I teach Sanshou, Karate, Kung Fu, Pa Kua Chang internal kung fu et cetera… so it may come as a surprise to some to hear that sometimes, I refer students to other schools. No, this isn’t done out of malice, it’s just that sometimes what I can offer them, they aren’t looking for or in need of. Some students want to learn dynamic flips and tricking movements, I will send them to an XMA school I’m friends with, some want ground fighting and I’ll refer them to a jiu jitsu school.
There are as many martial arts as there are reasons why a potential student would want to study them, it’s just a matter of matching up. Every martial art I have ever studied served a purpose to me and I have never seen a legitimate martial arts system, that was useless.
No, not every system is geared towards street use, no, not every system can be used in MMA or tournaments, but none of them are useless, they serve definite purposes. Ask any high-ranking student in those arts what they’ve gotten from them, what uses their system serve et cetera…. Many students don’t do this, instead, they go to whatever school is closest and accept them as all the same.
Those who just go to classes, with the belief that all martial arts are the same, will drop out of classes, thinking it’s not for them or that the martial arts aren’t what they expected. The truth is, there is a martial art for everyone out there, that will meet their expectations of what they’re looking for, but it takes research and work to find it. Not only are the martial arts separated by aesthetics, terminology, weaponry, belts et cetera, but also by the very nature and philosophy which govern each of them.
There are systems that are internal, external, grappling, striking, no weapons, weaponry, kata, no kata, competition-oriented, street-oriented, modern, traditional, and many more variations that make the systems each unique. Then atop those choices, each art is uniquely inspired by the culture which founded it, this includes all different variants on platitudes, dynamics, terminologies et cetera. There are few cookie-cutter martial arts systems and none that meet all of the aforementioned criteria in one art.
As a forewarning, however, is even if you discern between the arts and find one that is perfect for you and meets your every criterion, finding a good teacher is another story…best left for another article…
It is difficult finding the perfect martial art(s) to meet your needs, but it is ultimately rewarding once you do (and from the right teacher as well). It is well worth the work put into finding out what you want out of your martial training, then finding a system and class to study that meets your goals and aims. In the end, you will find that every art has validity and is useful, depending upon the needs of those who study them.