• You're all caught up!

The Best Martial Arts for Women's Self Defense

author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.

Despite your best efforts to avoid dangerous situations, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Learning how to defend yourself is important. Women, on average, are slightly smaller than men, which is why their self-defense styles rely more on tactics than strength.

Any martial art will help you in a dangerous situation. Knowing how to get away if someone grabs you, strike back and defend punches and kicks are the fundamental skills of self-defense. Some martial arts go above and beyond physical self-defense and teach you how to defend yourself using words. They also teach you how to avoid a confrontation in the first place.

For women, there are a few martial arts that stand out because they cover so many areas of self-defense. The best systems of self-defense teach realistic techniques to defend yourself that will make you more confident no matter where you are.


RAD is one of the most popular self-defense systems for women in the United States. It's taught at companies and universities across the country. RAD stands for Rape Aggression Defense. The creators refer to it as a self-defense system, not just a martial art.

Read More: The Best Combat Fighting Styles

Attending an RAD class means you'll be learning for 12 hours over two to three days. In the first part of the course you talk about techniques, both physical and verbal, that will help you defend yourself against an attacker.

The instructor will teach you how to avoid dangerous situations that might land you in trouble. Then they teach the basics of self-defense, what kind of postures to use and even cover using personal belongings as weapons.

In the second part of the course you learn the basic moves that you'll be using to defend yourself. This is where you actually learn how to hit an attacker and get out of different holds. In the next part of the course you'll actually apply that knowledge.

During the third part of the course the instructor dons a full-body protective suit and you actually get to try out some of your new moves on them. You can practice shouting at them to get away, hitting them and getting out of holds.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that migrated from Japan to Brazil in the early 1900s. It became very well-known as the sport of mixed martial arts became more popular.

In a mixed martial arts, the goal is to figure out which fighting style is most effective. In one of the first tournaments, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter won. He used his style, which wasn't very well-known at that time, to take down bigger opponents.

BJJ is perfect for defending yourself against an opponent who is larger or stronger. It uses leverage and physics to pit your strengths against an opponent's weaknesses. On average, women are smaller than men, so this martial art is ideal.

This art deals more with grappling and submissions than it does with striking, so it's meant for certain self-defense situations. It works best against one attacker. When facing multiple people you want to keep your distance.

Read More: Krav Maga Vs. Jujitsu

Krav Maga

Similar to RAD, Krav Maga deals with all aspects of self-defense. It mimics real life scenarios by teaching you how to defend against holds, strikes and attacks with weapons.

Krav Maga is a serious martial art, developed by the Israeli Special Forces to help soldiers defend themselves in combat. In the 1980s the first Krav Maga schools opened and civilians started to learn this battle-tested art. It prides itself on being a very realistic martial art, geared towards use in real-life scenarios as opposed to in sports competitions.

The ultra-realistic nature of this martial art makes it ideal for self-defense situations. In fact, some Krav Maga schools actually take students out to vulnerable areas, like an ATM, and have them practice defending themselves in a mock attack against an instructor wearing full padding.

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
Lose Weight. Feel Great! Change your life with MyPlate by LIVESTRONG.COM
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
  • Female
  • Male
ft. in.



Demand Media