What is the best Martial Art?

Recently, a highly publicized bout between a Chinese MMA fighter and a Chinese Tai Chi master shook the Chinese martial art community causing a great deal of conversation worldwide. MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong openly stated many traditional Chinese martial arts were overly commercialized, and accused the old style masters of fraudulent teaching practices. He said they were all style with no substance. Eventually, Tai Chi master Wei Lei, a practitioner of “thunder style” tai chi, agreed to meet Xu Xiaodong in combat to prove the strength of traditional martial art. Wei Lei was knocked out in 20 seconds. Immediately, the validity of traditional martial art was called into question, and the world community took to the internet.

To question tradition is not new. In fact, Xu Xiaodong made posed the same question to traditional martial art that Bruce Lee did almost fifty years earlier: traditional martial art has become formulaic and routine based, making it ineffective and impractical in many situations. For example, traditional styles practice with and only spar against other practitioners in their style with controlled environments. Bruce Lee said, “If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow — you are not understanding yourself.” Bruce Lee stressed the importance of the individual in terms of martial effectiveness, and highly encouraged cross training in a variety of martial art. That said, one fight does not prove MMA is more effective than traditional tai chi; because, as Bruce Lee said, it all comes down to the individual.

This individuality is something we keep at the front of our minds at The Welch Martial Art Experience. We believe in the value of tradition to preserve the culture, history and art alive.  We also believe in individual takes priority over the art in combat – what works for one person does not always work others. Our Juniors curriculum is a hybrid curriculum that incorporates elements of Wing Chun, Savate, Silat, Kali, and Hap Ki Do, to name a few for the purpose of education. We believe the more well rounded our students are in martial art training and exposure the better equipped they are for daily life and to decide what they like best and what works for them. Recently, I asked some of our Juniors students “what martial art is the best?” Though I received a lot of different answers based on individual preference, one student said something truly profound. He said, “there’s no way to prove which one is the best.” I asked him what he meant, and he said different people are better at different things, so it’s really hard to prove which martial art is the best. He was completely correct; everyone trains martial art for a different reason, with a different goal in mind, and so certain arts or combinations of arts may be more effective for one person than another, and vice versa.

If your goal is to learn a traditional art, and focus on form, then a traditional art may be right for you. If your goal is to fight in a ring, then a mixed martial art may be right for you. If your goal is self defense, then an art that focuses on practical application of technique or several arts in combination may be right for you. If your goal is to compete in martial art, then something like Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Greco Roman Wrestling or Boxing — all Olympic sports – are great choices. There is no one correct choice when it comes to studying martial art. The choice of which art is “best” is based on the individual, and their goals for training…as Bruce Lee’s philosophy of Jeet Kune Do states, “Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless and add what is specifically your own,” because we all have different ways of learning and different paths in life.