5 Golden Pillars of Ultimate Self-Defense
by Professor Jesse Briggs
I have been a martial artist for almost all of my life, having started at the age of ten years old. I’ve practiced a wide range of martial arts, there's not much I can say I haven't tried. As a child, I started out doing Tang Soo Do and over the years I’ve done Krav Maga, Jiu Jitsu, Judo––the list goes on. Currently, I hold relatively respectable ranks in several, including a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Coach rank in Muay Thai (STX) and Catch Wrestling (CSW), Guro in Pekiti Tirsia Kali, Instructor rank in Capoeira, and I’m currently preparing to test for my black belt in Judo this year.
Over the years, many people have asked me the same question. "What is the best for self-defense?" To answer honestly, it really depends on your goal. I know that seems vague, but I’ll explain. Several martial arts offer attributes that others do not, so looking across the board of all available martial arts, I’d say developing proficiency in a variety of areas is the best self-defense and while studying multiple martial arts may not be for everyone, I’ve compiled the five martial arts I recommend––and why as well as how long––to anyone who asks me that question.
Gracie Jiu Jitsu (At least up until blue belt, approx. one year of training or more)
I say Gracie Jiu Jitsu because their curriculum usually requires that their students learn 36 essential techniques, commonly referred to as Gracie Combatives. These fundamentals give you the template for how to use Brazilian Jiu Jitsu when strikes are involved. If the school is not teaching this program I would recommend seeing if your coach is familiar with the techniques or has real-world experience in law enforcement or military using BJJ. From white to blue belt, the curriculum really focuses on how to use BJJ against someone who has equal or less experience grappling, which is most likely the level someone attacking you would have. Past blue belt the material usually focuses on how to beat other guys who have BJJ experience, which is great, but if we're after the meat and potatoes of self-defense and nothing fancy? Blue belt is the minimum standard.
Boxing, Kickboxing or Muay Thai (Six months to one year of training)
Striking is paramount, but it’s a difficult skill to master. I tell people if they are seeking proficiency for self-defense, they need at least six months of training in order to prevent someone from knocking them out. Even if you never become the Floyd Mayweather of the streets, being able to hold your own enough in stand-up striking to get a hold of someone where you can use your recently acquired blue belt in BJJ skills puts you at a significant advantage.
Judo (Six months minimum)
Now, this is a personal opinion and contrary to why you might think I’d pick this one. You might guess it’s to toss someone on their head or something cool like that, but it takes longer than six months to really master a throw and be able to pull something like that off. Why I picked Judo is because in the first six months you learn how to fall and not get hurt (which many BJJ guys even lack), as well as mastering balance and off-balance. As a former federal agent, even with the background I had, the last place I would want to be is knocked to the ground with someone attacking me. If I had acquired skills to keep me on my feet, I would deem them priceless and Judo provides this.
Scenario-based Weapons Training (3 to 5 months)
This one could be in the form of Krav Maga, maybe a tactical defense course for knife defense, and even some forms of Kali. This training is not to be a blade master, but to have orientation on the reality of how dangerous weapon combat is in any form. At my academy, we train a system called Battlefield Kali which allows us to safely train against resisting opponents in a multitude of variants––bladed, with a blunt object, and even empty handed.
Firearms Course (Basic marksmanship, maintenance and etiquette on the range: 1 to 2 courses)
Hands down, the concealed firearm is the best system of self-defense in the street and I believe everyone should be familiar with carrying. I also firmly believe that you should know the legality of using a firearm, how to carry it safely, and how to use it safely. Even if you don't carry a firearm for legal or moral reasons, take a class and understand that someone you get into an altercation with may have one and you need to know what to do in that scenario. There have been stories of overzealous martial artists trying to stop a robbery and being shot because they didn't think a firearm could be in play. Being aware of how to handle situations where a gun is involved––whether you personally choose to carry or not––is paramount to your safety.
Really, when we think of being able to protect our families, all methods of training should be researched. While that sounds daunting to some, these five areas are my personal preferences for self-defense training if money, time, and resources were not an issue.