We are reader-supported. Links on our site may earn us a commission. Learn more

The 10 Most Dangerous (Deadliest) Martial Arts in the World

In ancient times, soldiers trained in martial arts to defend their homeland from the invaders. But as time passed, many sports disciplines were derived from brutal fighting forms without rules.

Masters of some fighting styles could kill their enemy with one strike to a vital area of the body.

Every single martial art specialist in the world can hurt his foe if needed, but who is the most dangerous martial artist in the world? Which style destroys the opponent before the bout has even started?

most dangerous and deadliest martial arts

Ranking Criteria

Some martial arts are known for disabling opponents in less than 5 seconds, not a technicality. The majority of fighting styles described here will stop the aggressive opponent quickly by targeting the vital areas of his body.

Here’s how we ranked the most dangerous martial arts in the world:

  • Time required to stop your foe;
  • Legal strikes or rule set limits – of course, the most effective ones allow eye gauges, nut shots, even weapon attacks;
  • Ability to defend – when a fighting style includes the use of weapons, it boosts ranking, etc.

These are the Top 10 Deadliest Martial Arts in the World (Ranked):

10. Sambo

Sambo used to be the combat style of the former USSR special ops (known nowadays under the name “Specnaz”, formerly Red Army soldiers). It includes the elements from kickboxing, Judo, BJJ, boxing, and Muay Thai, and it is one of the most lethal martial arts in the world.

Sambo is a lethal martial art
Image credit: Denis Kabelev

A good Sambo fighter can drag you to the ground and force you to tap or choke you out in a split second. There were many forms of this martial arts though, especially in the last 20 years:

  • Combat Sambo – very similar to MMA, but fighters wear the upper part of a gi. Its popularity started growing after Fedor Emelianenko won PRIDE FC, but it really exploded when Khabib Nurmagomedov won the UFC belt. Very popular in Russia, former USSR states, Bulgaria, and Finland.
  • Sports Sambo – reminds a lot of Judo, rules prohibit punches.
  • Special Sambo – nowadays, the secret martial art of Russian special ops, secret techniques cannot be found anywhere on the internet. Cheap shots and hits to the sensitive areas of the body are allowed.
  • Freestyle Sambo – the American version of this discipline, yet it includes fewer BJJ and submissions and more throws.

Undoubtedly, Combat and Special Sambo are among the most devastating ways to disable an unarmed enemy or a street thug.

9. Muay Thai

Muay Thai was created to protect the people of the ancient Kingdom of Siam from invaders. There were a lot of conflicts in the past, so Thai people needed an easy-to-learn martial art, and they created Muay Thai.

Muay Thai is easy but very brutal

The first competitions were very brutal, as fighters were wearing hemp ropes and even a slight hit to the head could’ve been a knockout.

Even today, groin shots are legal in some parts of Thailand. You can hurt the opponent via elbow, knee, punch, or kick, plus sweeps are allowed.

It is one of the toughest martial arts in the world. Thai fighters are trained to march forward, their philosophy is “destroy or be destroyed”.

8. Lethwei

We bet many will say “Lethwei is the same as Muay Thai, it shouldn’t be here“. That’s not the case, headbutts are allowed, which means more ways to hurt your opponent. 

Thai clinch is lethal, but Lethwei is undoubtedly one of the most violent martial arts when it comes to clinching. The expert can break your teeth, zygomatic bone, even mandibula with a violent headbutt, and doctors will have a hard time stopping the bleeding.

This fighting style originates from Myanmar (previous Burmese Kingdom), and it also served military purposes. Oh, punches and kicks to the back of the head are allowed too.

There are no gloves in the competition, only hand wraps – this is one of the deadliest bare-knuckle stand-up fighting styles.

7. Bacom

Bacom is a Peruvian martial art that contains the elements of BJJ plus striking with all areas of your body and the use of hidden weapons and life-threatening attacks. It was created in the streets of Lima for the Peruvian military.

Also called “Vacon”, it is one of the toughest martial arts in the world. The attacks are designed to run your foe off-balance. You can finish the fight in a very short amount of time. The goal is the maximum amount of pain and brutal injury to your opponent.

Armlocks are allowed too, but Bacom fights don’t happen too often. These clashes might end with the death of one of the fighters.

6. Vale Tudo

Vale Tudo is a Brazilian martial art. MMA, one of the most popular fighting disciplines today, was derived from it.

The first Vale Tudo bouts included elements mostly from BJJ and other striking styles, but the fights were extremely brutal.

