Often times people ask me, “which style is the best.” It would be really easy for me to respond by saying, “ well my style is the best of course,” and then go on and on to justify how great my style is and why it is clearly better than every other martial art in existence. But when I am confronted with this question I give a much different answer. My usual response is, “the best style is the one you love doing and will stay motivated to pursue for many years.” It’s something I really believe in. I feel that people often are asking this question to try and pick a style that will give them the ultimate ability over all other styles. At the end of the day though if a person is studying a martial art just because it’s been told to them that it’s better than all others and their heart is really not into the training, or they are not passionate about it, it’s a very good chance they will not train too long to gain any real benefit from the system. Honestly it takes a lot of drive and motivation to attend classes every week for several hours to stress the body and the mind, to get beat up and banged up at times, and to reach points of exhaustion on a regular basis. To endure all this and then come back to do it over again year after year takes true dedication.
When it comes to martial arts there are a lot of options and differences to choose from. Each style will have certain aspects that make it very unique to it’s style, while many also share similarities that almost make it hard to distinguish them apart. Between the Japanese, Chinese and Korean arts there are a lot of basic concepts that are shared as well as some very large differences. It’s usually the differences that entitle systems to start saying they are better because they know something the others don’t. But it is not a style question that should be the focus, but rather which martial artist is better. No matter which style that is practiced it always comes down to, there are good martial artists and bad martial artists. When looking into a style to train in it is important to look at the quality of the person teaching. I have seen plenty of black belts that have poor stances and can barely throw a punch without falling over. I have also seen yellow belts and intermediate level students who can spar against black belts and hold their own, or even dominate the match. It really depends on how hard a person trains as well as how deep of an understanding and ability the instructor has as well. When the question of, “is Karate better than Kung Fu,” or “is Jiu Jitsu better than everything else,” arises, you really need to think of whether or not a Karate Student or teacher has more skill or trains harder than the other Kung Fu practitioner, and how deep their knowledge goes in their art. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been facing this problem quite a lot recently. With the extreme popularity of the UFC and MMA everyone has seen the value of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This has led to the many already mediocre level martial arts schools to start teaching Jiu Jitsu. Many of which have only a beginning level of skill and do not train as hard as the traditional Jiu Jitsu schools strictly mandated in order to attain rank. Therefore many schools have capitalized on the large population of people wanting to learn but have in the process created a large generation of practitioners that really don’t have the skill level for the rank or belt level they are at. This leads to people experiencing poor quality Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and unknowingly assuming all Jiu Jitsu is of this same caliber. What has started to happen is people see Jiu Jitsu as ineffective, or perhaps not as good as another style solely because people are simply not training hard or learning from qualified teachers. This same situation is exactly what happened to the traditional arts like Karate, Kung Fu, Aikido, and Taekwondo. Things get watered down so much and become all people see to be able to make an informed decision from in regards to whether or not they want to invest time in learning a particular style. The result unfortunately impacts people’s first impression of styles and they believe that certain styles are inferior to others when in fact there are only inferior martial artists.
My Sifu has always described to me the importance of learning one style past just the surface knowledge that most only learn. The example he likes to give us is that of digging holes. You can spend all your time digging shallow holes and have a lot of shallow holes. Or you can spend all your time digging one deep hole. I like to think of this in terms of buildings. For example you can dig a lot of small shallow foundations to build little houses that all look the same and don’t require a very strong foundation to sit on, or you can spend your time and dig a tremendously large foundation like that of which is required for a huge skyscraper. A building that is unlike any other building which has solid foundation to last for many years as a dominant figure on the horizon.
So when looking at what style is better than another remember to not look at what you see and assume all practitioners of that style are the same, because they are not. I personally found Choy Lay Fut to be the style that I love and decided to spend the rest of my life learning and dig a deep hole with. Through my life I had trained in other styles and some were great effective styles and with great teachers, but the style did not grab me to really want to dive deep. I have also trained with other Choy Lay Fut teachers that simply were not teaching at a skilled level and from a deep foundation of the art, and decided I needed to keep searching. It’s important to find the style, and more importantly the teacher, that you want to invest many years with. We are all different and want different things from martial arts. Still, we all need to find a passion and love for what we are learning, and need the guidance from someone who has already spent the time digging deep.