The “Best” Martial Art or Who is “The Fastest Gun in the West” ?

The Fastest Gun Alive

"The Fastest Gun Alive" ... for now !  Starring Glen Ford and Broderick Crawford
"The Fastest Gun Alive" ... for now ! Starring Glen Ford and Broderick Crawford

Who is the Fastet Gun Alive?

In the 1950’s movie “The Fastest Gun Alive”, Broderick Crawford portrayed the outlaw. He claimed to be the fastest gun alive but was taunted by an old man in the saloon who said “no matter how fast ya are, there always someone faster’n you”. In the end the hero, Glen Ford, out draws and dispatches him. The adjacent video trailer provides a few scenes from the movie.

The Fastest Gun Alive

BJJ vs Karate

Aikido Techniques: Kokyunage

Virtues and Limitations in Every Art

So part of the answer to the question is that it is dependent on your frame of reference. It involves asking oneself “what is my goal for martial arts training?” Is it so that you can enter a bar, pick a fight and beat someone to a pulp or are you interested in how your training can benefit the lives of others? Even if you could knockout someone in a bar, does that prove you are “better than they are” or does that make you the just fastest gun in the West…that day? In reality most of the popular martial arts have virtues AND limitations. Judo has rules that prevent striking but an accomplished practitioner, such as Karo Parisian, can definitely do substantial damage by throwing a person directly on their head, even if he had to take many strikes to “get inside”. Striking arts such as karate or Jeet Kune Do, can be very effective in self-defense. However, if taken to the ground by a skillful opponent, all of these techniques would be rendered useless. Even MMA has specific rules of competition, which exclude certain strikes and even if they were allowed, how would these techniques hold up against an expert with a knife, not to mention a gun. Many arts focus on one-to-one competition, but how would these arts hold up with multiple attackers?

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What about pitting one art against another?

Which art is ”superior” is an age-old question that is the topic of much discussion by martial artists who focus on a specific martial art. So many bad martial arts movies show one “school” sending its best guy to another school for a showdown to settle it once and for all. Of course, it only answers the question of who had superior skills on a given day. YouTube is full of clips that pit competitors from different arts against one another in an attempt to address “the big question”. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs. Karate, Aikido vs. BJJ, the permutations are too numerous to count. Regardless of the outcome of an given competion, such match ups can never settle the issue for the same reason that Broderick Crawford’s loss in the gunfight didn’t prove who was the fastest gun alive (you have to keep "proving it"). Even within a seemingly “no holds barred” competition like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the championship is elusive even to competitors at the highest level such as Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell.

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Different Arts, Different Goals - Respect is the Key

So, to answer the question “which art is the best” we need to look at ourselves objectively and ask “what are the core beliefs that provide the framework for this comparison?” The answer is that the best martial art is the one that gives you what you are looking for.  Under the right circumstatnces and in the hands of the right person, each martial art can be effective in self-defense.  For those interested in an intense physical workout, Judo or Jiu Jitsu can give you a real run for your money.  If you are not as interested in grappling, an art like Karate, or Tae Kwon Do may be what you are looking for.  If you search for an art with a spiritual dimension, Aikido may be worth checking out.  Trying to "prove" that one art is better would be the same as saying the heavy weight champ in the UFC would remain so...forever. The answer, then lies in the attitude of respect that many of these arts include in their core principles.  Respect means accepting that each person takes martial arts for  different reasons and that purpose is valid from their point of view. 

Comments 10 comments

Steve Bencsics profile image

Steve Bencsics 7 years ago

Good article Dan.


nspectorx profile image

nspectorx 7 years ago from the moon and beyond

This is a topic I've always enjoyed. You covered it well. I wish more martial arts instructors would talk about this to their students. I've been in a lot of martial art systems, and they all have good attributes. The instructor I have now, actually encourages involvement in more than one style.


aikidk01 profile image

aikidk01 7 years ago Author

nspectorx - I also encourage you so seek out information from other schools. Not so much to "question" the validity of the dojo where you train, but rather to take in all that the many different martial arts have to offer. I applaud your sensei because it is not easy to gladly send you out on your quest because there is the risk that you will not return...but if you don't, try always to remember to great things you lean at each school. Your training is a journey, not a destination. Smell the roses along the way. Dan


issues veritas 7 years ago

Each Martial Art has its own arena where it is best.

The open ring is not a good arena to test mixed Martial Arts.

You couldn't do any real kicking on ice or even a slippery floor.

You can't do a lot of kicking in an obstructed or confined area.

Even in an open area with good footing, you would have to remove all of the rules and make it a death fight to know the true winner. Martial Arts as a sport is one thing but Martial Arts as an Art of War is another thing.

Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS) is also valid for Martial Arts. Less techniques can be more useful than more techniques if they are your strengths. Unless you are a Monk or make a living at Martial Arts, you don't have the time to learn or practice a whole lot of techniques that you can deliver at random.

The Glenn Ford movie is a terrific example to compare the gunfighter with the Martial Artist.

Nice hub


aikidk01 profile image

aikidk01 7 years ago Author

issues veritas - Excellent points! Your analogies are spot on and that concept of KISS is very important as we think about martial arts training.


issues veritas 7 years ago

Thanks, but your the master.


Caddude 7 years ago

The best martial artist to date, Bruce Lee studied many styles, techniques and arts from all cultures to put together what he felt was the best of all worlds.


aikidk01 profile image

aikidk01 7 years ago Author

Caddude: Bruce Lee was such an innovator as a great practitioner. His technique was tremendous. He really put martial arts on the map!


captainchris profile image

captainchris 6 years ago

I love the Glen Ford Movie analogy. Thanks for the great hub.


TheMMAZone profile image

TheMMAZone 6 years ago from Kansas

Another great hub! You say it best when you say, "the best martial arts is the one that gives you what you are looking for".. That is exactly right. All martial arts have the same back-end it is just the front-end that people can see and get carried away with. However, the important pieces are in the back-end. I hope that makes sense.

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