What’s the best martial art? (a lesson for marketers)

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Dayton Quest Center Hombu Dojo

I was recently asked what, in my opinion, the best martial art was. This is an incredibly common question, and it’s a question that often provokes vigorous, if sometimes juvenile, answers from the martial arts community.

The real answer is that martial arts instruction varies so wildly that the style of martial art you practice really and truly does not matter. There are some general goals you might be trying to achieve such as fitness, self-protection, or peace of mind that might lend themselves better to one art or another, but for the most part, most martial arts are good enough for someone to make progress towards any of those objectives, compared to a member of the general public.

What separates your choice of martial arts are the instructors of the schools near you, since very few people are going to be as odd as I was in relocating to another part of the country just to study with a particular teacher. The entire reason I moved to Boston years ago was to study with Mark Davis of the Boston Martial Arts Center. Since you probably won’t make similar choices, the answer to what the best martial art is for you is whoever’s the best instructor in your area that fits your needs.

I often compare martial arts instructors to chefs. A competent chef is versatile and knows food well enough that they can make a wide variety of dishes, even if they have a specialty. Certainly, a chef might struggle with a particular cuisine they’re unfamiliar with, but any chef worth their salt could knock out a plate of pasta or some scrambled eggs without blinking an eye, and in their specialty, they’re masters who can deliver an impressive experience for you, even if it’s a cuisine you didn’t intend to try that night.

Conversely, it doesn’t matter what cuisine you’re trying if the chef is unskilled. Food poisoning tastes the same. A burned dish tastes the same.

That’s how martial arts work. A good instructor is a good instructor. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about Shotokan karate or escrima or judo or ninjutsu. You’ll do better in a school with a good instructor than a bad one, no matter what the martial art is.

The same is true about marketing in many ways. A lot of people ask, “What’s the best social media platform? Is it Twitter? Facebook? What about Google+?” The reality is the same as the martial arts. A skilled marketer can get reasonably good results out of any of the social media platforms or marketing methods, even if it’s not their specialty. A skilled marketer’s basics, such as great content being sent to the right audiences, can work as well in email as it can on a blog, as well on Twitter as it does on Pinterest. Likewise, a bad marketer will get no results on any platform, no matter how shiny the object or how engaged the user base is.

The cuisine is irrelevant if the chef is terrible. The cuisine is largely irrelevant if the chef is great. Spend your time and focus on choosing a great chef, a great martial arts instructor, a great marketer.

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3 responses to “What’s the best martial art? (a lesson for marketers)”

  1. You raise a fascinating issue.

    How about a marketer (or a chef, martial arts instructor, any other “expert”) who doesn’t have a portfolio, doesn’t have a website or other evidence of success, BUT they know a helluva lot of stuff? They can read and interpret analytics, do A/B testing, etc. but they themselves aren’t in the game.

    I play bass and was sternly warned DO NOT take lessons from a bassist who doesn’t have a gig. No matter how good they are, there’s a rotten fish somewhere. The “rotten fish” might be that the person never feels good enough to go out in public or, they’re difficult to deal with and keep getting kicked out of bands. Both are traits that could be absorbed by a student.

    What are your thoughts?

    1. Ultimately, we have to judge based on the results we see. I look at my martial arts teachers today and I see people who are not only successful in martial arts, but in life. Their businesses are successful, they’ve been happily married for decades, their children are successful… obviously, no one is perfect. No one is without flaw. But these folks have the kind of lives I want to live, so I study with them.

  2. Frank White Avatar
    Frank White

    I agree 100%. Although I have my own opinions on what the best martial art is, all of them are garbage if being taught by a bad instructor. One of the things that really irritates me is the amount of people that open up a dojo and teach a commercialized watered-down version of what the art really is. It doesn’t help the student, other than giving them false confidence, and it certainly doesn’t help the art. the instructor makes a massive difference in what you do and how you perform. You hit the nail right on the head with this one…hopefully people will pay attention and use discretion in choosing their instructors.

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