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Hung Gar Kung Fu Malta
Welcome to Kung Fu Malta

Which is the BEST Martial Arts style to practice?

Just like with religion and politics, many people honestly believe that what they do is the best style in the world. One only has to make a cursory study of the psychological principle of cognitive dissonance to see why this is so. Cognitive dissonance is a psychological state that describes the uncomfortable feeling between what one holds to be true and what one knows to be true. Some MA schools, if not most, boast that they have the best style one could learn.
In one respect, much of this stuff is a marketing stance. Of course! Who doesn’t want to study the best thing in the world?! If such a thing existed everybody would study it. Some martial arts schools can become very cult like as well, and this is where the cognitive dissonance comes in. The practitioners actually believe their marketing stuff! The truth is that style is not going to fight for you – you are. Every person is different and there is not one best system for everyone. It would be quite scary for me to face a sumo wrestler in combat, but it would also be silly for me to expect to take up Sumo and be good at it. Hence, there is no perfect style for everyone.

Is there a BEST style for me?

All individuals must seek what’s best for them. If you have never experienced or watched different Martial Arts styles and classes, you may be limiting yourself to just 1 style which may not be the best fit for you. It could also happen that an instructor is not skilled when compared with other instructors teaching the same style, regardless of his rank / belt grade.

Judo is a style where short strong guys perform well, but if you don’t really enjoy grappling, you may wish to try Hung Gar. However, this statement generalizes people so this is a path you will have to take to find out for yourself. For example, I enjoy Chinese Kung Fu, as most styles are not rigid as Japanese styles. As in, the syllabus is quite open ended whereas Japanese styles tend to have a set of techniques which one should learn. I find myself a creative person who just needs a baseline from where to start and a guide. I prefer a complete system rather than a sport where you are enclosed within rules – where I would feel I am unable to express myself. However, that is me; whereas others may have different opinions and tastes.

Is it OK to practice more than one style?

My answer is usually something along the lines of, “choose the system that you are going to stick with and also keep your eyes open for other opportunities and different training methods.”

Most Martial Arts follow the philosophy of Yin and Yang. This means that nothing in this world is perfectly good or perfectly wrong. The Yin has some Yang and Yang has some Yin. Together they form a circle – the symbol of balance. What I mean by this is that after years of training in just one particular style you may feel that there is something lacking. This something lacking could be that the instructor has nothing else to teach you or for instance, the style itself is limited to grappling and no kicks or punches. Therefore, you might feel the urge to learn kicks and punches from another style, for example, Hung Gar.

If you feel confident with your style then it’s ok. You may also wish to attend some training seminars for other styles. This will offer you the opportunity to see the strengths of others. From their strengths you will find your weaknesses. A fighter who knows his opponent and knows his strengths and weaknesses is already half way to success.

As from my own personal experience, I already knew how to apply locking techniques. However, whenever I joined an Aikido workshop with Maestro Sicali from Sicily, I polished up my locking technique and learned a couple of new techniques that I probably would have never learned from my own club, or it would have taken me ages to discover. Remember that your instructor (I am speaking for myself) can never teach you everything; again the concept of Yin Yang, or let’s put it this way – If you participate or watch different instructors teaching during seminars and the like, 99% of the time YOU WILL LEARN something new that your instructor didn’t teach you, which is not necessarily because your instructor has a lack of knowledge, but because he didn’t go into enough detail when explaining on the subject.

Is there and ideal school / instructor?

The following are a list of things I suggest you look for when choosing a school or instructor. To me, these factors are more important than any other of the above factors and can make or break your martial arts experience.

  • When you call the school, are all your questions answered, and answered honestly? Sometimes someone will answer the phone and may not be able to answer all your questions. Should this happen, they should pass you on to someone who can, or have someone call you back.
  • Every school out there should offer at least one free trial class before you sign up. How else can you determine if you want to study there? Your best bet is to try out several different schools to give you some room for comparison.
  • When you visit the school, is the practice safe, or are students allowed to train in dangerous ways or without proper supervision? Is the instructor a qualified first aider in case of any injuries?
  • Is the school itself hygienic and free from unsafe conditions?
  • Do students and teachers show respect toward everyone? This extends beyond formal bowing and address, to making sure everyone is learning and nobody is being abused.
  • Be very wary of cult-like schools that try to up-sell you to intensified black belt programs and the like. While some of these may be legitimate, there are many scam artists in black belts out there. You should be very clear about what you are paying for, up front.
  • Do the teacher and senior students display a lot of skill in the art they are teaching? This may be hard to determine since great martial artists are often very subtle. However, the teacher and students should display knowledge, skill and balance, which might be more obvious.
  • Most importantly, trust your instincts. If something about the school doesn’t feel right with you, then it probably isn’t right. Look out for the fast talking salesman who tries to sweep your concerns under the rug.

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