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The 15 Deadliest Martial Arts in 2023

Robert Green
Published: March 27, 2022
Updated: July 11, 2023

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Martial arts are systems and disciplines of combat practice that have evolved for a variety of reasons. These traditions have come from a need for self-defense, military and law enforcement, physical spiritual development, and competition. Some of the modern applications can include military and law enforcement, entertainment, and competition.

They come from several backgrounds and regions that make the martial art unique. Among the various martial arts and popular martial arts there are many variations. Those that evolve from the monk and spiritual temple background generally those are from Asia in Japan and China. Cultural heritage plays a large part in many of the older martial arts around the world.

Some of the most popular martial arts came from self defense, and ground fighting. An element of combat also in modern terms in fact is the kind of thing that is done in gyms and dojos around the country for exercise and self defense. Many of the effective martial art combat system developed for brutal martial. But the deadliest martial arts are a combination of the specific codified system and having practitioners are adept at the discipline.

Dambe from Nigeria

 Dambe is the traditional martial arts of a tribe in Nigeria. It is a competition style that total submission is the ultimate objective. Very often it results in deadly injury. It originated with butchers and fishermen. However it has morphed into a harvest festival competition and entertainment. It seeks to match competitors according to size, and it's common for three rounds. The primary weapon is something called the strong side fist, which is a wrapped piece of cloth with a tight knot this is put up on the dominant hand and is known as the spear.

The predominant leg is wrapped in a chain, and the back leg is used to kick. It is a combination of a boxing style and wrestling. Until recently, it was not well known outside of Africa or Nigeria.

Ngnuni Stick fighting from South Africa

Nguni is also known as donga. This is a stick fighting martial arts that originated with herders. Teenagers in South Africa armed with two very long sticks with practice this martial art. The literal translation is playing sticks. However there's nothing playful about it. It is strenuous and hard and comes from the Zulu tradition of stickfighting and focuses on weaponry period two of the most famous donga fighters were Shaka Zulu and Nelson Mandela. an older linneage incorporates a shield.

One stick is an attacking Stick, and the other is it defending stick or shield. It is also a playful version that is part of the wedding ceremony with the warriors from either side the groom’s or the bride’s engage in battle. It is a martial arts of ancient Zulu kings.

Brazilian jujitsu

Brazilian jujitsu is a combat sport. It is based on submission holds and groundfighting it focuses on taking the opponent to the ground.  a dominant position is the ultimate goal. It uses elements of joint locks and chokeholds. There are many people who have become Brazilian jujitsu masters and highly decorated competitors. It is A combination of Gracie jujitsu and judo. And it is one of the essential martial arts that is used in the mixed martial arts tournaments. It arrived in Brazil from Japan in 1914. In competition there are many rules that dominate the sport and define it.

Read: Muay Thai Vs BJJ - A Detailed Comparison

Okichitaw from Canada

Okichitaw is a martial art from the Plains Cree First Nation. It is a full contact combat. It incorporates traditional wrestling hand to hand combat techniques and tomahawk throwing. It's official established date is 1997, however it is much older than that. It also combines the traditional hunting and tracking practices of that tribe. This indigenous culture martial arts evolved from the military action that was taken against the Native Cree First Nation. 

It has only been recently recognized by the world martial arts festival Officiated by the world martial arts union. One element that sets it apart as weapons are introduced very early in training and includes a gunstock war club, and a long knife.  A flip and roll are part of the takedown of an opponent. It is one of the grappling arts.

Shaolin Kung Fu

Probably one of the most well known martial arts to laypeople is Kung Fu. It was highlighted in a television show and the song Kung Fu fighting. It comes from the shaolin temples in Greater China. It has a 1500 year history and is considered a traditional martial arts. There is a saying that all martial arts originated from shaolin Kung Fu. It combines deeply religious philosophies, including Buddhism, physical prowess, and strict martial arts styles. It is as much a thought process as it is a martial arts. Shaolin Kung Fu prides itself on building balance, flexibility, and stamina.

