The Ultimate Martial Art Style

One thing that has always been a controversy among martial artists is which style is superior to all others.  Style generally means discipline (what type of martial art).  For instance, there are different styles of Karate (Japanese and Okinawan), Kung-fu (Chinese), Tae Kwon Do (Korean), Jiu-Jitsu (Brazilian and Japanese), Kenpo/Kempo (Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, American), and more.

Ultimately, every style can be considered a form of wrestling (grappling) or boxing (striking).  Some styles have a good mix of both, but are still considered predominantly striking or grappling.  Some of the striking styles focus on hand strikes (a closer range), some focus on kicking (farther range), and others have a good mix of both. Most styles are traditional while others are modern (more logical and reality based).

The Ulimate Fighting Championship-the first full contact style vs. style showdown-came out in 1993 to attempt to prove which style was superior.  It was a no rules event, which wasn’t exactly accurate.  Whenever there is a cage or a ring, there are rules.  I will say, however, the first few UFC’s were less rule oriented (than they have become) with no weight classes, no time limits, and strikes to the groin and back of the head were allowed.  They still had a few rules, however.  You couldn’t bite, eye gouge, pull hair, or fish hook.  No rules should mean you can do anything you want. Although it was interesting, it still didn’t prove which style was superior, in my view, due to the rules.  It did show, in the early years, which style was superior for their particular rule oriented event, however.

The early UFC brought in some of the heaviest testosterone you could find in world.  From street brawlers to wrestlers, boxers to kickboxers, tae kwon do specialists to Kenpo black belts, sumo wrestlers to shootfighers, and more. Many of the fights looked like bar room brawls, but you would find a handful of fighters who had skill and it showed.  Royce Gracie became the poster child for the early UFC’s proudly displaying his family’s art, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

In the early years Royce remained undefeated and then stopped fighting in the UFC.  Years later, once the UFC had dramatically changed many things, Royce got pummeled by Matt Hughes giving Royce his first loss in the UFC, but not his first loss ever.

Nowadays, when you look at the UFC, you see that all the fighters are well rounded by knowing how to strike and knowing how to grapple.  Early on it was style vs. style, now it’s primarily the fighter that makes the difference, not the style.  If a fighter goes into the UFC now with knowing only how to strike well, or knowing only how to grapple well, he will get dominated.  Just look at what happened to boxer James Toney.  He was only a boxer and he got wasted by Randy Couture – a pure mixed martial artist with a strong wrestling background.

What does all this mean?  There is no ultimate style. No one style is superior to all others.  It’s been proven in the rule oriented sport setting throughout the last ten years or more with mixed martial artists learning boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and Jiu-Jitsu primarily, although some people come from other backgrounds holding black belts in Karate styles, Judo, Tae Kwon Do and more.  Even those black belts learn the other areas of the sport so that they can compete with today’s competition.

The same goes for self-defense on the street.  No one style is superior on the street.  Too many variables come into play.   On the street there are no rules.  A self-defense situation is about escape, not conquer.  The sport aspect of the arts has rules and is about being the better fighter.  You don’t have to be a good fighter to be good at self-defense (although it certainly will help).

You can break down the martial arts into three categories: academic, sport, and combative.  If we look at the physical aspect some are more dominant for sport, while others are more dominant for street (combative).  Although all martial arts will provide several benefits you just have to be aware of what you want to get out of your training.  If self-defense is your primary goal you need to seek out what would be dominant for that category.  If you want to be a tournament fighter you need to seek out what would be a good tournament style.  If you want to be a mixed martial artist you need to seek out a school with a solid MMA program that teaches boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and some form of Jiu-Jitsu (Gracie Barra is my favorite). If the MMA program does not teach solid striking and grappling stay away from it (if you are looking to be a fighter).

Ultimately, it’s the instructor who makes the difference.  If an instructor says his/her style is the best, never join that school.  Seek out an instructor who is humble, great at what he/she does (both teaching and executing movements), logical, down to earth, never talks bad about other instructors or styles, and one who genuinely cares about your progress as a student.  If you ever need assistance in researching an instructor shoot me an e-mail at and I would be more than happy to help you out.

I personally have sought out what I feel are the top systems of self-defense (notice I said systems) so that my students can learn what will best prepare them for reality.  My core is American Kenpo (my favorite martial art-a logical modern street system), Joe Lewis Fighting Systems, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu.  My expertise is striking for street and sport.  American Kenpo, boxing and Joe Lewis Fighting Systems are what I excel at most.  I have had some of the top instructors in the world and still do-including the legend himself (Joe Lewis).

Remember, no one style is the ultimate.  Anyone who says that this is best or that is best is totally brainwashed.

About the Author:

Michael Miller is an expert in self-defense, personal protection, personal development, and fitness.  He currently holds a 4th degree black belt in American Kenpo (one of the leading systems of self-defense), and also studies and teaches boxing, kickboxing, Joe Lewis Fighting Systems and Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu.  He has been featured several times in Inside Kung-fu and Black Belt magazines as an authority in his field.  He can be reached through his web site at, through e-mail at or by phone at 814-368-3725.