What’s the best Martial Art?

Back in 1993 at UFC 1 the organisation, as it was, set out to answer this question. This event and the ones that followed saw the emergence of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with Royce Gracie dominating the show and the rest of the competitors. What was even more impressive at the time was, with the lack of weight classes originally, that Royce Gracie was a smaller, un-intimidating looking guy and using BJJ he was beating bigger and stronger fighters. Does this mean that BJJ is the best martial art? At the time a lot of people thought so, a lot still will. I personally think that BJJ is fantastic, like all martial arts, but during these first UFC events the art was a relatively unknown entity and it could be that the event showed that Royce Gracie was better at his art than the other competitors were at theirs. Or more simply he was a better fighter.

With the UFC and other Mixed Martial Arts promotions being so popular now people are wanting to learn MMA. I often get asked “Where can I go to learn MMA?”, “Do you teach MMA?”. I teach one aspect of MMA – Hapkido, but what else are you going to study? This is what MMA is – learning different martial arts to establish a vast arsenal of techniques. There are now many MMA Academies all over the world, including the UK, and some are very good. The best will have trainers/coaches who are expert in a particular martial art and you will then get to experience the real essence of that art. In all of this though you must understand that MMA is not a martial art. All the top fighters in the UFC for example have a specific martial arts base – whether it be wrestling, judo, taekwondo, boxing, BJJ etc. They are mainly all high level competitors in an art before they started complimenting their training with other arts. Maybe, with the popularity of MMA, this will change in the future but MMA will never be a martial art.

So back to the original question… what is the best martial art? Having studied and taught Hapkido for so long it would be very easy for me to say that my chosen art is the best. I would have a fairly strong argument as Hapkido offers a variety of techniques for long and short fighting distances, locks and throws, weapons and groundwork. As a ‘traditional’ martial art Hapkido offers a lot of what people are now calling MMA.
Despite the benefits (that I believe Hapkido offers) I am not blind and foolish enough to state that this is the best martial art. The reason for this is because I have the belief that ‘the best martial art’ is a personal thing. Hapkido is certainly the best for me both for external and internal benefits, but it may not suit everybody. As far as I am aware there are no Hapkidoists within the top fighters of the UFC so maybe Hapkido isn’t the best martial art if you wish to enter the world of combat sports. Hapkido is a self-defence based martial art to help you prepare for the dangers in the real world.

In summary, I don’t think that there is or ever will be a concrete answer to the question so often asked. What is best for one student isn’t necessarily best for another and it is also dependant on what you want to get out of it as a result. I have said many times that there is no such thing as a bad martial art, only bad clubs. Have an idea of what you want to learn, and why. Try a few and most importantly settle on a good club. This will be the best martial art…for you!

Matt Fawcett
4th Dan Black Belt.