There are hundreds of martial arts in the world, and they've been studied and perfected over centuries. Nowadays, they're mostly taught either as a means of self-defense or by law enforcement and the military so that they can better perform their duties.
Different questions drawing comparisons between these martial arts are commonplace--which one is the best? Which one should you take for self-defense? Which should you take for workouts?
Many of these questions are typically harmless, but there is a common one that has a particularly devious spin to it: what are the dirtiest martial arts? Today, we'll be looking into exactly that and more.
It should be no surprise, though, that there are lots of particularly deadly martial arts, but to trim our list down a bit, we'll only be looking into the top contenders--the ones that have shown a particular and uncanny brutality.
Vale Tudo is a form of mixed martial arts that has its origins found in Brazil, specifically the 1920s and 1930s. Its name itself is actually giveaway for how lethal this martial art is: it directly translates to "anything goes" in Portuguese, which means a lot of very ugly things can happen in a bout.
It's essentially an unregulated combat sport with very few restrictions. Although it bears some similarity with MMA in that you'll find elements of many different martial arts all gathered into one place, its ruleset (or lack of one thereof) give it a much more pronounced brutality.
The sport itself emerged when luta livre, or freestyle fighting, was popularized in Brazil. With minimal regulation and an almost non-existent ruleset, fighters did battle on the streets or in circuses, and their brutal affairs often led to serious injury... or even death.
Vale tudo enjoyed a surge in popularity around the 1990s, particularly after the UFC was founded in the United States. Oddly enough, it drew heavy influence from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, an incredibly safe martial art by comparison.
Matches can take place in a ring or in a cage, and they usually last several rounds. There are all sorts of ways fighters can win: knockouts, submissions, decisions; and there are very few restrictions on how they can actually go about nabbing their win.
Although you'll find elements of many different martial arts in vale tudo, some of the most common ones are muay Thai, wrestling, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Nowadays, it remains a no-holds-barred fighting style that has found a home in dangerous underground matches. Perhaps it is exactly this lethality, however, that has allowed it to spawn some of the most incredible and talented fighters the world has seen.
Avid martial arts fans probably already knew this was going to show up here. Krav maga is a self-defense system that originated in Israel during the mid-20th century, and if it was going to show up in any list, the one talking about the dirtiest martial arts is arguably the perfect fit.
Its name directly translates to "contact combat" in Hebrew, and it's designed to teach quick, practical, and lethal techniques for defending yourself in dangerous real-life situations.
The martial art was originally created by Imi Lichtenfeld, a Jewlish athlete. Drawing from his experiences in street fighting, he managed to defend himself and others from anti-Semitic riots in, at a time when Europe was just about to enter World War II.
As a martial art, krav maga is known for its emphasis on practicality and efficiency. There are no flashy moves or fancy techniques. There aren't even any competitions or tournaments.
Instead, practitioners are taught how to handle different but realistic scenarios--things that you stand in real danger of encountering in real life, such as street fights, muggings, or being an attacked by assailants--and how then how to overcome them.
To this end, you can expect to see elbow strikes, kicks, grappling, and submission, as well as to be taught what to do when you run into chokes, knives, and guns. There are also lots of dirty moves involved--eye gouges, low blows, and hits to the throat.
It might seem unfair to some, but krav maga doesn't deal with any concept of "fairness." It understands that assailants attack on the assumption that they will win, and they'll use all manner of foul tricks to make sure they do.
Which means you'll need to do everything that you can to survive, using everything that you have at your disposal. Trying to be "fair" against someone who's actively trying to kill you would just... well, get you killed.
It's this gruesome efficiency and uncompromising brutality that has allowed krav maga to gain popularity around the world. It's spread far beyond just the Israeli military and is now taught in schools and private training centers.
Its widespread use means there are now different approaches and variations to many techniques, but they never lose sight of krav maga's focus on simplicity, efficiency, and practicality.
Dambe is another of the world's dirtiest martial arts, this time originating from the Hausa people of Nigeria, and it's about as metal as it can get.
It was originally a martial art designed for butchers, so that they could test their strength against one another. Over time, it developed into something a bit more organized and competitive, but it never lost its signature brutality.
Hands are used as both weapons and shields. There is no protective gear involved, but resin or cords are put in the hands to make them stronger, and chains tend to be wrapped around the feet.
Your average match in Dambe takes place on a sand pit as eager onlookers and spectators watch. Matches have three rounds, and winners are decided either by knockout or as a decision from judges.
Although not as popular as many of the other martial arts on this list, Dambe is enjoying rising popularity all over the world. International competitions are becoming more common, and more and more organizations are promoting the sport.
Despite its violent nature, it's also a way to preserve and celebrate African culture. It's a challenging and exciting sport in its own right, even if it still ranks as one of the world's dirtiest martial arts.
It's a matter of subjective opinion, of course, but out of all everything in this list, we'd definitely have to say that kinamutay is the dirtiest out of the world's dirtiest martial arts.
Although not a formal martial art in itself, elements of it are present in many other Filipino martial arts, like arnis.
In Cebuano, the name directly translates to "effeminate hand fighting," but don't let that fool you. It's one of the most gruesome martial arts out there, and it actively involves dirty or unfair techniques, like low blows, pressure point strikes to vulnerable areas, and eye gouges.
Its grisly nature can be attributed mostly to the methods practitioners are expected to use, the most noteworthy example here being the one that justifies its spot as among the dirtiest martial arts: biting.
Kinamutay teaches you how to use your speed and agility to get to a favorable position and bite an opponent for as long as you want, disabling them and preventing them from escaping.
This biting isn't feral and disorderly, mind you. You'll be taught how to precisely and strategically bite your opponent in areas that can cause them the maximum amount of discomfort, such as the neck, groin, and nipples.
Pain in kinamutay is often utilized as a weapon in and of itself. It understands that an opponent who is uncomfortable or in serious pain is unlikely to fight back properly.
It's like a version of BJJ where you don't care just how much pain you're inflicting on an opponent... or you want to make sure they feel as much pain as possible.
Needless to say, these kinds of techniques can cause permanent damage, severe bleeding, and even death in some cases. Still, if one of the most common things you have to worry about in a martial art is having your eyes gouged, you're probably not going to end fights in good shape.
Remember that these martial arts are efficient and useful in their own unique ways. If you're looking for self-defense, then you can't go any further than krav maga. If you're eager to learn how you can use every advantage possible to win a fight, then you can look into kinamutay.
Don't let their cruel nature dissuade you. Your options don't need to be limited to whichever sport is the most popular at the moment. Sure, being among the world's dirtiest martial arts, they're more painful than most, but there's a lot you can learn from them and a lot they can offer you.
You've looked into the dirtiest martial arts in the world, but what about the hardest? Don't worry, you can read all about them here!