OC Bujinkan

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What is the best martial art?

I answer a lot of questions on Yahoo! Answers, and I run into the same questions again and again. I feel like some of those questions are worth an answer being made public; like this one:

What's the best martial art?

First thing to make clear: There is no best style, regardless of your body type. They’re all just different paths up the same mountain.
 
Start with the phone book and the internet. Search "Martial Arts <zipcode>" (So, if you're in the 92660 zip code, search "Martial Arts 92660"). See who is advertising and for what.
 
Now that you have some idea of what's being offered, go to the book store. Start looking at books for the styles offered. If you have a bunch of karate classes, get familiar with books on Karate. Find the average expectation amidst those books. Then go check out classes -- watch for teachers that you think you can get along with, and look at how their skill matches up with what you've seen. Look for inconsistencies. If 20 books said, for instance, Heian Shodan (Shotokan Karate) starts out one way, and he's having his students do it another way, leave (yeah, I've seen this exact thing).
 
Youtube is not a good resource without references. There's a lot of garbage out there, and a lot of low-level work passed off as high-level. If you don't have eyes for the art, you won't be able to tell the difference. How do you get eyes for the art? Train. Learn to sort the wheat from the chaff.
 
Be aware that there are sport martial arts (those that focus on rule sets and competitions) and there are self-defense martial arts. The sports martial arts may give you a good chance, but self-defense is about doing whatever it takes to get to safety. If you're not training for every possibility, you're not training for self-defense.
 
The most important thing to do is to go out and try. If you're looking for the best, you won't find it; why on earth would there be so many arts out there still if only one would suffice? Stop worrying about what the best for everybody might be (there is no such thing anyhow) and start looking at how to be the best you can be.
 
Further, when you try asking others what's right for you, what you're really going to get as an answer is what's right for them. No matter how much I may enjoy ninpo, for instance, I'm well aware that not everyone will share my same love for it. I have my reasons, and you have yours. Anyone who tells you you can or you can't, or this is or is not right for you, is doing you a disservice. The only way you can know if it's a good fit is to try it on.
 
The only way to be good at anything is to try – try hard and you'll do well, no matter what you choose. I hope that helps you guys get a better handle on this, and on how the best martial art is the one you train in.
 

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