Let me say at the outset that I’m not suggesting these are the BEST martial arts for survivalists or preppers. I don’t like that term “best” as things are different for everyone. What works well for one person might not be a great thing for another. Instead, what you’ll find here are suggestions for a few different martial arts that are well suited for the likely needs of survivalists and preppers.
Eskrima / Kali / Arnis
These are the traditional martial arts of the Philippines. Focus is on the use of weapons, such as knives, sticks, and machetes. What is interesting about Eskrima is that most students learn weapons first, then advance to empty-hand techniques. This is the complete opposite of most other martial arts. In fact, with Eskrima, many of the weapon techniques utilize the exact same or very similar body movements as do the empty hand techniques. This allows for a greater utilization of muscle memory.
Students learn how to defend against angles of attack, rather than against specific types of strikes or styles of fighting. This makes Eskrima rather fluid and a proficient student is able to quickly counter an attack regardless of the aggressor’s fighting style.
While it is all but impossible to truly learn any martial art simply by studying a book, this one will give you solid information on Eskrima, enough for you to make a fully informed decision on whether to pursue study in it.
Krav Maga is about as “real world” as a martial art gets. It combines techniques from street fighting, boxing, wrestling, judo, aikido, and several other arts. Krav Maga was developed in the 1930s and 1940s in Israel. As with most martial arts, the emphasis is on avoiding a fight if at all possible. However, if it is unavoidable, Krav Maga teaches students to end the fight as quickly and decisively as possible.
It is a brutal art, teaching students how to exploit any weakness and how to cause as much pain and injury as possible. As I said, this is real world stuff, not really suited for tournaments and such.
An excellent primer on Krav Maga is Complete Krav Maga: The Ultimate Guide to Over 230 Self-Defense and Combative Techniques.
Jeet Kune Do
Like Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do (JKD) is a hybrid art. It was founded in the mid-1960s by Bruce Lee. JKD incorporates a wide range of techniques, including strikes, grappling, and kicks. The main idea is for the student to be able to flow from one technique to another seamlessly.
One of the key elements to traditional JKD is the idea of not telegraphing your intentions. In many martial arts, there are specific poses or stances one adopts. In JKD, the focus is on surprising the attacker by not tensing your muscles or even twitching until you strike. When done successfully by a practiced student, the attacker (now the victim) will not be able to defend. JKD as an art is based on the concept of staying loose and flexible.
Learn more by reading Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method: The Complete Edition.
Like most boys growing up in the 1980s, I was infatuated with all things ninja. However, like most things portrayed in the media, real life ninjutsu isn’t much like what you’ve seen in the movies. You aren’t going to be tossing around throwing stars, at least not right away. Nor are you going to be lurking in the shadows, waiting for someone to assassinate.
Honestly, ninjutsu is very much the survivalist version of the martial arts, when you get right down to it. Ninjutsu is a very well rounded art, encompassing everything from empty hand combat to weapons to situational awareness.
Stephen K. Hayes is one of the most well known American instructors. He has been referred to as the “Father of American Ninjutsu” and has written several great books on the subject. One of his latest, The Ninja Defense: A Modern Master’s Approach to Universal Dangers, even includes a lengthy DVD.
Whether you choose one of these arts or a different one, take the time to fully check out the school and instructor. Talk to current students and sit in for a class or two. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Go in knowing you aren’t going to become any sort of master in just a few weeks. However, it won’t take long before you notice an increase in your physical fitness as well as your self-confidence.