to stay fit and learn some techniques to protect yourself. However, above all of these, the best self-defence technique will always be the classic 1-2 combination of preventing an altercation at all costs and running away if needed. 

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