The ability of an occasional outstanding martial artist does not prove the superiority of a martial art.
Looking at the myth-filled history of the martial arts, it seems doubtful that there ever was a style that did not have at least one exponent who became famous for his exploits as a fighter.
There are, however, a few things one should remember. There have always been people who, because of their physical attributes, mental attitude or both, would have been superb fighters even if their training had been in classical dance.
Furthermore, we will never know how valid such legends really are.
How would the ancient Shaolin monks have fared against modern muay Thai practitioners? We will never know, but we do know that often in modern times, muay Thai fighters have beaten teams of kung fu fighters.
How would aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba have fared against Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Rickson Gracie? A silly and unanswerable question perhaps, but the point remains that a style, represented by one man in challenge matches long ago in a possibly limited environment, may be fairly useless on today’s mean streets.
Aside from this, it is doubtful the average aikido instructor of today trains like Ueshiba did — in terms of technique and intensity.
About the author: Erik Petermann teaches martial arts in Cape Town, South Africa.
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