What is the (Absolute) Best Martial Art for You?

May 24, 2018

What’s out there that’s right for me?

Challenges by some and opinions of others about the best martial art, throughout history, has rivaled person against person, style against style, master against master and school versus school. It has caused feuds, death and alie


nation for many in the past. That even happens today at a variety of levels. Maybe not war like, yet there are discrimination's.


The question is, “What is the absolute, best martial art for Me?”


For myself, it is one of the easiest questions to answer. Yes it is, even for you actually, and after reading this article, I’m hoping you’ll understand your own personal needs too. Those basic needs that everyone requires for a lifelong endeavor. It’s really easy, because a lot of people have done the homework just like you will. Here’s how it goes: you have to have a real interest. There is no such thing as half way. Whether you stick with it or not, someone should always begin with a real interest in what they’re doing. That’s what makes this concept work.


In the beginning the question seems a little difficult. There are just so many questions. How many days a week? The cost? Will I get hurt? A lifelong endeavor? I’m just starting out. Is this one right for me? How do I choose? What if I realize it’s not for me?


There is Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, MMA, Aikido, Karate, Boxing and Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) to name styles from the mainstream focus, but as you read along, I’m also going to increase your martial comfort zone and how you might approach looking for a school.

What do I do first and how do I know what’s best?

At first, we start with a basic interest in an art and an idea, “I’m going to do this.”

Your interest is based on what is perceived as the many redeeming qualities of the art that “You” seek. You have talked with friends, read magazine articles and history books, seen someone on TV, watched available videos on the arts, maybe read a how-to book and looked online for local instructors. Learning someone else’s martial system should require that it fundamentally meets your criteria and your short term goals. From defense, to fitness, class culture (Teacher) and personal enjoyment. All elements matter.


You sign up for the introductory class. You’re nervous. You make it through bringing something home with you. A knowledge that this information is exciting. Knowledge of the culture, history and curriculum and how this class is basically run comes home with you after the first class.


What to expect first?

Depending on your choice of martial art, your first night may include stretching and exercises, line drills, basic stances and movement. Maybe an intro to a weapon, a roll (somersault), a wrist lock and in some styles how to tie your belt correctly around your waist and ‘Gi’ (uniform.) All of this can be overwhelming on your first day. It’s beautiful. You begin to feel empowered.


Now your journey begins…

You signup, train and progress, staying at it through all the trials, tests, injuries, sparring and training partners. You’ve gone from a beginner to advanced practitioner. You’re leading training sessions in class and always sharing when asked questions by fellow students. You even may have competed in tournaments either open to all or style specific and/or organization. A lot of styles or systems are just like this.


Every step along the way, every class and learning opportunity you absolutely enjoy. The education, the people, the energy, the friendships.


Black Belt

Moving ahead, you achieve Instructor or Black Belt level through a final test, a ceremony or by the sum of all your work as recognized by the instructor. All programs, styles and instructors are different. All are rewarding in one way or another. You’ve met another goal. You’ve enjoyed yourself too. The latter is a critical, tangible element to my premise of the article, Enjoyment.


What can be next for “You?”

Over time, you’ve been introduced to other arts by friends, the media, at tournaments and those fun seminars you may have been exposed to. You begin to notice other martial ways of defense that you’re now tuned-in, martial mind, recognizes; they interest you and you enjoy them.


At this point, for your training, you may primarily have been a punching, kicking and kata stylist and now you’re feeling that being able to fight comfortably on the ground (just one popular example) would be important. Doing your research, you’ve read and noticed that every time a fight goes to a Clinch (1) that 90% of those fights end up on the ground. You know you need to deal with that. It seems reasonable. But you’re not ready to give up on what you do already. You don’t need to. You just add on more to what you can already do and become more of a well-rounded practitioner.

Maybe, you add a ground fighting class, Judo or Jujitsu, Sambo or wrestling because they all add value. That’s a great choice. That’s exciting to you. It keeps it fun and you are learning during each and every class.