It brings in power skills like Qigong meditation and combat skills like weapons routines, combat methods, and barehanded fighting.  It was the discipline and fighting routines of warrior monks for generations.  It is said that you can study it deeply for a lifetime and yet not explore all the elements of shaolin Kung Fu. It has 15 major fighting styles, but there are many subs styles, and some that are lost in time. It has influenced many of the Chinese and Japanese styles of martial arts.

Wing Chun

Wing Chun is also from China. It is best known as the fighting style of Bruce Lee. He highlighted it in his many movies and in the television show Green Hornet. Robert Downey junior is also a well known practitioner of wing Chung. It started in southern China in the Qing dynasty. It is distinguished because it's styles are past down from teacher to student. And it exemplifies not wandering to a different style. Better known there are eight different styles each with its specific origins, rules and movements. Because of its history in fighting regimes there is a strong element of secrecy. It's distinguished from other forms by a tall narrow stance.

It brings the elbows in close, and emphasizes the center line. Any shifting is done on the heels. It exemplifies protecting one’s center.  its main objective is to use the opponent strength against him. There is a strong element of deflection and retreats. It is not about force, but instead about speed. It also values what is called softness or relaxing via breath.

Read: Flex HQ Adjustable Wing Chun Dummy Review

Krav Maga

Krav Maga has been gaining popularity over the past ten years. It evolved out of the Israeli military. The IDF or Israeli defense forces and their security. It is a combination of Aikido, karate, boxing, judo and wrestling. Its strength is that it focuses on real-world situations. Its objective is efficiency. It's a derivative of street fighting it came out of Hungary.  its emphasis is mostly on European fighting styles. It encourages students to avoid physical confrontation especially if it's unsafe, but its objective is to finish a fight as aggressively and quickly as possible using efficient moment.

It aims to disable using the most vulnerable parts of the opponents body, some of the techniques can cause severe injury, or death to the opponent. It focuses on simultaneously defending and attacking. It exemplifies continuing to strike until the opponent is incapacitated. It's good for street fighting because eight focus on maintaining awareness of one’s surroundings, one to avoid any confrontation but also to seek exit plans.  Another objective is to expand and extinctive response went under great duress. It works with strikes, takedowns, escapes from chokeholds. and empty handed defense. For the reason why it has become so valued is it is a good way to promote self defense.

Read: Muay Thai Vs Krav Maga: A Compact Comparison

Muay Thai

Muay Thai Which comes from Thailand is sometimes referred to as Thai boxing. It is both a martial arts and a combat sport. What makes it unique is it stand up style of striking and cinching techniques. It is also called the “Art of Eight limbs.”  Muay Thai has become a phenomenon of mixed martial arts and is governed by the professional Boxing Association of Thailand. It uses a combination of knees, shins, elbows, and fists. It's lineage comes from Muay Borran.

Muay Thai Fight: US vs. Burma

It's divided into two separate technique groups major and minor techniques. The major being elements like jab, hook, backfist spin, cobra punch, and jab cross. the kicking elements or a straight kick, a round kick, Axel heel kick, and jump Sokick. Body punching is not common in Muay Thai. Its Defenses are blocking, avoidance, evasion and anticipation. It has an urban myth that it was started when the ancient capital of Siam invaded Burma.

Read: Muay Thai Vs Taekwondo: The Striking Differences

Oil wrestling from Turkey

Oil wrestling of Turkey is also called grease wrestling. While it is primarily currently, a competition that is held in the proving grounds, it evolved from traditional martial arts of the region. Its earliest known application was 4500 years ago, during the reign of the Thracians. It is similar to Olympic wrestling, but its objective is to win by effectively holding the kisbet, A form of pants made from hide. Original matches had no such duration and sometimes went on for three or four days. However in modern times a 40 minute caps was put on the wrestling time.

