We still need to consider self defense. I live in a country which makes owning a gun rather unappealing, possible, but a PITA. If I started the application process now I might have one by Christmas... against the wifes wishes as well I might add. People here are paranoid about guns. So I'm looking at other options.
I have this some thought, and whilst reading FERFAL considered that it's about time I went back to martial arts. As a former Ninjitsu student I was not about to go back to that. So I did a little research on SHTF martial arts.
It appears we have a few decent options, and a lot of really bad ones:
What didn't make my list:
That's about all I have to offer, so I'm happy to receive feedback. I'm certainly not in a position to not need it!
My only advice, is to consider the following question I had to pose to myself:
Remember, your SHTF opponent will not follow rules, hit for points or let you tap out.
I studied Krav Maga for three years, eventually passing the "level three" test, which is about as far as most people get who aren't interested in becoming instructors. I recommend it without hesitation.
First of all, a little history: Krav Maga was developed by an amazing badass named Imi Lichtenfeld during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Imi's dad was the owner of one of the first gymnasiums in that part of Europe, and Imi had grown up boxing and wrestling. So, one day, when a couple of Nazi thugs decided to attack Imi for being Jewish, he handed their asses to them. Shortly thereafter, he and some of his buddies decided that teaching Jews how to defend themselves would be a good idea. Since he was working with a population that had little or no combat training, and facing an aggressive, state-sanctioned enemey, Imi knew that he had to figure out a system of training that was maximally effective, and able to be taught in the minimum amount of time. To that end, he combined the most effective techniques he could find from boxing, Muay Thai, Jujitsu and good ol' dirty streetfighting. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krav_maga)
Long story short, after the war ended and the state of Israel was founded, they invited Imi over to teach the style of fighting he had developed - Krav Maga (literally "contact combat") - to their new military. Fast-forward fifty years, and the stereotype of the skinny Jewish kid getting beaten up on the way to Yeshiva has been - in many circles - replaced by the stereotype of the Israeli bodyguard who will f*%k you up bad.
To your point of Krav Maga being "designed for military combat." That's actually a non-issue. The Krav Maga curriculum taught by schools sanctioned by Krav Maga Worldwide (https://kravmaga.com) have been specifically selected to be applicable for civilian use. Therefore, techniques such as grenade disarmament, bayonet fighting, etc. are simply not taught, while emphasis is placed on scenarios that civilians DO find themselves in, such as being faced with multiple attackers on the street, being choked from behind in a bar, being carjacked, being attacked while sleeping in your bed, etc.
The emphasis in Krav Maga is on "stand up fighting," but ground fighting (grappling) techniques are taught, although the idea is to get back up on your feet and incapacitate your opponent, rather than to spend a long time rolling around on the ground (because you're probably being kicked in the head by the buddy of whoever you're on the ground with).
I would not recommend MMA classes for anyone interested in self-defense. MMA is a sport, with rules, and the emphasis is on grappling. Yes, a skilled MMA fighter can probably kick the ass of 99% of people on the street, but it takes a LONG time to develop that level of skill. Krav Maga is designed to help people learn how to defend themselves as quickly and effectively as possible.
Anyone with a background in martial arts (I had done a little boxing, karate and kendo before I started Krav) will find the basic moves very familiar, and anyone who has never done a martial art will find the material presented in a very accessible manner.
The main thing to understand about Krav Maga is that it is NOT a "martial art." It is a fighting system designed for SURVIVAL. In fact, the unofficial motto of Krav Maga is "get home safe." It is not pretty, but it IS fun, and it has a better chance of saving your life than anything else I've found.
Most Krav Maga studios periodically offer one-day seminars (often to raise money for various charities like People Against Rape). My suggestion would be to attend one of these one-day seminars, and check out the school and the instructors. If you like them, you can usually take a few classes for free before signing up. Make sure that the school you're checking out is affiliated with Krav Maga Worldwide. There are a lot of crappy schools with names like "Combat Krav Maga," etc. that have instructors that aren't properly trained or certified.
1st rule, Run away as fast as you can
2nd rule, style is meaningless without a properly conditioned body
3rd never leave the balance of your two feet, unless you like being stomped on.
