Top Five Martial Arts for Nurses / Health Workers.


Sadly if you work in the Emergency Department of a Public Hospital, your chances of being punched, hit or otherwise assaulted at work are on the increase. Nurses for years have often been the target of physical violence in the workplace ranging from being attacked by patients with Alzheimer’s disease who simply do not recognise who they are and respond out of fear through to crystal meth addicts looking for the fastest way out of the emergency department after being detained.

So how then does a nurse or allied health worker reasonably defend themselves at work? – There are a number of self defence systems, yet how many are suitable in a hospital or other health environment where punching and striking patients is strictly forbidden and will quickly result in your suspension from work if it happens, including if you try and tell your employer that you were simply trying to protect yourself.

1, Aikido – At the top of my list is Aikido. Aikido is based around the idea of using an attackers own force against them and it enables physically smaller people to overcome much stronger opponents with their own force. Aikido has a number of techniques that work very effectively against punches, grabs and slaps if needed. The outworking of Aikido techniques are locks and pins that restrain the attacker until help arrives and these can have the pain level adjusted up or down once the pin is effectively applied.

2, Jujitsu – Second on my list is Jujitsu. Many Aikido techniques were taken from or modified from Daito Ryu Jujitsu. Jujitsu can have the same capacity as Aikido to lock and pin an attacker. However Jujitsu practitioners are no strangers to the use of force in their techniques. Whilst Aikido flows with an attackers own force, Jujitsu schools like Hoshiyama Ryu and others use lethal force in their techniques. This type of Jujitsu is hard and brutal and pulling back from it to use the gentle techniques is not always the first response to being attacked. 

3, Judo – Whilst it might be sport orientated, Judo comes from the Jujitsu family tree and is all about locking and pinning your opponent and has more than enough content to protect you in a medical environment, however throws are clearly out. If you plan to attack a Judoka, offering them your palm, hand or wrist is a really really bad idea, no matter how fast you think you can punch or slap someone.

4, Krav Maga – Having just stated that punching and hitting people is out of the question for self defence in a hospital environment, why would I recommend a system that has such a strong focus on doing that to the atemi points of the body? Largely because when you get through the initial striking patterns of Krav Maga and progress through your patches, you are taught the police holds and pins that are taught in the Krav Maga police syllabus. Much of this material is taken from Aikido and for the reason that they have to teach non lethal content for police and other enforcement agencies to protect themselves with. What works for a police officer will also work for a nurse confronted with the same scenario.

5, Hapkido – Rounding out my list is the Korean martial art of Hapkido. Like Aikido, Hapkido is suggested to descend from Daito Ryu Jujitsu and like Aikido and Jujitsu, Hapkido students are able to apply their version of locks and pins. It is my view that like Jujiitsu, Hapkido moves hard and fast and its not always automatic to select a more gentle technique if you are using muscle memory to defend yourself in an instant. Still if you want to defend yourself, Hapkido is more than ideal for what you need.

Special Mention – Wing Chun, I have added Wing Chun as an addendum for its content in trapping. Wing Chun sticky hands and other trapping forms are set up to allow you to restrain your attacker and set up the punch or defence tactic you wish to use. Yet trapping is also hard work and takes a lot of practice to perfect the technique. Still for the experienced Wing Chun practitioner, trapping can well be an option to defend yourself without striking if necessary.

This list is based on my own observations of Martial Arts over the years and you are very much welcome to add your own thoughts if you would like to advocate for your own system if it is not on this list, or if you have any other thoughts about training that people could do that might reasonably enable them to defend themselves in a hospital environment.

7 thoughts on “Top Five Martial Arts for Nurses / Health Workers.

  1. Just wondering, why karate or wrestling are not there?
    Wrestling has nothing to do with striking, and karate besides punching and kicking have lots arm locks and pins. And I guess it’s a matter of usage anyway:-)


    • As a student of both aikido and karate and a mental health nurse i can tell you that when blocking with karate you automatically chamber the non blocking hand for a return counter strike. Very hard NOT to strike back, which Could result in the end of your career.


  2. aikido allows you to control, the others to break/injure there is a difference both legally and morally. A nurse may get attacked several times in a week, she cannot leave a trail of destruction and legal writes behind her.


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