Comparing Best to Worst Martial Arts
While many questions and answers are subjective, it never hurts to develop our critical thinking
by looking at various criteria and comparing it to each other.
What martial art is the best has been an endless debate between many and while there is no
definitive answer, it wouldn’t hurt to compare the pros and cons of various practices to
see which martial art has an advantage compared to others.
To exercise our brains, in this Martial Arts Journey video we will be taking a look at
“Comparing Best to Worst Martial Art”.
Before I begin calculating points dedicated to various martial arts and comparing them
to each other, there are a few important points to mention.
First of all as I am writing this script I do not know myself which martial art will
prevail and I will try to be as objective, unbiased and versatile as much as I can in
comparing the points.
It would also be impossible to compare all existing martial arts since there are simply
too many of them and also I have not tried them all, thus I will be choosing only some
of the most popular martial arts and ones, which I am most familiar with personally.
As for some of the chosen martial arts not everyone would call them martial arts, such
as boxing, yet since many people choose between traditional Eastern martial arts and Western,
often more sports based fighting practices, for the sake of interest I will include them.
Last of all, many argue that MMA is not a martial art in itself as it is encompases
various styles of fighting, yet regarding that there are plenty of gyms which offer
MMA as a practice, thus once more, for the interest of comparison, I will add it to the
list of compared martial arts.
That being said, let us begin.
The martial arts which will be compared are: MMA, Karate, Boxing, Wing Chun, Japanese Jiu
Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Shaolin Kung Fu, Aikido, Judo, Muay Thai and Greco-Roman wrestling,
which in total makes 11 different martial arts related practices.
We will be looking at a list of 13 different criteria to compare them by ranging from effectiveness
and variety of techniques, to philosophy and personal development benefits, which will
be scored from 0 to maximum 3 points for each criteria.
If the criteria will be negative, such as likeliness of brain damage, 0 to 3 points
will be removed from the martial arts total points.
Now that the rules are set, let us begin.
Many people start martial arts wanting to learn to defend themselves, thus the first
part of criteria list will be focused on this question, starting with striking effectiveness:
MMA, Boxing and Muay Thai clearly prevail here, since it trains the most contemporary
and most pressure tested methods of striking, thus they both receive 3 points.
Karate also relies strongly on striking both in training and competition and while it’s
striking techniques are less effective than Boxing, MMA and Muay Thai, it definitely deserves
Shaolin Kung Fu and Wing Chun spend a fair amount of time developing strikes as well
and while their techniques tend to be less contemporary and not pressure tested, 1 point
will be dedicated to them both.
While the rest of the martial arts are more focused on grappling and include very few
strikes if any, they will all receive no points for this criteria.
Next up is striking defense, which while is similar, also has some notable differences.
MMA, Boxing and Muay Thai still stay the king here with 3 points, followed by Karate with
Shaolin Kung Fu and Wing Chun all focus on complicated, cooperative training, thus they
will receive only 1 point.
Also, I will include here that Aikido and Japanese Jiu Jitsu which technically teaches
defense against strikes and also BJJ, which while not all gyms include defense against
striking, still occasionally address the question of closing the distance when a strike is thrown,
giving 1 point as well to each of these practices.
A logical next question is kicking techniques and kicking defense.
MMA and Muay Thai offer the best kicking techniques and defense, giving them both six points in
Karate also has a strong emphasis on kicking and it’s defense giving it four points.
Meanwhile while Wing Chun and Shaolin Kung Fu teach kicking techniques and defense, it
is not it’s main focus point, thus giving them a total of two points each.
While Aikido and JJJ usually do not teach kicking techniques it does address some kicking
defense giving them one point each.
The rest of the practices still stay pointless.
While striking and kicking are very important skills taught by martial arts which allows
one to maintain distance, it is sometimes inevitable that things will get much closer
into the clinch range, thus our next criteria is how well our martial arts perform in a
Judo here is undoubtedly the king while it focuses so much on takedowns.
It is also followed by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Greco-Roman wrestling both receiving 3
Since MMA includes all the previously mentioned skills, naturally it also received 3 points.
Further we have Muay Thai in which the clinch is also a common place of training, giving
it two points.
While boxing deals with clinch situations, since it does not train takedowns it is left
only with one point.
Wing Chun as well tends to explore close range situations, yet since it rarely seems to deal
with a clinch type of situation, it will receive only one point.
JJJ and Aikido wrist locks and occasional takedowns could also be used in a close range
and while it may be not as effective as the dominating practices, they both still deserve
a single point.
Meanwhile Shaolin Kung Fu and Karate offer very little focus on this range leaving them
with zero points for this criteria.
Having addressed the clinch, we naturally move on to ground techniques where Brazilian
Jiu Jitsu is obviously the king and while MMA is heavily based on BJJ they both receive
As Greco-Roman wrestling spends a lot of time on the ground it also receives three points.
While Judo teaches ground techniques known as Newaza, it usually focuses much less on
this realm leaving it with two points.
It is worth mentioning that Japanese Jiu Jitsu offers some ground technique solutions giving
it one point as well.
As for the rest of the practices, the ground is usually an unfamiliar world to them thus
leaving them pointless this time.
I will also address the aspect of competition and live pressure testing as an important
aspect of martial arts in terms of making it effective, which is focused on not in all
MMA, Boxing, Judo, Muay Thai, Greco-Roman wrestling all spend an enormous amount of
time drilling their techniques with live resisting opponents and applying their techniques in
competition, giving three points to all of them.
