Thursday 7 February 2013

Which is the best Martial Art (Discpline) to practise?

Ah, we've all been there some time in our life, wondering which was the 'ultimate' Martial Art to take up; usually our choice influenced by some awesome (or not) recently watched Martial Arts film, (although to someone who previously had no knowledge of marital arts it's all the same, and most probably went to the wrong martial arts class. Believe me, I've seen this happen). It's probably one of the most asked questions in the field of sports and recreational hobbies. So, what is the best martial art(s) to practise? Whether you're completely new to martial arts or just want to read something related to your interests lets read on to find out...

Undoubtedly if you search for Martial Art videos irrelevant of discipline on Youtube you will find yourself in a flurry of comments below with people telling you how many black belts they have, which martial art is the best, that this MMA fighter is the king of all Martial Artists and if not all that some poor kid asking 'What Martial Art should I take up?' Poor kid. Doesn't realized he's just opened up a door to one hell of a debate (discussion, if you want to put it more politely).

The aim of this article is merely to put across my view, opinion and toughts on the matter leaving the rest for you to ponder over resulting in your own respected decision.Well, what really is the best martial art that one should practise? That's a very hard question to answer, you could probably call it a sensitive question. It's a bit like asking a moody teenager 'Is everything okay?' but it can be dealt with more easily with the guidance of this particular saying:

'There are no supreme martial arts, only supreme Martial Artists.'

Ultimately at the end of the day it all depends on the person themselves; how much effort you put in, how often you train, how enthusiastic you are, how much you pay attention are all aiding factors to becoming a good martial artist, no matter what you've read on the internet or what ever you've been told by that money grabbing karate Sensai (Not meaning to be dis-respectful, but there are loads in my area) walking into that Dojo, putting on that suite, tying up that belt, starting up that 'Ultimate most proven highly effective martial art style' does not make you a supreme Martial Artist. The person themselves is what makes what ever practised 'effective'. But then again, have you ever thought about what makes other martial arts so different from each other, why one is considered more effective than the other? I mean, at the end of the day it's all kicks and punches, it's gonna hurt, you don't necessarily need to be taught that do you? (Although if we didn't, there would not have been any martial art systems in the first place). Compare something such as Wing Chun to Muay Thai. Is it the same? No. Compare Judo to Karate, are they the same? Definitely not. So what is it separating them? (Although it may be obvious with the second comparison).

What makes each martial art differ from each other is the techniques,teachings and even philosophical influences within each discipline making them stand out from one another. To give an example, lets just compare two different martial arts that I practise:

  • Throws, flips 
  • Ground work
  • Chokes, strangles, locks
  • Hold downs/submissions
  • Large emphasis on leverage and balance
  • No strikes involved (At least in sparring and competition)
Wing Chun 
  • 'Center Line theory' (Aim to strike to center, defend your center)
  • Light in focus on variety of kicks, it's either forward waist level or to the sidewards waist level
  • Strait, fast, consecutive punches
  • Heavy emphasis on parrying and evasive techniques mixed with footwork
  • It's unique 'center line theory stance' 
  • The importance of Balance and symmetry (Both sides are equally trained) 
The two martial arts I've decided to choose here are usually praised highly. But even if a Martial Art is (rationally) deemed more 'effective' than another; just because you're taking that up doesn't mean you'll become some concrete-slab-smashing, rib-cracking, bone-snapping master (Not that you'll learn to inflict that needlessly) if you put no effort into it, many times people put themselves in a false sense of security thinking something like 'I go to Jiu Jitsu once a week, sometimes I skip a session though. I'm fine to walk down this dark alley at midnight behind a pub'. (Even though little experience is better than none. Don't get me wrong)

Why a Martial Art is practiced can also effect ones choice of what to take up. Martial arts can be practised for numerous reasons; sports/competition, exercise, re-creation, general hobby, a community activity, self disciplining and of course self defense. The final point, this is where my thoughts begin to waver from the previous quote (Not that I am saying I am more wise than it's author, the likelihood of that is very low)

Self defense- Something I fell should elaborate on. When learning to defend your self it's all very well to be able to do some fancy kick at your local club or give a training pad a good ol' smack; but what you really must consider is what's going to protect you if the situation requiring defense does occur. As much as the person who is training is the main importance- what you're taught will also be a relatively large aiding factor. If you're taught to directly block an incoming strike directly with your fore arm and you have lets say something like a baseball bat coming your way, what do you think you'll instinctively (or maybe not so) do? If you're taught to evade the attack, intercept the movement, what do you think you'll do? Which do you think is the better idea? Unless you're a legendary martial arts warrior who spends hours every day atop a mountain under a waterfall training your fore arms and has already spent years strengthening your fore arms you won't have a problem, but for the average Joe who can't do that (And lets be honest, who would have that amount of time in this fast moving life style we live in?) you're doing to need to be taught something a bit more practical.

If you wanted to do something primarily for your own defense you would want something with reasonably 'realistic' teachings and techniques. Whether it was on the school play ground over a sly comment, down the street with a drunkard or in the cage, where do we see a majority of fights ending up? On the ground. Being able to deliver a strike standing is all well- as long as you're standing. The moment you're on that floor (Which you would try to avoid) all those fancy kicks and upper body strikes become a little bit futile. In that situation, it would turn more to a frantic scrap and what ever style of martial art you practise is going to vanish in that flutter of arms and legs faliling; you'd most likely frantically be trying to get the best position and lay a couple on 'em. But if you're taught some ground work and a couple of hold downs surely that would be useful?  I'd like to slip in another Martial Arts saying:

'You must choose to be a warrior, not a Martial Artist.'

What this means is we should not indoctrinate our self with one Martial art but to train various disciplines (You can take or leave this saying if you want). This isn't me here trying to pressure you into splashing out cash on a new club or make who ever is reading this feel inferior for only practicing one martial art. It's just to broaden our horizons on the way we view other disciplines.

This is the way I view it. When I pratise Wing Chun, I'm learning swift evasions and impulsive strikes. In Judo I'm being taught how to grapple, deal with being grabbed hold of and ground fighting techniques. Each style has their respective teachings (Which these two fit hand in hand, if you ask me).

Going back to the title of this article, which is the best Martial Art to practise? Well to sum it's something you have to decide yourself; each style will have their own respective traits being taught to you which is what creates the difference in the first place. Disrespecting and insulting a style and a practitioner due to following a discipline is wrong as Martial Artists and fellow people anyhow, we should respect the choices of Martial Arts people have chosen and we must accept their individual reasoning. It doesn't matter what you believe is the ultimate Martial Art, wearing that Judo Gi or donning that fresh, Kung fu suit you ordered off the internet does not make what you practise (or yourself for that matter) the best instantly, watching some incredible demonstration does not make what ever discipline it was the best.

But there is one discipline that will always be the best, and that is your own discipline as a person.


  1. Thank you. This is a helpful post. I like how you close it. I've been thinking a lot about discipline in daily life.