What is the best martial art?

by Alan Pope - 10:45 on 11 June 2020


There are lots of great martial arts available for people to choose from today. For most people martial arts are synonymous with the Japanese martial arts of Karate, Judo, Jujitsu and Aikido. The Korean arts of Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido, the Muay Thai from Thailand or the various forms of Kung Fu from China. Other people may have Western boxing or wrestling forms in mind. But how do you know which martial art is the best one for you? Many styles of martial arts exist, they all offer a slightly different perspective on how to train and how to defend yourself. The best starting point is by asking yourself, why do you want to study a martial art? 

If physical fitness and participating in sport are your goals then all martial arts will be able to develop your physical fitness, strength, flexibility and coordination. If your young and in your teens or twenties then western boxing, judo, kickboxing and mixed martial arts will give you a high level of fitness. These martial arts are designed for competition and have a heavy emphasis on your sporting performance. For those who want to study martial arts long term and injury free well into your 40’s, 50’s or 60’s and beyond then the more traditional arts may be a better option. Karate, aikido, jujitsu and Tai Chi have a great ability to be adapted to your age and physical ability. 

Should you choose a martial art for sport then you should ask yourself do you prefer the ideas of striking your opponent or grappling with them. Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Kickboxing are predominantly striking arts when used in competition. Judo and jujitsu are grappling arts, you will spend a lot of time throwing each other and rolling about on a mat, fighting for a grip and a submission. Mixed martial arts (MMA) combine both striking and grappling. As a caveat I would say practical karate for self-defence does incorporate various choking, strangling, locking and throwing techniques in its syllabus.

Whilst all martial arts will claim to teach you how to defend yourself, you should be aware that if self-protection is your ultimate goal then you should be prepared to  investigate materials that will teach you about developing your awareness of danger, how to avoid conflict, how to de-escalate conflict, what is the law of self-defence and be prepared to look at criminal behaviours. Very few clubs teach these ideas and focus purely on the physical side and often teach from a martial artist versus another martial artist scenario. That’s another story for another blog post!

For those interested in the Oriental world and enjoy the history, traditions, culture and philosophy of the martial arts then you should seek out a club that emphasis this approach. Some clubs and associations will pride themselves on their lineage and connection with Japan. They will often have formal ceremonies at the beginning and end of their lessons. 


Whatever martial art you choose the most important thing is that it is something you enjoy doing and find to be life enhancing. Go along to see different clubs train, is the instructor approachable and fair to all, do the student appear motivated, skilled and supported? Are the training methods used something that you would gain from? Will that art deliver what you want?

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