One evening after our usual training session in Bletchley Leisure Centre I was sitting in the changing room gathering my thoughts and trying to summon the energy to get dressed when I overheard a naïve but thought-provoking conversation.
The discussion was taking place between four young practitioners of Judo in their late teens and early twenties. Basically the conversation, being deliberately loud so I could hear, was declaring the attributes of Judo and also being derisory towards Karate and other fighting systems. The longer I listened, the harder I found it not to join the conversation to defend other systems. As they were deliberately trying to goad me in to a reaction I decided discretion to be the better part of valour and maintained my silence. Having got changed by now, I walked away, with barely a glance in their direction contemplating their words.
So whose fighting system is the best then, I asked myself? Since a lot of fighting systems derive inspiration from the animal kingdom it was only natural my thoughts went that way. Mother nature, along with evolution, has been kind in different ways to different species. Which animal has the best method of self-defence?
Could it be the humble bumblebee with its lightening speed of reaction and its powerful sting? A good contender would have to be one of the family of big cats. Maybe the king of the jungle himself, or the lean mean killing machine; the leopard, or the fastest of all, the Jaguar. Does the Elephant have the last word being so big and intimidating? Who dare attack a fully-grown bull Elephant? Even the Fox, so full of guile and cunning, quiet and patient is another consideration as would be a well camouflaged snake with its' speedy strike of poisonous venom.
No animal from the wild comes without its own defence for even the hapless tortoise with mobile home of impenetratable shell has its own method as does the Hare with an acceleration faster than a Ferrari that can change direction with equally bewildering speed. In short each animal from both land and sea has its own defensive mechanism, in its own way each is effective, for them.
So back to my self imposed question “which martial art is best?” None say I. There is no best, and probably, none better than any other in the hands of an experienced practitioner. The skills are there in each art to be seen by all who cares to study them. On careful consideration many of the skills on view are the same just maybe performed in a different way or in a different stance. The proficiency of an artist comes from many arduous hours of repetitious practice. An art is only as good as the practitioner and the time they have spent getting it right.
One must discover the system that best suits you the individual, one, which compliments your natural attributes and assists in overcoming shortfalls. For my part karate best suits me because it uses so many techniques including sweeps, throws, locks and restraints and is suitable for all regardless of size and age but that does not mean I am condemning any other art form.
You will never see or hear any high grade of any art worth his or her weight putting down another system. In truth some systems may have shortcomings but they also have advantages over others. In conclusion the strengths and weaknesses of an art form do not come from that art, they are to be found within one's self.
The goal for all artists of any style or system is the same one. There are many paths up a mountain. We can only travel on one of them at a time and different paths may suit each of us differently, but eventually, if we persist on our travels, we all will arrive at the summit.