Dacayana UK

       THE BEST MARTIAL ART by David McGoldrick.

A well meaning friend of mine recently sent me a link to a video on YouTube entitled "10 most powerful Martial Arts". I'm sure you can still search it. Like all similar videos and articles, they clearly have an agenda to promote whatever style they deem to be "Number One". Now, anyone with a brain cannot have failed to notice that there are a few styles that have worked very hard at promoting themselves as somehow "the best" by bombarding the internet with their agenda. Whilst this is going to fool nobody with any reasonable level of martial arts experience, I have encountered a worryingly high number of relatively intelligent people who seem to "believe the hype". I have felt the need to put people right, by arguing against some of the most ridiculous and illogical propaganda I have ever encountered.

What amazed me the most about the video, is that before I even saw it, I thought that the most powerful martial art was so obvious, that watching the video was pointless. Not only was my chosen art not number one, it didn't even make the list. That art was, of course, Sumo. You could literally not get any other martial art that is more based on power, than Sumo. Whilst I appreciate that there is a lot of skill in Sumo in manipulating your opponents force, you wouldn't even attempt Sumo unless you were already a powerful beast. Maybe the person who named the video doesn't understand what the word "powerful" actually means. Maybe it's me. Maybe I am being too literal and pedantic. It would not be the first time I have been accused of this.

So, this got me thinking about other words that people use to describe a martial art (MA) as superior and whether they have the slightest clue what they're talking about. Back in the 70's, everyone wanted to know what was the "deadliest" MA. Think about this! They actually wanted to do a MA that would result in them getting a life sentence in prison for murder. That's taking "Machismo" too far. No wonder the feminists are winning. In response to this, the notorious "Count Dante" promised to teach you "The deadliest fighting art in the world", which included techniques like the "Dance of death". This was advertised in American comic books. Interestingly, the vast majority of his techniques were designed to maim rather than kill your opponent. So to be fair, repeatedly kicking or stamping on someone's head, repeatedly battering someone's head with a heavy stick or cutting someone's head off is far more likely to result in death. Ironically, this was followed in the 80's by the desire to learn to be an assassin. Now, I know some excellent practitioners of Ninjutsu, and most of them cringe at the idea of people being attracted to a MA because they wanted to be an assassin. But, it's no different from Taekwondo's reputation in the 50's and 60's for being "the Killing art". How times have changed!

When I have been asked what I think is the "most deadly" MA, I usually say "Iaido". I studied it for 5 years and learned only one block. Everything else was about cutting people in 2 (or 4) pieces with a sword. Ironically, the class was conducted in a very calm and sedate manner. My fellow practitioners were definitely not the type of people who would hack anyone to death. Whilst the practitioners might not have been the most aggressive, the style was murderous and had evil intent. Another irony is that, like Sumo, it is probably one of the most impractical arts in the modern age. 

The next question people ask is; What is the most effective MA? In my opinion, the greatest effect you can have on someone is killing them, and I am too pretty to go to prison. So I do an experiment. I put someone in an S shaped wrist lock, which is similar to the lock used to release the opponents weapon in Disarm 2. They let out a yelp of pain and then invariably announce to the class that it's "really effective". That is their idea of "effective". It has the effect of causing pain. Not death - just pain. They are not able to do the lock, because it takes a certain level of skill to do properly, but they still consider it to be effective. It's a cheap trick and it's certainly effective at disarming someone but it shows how easily some people are taken in. 

That raises the question of "What is the easiest MA to learn?" This has been brought up in recent years on the basis that people with low skill levels, who don't train that much, need an art to be easy to learn. The implication is that it will be easier to perform under pressure. I answer this by telling you that the less I teach you, the easier it will be to learn. If you want to learn more; train more. This flawed thinking was based on an experiment where they got candidates with no previous transferable skills. They taught the first group a simple technique for a few minutes, whilst they taught the second group a more advanced technique. Of course, when they pressure tested, the group that learned the easy technique did better than the group that learned the difficult technique. No surprise there! BUT this was then regarded as proof that only simple techniques work. This argument has now been used to tell Martial Artists who trained for decades and developed high levels of skills, that they were not as good as people who trained for less time and had much lower skill levels. It is as if skilled Martial Artists couldn't perform basic techniques. Can you spot an agenda? 

What is the most practical MA? On the basis that any decent MA was designed to be a practical solution to a particular type of fight, then they all are practical. But practical for what? If someone walks up to me and fires quick punches, then maybe Wing Chun could be practical. If someone lunges at me, then maybe Aikido could be practical. If I want to be World boxing champion, then it would be practical to learn to box. Get it?

So, what is the best MA? It depends on so many factors. It depends on your physique - your size, strength, mobility, toughness, coordination, age and athleticism. It depends on your mentality - intelligence, aggression, dedication, confidence, competitiveness, hopes and fears. It depends on your reasons - self defence, health, fitness, competition, street fighting, professional and lifestyle. But realistically, the best MA for you is the one you are likely to stay with long enough to be good, great or brilliant. Most people look for arts in their local area and then take a liking to the Instructor and fellow students first, before they develop an affinity for the style. More dedicated people are willing to travel to learn (or teach) an art. 

One of the funniest things on the internet is the number of people who criticise techniques because they would never work in the cage, in self defence or in a street fight. Those 3 things couldn't be further from each other and yet they are all used as measures of effectiveness. In my opinion, the best chance you have of winning at a combat sport, is by training in that particular combat sport. The most effective thing you can do for self defence is to run away (also known as the Usain Bolt school of self defence) and the most effective way of winning a street fight is for you and your friends to surprise attack someone weaker than you. None of these things are what you would think of as Martial Arts. 

In this day and age, unless you live in the middle of nowhere, you are probably going to have a choice about which MA you practice. The first criterion you will look at is, is it possible? Can I get to classes? Are the classes at times I could possibly attend? Does the club stay in business long enough to learn? Am I willing to put the time in? The second criterion is whether you like it. Do you like and trust the Instructor? Do the other students seem like a good bunch? Does the atmosphere and teaching style suit the way you learn? But only the third criterion is whether the MA is right for you. Is it competitive? Does it suit your physique? Is it in line with you potential ability? What is the purpose of the art?

But let's face it. Fighting is simple (I didn't say it was easy, just simple). Therefore the basics of the vast majority of Martial Arts will give you a huge technical edge and at least an idea of what to do. The self confidence gained through MA training is hugely advantageous in dealing with conflict. Anything that gets you used to people coming into your personal space and attacking you will help you to overcome the "freeze", that many inexperienced people get the first time they are confronted with violence. 

So, find a school that you like and are likely to stick with. The longer you stick with it, the more likely you are to become good. Don't believe the hype that you see on the internet because it's not possible that the art being advertised is the best for everyone. There is no magical MA that will solve everybody's problems. If you ask an experienced Martial Artist "What is the best MA?", they might tell you that it's the one they have been practicing for decades. That's not because the art is superior, it's because their dedication to it is superior. That's the secret. The more you practice, the better you get. 

I have been very fortunate to know a large number of practitioners who have dedicated many decades to their chosen styles. Please believe that I have the utmost respect for them and every style that I have mentioned and deliberately not mentioned in this rant. My problem is with the way some styles are so unscrupulously marketed. "If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken, twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools". 

As always, this essay is my opinion based on my experience. I always enjoy hearing from people who disagree with me. D