10 Most Dangerous Martial Arts For Self-Defence

There are certain martial arts that are devastatingly effective. There are others that are devastatingly the opposite.

Entrusting certain martial arts to teach you how to defend yourself can lead to dire consequences…

The debate over which martial art is supreme for street self-defence is common, is it striking, is it grappling, is it a mix of both, such as in krav maga?

While all martial arts offer skills, there are some martial arts that most people agree are simply not effective in real life situations. And it is these martial arts that are hands-down the most dangerous.

For instance, an Aikido technique might subdue someone who is completely compliant but would fail against a larger, stronger, and more athletic adversary who is motivated to harm you.

A critical flaw in many traditional and less conventional martial arts is their lack of practice against genuine resistance, despite claims of effectiveness in real confrontations. This logical gap raises doubts about their applicability under true duress. Many of these systems rely heavily on fanciful movies and TV shows to make them seem effective.

Long-term training in an ineffective discipline could automate ineffectual responses, which can be detrimental in actual self-defence scenarios.

If you train in these for other reasons: community, pleasure, fitness, self-discipline, balance and co-ordination, they are fit for purpose. But if you believe, or are led to believe, that by training you are preparing yourself for the worst day of your life, you would be dangerously mistaken.

Here are the top 10 martial arts that could potentially endanger your life in real-world self-defence situations, making them the most dangerous martial arts in the world to learn for self-defence.

10. Aikido

steven segal aikido

While Aikido mesmerizes with its fluid movements and principles of harmony, its application against aggressive, uncooperative attackers in chaotic environments is highly debatable.

The art focuses on using an opponent’s momentum against them, but in the absence of predictable attacks or cooperative opponents, as often seen outside the dojo, its techniques simply do not hold up under stress and resistance.

Please enjoy the photo of Steven Segal fighting using Aikido from the comfort of a kitchen chair.


Systema’s appeal lies in its fluidity and adaptability, incorporating strikes, grappling, and breathing techniques. 

However, its effectiveness is frequently questioned due to the inclusion of esoteric elements like no-touch knockouts, which lack empirical support and practical applications to real confrontations.

Some of the demonstrations offered by Systema organisations resemble a cult-like belief in the mystical powers of the instructor, undercutting its roots as a Soviet-era training system developed for Spetznaz.

systema no touch

8. Baguazhang


This one we had to look up.

Commonly featured in Hollywood fight scenes and movies, like The Last Airbender, and praised for its intricate footwork and circular movements, Baguazhang is a study of internal energy.

Yet, the practicality of its elaborate forms and the emphasis on internal development over direct combat training render it less applicable in the unpredictability of a street fight, where straightforward, effective techniques are essential.

7. McDojos

This addresses all forms of martial arts schools that prioritise commercial success over actual effective training.

The phenomenon is characterised by a focus on belt promotion over skill acquisition. High ranked students from these schools commonly find themselves inadequately prepared for real-life threats.

McDojos with kids “self-defence” programs often promote kids to black belts… When a child is led to believe that they have reached the apex of a martial art while still a child, it causes an over-confidence and over-estimation of their abilities that eventually gets them seriously hurt.

kids black belts martial arts

6. Tae Kwon Do

youngest tae kwan do blackbelt

Known for its spectacular high kicks and speed, Tae Kwon Do is a Korean martial art that has gained international recognition, particularly in the Olympic Games. 

While it excels in discipline, flexibility, its heavy emphasis on kicking techniques with the hands down limits practitioners in close combat or against multiple attackers. 

The art’s sport-oriented training often lacks the grappling, clinch fighting, and ground defence crucial for comprehensive self-defence, potentially leaving practitioners at a disadvantage in scenarios where distance cannot be maintained or where striking options are limited. 

The art is also heavily associated with the aforementioned McDojo’s. The image on the left is of the world’s youngest ever Tae Kwan Do blackbelt, yet any adult with ill-intent will be able to overpower this child, who believes he has become a master.

5. Combat Tai Chi

While Tai Chi is revered for its health benefits, the combat version attempts to translate these into self-defence techniques.

The challenge lies in the transition from slow, meditative forms to effective responses against sudden, violent attacks, where the lack of realistic, fast-paced training can leave practitioners vulnerable.

Although Combat Tai Chi is said to also teach healing powers, which may very well be of practical value to practitioners who attempt to use it in real life situations.. to heal themselves, to be clear.

Combat Tai Chi

4. Kyusho Jitsu

Kyusho Jitsu

Apparently Kyusho Jitsu teaches its students to hurt their opponents using neurological pain that is elicited by targeting certain points with pressure or friction.

We’re not really sure if this is the type of neurological pain that is experienced, or if its the visual of the attempts to defend by rubbing areas of the body, that are more damaging… neurologically speaking.

Jokes aside, Dillman’s Kyusho Jitsu has been well documented in the McDojolife YouTube channel, and everyone would be best advised to stay clear.


The lore surrounding Dim Mak, or the “death touch,” is steeped in mysticism, claiming the ability to disrupt an opponent’s internal energy or cause delayed physical harm through precise strikes. The scientific scrutiny, however, reveals a lack of evidence supporting the existence of the specific points or the claimed outcomes, rendering it more a matter of folklore than a feasible self-defence strategy.

By any reasonable analysis, this means acupuncture points, as they are traditionally defined, do not exist. There is nothing special or unusual about the nerves or other anatomical features at so-called acupuncture points, and no clinical effect can be demonstrated by using them. Thus, by extension, any martial arts attack that claims acupuncture points as its foundation is based on a false premise.

dim mak most dangerous martial arts for self-defence

2. yellow bamboo

As an extension of martial arts into the realm of psychic energy, Yellow Bamboo’s practices involve projecting force without physical contact, rooted in belief systems rather than tangible combat skills.

According to their marketing documents:

“you can learn very powerful methods to protect yourself and others. If you watch the videos you will see that it is possible to knock down attackers without touching them. This is a very powerful form of personal development.”

The reliance on supernatural elements brings this form into the cult-like and bizarre. See text above and image to the left.


1. empty force (EFO)

Advocating the concept of influencing or controlling an opponent without physical interaction, EFO’s principles are attractive for their promise of non-violent conflict resolution. 

However, the absence of empirical evidence supporting its effectiveness, coupled with demonstrations that fail to convince skeptics, places it firmly in the realm of theoretical martial arts with little to no practical application in real self-defence situations.

empty force martial arts

The list above is just a start. There are hundreds of other examples of hoax martial arts and unscrupulous martial artists who exploit the very human desire to learn self-defence.

It does underscore the importance of discernment and a healthy degree of scepticism in choosing a martial art for self-defence purposes.

While traditional and exotic martial arts enrich the tapestry of global combat practices, their effectiveness in self-defence must be evaluated against practical criteria, such as adaptability, realism in training, and comprehensive skill development.

For those seeking practical self-defense skills, a balanced approach, perhaps integrating elements from various martial arts or focusing on styles with a proven track record in real-world scenarios, is advisable.