If you are looking for a style to practise or you are already involved and the instructor tells you theirs is the best martial art, I recommend you run, not walk, from that person.

Besides being a great defence, running will remove you from someone that does not know what they are talking about.

You may wonder why I am being so blunt about this. The joke among many teachers is if the person answers, the chances are it is what they are practising at that time. No doubt if they had started in another martial art their answer would be that one.

Like music, how can someone say blues are better than jazz or classical is better than opera or hip hop better than folk. It truly is more a personal choice.

You may like to wrestle or throw or grapple better then striking and kicking. Or your desires may be toward staying upright and defending yourself. Again you can become highly proficient in any of these approaches depending on your commitment and willingness to learn.

You need to consider your own limitations. What if you have bad knees or damaged shoulders or a bad back? Would a style that is heavy on throwing or grappling be good for you? I doubt it. You also need to define what it is you are looking for. The clearer you are, the better chance you will be happy practising that style.

It even goes beyond this though. If the classes are poorly run and the instructor is not very skilled both in teaching and the style he or she is practising, then your chances of becoming good are lessened. If you are fortunate, you will have an instructor that is a good teacher: one that has had many years of teaching and continues to learn themselves.

A good teacher continues to practise with others and should have a beginners mind in order to continue their development. A good teacher welcomes other instructors to assist both themselves as well as their students.

Of course the teacher may truly think their style is the best, but that is where the delusion exists and you need to ask yourself if that is the type of person you are willing to put many years of your training under.

Often it is this attitude that restricts growth within the instructor and students.

What we seem to forget at times is the evolution of the arts we now practise came from people working and sharing their knowledge. Most came from various styles often influenced by the culture and circumstances at that time.

The old masters shared their knowledge with each other to improve themselves as well as develop their particular style. It is important to continue that practice, that we also recognize other styles and teachers and share that knowledge to help each other to improve.

An old adage says, “There is no martial art system that is superior, only superior practitioners of the martial arts.”

I think you get the point.

Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts over 38 years and trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at toddhardymla@gmail.com.