There is a dangerous myth that has been running rampant in the martial arts world for many years now. It’s impossible to tell when it began, although the rise in popularity of the UFC and other MMA tournaments hasn’t helped any. The topic under discussion here is the urban legend of which martial arts style is the “best.”
Karate over judo. Muay thai over aikido. Kenpo over wing chun. These kind of “armchair debates” have been around almost as long as the styles themselves. Given how many styles there are, it’s easy to see how people with only a superficial understanding of the martial arts could fall under the illusion of this spell.
Here we strike upon one of the main factors behind this troublesome rumor: one thing that is not visible when you look at a martial artists is how much experience they have. Let’s say a casual fight fan turns on UFC to watch a muay thai fighter take on a karate man. The karate man wipes the floor with his muay thai opponent, and the viewer thinks this means the former’s style is better than the latter’s. However, if the viewer looked a little deeper, they might learn the karate guy had studied for fifteen years while the muay thai fighter started only five years ago. Mr. Karate was the better fighter; that doesn’t mean muay thai is useless. Experience counts.
The second point to be made is that the only “best” style is one that suits the practitioner themselves. Let’s say you watch a fight with Royce Gracie, and you think jiu jitsu is the “best.” You locate and attend a class in your neighborhood and find that you just can’t get coordinated enough to execute the moves. This doesn’t mean the style is terrible, nor does it mean you’ll never be a good martial artist. All it means is you aren’t a good match for it. Try a punching or kicking style; you might find yourself performing like you’d been practicing there for years.
Last but not least is the simple fact that all martial arts styles have their strong points. If these styles weren’t good, then no one would practice them anymore. A punch is a punch, a kick is a kick, a throw is a throw, and a joint lock is a joint lock no matter what style they come from. Simply put: if a tae kwon do practitioner lunges at you with a right side kick and you don’t know how to handle it, then the blow is going to hurt…even if you think tae kwon do isn’t the “best” style.