Since competition is an important part of Karate, it also receives points, yet keeping
in mind that only a comparadly small part of techniques taught in Karate are actually
applied in sparring and that a great amount of time is spent on cooperative training,
techniques and kata’s, it is receiving two, instead of three points.
The rest of the martial arts unfortunately have little to no live resistance training
and competition, leaving them pointless in this category.
While some practices already have a good head start, we will start to move towards more
specialized criteria which will give a boost to certain practices, starting with the question
of dealing with weapons, which interestingly, from our list of martial arts is mainly covered
only by Aikido and Shaoling Kung Fu.
While it is questionable how effective the weapons techniques are in terms of actual
application, for offering this unique vantage point, both of the practices deserve 3 points.
It is worth mentioning that Karate and Wing Chun also occasionally include a few types
of weapons, thus giving them each a single point.
Where Aikido also thrives is in the aspect of offering a lifestyle / philosophy, which
it is famous for, giving it three points in this category.
Judo, Karate and Shaolin Kung Fu tend to also offer some philosophical insights thus giving
them both two points.
I would also like to add at least one point to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for this criteria as
in my experience, personal development and overcoming the ego are quite often addressed
in this practice.
Meanwhile Boxing, MMA and Greco-Roman wrestling, while do sometimes dwell in sports psychology,
as they are more focused on the sports aspect and do not offer a structured approach to
philosophy they receive no points here.
Wing Chun and Japanese Jiu Jitsu also tend to be more focused on techniques as well,
leaving them pointless.
What Eastern martial arts offer as well compared to Western practices is an Eastern cultural
experience, of which some practitioners are specifically looking for.
Since Shaolin Kung Fu, Aikido, Karate, Judo and Japanese Jiu Jitsu are strongly based
on Eastern culture and traditions they both receive three points.
Wing Chun also offers a fairly strong experience of Eastern Culture giving it two points.
Regarding the fact that the Muay Thai dance ritual is performed occasionally and that
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu includes bowing and often GI as it’s uniform, they also both deserve
an additional point for this aspect.
The last positive aspect which will add points to martial arts is the acknowledgment of the
self defense gap.
While not all practitioners realize, the gap between martial arts and self defense exists,
since self defense is not based only on physical skills, but also on self defense based knowledge.
Unfortunately such martial arts as Wing Chun, Japanese Jiu Jitsu, Aikido and Shaolin Kung
Fu tend to focus so much on physical techniques that it often forgets to mention the gap that
still exists in understanding what self defense is truly about.
Karate, Judo, Boxing, Greco-Roman wrestling and MMA, having the sports aspect, occasionally
do address that sports and self defense is not the same, but this misunderstanding often
enough still lies in these practices, thus leaving them with two points.
The only martial art which tends to be much more conscious of the self defense gap is
often enough BJJ, as this question is often admitted and addressed and is also strongly
emphasized by such figures as Rickson Gracie and of additional practices belonging to BJJ
such as Gracie’s Combatives.
As we are moving on to the last parts of the criteria we will take away some of the points
while looking at negative aspects, starting with the health aspect.
All martial arts include some risk to them, yet some more than others.
It is important to recognize that all full contact sports which include strikes to the
head such as MMA, Boxing and Muay Thai can lead to brain injury and other types of trauma,
which leads to all of them losing three points.
Karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo and Greco-Roman wrestling, especially during it’s competition
stages may also lead to various injuries causing them to lose two points.
Some of the throws in Aikido and JJJ, while also considering the fact that sitting on
your knees is not everybody's cup of tea, which may lead to knee injury leads these
both martial arts to lose a single point as well.
As our last point of criteria, for a moment, we will come back to considering a martial
arts effectiveness and what sometimes prevents a martial art from being effective.
One of such barriers for efficiency may be reliance on overwhelming amount of techniques.
While offering various techniques is not a sin, some martial arts focus so much on offering
an overabundant amount of different techniques and demanding the student to know them all,
while in the meantime sacrificing their efficiency.
Such martial arts as Shaolin Kung Fu, Aikido and Japanese Jiu Jitsu tend to suffer strongly
from this phenomenon, causing them all to lose three points.
They are also followed by Karate and Wing Chun which introduce a great amount of techniques
of which only a part is actually applicable, causing them to lose two points each.
While more criteria could be named, we already see the result in the differences of points,
yet in the end, it is important to ask - does it really matter which martial art receives
When we take a look at the list of explored criteria it quickly becomes clear, that there
is no martial art or practice which is complete and that each practice has its strengths and
weaknesses and offer unique benefits.
The real reason why I wanted to make this video is to remind everyone, that each practice
is unique and while some are better than others in particular fields, which is important to
recognize, in the end they may each suit individuals needs based on the practitioner.
For a practitioner, it is important to know what exactly we are looking for and to choose
the right practice.
It is unfortunate when someone chooses a martial art seeking for something which it does not
really offer and sometimes spends years practicing it without really learning what he came for,
yet when comparing different martial arts, it is also important to recognize that maybe
someone is training a certain practice for reasons, which only this practice can offer
and thus deserves our respect.
That is why, in the end, it is important to ask ourselves clearly what we really want
to learn and to be critical enough to see where it is best to find this answer, but
also to appreciate each martial art for what it uniquely offers.
This way, each martial art may be the best martial art for it’s particular purpose.
Do you agree with the points given in this video?
What score does your martial art receives based on these criteria?
Let me know in the comments.
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This was Rokas and I wish you to own your Journey.
MMA, Karate, Boxing, Wing Chun, Japanese Jiu Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Shaolin Kung Fu,
Aikido, Judo, Muay Thai and Greco-Roman wrestling