Groin shots are legal, there are no gloves, headbutts are allowed, you can kick a downed opponent, and hits to the back of the head are allowed.

The referee stops the fight when the fighter is knocked out cold or when he taps.

The first UFC rules were very similar to Vale Tudo, but then the association made few changes to protect the life of the fighter.

When the street thug tries to piece up a Vale Tudo fighter, he’ll have to deal top-notch stand-up and ground game.

This might not be the greatest style to deal against 3+ attackers, but if you’re attacked by one cocky bully, you’ll grind his bones to dust.

5. Eskrima

Eskrima (also known as Kali) is one of the national sports in the Philippines, based on “open hand” and weapon (knives, sticks, or improvised item) combat.

The philosophy of this martial art believes that you can kill your enemy even when you’re disarmed.

Eskrima martial art is very dangerous

Modern Eskrima exists as a sport, but you must wear armor and loads of protection. Yet, there is a way more dangerous version – illegal fighting with metal sticks and a little sponge (a lot of brutal injuries happen).

If Kali specialist grabs any blunt object, he can piece you up in no time. So you’d be better off if you didn’t challenge them.

4. Silat

Silat originates from the southeastern part of Asia (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam), and it is a combination of weapon and bare-knuckle combat.

It is famous for joint manipulation techniques that disable the opponent in less than three seconds.

The philosophy of Silat is different – it focuses on exploiting your enemy’s weak spots and finishing the fight ASAP.

It is one of the most violent martial arts in the world. Silat fighter plans to shock the opponent via quick attack and knock him out cold within the first ten seconds of the fight.

Dirty and cheap shots are a trademark of Silat, they encourage groin kicks, throat strikes, eye gauges, even finger and toe attacks.

If you attack the master of this martial art in real life, don’t expect to finish the fight without a significant injury.

3. Rough and Tumble

Another name for this martial art, originally from the rural part of the United States of America, is “gouging”. It was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the goal was to gouge out the foe’s eye.

Many brutal techniques were allowed, including biting and hitting the vital spots (life-threatening shots).

gouging is rough and deadly fighting style

It’s one of the deadliest fighting styles ever. Fights mostly took place to settle disputes, and the population treated the winner as a local hero as it was a great way to defend the honor of your family or your name.

The competitions have never been official though. The sole purpose of those fights was to end the opponent’s life or disable him permanently.

2. Ninjutsu

Ninjutsu is based on fighting with all kinds of weapons. It originates from ancient Japan (Minamoto clan). Samurai warriors were using their skills to protect their masters and defend their homeland from foreign invaders.

It is more than just a martial art, as it includes gathering data, espionage, camouflage, hiding, sneaking, surviving in nature, overcoming obstacles, pushing yourself over the limit.

Ninjutsu’s popularity exploded again at the end of the 20th century when the first dojos appeared in the United States.

It is one of the most efficient to disarm or disable your opponent for good.

Ninjutsu competitions don’t exist, because fights would probably end up with heavy injuries or deaths. It is an integral self-defense system that turns you into a warrior and one of the deadliest martial arts on the globe.

1. Krav Maga

Krav Maga is the most dangerous martial art in the world, the trademark of Israeli special ops. It teaches you to defend against armed thugs and unarmed foes.

It was founded by Emrich “Imre” Lichtenfeld (also known as Imi Sde-Or), but the modern Krav Maga was heavily influenced by Eyal Yanilov, who added even more dangerous techniques to the most efficient fighting style.

Interestingly, the philosophy of Krav Maga teaches you to stay away from confrontation and react only when there’s no other choice.

This Israeli martial art teaches you self-defense, combat skills, and protecting other people.

Krav Maga is the most dangerous martial art

The trademarks of Krav Maga are one-shot strikes that disable your opponent for good. Eye gouges, neck and throat strikes, groin shots, and all kinds of vital area strikes are perfectly legal. Your goal is to stop the aggressor ASAP.

Nobody cares whether you’re male or female, techniques are evenly efficient for both genders. Weapon attacks are allowed too, Krav Maga specialist know to parry knife attacks and to piece you up with a steel pipe in less than 3 seconds.

Krav Maga is a non-sports form of martial arts, as competitions would probably end via heavy injuries or even deaths. There is only one rule – you must survive when you’re attacked by any means necessary.

Conclusion

Every martial art has good and bad sides. Some are too sports-oriented, while the others are all about hurting the opponent and finishing the fight as soon as possible, with or without a weapon.

Each fighting style can help you defend yourself, but some styles teach you to end the fight with one strike, even against the most skillful fighter on the planet.