Friday, August 13, 2010

Top 10 Fighting Styles

I was doing my own top ten lists before (but not in this site), and sites like toptenz, cracked, and listverse inspired me to start doing my own top ten lists again.  This time in this site.   

Before I start on these series of top ten lists, let me say that my ranking is not dependent on any criteria.  The only criterion is what I prefer or what my opinion is.  So, sometimes, in your perspective, it might not make sense.  So, let’s go on with my first top ten list in this blog… 

I am very fascinated with martial arts and self-defense.  Probably because of me growing up watching too much films with such action sequences.  Nonetheless, in my fascination, I had researched, read articles or books, watched documentaries about different martial art disciplines. I can say, I have a store of theoretical martial art knowledge in my head.  I know some things about what to do in a given combat situation or how to take out an opponent the quickest and most efficient way possible.  Sure, plenty of theoretical knowledge, but, actually having minimal training at all or conditioning or practice.  Thus, in the end, I am almost worthless in a fight.  (sigh)

Here we go then, my top ten fighting styles.


This is what I’m talking about when I said that what I may put in these top ten lists will sometimes not make any sense.  Were you expecting that this list would be made up entirely of real-life martial arts?

The trade of wrestling entertainment has a deep collection of entertaining moves and tricks that creates an illusion of a semi-realistic explosive fight, while minimizing the risk of pain or injury to the person the move is being performed on.  Consider that the spinebuster, suplexes, piledriver or RKO can really injure someone if not delivered properly… or when actually delivered as it is!  The ankle lock or crippler crossface can be actually pretty painful.  Wrestling is not fake.  Yes, it is scripted, but the dangers are real.   Scripted but not fake.  People get hurt, injured, even die.   Of course, since it is scripted, the fights can be choreographed.  Thus, we get entertaining fighting styles or concepts.  And, boy such great entertainment they bring.    

A simple straight kick to the chin can become so cool and lethal when it’s given the name of “Sweet Chin Music.”

Theatrics can make an ordinary move seems like explosive and fatal.  E.g. “The People’s Elbow”

And let’s not forget the top rope flashiness.  “The Shooting Star” is my favorite.

Forget that it’s scripted for a while, the moves of pro-wrestling totally rocks.  And to totally appreciate it, one should put it into context of it being hypothetically real.  Play “Smackdown!” in a console to see my point.


Sikaran is a martial art that is very similar with taekwondo, in which kicking is the only way to attack and the hands and arms are used for deflecting blows.  In its early days, it has been a gladiator-like game by farmers.  There are some variations with Taekwondo and Sikaran, such as in Sikaran, one can make a sweeping motion kick against an opponent’s feet to make him fall off balance, or in Taekwondo, one can punch downwards against an opponent’s chest to create space.  It’s a generally unknown martial art even in its home country, the Philippines.  I add this to the list because it’s the only martial art I got trained on (about several months of weekly sessions).

The “biakid” – a kick executed by pivoting to the back in a complete turn, much like a spinning hook kick or a reverse round house in other martial arts styles and targets the side or back of the head while the practitioner is in mid to punching range – is the deadliest move of Sikaran.  This technique was ripped off by the Koreans and added it to Taekwondo when they saw its effectiveness.

Filipinos actually have several badass traditional martial arts.  Heck, Filipino fighting disciplines are taught on Spetnatz trainees!  And even Bruce Lee found inspiration and ideas from Filipino martial arts.   It’s ironic that Filipino martial arts are endangered because Filipinos want to learn more mainstream martial arts (e.g. karate, taekwondo) rather than their own traditional fighting styles.  


There is actually a real life Taijutsu from Japan, but what I'm referring to is that of the variation in Naruto.  In the anime/manga “Naruto”, the ninja skills are ninjutsu, genjutsu, and taijutsu.  Taijutsu is the martial art aspect, or the close combat fighting technique a ninja uses. 

Taijutsu is mostly dependent on a ninja’s stamina, physical strength and speed rather than “chakra” – the energy needed to project or use jutsus.  It is mostly physical attacks but can be enforced or strengthened by chakra. Taijutsu incorporates the stereotype martial art disciplines we know of.  Heck, there’s even a drunken style technique, in reference to the popular “Drunken Master” Jackie Chan movie.   
Taijutsu is such fun to watch, especially when those ninjas who concentrate mostly on it (almost ignoring the other two aspects – genjutsu and ninjutsu) like Might Guy and Rock Lee – whose appearances are patterned with Bruce Lee – do it.  


