What Styles of Martial Arts Do Navy Seals Learn?

Man and women wearing boxing gloves hitting heavy bags

For Navy SEALs, hand-to-hand combat could be the difference between life and death, success or failure. They learn a variety of martial arts to become highly efficient hand-to-hand combatants.

They are encouraged to learn as many styles as they can, but there are a few that are staples in their training.

For a Navy SEAL, martial arts are integral to their safety and their ability to execute covert missions and deal with enemies in close quarters. This is why SEALs only focus on the most effective martial arts.


Navy SEALs are experts in hand-to-hand combat. They learn a variety of deadly martial arts skills to keep themselves and their compadres safe while on a mission.

Where It Begins

To become a SEAL, you have to undergo a rigorous, 26-week training program. This is where the wanna-be's are cut and the hopefuls march forward to undergo the Physical Screening Test, or PST according to the Naval Special Warfare Center.

They train for running, swimming and push-sit-pull workouts. For the latter, on test day, you are expected to do as many push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups as you can in two minutes.

The manual advises to do no more than 200 push-ups and 50 pull-ups in a single day; a feat that most people could not even attempt. Suffice it to say that SEALs are well-suited to learn and perfect a variety of martial arts once they've been accepted to the program.

Practical Boxing Skills

Most people don't consider boxing to be a martial art, but its application is just as effective in a street fight as it is in a ring. Navy SEAL special forces hand-to-hand combat training starts with basic elements that come from traditional boxing — footwork speed, agility, quick thinking.

Navy SEALs are taught first and foremost to be practical fighters; boxing dispenses with fancy spinning kicks and other showy maneuvers, and deals directly with confrontation.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Besides carrying a concealed weapon, Brazilian jiu jitsu is the best martial art for self-defense, former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink told Business Insider. This martial art system focuses on ground fighting and grappling.

By taking the fight to the ground, the experienced Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner can maximize force by using mechanical techniques including choke holds and joint locks to manipulate his opponent into submission.

Israeli Krav Maga

Krav maga is the official martial art of the Israeli armed forces according to Krav Maga Worldwide. It is expressly designed for real-life situations, such as street fighting.

Many of krav maga's techniques are meant for disarming armed opponents who may be attacking with a gun or a knife, which is why it's ideal for Navy SEALs. It teaches practitioners to abandon flashy, complicated moves typical of most martial arts and rely on instincts.

Brutal Muay Thai

Muay Thai, the national sport of Thailand, is one of the most brutal forms of hand-to-hand combat in the world. Its practitioners are taught to strike their enemies viciously with the hard bones of the shins, elbows, fists and knees.

When the gloves are off, it is efficient at incapacitating an attacker in real-life situations. It is also ideal for close-quarters combat, which is how Navy SEALs are taught to engage their enemies.