If your interest is competition, this post isn’t for you as its focus will be around defending yourself and others from a hand-to-hand combat perspective (even though some of the martial arts styles listed can fall under the competition aspect).
I’m not going to recommend one particular style that you should study as I believe that there are aspects from every style that can be beneficial. I will, however, list some styles that I believe are more beneficial for self-defense purposes for civilians. These aren’t listed in any particular order.
- Krav Maga
- Muay Thai
- Tae Kwon Do (known for its various kicks)
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
- Arnis (aka Kali or Eskrima/Escrima)
As someone who’s been involved in a few fights (excluding competitions), it’s a completely different experience. When you’re in fear for your life or bodily harm, the same rules (ex: no low blows, scratching, etc) that apply to a competition scenario don’t apply to a violent encounter on the street. As my USCCA representative likes to say, “You better fight like that third monkey trying to get on the Ark because the flood’s coming.”