There is no Judo or Taekwondo here in this list, because as graceful they appear in competitions, they are impractical martial arts.  It is because they are very limited by rules of the discipline.  In real life, in a combat, nobody is limited by rules or formalities.  In Taekwondo, close range attacks are difficult because punches are generally not allowed.  Judo concentrates on throws.  Limited.  They only look good on competitions. 

Now, we have mixed martial arts.  Thanks to UFC, it is now very popular. Principles of already deadly and practical fighting styles like boxing (I’ll explain later why boxing is better than taekwondo), Jiu-Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Muay Thai (the first two already hybrids themselves) are combined together with the toughness and street-smarts of “freestyle” street fighting and holds and grappling of wrestling.  With all these disciplines combined, a dangerous and deeper fighting style is created. 

Mixed martial knows how to take out an opponent, to knock him out with lethal blows or make him tap out with a submission hold (or in a real fight, until he passes out from pain).  Moreover, the style incorporates an environment on how a real-life fight goes: no limitations by a martial art’s rules, anything goes.


This is the martial art that Bruce Lee invented.  The foundation of it is found in Wing Chun Kung Fu, the discipline Lee learned from his master Yip Man.  He created a better version of Wing Chun because he thinks it is too formal and too slow to be used in an actual fight. 

He called it “a style without a style.”  What does he mean?  Ad libbing in a fight.  In a real fight, there are no rules.  An opponent is not limited by any rule of a martial art (e.g. taekwondo only uses kicks to attack).  Thus, it is necessary to be able to, as Lee puts it, “…not to be thinking of anything but his [opponent] attack and your response. Clear all other thoughts from your head, or they will slow you down.”  To be able to instinctively respond, almost without thinking, to the opponent’s moves.

Bruce Lee is a student of martial arts.  He tried to learn most of the martial arts possible to serve as reference for his magnum opus of a martial art.  Along with Wing Chun, it has the principles of fencing (using the “en garde” stance as the basic stance, bouncing on the toes to be able to switch with either foot, kick with either foot, to advance or retreat), Jiu-Jitsu, and miscellaneous kung-fu disciplines.  It is actually not the ultimate (real) fighting style, but the philosophy of it is practical.    


So, I criticized limited martial arts like taekwondo.   Then why is a “limited” style like boxing, which only uses punches, rank high in this list?   Because punching is more accurate and can be made faster than a kick.  A kicking discipline has the advantage of the long range, but a kick is designed to hit a broader area – hoping to hit a general area of the body and not a specific part.  But the punch can hit that vulnerable part more easily. 

Example, why a punch is used when hitting the solar plexus instead of a kick?  Because the punch is more comfortable to use when targeting the solar plexus since a punch can bring the most concentrated force in that area, while a kick’s (front or side kick) force would be generally distributed in that area.  Thus, a punch can do more damage on the solar plexus.   Hitting the solar plexus with much force will render an opponent doubling up in pain, immobilizing the enemy.  The only other attack on the solar plexus that is more lethal than a punch that I can think of is a Muay Thai knee strike.  

The chin – another vulnerable part of the body – is also more easily accessible by a punch rather than a kick.  A punch also can hit the chin faster and with more concentrated force.   Hitting the chin will make the opponent unconscious if the punch is done properly, in which the opponent’s head will be thrown sideways, shutting off the brain by pinching the spinal cord in the neck.  The chance of doing this with a kick only becomes highly probable if one knows how to do a “Sweet Chin Music” like Shawn Michaels does. 

Boxing punches has the strongest, fastest, and most accurate punch in any discipline since boxing concentrates on using the fist 100%.  I saw on a documentary that a boxer’s punch is as lethal as a sledgehammer’s swing.  That is lethal indeed. 

Boxers also have tough bodies to take on the heavy pounding.  And their basic stance – hands staying on both sides of the head – is designed to be able to have optimum protection against attacks above the belt.  They also have excellent rhythm and quick reaction time, both very invaluable in an actual fight.

