The Best Martial Art

One of the most pressing questions for any person trying to find a martial art to study is: What is the best martial art? Everyone wants to get the most from their study and naturally does not want to waste their time, energy, and money on inferior martial arts. They look, question, and research trying to find the best martial art and best instructor to learn from within their resources, with the most limiting factors being time, money, and location.

To answer this question one could look and research forever but in the end the answer is quite simple. There is no best martial art.

Most martial arts are designed to achieve a specific goal or purpose. While being well rounded they place specific emphasis in major areas. Tae Kwon Do for example has heavy emphasis on kicking and was designed as an art for neutralizing cavalry. Judo primarily focuses on using leverage and body mechanics to throw opponents being designed to aid in combat against heavily armored samurai. These martial arts were created to help solve specific problems. As such their scope is limited in other areas. This does not make them any less effective as a martial art.

Many debates of the best martial art really degrade into battles of ego between martial artists. Despite many martial arts encouraging humility as a desirable trait, egos abound in the martial arts community. When a martial artist has been told that his art is inferior he naturally gets upset. This is a result of all of his time, energy, and effort being belittled by insinuating that it has all been a waste because he chose an inferior art to pursue. Martial artists may refer to instances where past masters or they themselves have defeated many practitioners of other arts so therefore their styles are inferior. Such an argument is really missing the point. Any practitioner of any art can potentially defeat any practitioner of any other art. The only factor ultimately comes down to does one practitioner understand his chosen art and how to apply it better than the other practitioner. Any student of the martial arts deserves respect for the time and commitment they have put into studying their chosen art regardless of which art they have chosen.

One commonly overlooked factor is what other goals does a potential student want to gain by practicing a martial art. While a particular art may satisfy certain needs, what else do potential students hope to find while studying an art? Students hope to gain physical and mental benefits from practicing but may also be interested in the social aspects of training with new people, improving discipline and self confidence, as a means of relieving stress and breaking up the monotony of their daily life. These goals may be adequately satisfied by any martial art or any other non martial activity. Even factors like location, time, cost, and availability play a role in making a decision. Some areas may have an abundance of styles and schools to choose from while others have limited or no choices at all.

Even among schools that teach the same style, individual instructors may approach teaching the same material in different ways. Some teachers are more aggressive than others. Some instructors place more emphasis on tournament achievements. It is important that you consider whether the instructor is someone you would feel comfortable learning under and does their school, art, and particular approach coincide with your own personal values.

As individuals grow and change so do their needs and desires from a martial art. Once you have chosen a particular art it does not mean that it will satisfy your needs forever. It may be necessary as you develop in an art to seek out other styles to compliment the ones you have previously studied which can help deepen your understanding. With these changes you may need to reevaluate whether a school is the best for you or whether it is time to seek out a different art that may suit your changing needs better. For example a student may study a system because it is all that is available in their area. After moving to a new area many other styles are now also available. If the student then decides to study another style of martial arts it does not invalidate the lessons from the previous style. The first style may have provided a good foundation to start from, good training habits, and improved physical health which the student can carry with them as they develop in the new art.

When trying to find the best art there really should be an addendum to the statement. You should not look for the best martial art, but instead look for the best martial art for you. Does a given art look like it would be enjoyable to learn and teach values that you agree with? Will it satisfy the level of self defense that you would like to achieve? Do they satisfy non martial requirements such as social interaction and cost effectiveness? Taking the time to consider what it is that you hope to accomplish by studying martial arts in general will help you find the best martial art that suits your specific needs. There is no best martial art, there is only the art that you choose to be the best at.


Comments  2 Comments »

  1. Colin Knox - June 19, 2012 6:06 pm

    Sir, you really do not understand just how happy I am to hear another dedicated martial artist state these facts. I am only a green belt in American kenpo karate which is the sixth rank and I hope to one day learn and become skilled in other arts. The one thing that is always driving me crazy though, is a bunch of people who are always claiming there style is the best when they fail to realize a couple of things: #1 all fighting styles are great and have there strenghts and weaknesses. #2 there is always going to be someone better then you no matter how hard you practice, even if you become the best in the world you still have the threat of a new challenger who is capable of beating you. #3 most importantly, it is not the art which makes the practictioner, it is the practitioner who makes the art.

    • Da Shi Xiong Talbert - July 2, 2012 9:07 am

      Da Shi Xiong Matt Talbert

      I agree and it is all practitioners together that define how others view their arts. At every moment we are representatives of our schools and our arts. Our behavior is a constantly measured against this and ultimately people form an opinion of what practitioners of various arts are like. People also do not realize that pop-culture also plays a large role in the rising trends of martial arts. Movies, video games, televised MMA matches all lead to shifts in which martial arts are in the spotlight and it fluctuates all the time. The biggest detriment to any practitioner is their ego. When they believe and act as if their art is the best, their arrogance makes them narrow minded and they miss many opportunities for self improvement. Egotistical behavior also leaves a poor impression to anyone interacting with them about their art and school.

      I\’m glad to see that you are open minded and have good goals. Good luck with achieving them! Just keep working hard, determination and diligence are your greatest assets when studying any martial art.

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