In this video the older gentleman shows the usefulness of the Kung fu three body stance, as well as, how snake style can be extremely useful, notice the fear he evokes after pushing the first two attackers sole buttons.
stalking wolf, your post reminded me of Kung Fu street:
notice how the kid in the red uses his feet like every other animal but most humans(he walks on the ball not the heel of his foot. Also, since the kid in the red has no desire of destroying his opponent he is on the defense, so the other kid must take a step to touch him. when one has to take step toward there opponent they instantly give up all surprise.
In this video the master demonstrates how to use the whole body. it reminds me of going up against way bigger guys then me in hockey, but a simple change in the direction of energy will allow a simple hip or shoulder check to floor anyone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oCMDO9D1AM
1. Strike Hard
2. Strike Fast
3. No Mercy!
If that doesn't work... SWEEP THE LEG!
The right answer depends on where you live, and what you have available.
I live in a small community. I have been taking part in martial arts for nine years.
Most everyone starts out learning Tae Kwon Do. This will provide some basics. After some basics are established, Kung Fu, grappling, and MMA-style ground fighting are presented.
I agree with the guy up above about emphasizing sparring. You have to have full contact sparring. But be careful... we all have to go to work the next day.
You may find, as I did, that although the martial arts dojo says one thing, they also offer a variety of other skills that might be of benefit to you. And as always, if you go in specifically with the goal of learning some wicked self defense in a matter of weeks, money talks. You could always arrange some private lessons (instead of group lessons) to help you on your way to being prepared for the SHTF scenario.
Best of luck.
Quick note on sparring: the problem with conventional martial arts sparring practice is that, in order to be a considerate training partner, you have to "pull your punches" to some extent. Unfortunately, what you do in the dojo is what you'll do in the street. If you have trained for years to punch & kick with less than maximum force, that's what you'll do when you're fighting for your life.
One of the many reasons I like Krav Maga is its emphasis on using thick pads for both drills and sparring: this way you can (almost) always hit as hard as you can, without getting any more banged up than you would in a typical karate kumite class. Obviously, certain techniques - such as eye gouges, throat strikes, and chokes - simply can not safely be used at full force during sparring, but the more you can go hard, the better.
"pulling" depends on the school. The more high profile the dojo (as a business) the more liability they have, the more they pad up and pull strikes. It's the "underground" dojo's where you really get a good idea of how to get dirty.
I greatly enjoyed Brazilian Jujitsu. Left me fairly confident that I could kill any given person in the street if I had to. Of course, facing multiple opponents using grappling techniques is near impossible. Krav Maga is better for that. My understanding of it is basically "kick them in the nuts, hard". But I don't know, I've never had a lesson.
I forget who said it about going light on sparring, Pavlov and his dogs as well as myself agree. Because repetition equals truth plain and simple. If you train lightly you will hit lightly, if you train against a bag hard you will hit hard but forget you still have the ability to move. If you train to be a Royce Gracie who is excellent at what he does, you will get kicked in the back buy your opponents friends rolling around on the ground. I suggest iron body training and an assortment of shape mind fist(Hsing I), Mud stepping(Bagua), and The Grand Ultimate Fist(Tai Chi). Check out master Wong he's so serious its comical.
Russian Systema is quite practical.
systema is great, just as long as ones feet/legs are in control. one should be able to stand on one leg between 5 minutes and and 1 hour. Also, you should be able to jump horizontally across the floor like a fencer, at least 6 feet. your whole body is at stake, one must use their whole body to defend and offend.
Tai Chi and Jujitsu are wonderful martial arts, but they are not primarily designed to enable civilians to survive real-world criminal attacks. Only Krav Maga has that distinction.
Systema is the hand-to-hand combat system developed by the Soviets, and it has a lot of nice, brutal stuff in it (it's the only place I've seen a teacher show how to break a person's neck), but it's not quite as intuitive as Krav Maga, and the teaching style is more akin to traditional martial arts than Krav Maga. Krav is taught with a lot of military-style, full-tilt drills (e.g. one person holds a pad while his partner delivers knee strikes as hard as possible, and then they switch), and most techniques are taught in response to a specific attack (i.e. defending against a choke from the front).
Sparring in Krav Maga actually doesn't even come into play until the advanced level, and even then it's to teach students how to think on their feet and take a hit, rather than "practice fighting."
For a good sense of what Krav Maga looks like in action, check out Liam Neeson's moves in the movie "Taken." He doesn't go toe-to-toe with anyone, he just disarms and destroys them as quickly as possible. Even though the specific moves he uses are a tad "Hollywood," the principle is pure Krav.