Choose & Train the ‘Best’ Martial Art
It’s pretty common for prospective martial artists to research which art is the ‘best’ before settling on which one they want to train – after all, why train if you’re not training to be the best.
But the question is, is there such a thing as a best art?
Being a martial arts school, you might expect us to list the arts taught by our champion-training teachers as the ‘best’. But instead, we thought it would be prudent to discuss what goes into making the greatest fighters, regardless of the martial art they train.
Styles make fights
There’s an established piece of wisdom in martial arts that says, “Styles make fights”.
What it means, in short, is that there is no such thing as the best fighter, per se. Even the greatest combat athlete can be defeated by an opponent with the right style to counter him or her. The best in-fighter in the world, for example, could meet his or her match in an opponent who fights at range and is better at maintaining distance than he or she is at closing it.
We see this playing itself out in Mixed Martial Arts all the time. Last year, infamous Irish combatant, Conor McGregor found his exciting, high-octane style of in-and-out striking matched up against the grinding style of Dagestani wrestler and sambo practitioner, Khabib Nurmagomedov. While his fans expected the Irishman’s famed, lightning-fast left hand to separate his Russian opponent from his consciousness, McGregor instead fell victim to well-timed takedowns and a suffocating ground game before succumbing to a submission three minutes into the fourth round.
So, what had happened to the hard-hitting, shock-and-awe style of Conor McGregor? And what can his downfall – and the downfall of so many other martial artists, mixed and otherwise – teach you about choosing the ‘best martial art’.
Know Your Weaknesses
Famed Chinese general and philosopher, Sun Tzu, wrote in his renowned treatise, the Art of War, that:
“If you know your enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
If you watch the showdown between McGregor and Nurmagomedov, you’ll note that the Russian shoots for a takedown and snags McGregor’s leg within about 30 seconds of the opening bell of the first round. Khabib knew that, between his crushing left hand and his stinging roundhouse kicks, Conor McGregor was and is a striking phenom. So, the standout grappler did what he does best – he took the fight to the ground where he knew he was infinitely more capable than his foe. There, his sambo background and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) techniques subdued the fiery Irishman, who could do little but go into survival mode.
Does this mean that a grappling art is automatically better than a striking art?
Not necessarily – there are countless examples of superior strikers using fancy footwork and a superior understanding of the mechanics of balance to keep themselves on their feet in bouts against grapplers.
So then, what does this stylistic clash tell us about martial arts, and how to choose the best one?
Leave your ego at the door
Rather than proving the superiority of grappling over striking, the fight between McGregor and Nurmagomedov emphasised the importance of keeping a cool head under pressure.
Again, in the words of Sun Tzu:
“If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him.”
This is a tactic at which McGregor excels. In the lead-up to his fight against Jose Aldo, Conor spent months belittling his opponent in press conferences, interviews, and on social media. By the time fight night came, Aldo was so worked up that he recklessly charged chin-first into McGregor’s cocked and ready counter left hand – it took all of 13 seconds to collapse Aldo to the mat, ending the all-time great’s 9-year undefeated streak.
Ready for McGregor’s mental games, Khabib remained unflustered. He wasn’t going to allow pride to draw him into fighting Conor’s fight.
In our opinion, this goes a long way toward proving that the best martial arts approach, regardless of the specifics of the style, has to involve a philosophy that hones the mind and doesn’t just focus on physical preparation. That’s one of the reasons we so highly praise the training of Shaolin Kung Fu – the foundational art of SMA’s founder, Shuaimeng Liu. Not only have its techniques been perfected over more than a thousand years of practice, but the philosophy that accompanies its form is central to the development of not only a well-balanced martial artist, but a well-balanced human being.
Embrace spiritual resilience & mental fortitude
Almost without fail, the greatest combat athletes, warriors, and martial artists throughout history – whether boxers, kickboxers, wrestlers, judoka, BJJ players, or Kung Fu practitioners – have maintained a balance between their mental, physical, and spiritual strength.
Once more, Sun Tzu has wisdom we can use:
“If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things.”
Much like life in general, the greatest tests you’ll face in martial arts are when the fight is going against you and victory seems impossible – when your body’s given up, and you have to dig deep to draw on reserves you didn’t even know you had, that’s when the real value of your training and preparation make themselves known.
This is why discipline is so important to the successful martial artist. Not just the discipline to train regularly and with vigour. But the discipline to not surrender in the face of adversity. Thus, one’s training has to simulate the real-world circumstances it is intended to prepare you for.
Often, the difference between winners and losers simply comes down to who wants it more.
So… what’s the best martial art?
If it hasn’t become clear yet, we don’t entirely believe that there is a single ‘best’ martial art. But, if you are seeking personal development that goes beyond simple fitness and the ability to throw a punch or a kick, then the Chinese martial arts, like those taught here at the SMA Centre, might be exactly what you are looking for.
Guided by some of the most ancient philosophies in martial arts, and composed of techniques that have been refined over hundreds of years, the Chinese martial arts also provide the self-reflection to understand your strengths, the humbleness to accept your weaknesses, and the discipline and resolve to grind through the hard times and find victory on the other side.
So, if you’re looking to continue or start your journey of self-development – plus learn some kick-ass moves along the way – get in touch with the SMA Centre and choose from our eclectic, effective offer of martial arts training.