Too many times I’ve seen or been part of the debate, “Which Martial Art is the best?” People want to know which martial art is better than all the rest, which one will trump all the others. The real answer is: none of them. There is no martial art that will teach you everything for every situation, no martial art that alone will set you up to always successfully defend yourself and never get touched in a fight. I would like to give you all the reasons why there is no such art.
1) The art doesn’t Matter so much as the artist.
After training different martial arts over the years I can tell you with certainty that some arts simply don’t work for me. I trained Karate, Tae Kwon Do, To Shin Do/Taijitsu, Hun Gar Kung Fu, JDK, Kali, and Silat and not all of them worked for me. This doesn’t mean the ones that didn’t work for me were bad arts, it just means that they didn’t work out for me given my stamina level, flexibility, and mentality at the given time. For instance if you took a slow, stocky, heavy person and put them in TKD they may not perform very well, does this mean that TKD isn’t good? No, it means that person probably should have tried wrestling or BJJ. They need to find an art that fits who they are physically as well as mentally. I found that some arts I just didn’t like or agree with how they move or deal with situations, but eventually I found one that simply spoke to me and made me think, “yes thats exactly how I would do that.”
2) Some arts don’t work in some situations
Lets say you found your art, it works for your body, your mind but its mostly about stand up fighting and you’re pretty darn good at it. What happens when you end up on the ground with someone good at wrestling? You will lose, probably badly. You’re art probably didn’t prepare you for that, and some people will think, “I’ve been training the wrong art.” but this is wrong. The Wrestler will eventually meet someone he just can’t take down, and can evade him and strike him just at the right times to knock him down, or even the wrestler may be in an alley with potentially broken glass on the floor, you don’t want to roll around on that, in these cases wrestling didn’t work. Does that make them bad arts? No, if just means that not all arts will work in all situations, the ability to adapt is more important.
3) Size Matters
We all like to believe that size doesn’t matter, when it comes to martial arts. The sad truth however is that size does in fact matter. It matters a lot [insert link of big guy fighting small guy.] As you can see even with great skill the little guy has trouble. I’m not saying its impossible for the little guy to win, but its a great deal more difficult and there is no art that can hands down get you to always beat the bug guy.
4) Its not what you train its how you train it
Okay, you’ve found the art that fits you and for arguments sake lets say its able to adapt in lots of situations. Great! But now you have to train it, and how you train it matters. You can train badly for a long time, forever really and when time comes to prove your stuff you would fail. [insert bad karate test video] The people in this video likely trained for a long time, but someone with no martial arts skills can see that they are poor fighters. This does not mean their art is bad, but if you take a bad fighter and put them in a very efficent martial art, they will still perform badly.
5) Weapons Matter
Most martial arts have some level of weapon training, especially knife defense, because thats easy to train, and more likely to happen to someone as opposed to a person being attack by a katana. [This or video/If you have trained these exercises I urge you to get something soft, give it to a friend, and have them try to “stab” you with this soft object. You will find the reality of their movements way different.] Most martial arts do not prep someone properly for weapons attacks. While this doesn’t make the art bad it also won’t make the art “The Best”.
6) Surprise attacks
I taught martial arts for a time, and early on in my teaching I had a student ask me a question that for me caused an epiphany, they asked, “What would you do if someone ran up behind you, and hit you in the back of the head?” I actually had to think about it for a minute and told him, “I’d get hit in the head.” Prior to this I had believed that I could deal with or come up with a solution to all melee attacks. It was then I realized that if someone REALLY wanted to attack me, they could. No one can be ready all of the time, we all let our guards down, we all relax, there is no martial art that can prepare you for a surprise attack, and if they tell you otherwise be very wary.
7) There are only so many ways to move your body
For arguments sake lets say Wing Chun was the best martial art ever. Its got good striking, trapping, some grappling, good positioning. What if I then told you, you can find simiar trapping in Kali, similar striking and grappling in Hun Gar Kung Fu? Did they copy Wing Chun or did Wing Chung copy them? Who’s to know, when you boil down martial arts you discover there are only so many ways to punch, kick, and throw people and lots of civilizations came to the same conclusions with that you can’t claim a certain art is the best because you can find it in other places.
8) There is no best single martial art ( Cross training is better )
What I hope you’ve gained from this is that there is no best single martial art, what is best is good training across several different styles. This can be seen from the early days of the MMA [insert clip of Gracie in UFC] Prior to Royce Gracie no one ever thought about going to the ground, but after his arrival everyone needed to learn to adapt. [insert Bruce lee quote]
9) MMA is not a martial art
I want to touch on this, MMA is not a martial art in and of itself. I will often hear people talk about how MMA is the best martial art, and first of all it is not a martial art it is fighters combining several martial arts to fit within a set of rules for sport. Which brings the second point if you were to train straight MMA you may not be able to deal with things that are “against the rules” like fish hooks, ginger fists, small joint locks, kicks to the groin, eye pokes, and any number of things.
10) Efficiency of an art
While there may not be a “Best” martial art I do think you can look at how efficient an art is. How efficient they are in their practice and how efficient their technique is. For instance when I first did some wing Chun techniques I was amazed at how simplistic yet effective the defense was[insert pak da video]. So while I don’t think you can call one art better than the other I think you can find arts that are more efficient than other arts, for example some arts have forms (poomse/kata) which is great the problem is the meaning of these forms have been lost to so many, for instance in my Silat training I was shown forms, but I was also taught the meaning of these forms, there are techniques hidden in the forms, that no one would ever know unless they were told, so this makes the teaching method more effective than that of other arts.