Moreover, boxing seems to have more science in it than taekwondo.  

Therefore, between a boxer and a taekwondoer fight and my money’s on the boxer.


Gun Kata is the coolest fighting style in my book.  In the first place, in real life, guns are the best and most efficient tools for killing or self-defense.  Regardless of what this guy, Mr. "Guns-Have-Limited-Range-of-Effectiveness", thinks:

Most of the time, fancy martial arts are inutile with someone with guns.  Add the grace and fluidity of a martial art discipline to the already efficient weapon of killing and it would be the most lethal fighting style we will ever see.

I would definitely put Gun Kata as number one if it’s real, or even at least feasible. But Gun Kata is not a workable martial art or science at all.  

The Gun Kata martial art is found in the movie “Equilibrium” – mediocre story, but awesome Gun Kata fight scenes.  The principle of it is that in a given position of a gunslinger and his opponent/s, the trajectories of the bullet fire is statistically predicted.   By taking into consideration all the positions, and perfectly analyzing it, the gunslinger can fire to the probable location the opponent will move towards.  At the same time, he can predict where the incoming bullets fired at him would go, thus he can react to avoid it.  With knowledge like this, one can do the most impractical thing to do in a fight when one has a gun: fight by close range.  Thus, two combatants of gun kata, analyzing and predicting, could fight aiming at each other in close range and knocking each other’s wrist to deflect the fire fired at them.  Until one makes the mistake of predicting it wrongly or reacting slowly, thus, getting himself shot.


Immortalized by Sherlock Holmes (“baritsu”), Bartitsu is a Victorian England eclectic martial art.  It has the elements of Jujutsu, Schwingen, SavateCanne de combat, Judo, and Boxing.  The founder of this martial art, Edward William Barton-Wright, intended it as self-defense in all its forms.  In 1899, Barton-Wright summarized the essential principles of Bartitsu as:
1.) To disturb the equilibrium of your assailant.
2.) To surprise him before he has time to regain his balance and use his strength.
3.) If necessary, to subject the joints of any parts of his body, whether neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, back, knee, ankle, etc. to strains that they are anatomically and mechanically unable to resist.
Bartitsu has the appropriate techniques on both long and short range.   In long range, it is more dependent on the use of the walking stick (a popular weapon in the 19th century), while in short-range, it is dependent primarily to jiu-jitsu grappling.  Boxing is used in the middle of the two ranges.  It is emphasized in this discipline that one should be able to have smooth transition when alternating between the ranges.
Bartitsu is one of the most diverse fighting style in the world, and almost perfect.  There is just something classy about it.  Probably because the Victorian charm.  Some glimpse of bartitsu can be found in the Sherlock Holmes (2009) movie, where both Holmes and Dr. Watson used it in their fight scenes.

Ever saw a movie where the hero is surrounded by a mob of opponents and take them all down?  Totally badass right?  It only happens in the movies, though?  Wrong.  This is what the Keysi Fighting Method can do.  The discipline is developed by Justo Dieguez and Andy Norman, heavily basing it on Dieguez’s street fighting experiences (I kid you not!). 
Keysi Fighting Method is a fast-paced, brutal, and efficient close-combat style that can take on ten or twenty opponents as they routinely attack.  It also has minimal usage of kicks (again, in real life, kicks are impractical, even dangerous for one to use.  I read somewhere that in military training, it is often advised to not use a kick as much as possible), and is instead consisted of close-quarters moves like head butts, variation of punches, and knee and elbow strikes. 

It is also a hybrid style like mixed martial arts since it also uses the principles of several practical and lethal martial arts like Jiu-Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, street fighting, Aikido, and even Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do.  It also has the same philosophy of Jeet Kune Do: to be able to think on one’s feet, to improvise and react on what is the current situation or movement of the opponent.   
To be able to master it, it takes nearly a decade of training.  Yes, it’s a long time of hard work but the rewards are worth it.  You would become an ultimate efficient fighting machine, a la Batman. 

Again, I kid you not.  This is the fighting discipline that the Christian Bale Batman of the Christopher Nolan films (“Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight”) is using.   

