We all want to practice the best martial art don’t we? Well which one was that? Were some old martial arts schools clearly superior to others in their ability to produce fighters? How does one test this? Wasn’t that what the old UFC thing was supposed to figure out? And what it produced was “the best fighters who fight within the particular rules of this game”. The best I’ve come up with on this question is some research by Trulson years ago on Juvenile Delinquents (quaint old term) and the difference between “traditional” and “modern” training on their character and aggressiveness. Same art though, different training methodology, and there were differences between those simply taught how to fight and those taught how to fight but also made to suffer through the lectures on why you don’t use these skills because…
Unfortunately, that would come down to the teacher, not the different art… or perhaps more accurately, the lineage within the art since teachers tend to teach as they were taught.
Most schools rose, were refined, were “improved”, and stayed popular (taught what the kids wanted to learn) through the generations during long years of peace. If the original 3-4 kata were “found on the battlefield” the 58 more that became attached to the school were certainly not. And I would offer as proof those schools who make a big noise about how their sensei went out and tried these kata against other schools. If it weren’t rare, these stories wouldn’t have any value and wouldn’t be told.
Hey, why did whazzizname write the Hagakure in the first place? Middle of that “golden age” of koryu schools and here’s some feller telling everyone they’re a bunch of panzies.
Again, let’s go back to the UFC or MMA or whatever, you start with a bunch of different martial artists, of different cultures even, lay down the rules and throw all those thousands of techniques together. Ten or 15 years later what do you have? Not thousands more techniques, but several techniques that work for the “battlefield” as it is defined, and not one recognizable old martial art at all, or the closest being “American/Canadian JuJutsu”. With effectiveness as the criteria for value in a technique, you get less techniques, not more.
Or as I say often, “you want to know the best way to hit someone on the head with a sword…. go do kendo”. The big criticism of kendo by those who don’t practice kendo is that they don’t have “as many techniques as we do” so of course we would win in a real fight. I dunno, I don’t do kendo but I’d still put my money on the kid who can smack me three times on the head before I can decide which technique to use on him. Effectiveness and multiple techniques doesn’t really go together in my mind. Wanna win? 2-3 techniques and do them slick as poop through a goose. When you retire and teach, that’s the time to polish up the rest of the curriculum.
Best art? The one that’s just down the street and has five classes a week you can attend.