What is the world’s most useless martial art?

Anthony Vassalotti, bachelor’s degree Criminology & Victimology, University of Montréal (2020)Answered Aug 31, 2018

I am copying the exact same answer I wrote on a similar question, (What do you think of someone who declares a specific martial art as ‘useless’?)

so here goes : 

When I hear that or a variant of ‘’Martial art X is soooo better than martial art Y’’, my automatic mental response is either :

1. This person is really misinformed.

2. This person is trying to sell me his/her system.

Most of the time, what you can do is simply ask ‘’Useless for what ?’’

Invariably you’ll get an answer that looks like : ‘’To win real fights in the street.’’

When I hear that, I mentally cringe.

Mainly because people tend to define a martial art as being useful or useless in regards to its application in a self defense situation. Also because they tend to associate “real fight in the street” to self defense. Yet, when I ask them to describe what they imagine happening during a self defense situation, their answer will most of the times be something that seems to be out of a Hollywood action flick. They will describe what is most of the times either a guy jumping out of a bush to demand they hand over their wallets or a guy minding is own business being jumped from behind by someone for no reason. Violence never happens without a reason and those two scenarios are only that : two scenarios out of an infinity of possibilities…

First off, most people who talk like that tend to compare martial arts styles as if they are an objective, scientifically proven method to win 100% of fights, without including all the variables that can influence the outcome of a fight/assault/physical conflict/combat situation. In my opinion a martial artist is only as good as his level of skill and what is teacher teaches… The style itself does not really come into play. Most people have practiced one, maybe two styles in their life, so they tend to associate their practiced style to the best there is…

Secondly, a lot of people think a martial art is useless in a self defense situation, yet they declare a martial art is useless to win fights. Self defense and fighting are two very different things. Fighting is a mutually agreed physical conflict between two people who want to settle something (i.e two guys trash talking and then fighting in a bar because guy A thought guy B was eyeing his girlfriend…) Self defense, is not the same thing. Self defense is an action you take to resolve a conflict that is becoming physical in the quickest way possible. Sometimes, that means pinning someone on the ground. Some other times, it means running away, putting him down with a 2–3 punch combo, or even shooting him, if your life is in danger.

In itself, self defense isn’t even a martial arts concept, it is a legal concept. In order to claim self defense, you need to be able to uphold to the legal requirements of a self defense claim. In my guy A, guy B example, the two guys trash talking each other means that in a legal setting, both guys were actively participating in a conflict, meaning no one is defending himself, they are both fighting and sadly, non sanctioned fighting is illegal.

To remind you of my analogy of people being asked to describe a violent scenario happening to them. If they have practiced martial arts for some time, a lot of people will imagine how they would react, by first telling the aggressor that they are not looking for trouble, then the aggressor jumps them and they take him down with a flurry of beautifully choregraphed moves that would make evan Jacke Chan ejaculate in his pants.

What they do not realize is that in real life, first off, the simpler the technique, the better. Nothing will happen as beautifully as in the dojo. Secondly, having to physically defend yourself will not leave you basking in contentment, applauded by everyone around like Zeus taking down a mad titan. It will psychologically change you, probably not for the better and instead of said ovation from your entourage, you will be met by cops asking what you did and why you did it. If in the eyes of the cops you have crossed the lines from self defense to assault (or worse), you will be arrested and good luck in justifying your actions in court. For the psychological trauma, simply ask a war veteran who has seen a lot of violent conflict…

Now back to my ‘’martial art X is useless’’ opinion, With all this in mind, most of the times, the discussion starts as a discussion about how to win a fight and inevitably, it becomes a pissing contest between two people comparing martial arts styles. When people start to compare styles, style X fan says his best technique is this. Style Y fan tells him how his style would make him do that to counter the move. It’s idiotic and I don’t believe you should think anymore of it. When someone tells you your style is useless and his style is better, you probably will not get a really intelligent answer. The answers will look like :

  • My style is taught to X branch of the military.
  • Most fights go to the ground, we are 90% on the ground.
  • My style teaches us about knives and weapons.
  • My style teaches a smaller guy how to take down a bigger guy in a fight.
  • My style has existed for over 1000 years.
  • UFC fighter X has a black belt in this style.
  • This style has been proven combat effective. (Simply ask “where?”)
  • Because in my style, we do this instead of that.