Understanding is Simplicity

Here’s where the education takes over. It is about this time, you begin to understand more about the needs of defense and less of style. You begin to find very few styles, systems or instructors who really cover everything. They are happy skipping some of it, because they either they don’t have the knowledge or haven’t recognize the effort on the matter is value added. Basically, they’re staying happy in their comfort zone. (That’s a nice way to say this isn’t it?)


Knowledge is Power

Bruce Lee, in the Tao of Jeet Kune Do (2) discusses the 5 Ranges of Combat. They are Kicking, Punching, Trapping, Close Quarters and Grappling. It’s pretty important information to grasp, the ability to defend ourselves comfortably at all 5 Ranges of Combat. Without the knowledge of ranges, there is no martial science to our defense.

We might just use all the wrong defenses at the wrong time. That’s why those in the know seek out those who can fill the defensive and personal gaps in what you are trying to achieve.

Example, UFC 1 and 2, showed the limitations of martial style. Several of the competitors and the representative style were not ready to compete against something much different.

Whether BJJ vs Savate or Wing Chun, Shootboxing vs Kickboxing or Judo vs Muay Thai, during each of those particular fights, someone had a real struggle against an opponent’s style that was not similar to their own or a part of their style.


A New Way

Over a period of years, learning attributes of styles important to You, you may have received an instructor rank and/or certification. For years, those teachers might have shared the ideals of ‘One’s own Art’ with you. Especially those teachers who believe in the enduring values of individualism and the fact we’re not all alike. How else does a generic way of learning fit ‘You?’ By tailoring it to your mind, body and spirit.


What would the martial world look like without new styles, arts or systems? Without those individuals who braved the awkwardness, lack of initial support and constant challenges it would look pretty limited.


I can think of several instructors, many whom have blessed me with their training, ideals and methods. So many taught a system or style with a name of what we may understand was not a traditional martial art. But they derived from those arts from traditional systems and more.


You Champion Your Own Art

You’ve put in the time, passed your own challenges and steered your course. You teach, have great students, you could teach any program you’re authorized to teach, but something would be missing. You keep adding new thing to an already stable program because it misses them.

You are enjoying what you are doing, this modified style of yours. But now it isn’t the system you were teaching, it is your own style.

Create your own style, art or methods. Give it a name that You choose. Have the name represent you and your ideals and really make an effort to make it your own.


Spirituality, Martial Arts and Self Defense

You’ll find immediately that the arts, spirituality and faith go hand in hand. Nothing can be more important than your own spirit and how you go about your own way. Whether in service to or in harmony with earth and all creation or praying to the Highest of all, you will forever strive to succeed and survive because your mission here is never complete.


In conclusion

Whether a martial art or something else, the key to doing well and having longevity in participation and happiness is enjoying what you do. You’re setting and meeting your own goals, learning and growing exponentially. Things are really fitting together perfectly.

Then, my friends, stay at it. You’re doing well. Or, take your new found knowledge, experiences and enthusiasm and do it all again, with something you want to do. KS


  1. Clinch fighting is the part of stand-up fighting where the combatants are grappling in a clinch, typically using clinch holds. Clinching the opponent can be used to eliminate the opponent's effective usage of some kicks, punches, and mêlée weapons. The clinch can also be used as a medium to switch from stand-up fighting to ground fighting by using takedowns, throws or sweeps, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinch_fighting

  2. Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Black Belt Productions 1975, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao_of_Jeet_Kune_Do

  3. Black Belt, In East Asian martial arts, the black belt denotes a high competence in the martial art. It is often associated with a teaching grade though frequently not the highest grade or the "expert" of public perception. It is a relatively recent invention (dating from the late 19th century), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_belt_(martial_arts)

Photo’s found on Google (imminent domain)

Photo Collage-
Unnamed Boxer and Taekwondo stylists

Gogen Yamaguchi- GOJU Ryu Karate

Helio and Carlos Gracie- BJJ

Morihei Ueshiba- Aikido



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