The Best Martial Arts for Restraining Someone Bigger Than You


When it comes to self-defense, it’s smart to assume that your attacker will be bigger and stronger than you are. Unlike wrestling matches, real-life fights are not restricted by weight divisions. Knowing the right techniques can mean the difference between restraining a large opponent or being overpowered. Some martial arts incorporate maneuvers that allow you to use your opponent’s body weight against him with the use of joint-locks, throws and other techniques. While it’s impossible to designate any martial art as “best," there are several that excel in bringing even the biggest fighters to their knees.


  • Aikido is a relatively modern Japanese martial art created by Morihei Ueshiba, according to an article in a 1996 issue of “Aikido Journal." Combining elements of jiu jitsu and other unarmed combat arts, aikido includes a large curriculum of joint-locks, take downs and throws. While most of the techniques learned in aikido can be used in a variety of situations, they are specifically designed for the purpose of restraining opponents that are larger and stronger than you are. For this reason, aikido has become a particularly popular choice for women martial artists. In addition to unarmed techniques, aikido students can expect to learn a variety of traditional Japanese weapons, such as the jo staff, bo staff and a wooden sword called the bokken.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

  • Brazilian jiu jitsu is another modern martial art owing its roots to the fighting techniques of Japanese samurai. After jiu jitsu master Mitsuyo Maeda relocated to Brazil in the early 1900s, his more traditional fighting style changed to include maneuvers that mimicked real-life combat situations, such as street fights. Unlike aikido, Brazilian jiu jitsu instructs students on a wide variety of grappling and ground-fighting techniques, which can be very useful in restraining a larger opponent who has taken you to the ground. The overall strategy of Brazilian jiu jitsu is to arm physically smaller or weaker individuals with the techniques needed to defend against larger, stronger attackers, according to Due to its rise in popularity in recent years, Brazilian jiu jitsu is now frequently taught at gyms or fitness clubs.

Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu

  • While the lineage of the Bujinkan is murkier than the other two martial arts, it is believed by its supporters to traces its lineage directly to the ancient teachings of the ninja. Whether that’s true or not, Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu boasts a large array of joint-locks, take downs, throws and grappling techniques that allow smaller fighters to gain leverage over larger combatants. The Bujinkan curriculum comprises nine different ryu-ha, or traditional Japanese martial art schools, and teaches a wide range of combat arts, such as: staff-fighting, knife-fighting, stealth, evasion, rolling and fencing, according to the Tanuki Bujinkan Dojo website.

Safety Concerns

  • The bigger they are, the harder they fall, but sometimes they may fall on you. Talk to your doctor before signing up for a martial art class to make sure you are physically fit enough to engage in the throws and joint-locks these martial arts utilize. Make sure to choose a class that taught by a licensed instructor in your art of choice. When in doubt, ask your sensei about the safest way to perform any techniques.

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