Sometimes I fall into what I like to call “internet rabbit holes.” This is when you want to research something and you think the answer will be obvious. You figure it will be the top result of a simple google search. Easy peezy! But then you find yourself 10 hours later watching your 400th youtube video with 40 other tabs all containing conflicting information. You are no closer to the answer you’ve been seeking and everyone is yelling at everyone else saying their answer is the best.
This happened to me when I simply wanted to know what the best “martial art” was. What discipline is most likely to help you win a fight?
A common answer kept popping up and I thought maybe my quest for knowledge was complete. Many people believed that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was the best. I almost stopped there. But then I noticed a youtube comment that ruined everything. What if you are facing multiple attackers? BJJ is wonderful if you are fighting one person, but if that person has a friend and you are laying on the ground trying to armbar someone… they are going to kick your head in super quick.
So I looked elsewhere for the most complete self defense package. Many people touted Krav Maga. A fighting style developed by Israeli special forces. It is a mashup of many disciplines with a brutal philosophy. Basically you fight to maim or kill as quickly as possible. Kick'em in the nuts. Rip their throat out. Gouge the eyes. Hit them on the head with a bottle. Nothing is off limits. Sounds good to me. Question resolved.
Wellll… not really. It turns out that Krav Maga is advertised as “too dangerous to spar.” Which in the martial arts world usually means it is a “giant scam.” If you can’t practice the moves and gain experience fighting, there is a good chance you will be useless in a real fight. Since there aren’t a lot of volunteers willing to get their throat punched or genitals bashed in, you are stuck “pretending” a lot of these moves. And it just isn’t the same as actually doing them. It turns out that even in the actual Israeli special forces, 999 times out of 1000, they are going to use a gun or knife in battle. It’s unclear if even their military hand to hand training works in real life. Most people agree that if you train hard in Krav Maga you can probably beat the crap out of inexperienced fighters. But it gets super iffy when you face an opponent with fighting experience.
So I moved on. Shaolin Kung Fu looked super cool. But most places that teach it don’t train you the way the actual monks learn. They do crazy endurance trials. They will punch a hard surface for weeks in order to harden their fists. Your local dojo will probably not require these kinds of physical tests. And the real monks that do the absolutely brutal training are pacifists. They are usually not willing to fight in any kind of competition. It is hard to say how they would prevail in an actual fight. If a true-blue Shaolin monk tried to fight you, he could theoretically kick your ass, but he might end up inviting you for a calming cup of tea instead. Like Uncle Iroh.
Bruce Lee created Jeet Kune Do. He studied all of his favorite fighting styles and created a new discipline. It looks very badass. And if he was personally facing you, you’d probably get your ass kicked. He was very special. A top tier athlete with incredible reflexes and speed. They say the cameras were not fast enough to capture some of his movements. But Jeet Kune Do hasn’t really been tested in real life. Bruce never got in any actual fights and it’s hard to say if his style would be effective for anyone but him. It’s probably best to keep it in the movies. It has more entertainment value than anything else.
I think I did finally find an answer, but like many things in life, it wasn’t as definitive as I had hoped. I ended up watching a video by a former Navy Seal where he answered the question “What is the best form of self defense?” While there are definitely certain martial arts that work better than others, the thing that matters most is how hard you train and how much experience you accumulate. Meaning whatever discipline you go with, it needs to have a sparring component. You have to be able to practice in real fights. And you have to train super hard for it to be effective. He also suggested that you learn at least two martial arts. One that focuses on ground fighting and grappling. Whether it be Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or even classic wrestling. And one that focuses on fighting standing up. Muay Thai seemed popular, but he said even being well trained in standard boxing would be sufficient. He also said your best strategy is to fight standing up as long as possible, especially when facing multiple attackers.
I guess I was hoping the answer to be something like Super Ninja Karate. Ultra Kung Fu! Maximum Boxing! Death Jitsu! I was underwhelmed with “practice super hard with any reputable fighting discipline that isn’t "too dangerous to spar.”“
Or just use a gun like Indiana Jones.