The Best Striking Martial Arts

John Hackleman

Reviewed by:
On June 8, 2014
Last modified:January 8, 2018


A good introduction to the fighting method of UFC champion Chuck Liddell, with instruction from his teacher, John Hackleman. Includes defenses against takedown, punching and knockout techniques and Muay Thai in the clinch, and some decent grappling technique.

What is the most effective martial art, in terms of the striking arts? Here I have three criteria for determining which of the arts are the best in terms of striking. These criteria are:

  • Power generation of techniques. The strikes have power and the system teaches how power is generated with strikes.
  • Efficiency of striking techniques. The striking techniques are performed efficiently, the student is taught how to do maximum damage with the least amount of energy and movement.
  • The practicality of the art. This involves whether the art teaches principles with practical application in mind.

This list contain 5 martial arts, each with a discussion of why they are the best according the above criteria.

Never underestimate a well-placed kick. By Krajten (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Kenpo Karate

Admittedly, I am biased in regard to Kenpo, it is an art I’ve studied and trained in for decades. But I know the ins and outs of the art. I know what it teaches fundamentally. Some practitioners are really good, some not so good; like all martial arts, it’s the individual that makes the art just as much as the art makes the art. Chuck Liddell is a good example of a Kenpo man that applied Kenpo principles in real fighting situations. He won full-contact competitions with the use of power generating principles from Kenpo, against opponents that definitely were not slouches.

Kenpo follows rules and principles for effective self-defense, the generation of power behind strikes and how to effectively use strikes by way of position and angle.

One rule of Kenpo is that a strike must have significant travel to have power. Obviously there is a difference between a strike that travels an inch and one that travels a foot. But you can’t sacrifice efficiency here; you shouldn’t let your opponent see it coming, it must still be thrown and land on an angle that makes it effective and there should be no wasted motion and energy. In other words, such principles as economical motion are still applied; this has to do with only using the amount of movement necessary to get the job done without telegraphing (making it so your opponent sees the strike coming). Also, your strikes cannot simply deflect off the target and have no effect; it is best to hit the target square and all the way through so that it has decent penetration and, therefore, effect.

Kenpo also makes use of practical principles of self-defense, such as checking. All practical systems use checking. Gracie Jiu Jitsu, for instance, is all about checking. It means you stop the opponent’s movement, typically by grabbing his limbs and other points of control. Kenpo techniques typically involve a series of strikes interspersed with various checks on the opponent’s movement.

Kenpo also has strong emphasis on position; putting your self in a position where you are protected but your opponent is not, while giving yourself maximum freedom to unleash technique.

This video of Liddell shows a good example of him unleashing his full arsenal of grappling skills, striking skills, punches, kicks and knees, and good defense too.


Jeet Kune Do

This is the system developed by Bruce Lee and his students. It is a practical art that makes use of anything that works, including boxing, grappling and Asian martial arts. It applies many  of the same principles as Kenpo, including economical motion and checking (which is called trapping in JKD). There is definitely an emphasis on efficiency and power and the practical application of the art for the street. Also, students are encouraged to venture outside of their own parameters to find out what is useful in various martial arts. Emphasis is on attributes and tools, learning to develop reflexes and speed and how to use the body effectively in fighting and self-defense.

Muay Thai Kickboxing

Muay Thai makes heavy use of boxing technique, devastating elbows and knees and crippling low kicks to the leg nerves that are not retracted so have a strong impact. These are clearly powerful weapons to use, as evidenced by the smooth technique of Anderson Silva.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga was originally an art designed to protect the Jewish population in Europe when the Nazis scoured the continent terrorizing people. It soon became the art of the Israeli special forces and secret police. It is effective and dangerous, geared for the street, making use of both grappling skills and strikes, tailoring moves to a practitioners natural tendencies. After all, in a real situation, you are going to do what comes natural; might as well practice for it to burn it in.


So, when looking for a good, solid, striking art, it is important to pay attention to whether the art teaches sound and logical principles. For instance, checking: It just makes sense that you should prevent your opponent’s movement so they can’t hit you and you have the upper-hand. It also should use scientific principles of motion, at least implicitly, so that the strikes have good effect. Travel was an example I used early in this discussion. Clearly a weapon must travel a fair distance to generate power; this is a matter of physics.

The striking martial art must burn in principles of power generation, make use of angles and position and use sound and practical technique that minimizes or eliminates what kind of damage you take in an altercation but maximizes how much damage you do.

Featured image: This photo was made by Loura and was downloaded from url: on 17th January 2008. [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A good introduction to the fighting method of UFC champion Chuck Liddell, with instruction from his teacher, John Hackleman. Includes defenses against takedown, punching and knockout techniques and Muay Thai in the clinch, and some decent grappling technique.

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