The Battle of the Styles | Which Martial Art is the best?

Let’s face it, most people have a favourite style of martial art that they train in, be it Karate, Aikido, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu etc and we constantly see discussions or videos of style vs style and which is better. This is obviously what the early UFCs wanted to look at, pit one style against another with no time limits and no rules, and see which came out on top. I think we can all agree that the Gracie family pretty much dominated the first few UFCs as no one had really seen anything like it before. MMA has now become a martial art in its own right though, and what I argue is that it doesn’t matter what your style of martial art is, in the end, they all work on the same principles…
I believe that all martial arts teach a certain set of principles, regardless of style, and that as you develop more and more in the martial arts and learn more about them, the differences between the styles that were apparent when you began become less and less the case. Martial arts at the end of the day are about developing yourself through physical, mental and sometimes spiritual training and all martial arts share this in common. When we begin the martial arts, we look to the external techniques, the kicks, the punches, the throws, the locks etc, and see the differences between say Karate and Aikido, or Judo and Kung Fu. What these external techniques are teaching us however, are the internal principles that are apparent in all martial arts?
Which Martial Art is the best
To be competent in martial arts, certain ideas need to be instilled and principles understood such as timing, speed, distance and correct use of power. Again, all the martial arts teach these, just in different ways and with a different perspective. In Aikido, the development of timing is taught through entering into the opponent when they are mid-way through the attack, not at the end and not at the beginning, in order to fully appreciate the sense of timing needed for martial arts. Speed is developed through freestyle training such as in Jiyu Waza and through proper Ukemi (falling). Distance is covered by the Japanese concept of ma-ai and being at the appropriate distance so as to not be too close until you want to be, and not so far away you cannot enter into the attack. Finally the correct use of power is developed through the techniques and a common mistake of many beginners (and some more advanced practitioners) is to muscle the technique in order to make it work. That’s all well and good if the person you are working with is smaller than you, however, if you then find someone bigger than you, you have to adapt, use speed, use the correct use of power, and have a clear sense of the correct distance. Power is generated through the hips, whether this be in a strike, a throw or a lock.

I’m sure there’s many from different styles reading this so does it sound familiar from your training? Generate power from the hips, not the arms, be light and agile, have a correct sense of timing and distance. Take the example of a boxer. The knockout punch is generally the one where the opponent has just thrown a punch, committing their weight and power to the shot. The punch is slipped or misses, leaving the opponent off balance. A punch is then thrown using the correct technique, generating power from the hips, with speed and the correct distance and precision, and the K.O happens.

These fundamental principles of speed, distance, timing and power are developed and taught in all martial arts from my experience which is why I argue that in the end, the style of martial art doesn’t really matter. What does matter is what you do with the training. If you train hard gain more understanding and progress, eventually these principles will start to fall in to place regardless of style. This is why I dislike the discussions of which martial art is superior. All martial arts are effective in a certain situation or they would not have stood the test of time and still be around today. Aikido is great for certain situations, less so for others. The same can be said for all martial arts, there is no superior martial art, or everyone would do it. What makes a martial art are the individuals practicing it. How often they think about what they are doing and why they are doing it, questioning techniques and trying to develop the underlying principles found, in my opinion in all martial arts.
About the Author:
Dan Holloway has been training in martial arts since he was six years old. He started with Karate and then moved to Aikido which he continues to train and teach, holding a 2nd Degree black belt in Yoshinkan Aikido. Dan has training with some of the best instructors in the world including Joe Thambu Shihan who Dan spent a month in Melbourne with training full time, as well as Robert Mustard Shihan from Canada, and Yasuhisa Shioda Shihan, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido’s son. 

Dan has also trained in various other martial arts including Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, KFM and MMA under various instructors and professional fighters. Dan is passionate about martial arts and self defence and has recently become a trustee for the self defence charity 'Just Give It A Thought'. Dan also owns his own blog - The Martial View.

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