What is the Best Martial Art? Part I

This is one of two most common questions I get when I am at a party and someone reveals my profession.  The other is completely ridiculous – What would you do if I did this…?  Setting that rude question aside considering I am at a party and martial arts demonstrations are not part of my purposeful attire, I actually do not mind the other question.

What is the best martial art?
Quite honestly it is one of the proverbial questions we can discuss forever and all be right.  It is no different than who is the best super hero, best rock-n-roller, best composer and so on.
The truth is that I first re-word the question for my inquirer.  What is the best martial arts for what and for whom.  The individual studying and their goals are imperative to answering this question.  For example,  If you have a 9 year child who is very athletic and has been in gymnastics for several years with lots of acrobatic ability and the will to compete, I think that Tae Kwon Do and Kungfu/Wushu are fantastic because these are style that can exploit these natural talents.  On the flip side, I would not suggest either of these for a man who misses his college days on the wrestling team or a women whose neighbor was just attacked.

I am sure you get the jist of what I am saying.  But in continuing to elaborate on this topic, I think all martial arts are amazing, wonderful and purposeful.  The beauty of studying martial arts is that you could start studying at age 10 and every 5 years of your life change your focus and still not get through all of them before you die while still experiencing something very different each time you put on a white belt.  I have actually experienced this to some extent.  Although I am not on my death bed, I did start at 9 years old and traveled from one system to another in about 6-8 year increments.  Doing some systems simultaneously.  Several of the styles I have practiced and learned I didn’t spend as much time with and look forward to returning to them at some point.  My core systems (the ones I spend at least 7-9 years with) were karate, kung fu, jiu jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, krav maga. My shorter stays (2-5 years) were with tai chi, wushu, jeet kun do/kali, judo, muay thai. For me, I look forward the most to tai chi and kali which have real long life spans because they are not as hard on the body at age 45, 55, and 70.

If you are currently practicing martial artists, you will probably defend your art and system to the very end.  On a world wide level, karate, tae kwon do and judo and still the most practiced systems.  It does not mean they are better, but they have been well organized systems for the longest period of time and have great historical and traditional components that make them ideal for kids.  Additionally, all three of these systems are supported by the Olympic Training Centers and even have a presence in world competitions like the PAN-AM Games.
Today, I do consider kickboxing, savate, muay thai, boxing, krav maga and MMA as part of the martial arts.  Although they are combat sports, they are grounded in the arts in so many ways.  The competitive arena is one of the best things that has helped martial arts evolve as a whole.    Whether you agree or can stomach a sport that rewards the hitting of others is irrelevant.  Safe, fair competition in sparring and fighting is a fantastic path that many can take to build confidence, learn discipline and build practical skills (self-defense). 
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If this is what you seek for yourself or your child tae kwon do, judo, karate, kungfu,shidokan, jiu jitsu, kickboxing and even boxing has the most opportunity to spar in a safe environment that will not resemble some underground, mob-runned scene that even my grandma has about the fighting sports.  There are other systems that will allow you to spar, but I am offering systems that are accessible.
If you are attracted to obscure, unique, traditional art-forms that are more in line with what you see in a kung fu movie, there are so many cool systems to seek out.   Neat systems that I would hate to see dissolve away because of lack of interest are Choi Lei Fut, Wing Chung,  Pa Gua, Seven Star Preying Mantis, Chi Tao Chuan Gung Fu (of course there are more).
…… More to Come.  
Part II.
Weapons, Self-Defense, Conditioning

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