The epitome of a practical no-holds barred, deadly fighting style is Israel’s national martial art which was developed by Imi Lichtenfeld.  Just like Mixed Martial Art, Keysi, and Bartitsu, Krav Maga is also a hybrid of martial arts. The best principle Krav Maga has is the philosophy of being able to attack and defend at the same time. Something that is also applicable in boxing by the use of the Dempsey Roll.  

Krav Maga’s moves and techniques carry military precision and efficiency, as well as the toughness of the mentality of the streets.  Attacks on vulnerable parts of the body – eyes, solar plexus, throat, groin knees, etc. – are given importance. Hand-eye coordination is heavily emphasized, until one’s movements became instinctive and would not require thinking any more.  As if the body is trained to automatically defend itself.  The concept of disarming someone with a gun or knife is also somehow unique in Krav Maga, as not only is the disarming is stressed, but actually using the opponent’s own weapons against himself.    

Like Keysi Fighting Method, Krav Maga will turn someone into an ultimate fighting machine.  But unlike Keysi, the best thing about Krav Maga (that is why it’s number one) is it can be learned, regardless of athletic prowess, in three to six months.

Don’t mess with Israel.  They have the Mossad.  They have the Shayetet 13.  And they have the most badass fighting style in the world.


Chris said...

best site i've ever seen about fighting... love kesi fighting and have never even heard of it. thanks a lot.

JP said...

Excellent blog. Very practical disciplines indeed. Only, I have to disagree with your opinoins on taekwondo and judo being impractical for the street, especially judo. I have yet to see an advanced judoka lose a street fight, especially one with decent striking ability. And if a high level taekwondist, for example one of olympic standards, applies a spinning back kick to the floating rib, unless the opposition is "professionally trained to defend against it, in which on the street 9 1/2 times out of 10, he or she is not, then the fight is over, and the victim of the attack is going to the hospital.

Jordan Allec said...

Great blog my only position would be "He created a better version of Wing Chun because he thinks it is too formal and too slow to be used in an actual fight." Because Wing Chun was invented for fighting specifically the Manchurians during their occupation of China. Also the greatest Win Chun master ever Leung Jan fought in over 300 matches facing various styles and supposedly never lost just, something to take into account

Anonymous said...

Not a bad list but you are leaving out a few things. I have been doing a variety of martial for 12 years and am still training. I started young but I soon started to study on the most dangerous, deadly, and effective martial arts I could find. I have done Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Mauy Thai, Krav Maga, Vale Tudo, Swordsmanship, MMA, Military Hand to Hand, and Bujinkan and AKBAN ninjutsu.
Granted, I learned many very dangerous technique. But the most deadly I have ever learned is pretty much a tie between KM and AKBAN.
AKBAN is a refined form of Bujinkan with added technique from other martial arts. I take it here in the states by a private teacher. He incorporated 20 martial arts into 1 using only the most effective real world technique that is proven and works. Physical fitness is a must as well but we don't stress on being a "big muscle man". Usually we focus on high strength to weight ratio, stamina, power, cardio, etc. We usually take workouts from the Army Rangers, Seals, Delta, and other SO.
So to wrap up AKBAN is easily one of the most effective martial arts I know of with thousands of technique that can easily be used in any real fight. We have several throws to break the neck, arms, elbows, etc. We use any means possible to end a fight and that includes eye gouging, strikes to throat, and we take the dim mak very seriously. It's deadly and it works.
PS: Gun Kata will pretty much never work in a real world situation. It sounds cool but it has never happened and will likely never happen. It don't work.

Anonymous said...

True krav maga is awesome and really realistic! I have only been doing it for like a month and a half and it has thought me so much already, AMAZING list!

colin morgan said...

acording to these list i think kungfu have many technipues but any style have not like this they always copy kungfu but krav maga is do thier practises with guns and some self defence techniques but kungfu use all of items and kungfu self defence is more powerful it can some times kill person from one shot therefore i think kungfu be the first in the rank acording to best of my knowlege said...

Dont you ever heard of 'kalarippayattu' from kerala? It is one of the best fighting style in the world

Anonymous said...

It's not the style. It's the user.

Blade Apprentice said...

Filipino martial arts (Arnis, Kali, Eskrima) is definitely an effective and practical fighting style because it's a complete discipline--from weapons (sticks, blades, improvised) training to empty hand/mano-,mano fighting, including dumog or grappling.