The Most Powerful Martial Art in the World

I love the martial arts —all of them! (And I believe very much in all of them, too.)

Occasionally (it's probably happened to me about a half dozen times over the last twenty years), I encounter someone who tells me the art he (or she) has been practicing (Krav Maga, Hapkido, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, Aikido, etc.) is the most powerful martial art in the world. Despite the grandiose (and often naive) nature of the claim, my response (as I've grown older) has become, "You know??...You just might have something there. It really is a fabulous art. I hope you stick with it." (All kidding aside, if that person really does stick with it, he just might prove himself right in the long run. To me, I think that would be fabulous!)

Provided below is a list of five truths concerning the martial arts. Following that, I provide a pointed discussion of the six variables that, in combination, always influence the field-effectiveness of any martial art, irrespective of its style. And then, finally, I provide a distillation of both lists into a general approach to all martial arts training that I hope will be beneficial to you. My intent behind all this is (1) to encourage each of you to stay the course in your training; and, just as importantly, (2) to provide what I believe to be a reasonable and effective guide to all martial arts training—again, irrespective of the style being pursued.

Five Truths about the Martial Arts and their Application in a Life-or-Death Situation

  1. Every martial art, when mastered, is powerful. It matters very little how mainstream, traditional, esoteric, outdated, or situationally relevant or irrelevant it might seem on the surface.

  2. Every martial art has its strengths; conversely, every martial art has its limitations and gaps.

  3. Any technique, even when executed perfectly, may or may not achieve the desired (classroom or dojo) result.

  4. In a life-or-death scenario, the chance of even a master executing perfectly each and every technique he (or she) initiates is very low. As I'm oft to tell those I train with, "Combat is messy. Despite how things may look in the movies, no one looks cool in a fight."

  5. In a tense and hurried situation, complex techniques almost always fail.

Six Variables to Consider when Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Specific Martial Art in an Attack Scenario

  1. The context (environment, terrain, space, place, timing, etc.) of the attack.

  2. The number of attackers.

  3. The types of readily available weapons each attacker brought with him. (Or her. Yes, women can be murderous psychopaths, too.)

  4. The health, conditioning, mental state, skill, and resolve of each attacker.

  5. The health, conditioning, mental state, skill, and resolve of the person (my hypothetical martial arts practitioner) being attacked.

  6. Outside influences (Divine protection, bystander assistance, "luck," etc.).

(Note: As a martial arts practitioner, you can really only exercise direct control over Number 5: Your health, conditioning, mental state, skill, and resolve. Yes, you can exert indirect control over Numbers 1, 2, 6, and 7, but it's limited.)

Ten Strategies for the Effective Practice and Application of the Martial Arts

  1. Study the different aspects and applications of your art. All martial arts have gaps and limitations. Do you know yours? Limitations without such knowledge can get you killed or seriously hurt. The key to this is humility and the willingness to be brutally honesty with yourself about such things. If your art emphasizes high kicking skills (which I think can be petty cool to watch), what will you do if your attacker takes you to the ground? Or attacks you while you're swimming in the ocean? Or when you're wearing restrictive clothing? Or while you're carrying groceries out to your car? Or when it's cold and rainy or even icy outside?

  2. Train in all aspects of your art (especially in the elements that emphasize simplicity and the direct response to real-life scenarios), and do so diligently over a long period of time. What's the most powerful martial art in the world? Well, for you, it's the one you've trained in day-in and day-out for over forty years.

  3. Take care of your health. You may have all the skills in the world, but if you're sick or in pain (either acutely, chronically, or both), you're not going to fair nearly as well.

  4. Condition your body through resistance, aerobic, anaerobic, and flexibility training.

  5. Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants. (Co-opted from Michael Pollan). And drink lots of filtered water.

  6. Get sufficient sleep.

  7. Pray and meditate; connect with the Infinite God and with a community of like-minded people.

  8. Avoid stimulants, don't use drugs, and limit your alcohol consumption. Of course, complete abstinence in all three arenas is even better.

  9. Define and live out your life-purposes (the whys of your existence).

  10. Tell the people you love how much you love them and what they've meant to you in your life.

Do the above, stay the course, and trust the process. Do this, and I bet you'll fair well. And if someone ever tells you his (or her) art is more powerful than yours, smile, look him in the eye, and kindly say, "You know??...You just might have something there. It really is a fabulous art. I hope you stick with it."

God's peace...


IKIGAI Weekly Blog Schedule (per The Training Trinity):

Mondays: Meditative Prayer

Wednesdays: Holistic Discipline

Fridays: Martial Arts Practice


The Life You Were Born to Live