The 25 Most Lethal Martial Arts Ever Created

Posted by , Updated on January 1, 2018


Since the beginning of time people have been striving to find the deadliest martial arts styles. What began with sticks and stones developed into extremely intricate and deadly types of martial arts self defense. So, in the interest of your own well being, it would be wise to avoid altercations with any skilled practitioners of the 25 most lethal martial arts ever created.

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An ancient Cambodian martial art having its origins on the battlefield, its name literally translates to “pounding a lion”. By using a diverse array of strikes and weapons it may not be surprising to know that Bokator has been responsible for numerous deaths.




Although technically it is no longer practiced, Combato was an extremely lethal martial art style used in World War II by the Canadian Armed Forces. First developed by Bill Underwood in 1910, after the war several law enforcement agencies requested him to teach their officers. Bill refused, however, on the grounds that Combato was too violent and thus developed Defendo as a more civilian-friendly successor.


Jeet Kun Do

Jeet Kun Do

Developed by Bruce Lee, this hybrid martial art style was his response to the “flowery” techniques used in other systems. Bruce felt that although these stylistic forms certainly had aesthetic appeal, their practical usefulness was nearly zero.



Practiced by the Korean military for hundreds of years, this martial art is split into three categories – thrust, strike, and slice. Unlike many of its Korean counterparts, however, its focus is much more on practical fighting techniques than artsy philosophies.



Although today it is more of a dance than anything else, this martial art was born in the slave ghettos of Brazil hundreds of years ago. Originally, it was meant to be a technique by which runaway slaves could defend themselves against attackers. But before long, its practice came to be outlawed due to its “dangerous nature”. As a result, practitioners disguised it as a dance by which it lives on today.



Originating on the streets of the crime ridden Palama settlement in Hawaii, this highly effective and to the point martial art style combines numerous influences and was developed specifically to give locales the ability to defend themselves against not only gangs but also drunk navy sailors who had a tendency of starting fights.


Keysi Fighting Method

Keysi Fighting Method

Developed by Justo Deigues Serrano as the cumulation of his fighting experiences on the streets of Spain, the Keysi method is intended to be used for self defense in violent street level encounters. It has gained widespread popularity in recent years and was even featured in the newer Batman movies.



Sambo is a deadly combination of grappling and wrestling that was developed for the Red Army in the early 1920’s. It was originally created specifically to improve the Soviet special force’s hand to hand combat capabilities, but after a surge in crime the government began training security guards and public law enforcement as well. Evidently it’s a bad idea to rob banks in Russia.


Pit Fighting

Pit Fighting

Okay, although brawling isn’t really a martial art style, the idea of digging a pit and having two men duke it out street style just had to be on here somewhere. This modern day gladiator fighting was started by biker gangs in California and the practice has actually given rise to several world renowned competitive fighters.




Sometimes called Arnis or Kali in the west, Escrima is a Filipino Martial Art style that was outlawed by Spanish invaders as a result of it being “too dangerous”. Like some others on this list it only exists today because for the next several hundred years it was disguised as a dance.




Similar to other non-sport martial arts, this hybrid fighting technique developed by Tom Schrenk in the 90s doesn’t focus on scoring points or having correct form. Its sole purpose is to enable an outnumbered defender to turn the odds in his favor during a violent street assault. Unlike some other martial arts styles on this list, however, it does make an attempt to at least use reasonable levels of force.




An acronym standing for Spontaneous Protection Enabling Accelerated Response, this martial arts self defense was developed by Tony Blauer in the 80s. Its focus is on using a person’s natural reflexes when faced with threatening situations and has been adopted by numerous police forces and militaries around the world.




A system of self defense built on ancient Japanese martial arts, Nindokai was developed by Dr. Gerhard Shonberger in Germany during the early 90’s. Similar to Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kun Do it eliminates all of the “showy” techniques and focuses only on that which is effective to surviving a fight.



A lethal combat method employed by the Russian Special Forces, Systema is similar to Krav Maga in that its sole purpose is to do as much damage to your adversary as quickly and efficiently as possible.


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gained popularity around the world when Royce Gracie won the first, second, and fourth ultimate fighting championships. The effectiveness of bjj, however, comes from its emphasis on ground fighting and giving smaller practitioners an advantage by employing body leverage.


Muy Thai


Otherwise known as the “Art of Eight Limbs” for its heavy inclusion of elbow and knee strikes, it should come as no surprise that such a deadly form of martial arts self defense would emerge from a place like Thailand, a country well acquainted with violence and conquest.


Kapu Ku’ialua

Kapu Ku’ialua

Also known as just Lua, this unconventional Hawaiian martial art focuses on bone breaking, joint manipulation, and even open ocean warfare. The name itself actually means “two hits” and apart from having a long history on the battlefield, practitioners go to great lengths to turn the odds in their favor with some warriors even coating themselves in coconut oil so they couldn’t be grappled in battle.



Also known as Vacon, this Peruvian martial art style was born on the streets of Lima. It blends numerous martial arts and is designed to quickly inflict maximum injury to an opponent. Due to the emphasis on hidden weapons and deception, it is not unusual for fights to end in death.


Jailhouse Rock

Jailhouse Rock

A name used to describe several improvisational fighting styles developed within the US penal system, some of the most common types include Brick City Rock, 52 Handblocks, and Stato. Not much is known about them, however, and for years even their existence has been disputed and shrouded in mystery.




Also known as boxing, this combat sport is seen in numerous variations around the globe. It is notoriously dangerous as the head is a primary target and it was even outlawed in several countries during the nineteenth century.


Vale Tudo

Vale Tudo

Portuguese for “anything goes”, this is a full contact combat sport popular in Brazil. It has a very limited number of rules and takes techniques from numerous martial arts. The only problem is that it is so dangerous and bloody that it often creates quite a stir in the media. And for this reason most of the events are held underground.




Practiced by the shinobi, or ninja, in feudal Japan, this martial art focused on unconventional warfare, espionage, and assassination. Its practitioners were even sometimes referred to as hinin, or non-humans.


Rough and Tumble

Rough and Tumble

Often considered one of the few fighting styles native to the United States, this form of violent encounter was very popular around the time of the American Revolution. With emphasis on maximum disfigurement it often involved everything from men gauging out each other’s eyes to literally biting the tongues of their opponents. Very few of the other entries on this list even come close to attaining the level of violence in these colonial era blood bathes.




An acronym standing for Linear Infighting Neural Override Engagement, this deadly martial arts style was used by the United States Marine Corps for most of the 90s and is still employed by numerous special forces. It was succeeded by the MCMAP or Marine Corps Martial Arts Program in recent years, however, due to the fact that it was relatively inflexible. Because it almost always involved ending the life of your opponent the military couldn’t use it in non emergent situations such as peacekeeping operations.


Krav Maga


Not surprisingly, the world’s most effective and deadly martial arts comes to us from one of the most conflicted regions of the world. Developed for use by the IDF or Israeli Defense Force, Krav Maga is a non-sport martial art, meaning it doesn’t concern itself with the opponents wellbeing. In fact, it generally assumes no quarters, or the idea that your opponent intends to kill you. For this reason, the brutal techniques of Krav Maga have been developed with the sole intention of inflicting as much pain as quickly and efficiently as possible which very often includes deliberately ending the life of your adversary.

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