According to the rules, the winner is considered when the losers back touches the ground. This is known as showing your belly to the stars, A poetic way to describe the spinning and twisting that it takes a great deal of time to achieve. Given the fact that there are now time limits, there is not always a winner. To do this form of martial art takes many years to learn. And what differentiates it from any other martial art is that olive oil covers each of the wrestlers.


Karate is also one of the more well known varieties of martial arts. Karate was made popular with The Karate Kid franchise. It is a Japanese martial arts. Karate means hand Okinawan. It is unique because it's predominantly about the art of striking, punching, knee strikes, kicking and open hand techniques like spear hands and knife hands. It is a traditional indigenous martial art that developed in the 17th century Japan.

Read: Karate Vs Jiu-Jitsu: A Battle Of The Belts

Its primary element is on self development, respect, virtue, and perseverance. As a sport it emphasizes competition and exercise. In some elements of karate weapons are an integral part of training. The kata which means shape, is the very regimented discipline of offensive and defensive postures which are rigorously practiced. It is considered one of the most formal of the martial arts.


Aikido is another well known Japanese art form. It has a variety of styles, it is practiced in over 150 countries. It's a morph between martial arts, religious studies, and philosophy. its objective is to create an art of movement that protects the followers of akito as well as their attackers from injury. Occido. Aikido means “the unifying way of life energy”.  

It seeks to alter the movement of the opponents attack and use their momentum. Is primarily throws and joint locks. It does have some weapons that are used as well. Since it has migrated all over the world it has developed a number of different styles and interpretations. It exemplifies flexibility and endurance, with the correct movement of joints such as hips and shoulders. It uses pushing and pulling techniques.


Judo is called the gentle way. It is unarmed combat that is a modern Japanese martial art. It is distinguished in that it is also an Olympic sport. It is well known for having tournaments that are hosted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police department, which considers it it's primary martial art. The objective of judo is to throw an opponent and immobilize them with a pinning technique that is enabled with joint locks or choke.

It has migrated to many countries and therefore has evolved into different subgroups of judo from freestyle, to Filipino to Brazilian jujitsu, to Sambo or Russian judo.

Read: Taekwondo Vs Judo: Learn To Strike Or To Grapple

Lima Lama

Lima lama Is not as well known, it is a Polynesian artist self defense that originated in Samoa. Lima lama literally means in Polynesian hand of wisdom. It's distinguished by its consistent movement and circular motions. It has a flowing dance like element to it.

Most of the martial art is based on intricate hand techniques. It also uses knife fighting, stickfighting, takedowns, holds, and kicking. It exemplifies a martial arts that focuses on balance and weight manipulation as well as physical movement and coordination. It's elements of pressure points an intricate knife work make it unique.  An element of it was used in the modern Jumanji movies, referred to as dance fighting.

Marine Corps fighting style

Marine Corps fighting style is a combat system that is US based. Created exclusively for the United States Marine Corp, It is exemplified by hand to hand techniques, close quarter combat and marine and Team building functions.  Began in 2000, it teaches Navy and marine personnel an unarmed combat technique as well as the use of weapons opportunity, rifle and bayonet techniques and edged weapons. It emphasizes the importance of character development and mental strength. It also stresses the use of force and teamwork.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Daultin Love, a ground support equipment instructor with the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Unit Jacksonville, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, performs a Marine Corps martial arts program technique at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans on May 15, 2019. The students performed Marine Corps Martial Arts Program techniques before a gray belt evaluation test. To increase readiness and to support the total force, Reserve and active Marines with Marine Forces Reserve participate in the Martial Arts Instructor Course. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Gonzalez)

Its mantra is “One mind - Any weapon”. It's a real life based combat technique. It has a series of belt structures that show advancement. It is similar to the belt systems of many of the martial arts. However there are many things many things that sets it apart, from practicing running with full gear, calisthenics, log carries, and team work. It is rapidly becoming one of the most sought after martial arts.

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