“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
One thing that bothers me about martial arts is that humans always seem to have a need to categorize their style as “the best.” There are so many variables to that question that I don’t think such a designation is appropriate, or necessary. The best for what? For street fighting, or for the cage? For self-defense, or self-improvement? The best for a 300 pound man, or for a 90 pound girl? I think the only “best” you can really find is what works best for you, for the goals you are trying to achieve. It even varies widely by the particular school itself. A lot of the time Tae Kwon Do gets a bad rep because of all of the modern, child-oriented schools out there, but I know there are plenty of TKD schools that are teaching it as a traditional art. Besides, who am I to say that the child-oriented schools aren’t the best thing for those children, and their parents, if that is what they want. Maybe I don’t agree with giving black belts to six year olds, but I don’t feel like the integrity of my own belt is threatened by it. Besides, I know that belts are essentially meaningless anyway.
Most of the time, people who are putting down other systems have never even set foot inside of a school besides their own, so they are judging something they don’t even know. BJJ is often considered superior to Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, but what we practice at our dojo has evolved from Kosen Judo to a more modern art that is almost indistinguishable from the Gracie style. Sometimes people will see a bad video of Wing Chun or Jeet Kune Do, and judge the entire system by one person’s example. Even if they actually go to a school and find it to be lacking, that doesn’t necessarily mean the system is not a valid one, perhaps that school just had bad instruction.
I don’t think one style, or even one art, contains everything for everyone. I am fortunate in the fact that the style of Karate that I train incorporates more than just punching and kicking. Shihan likes to say “It’s all in there”. We throw, sweep, choke, submit, etc. Being exposed to these things in Karate is what initially led to my interest in Judo and Jiu-Jitsu. We’ve also had guest instructors from other systems come to our dojo and teach, and I have taken something from every one of them (Muay Thai was my favorite!). Early on in my martial arts journey, my sparring coach, Dave Ossian-Sensei, emphasized the importance of cross-training, and I am very grateful for that. Now when someone offers me something that is different than what I have learned, I don’t immediately dismiss it and say “That’s not the way we do it in Goju-Ryu.” I look at what they are saying, and decide for myself whether their advice is something that will work for me or not.
In martial arts, there are always many questions, but there is never just one answer. If you keep your mind open you can learn more, and you really have nothing to lose. The percentage of the population that trains any kind of art is relatively small, so we should be helping each another, not putting one another down to make ourselves feel superior. Our similarities are greater than our differences, and you’re the only one who can decide what is best for you. I don’t really care what you train, I’m just glad that you do.
“Styles tend to not only separate men – because they have their own doctrines and then the doctrine became the gospel truth that you cannot change. But if you do not have a style, if you just say: Well, here I am as a human being, how can I express myself totally and completely? Now, that way you won’t create a style, because style is a crystallization. That way, it’s a process of continuing growth.”- Bruce Lee