Initial comment

As a rule, the differences between schools are greater than those between systems, at least when it comes to self-defense focused systems, and the quality is more dependent on the instructor than on system.

Even so, much could be said for the general advantages and disadvantages with each system, and a comparison could be made both between so called “traditional” and “modern” systems, as well as between purely self-defensive systems and systems that also implement, or even primarily focus on sport.

Furthermore, a system must be evaluated with consideration to the practitioner. A person of naturally heavy build and short stature might find that the techniques of judo come more easily than those of French savate, for example. At this point the discussion becomes whether a person might reap the greatest benefits from developing ones natural strengths, or from complementing ones natural weaknesses.

In addition it has to be considered whether a person wishes to be prepared for a real world situation in one year, in five years or in ten years, because different systems are adapted to different time frames.

All of these are debates of their own, and may be discussed in greater depth in future articles.

This article will merely present a greatly generalized overview of a few select systems, and argue for their benefits in relation to their weaknesses (from a self-defense perspective).

The Systems



• Koryu Uchinadi

A multifaceted system of self defense developed by martial arts guru Patrick McCarthy, Koryu Uchinadi offers tools for every situation, wrapped in a neatly organized system heavily tied to scientific research.

Includes both standing techniques and techniques performed on the ground, and focuses on both quality impact techniques and grappling, including everything from mid-distance striking to elbows, knees and headbutts, as well as throws, strangulations, joint-manipulation, and so on.

Has a strong focus on self-defense, with great variation in the training, including both individual training, drills, padwork and sparring.



• Muay thai (thaiboxing)

A system developed for sport, but one of the more multifaceted martial sports on the current market, including strikes with fists, kicks, elbows, knees and very basic grappling, both from a long distance, a mid-distance and fighting from a clinch.

Puts emphasis on mental toughness as well as physical fitness, and works with slightly less cumbersome equipment than for example western boxing (smaller gloves).

The system is adapted primarily for fighting an opponent of similar size and weight, has little focus on grappling, no techniques for handling being dragged to the ground, and is limited to a strict and vast set of rules, but its realistic take on impact still prepares a person for one of the more dangerous aspects of fighting.



• Judo

Another strictly competitive system, judo is a system which is almost entirely centered around throws and takedowns, with some techniques for controlling an opponent on the ground.

The techniques of judo tend to work well even against a larger opponent, and puts a person in a very good position to either escape or, if necessary, continue the struggle from a more advantageous position.

The techniques of judo are quick, often simple, require very little strength and there are techniques for just about every body type.

The main disadvantage of judo is that it has practically no focus on preparing a person for handling a striking opponent, which is one of the main elements in most assaults, but with just a bit of experience, the techniques can be used as effective counters even against striking, which is why judo ends up so high up on the list.



• Savate

A combat sport originally from france, savate is much like the more familiar kickboxing, but relies less on the big gloves that are so central in other forms of western boxing, making its defenses more applicable to a real life situation.

More rich in content than boxing in the sense that it employs both strikes and kicks, but more limited than muay thai in that it does not teach the use of close distance impact weapons such as elbows and knees, and does not allow any form of grappling, savate, like all impact based combat sports, is adapted to fighting an opponent of similar size and weight, under a strict set of rules, but still maintains the value of giving a practitioner general tools with which to handle strikes.



• Krav Maga

Krav Maga simply means “close combat”, and refers to three Israeli combat systems, one developed for the military, one developed for the law-enforcement and a scaled down version for the civilian population.

Krav Maga puts a great emphasis on using your natural instincts to handle situations, relying on very simple movements, physical force and aggression to cope with an assault. This makes it one of the most quickly learned systems, but can also make it one of the least accessible ones, depending on who you are. For a small person of gentle temper, running head first into a much larger, angry assailant and kneeing them in the groin while flailing wildly and shouting, is not always the best option, and the simple movements mean that more strength is often required to perform the techniques.

This said, however, Krav Maga does endeavor to prepare a practitioner for a multitude of situations, including both standing assaults and being dragged to the ground, as well as for both impact and grappling attacks, and strives to give the practitioner as much of a sense of realism as possible, unlike for example judo, for the practitioners of which a real life situation might feel less familiar, and thus come as more of a shock.

Final comment

Hopefully this quick review of some generally available systems has been able to give some hint as to where to look first to find whatever you are looking for.

For more discussions on martial arts and self-defense training in more detail, which give you tools both to evaluate specific systems, and to improve your own training regardless of which system you have chosen, see our other articles.

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