Nowhere does this translates to usefulness if usefulness is not defined.

Again, if someone tells you a martial art is useless, ask him ‘’useless for what ?’’

Any martial art will have positive and negative sides : here are some examples :

Karate, Jujitsu, Kung fu, etc.

Let’s bring them under the scope of ‘’Traditional Martial arts’’. These are what most martial arts schools teach. Regardless of the style, there are a lot of traditional martial arts schools around, meaning they are a lot more accessible to most people. These styles tend to demand years of dedication to master. You can get a lot of benefits from going to a traditional martial arts school, mainly the values you’ll get from that kind of dedication (self-confidence, discipline, perserverance), not to talk about the social benefits you’ll get by meeting new people. In these schools, children tend to grow a lot, becoming more mature, less aggressive, etc. On of the downsides is since these schools are a dime a dozen, you’ll get many shitty teachers who are more about making money than teaching valuables things, thus they start to teach shitty stuff.

Western Boxing, MMA, Brazilian jujitsu, etc.

These methods are more tournament oriented, combat sports as they are taught today. Combat sports are challenging and demanding. They also require a lot of dedication. They can really benefit people who need to channel agressivity and need to focus on something positive (troubled kids for example), while being relatively safe to practice. These combat sports are a wonder for guys who like to play on their friendly rivalries with other guys. One of the downsides to these is since they are sport-tournament-points oriented, there become designed to be safer, and and the spectrum of allowed techniques is limited, taking out some of the effectiveness it could have in a self defense situation.

Ba gua, tai chi, qi gong, etc.

These martial arts could flal under the scope of ‘’spritual/peaceful’’ martial arts. You’ll find people in their 60s, 70s and maybe 80s still practicing, the benefits for the body can’t be underestimated. . You can practice something like tai chi for all your life and still get benefits every day. People who have had years of training in qi gong or tai chi tend to have an aura of calmness around them. They always seem to be more ‘’at peace’’ in general. One of the downsides about those is since most of them are practiced at a really low pace, they have virtually no use outside of the spiritual/peaceful spectrum. I know some people will tell me that tai chi applied to a fast pace can be very effective (and that is probably true), but most schools do not teach it that way.

Krav Maga, Systema, Military combatives, etc.

This one tends to fall in the ”Reality Based Self Defense” group. They serve only one purpose : solving a violent situation by a pragmatic use of force. These systems were thought for high risk situations that need to be taken care of quickly. The techniques are often simple, reflex and principle based, easy to master and won’t take years of dedication to learn. The major downside though, is that the main reason they were invented (mainly for people regularly involved in violent situations) are not well translated to most civilian applications. Most schools will teach how to use force effectively without talking about everything else associated to it (legal standards, psychological effects, etc.) For example krav maga was invented in Israel for militia men who had to defend villages. A potential deadly situation could arise quickly. I have practiced krav maga for six months and I left, because I was fed up of being forced to practice something I believe is fucking dangerous (and illegal), I.E stabbing someone in the chest with the knife I just disarmed him of. This is a recipe for a judicial mess and I was not okay with it.

I give credit where credit is due : A lot of this answer does not come from me exclusively. It comes from a website I have been reading on for many years, which I believe gives great insight on many subjects regarding martial arts and self defense : Four Focuses of the Martial Arts. The author, Marc Macyoung is, in my opinion a guy who approaches the subject in a very pragmatic and intelligent way. I wish I’d see more people talk about martial arts in this way…

Gosh that was a long answer…

Hope this helps…