This is a common question exchanged between two Martial Artists when they interact. And the most common answers include Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, and Judo and so on. The answer just doesn’t end here. Obviously there are sub styles within the major styles mentioned. Nowadays there are a different species of Martial Artists, namely the Mixed Martial Arts where they mix up some of the arts to create a complete fighting art.
The question usually asked should be, “whether there is a need for style?” Yes, some people like striking more than grappling and vice-versa. But, most of the styles were created in the olden days by the Masters according to their preferences and their students had to study it rigorously even if that style didn’t suit him. These styles became traditional and hence became sacred and it was the necessity to follow it blindly. Those who weren’t able to follow it started their own styles or stopped practicing Martial Arts altogether. This led to the birth of numerous styles and so many feuds and comparison as to which style is better.
Keeping the history aside now, it is important for us to understand that these styles are nothing more than shackles on the practitioner to become a well rounded warrior. A Grappler will not be able to strike if necessary and a striker will not be able to grapple.
In Karate, we are taught to use just the straight punch. Different types of punches like the hook, upper cut, etc. have been neglected completely in many styles of Karate. In Tae Kwon Do, Kicks are given more importance than any type of hand techniques. And many aspects of importance have disappeared from the modern Martial Arts. A Study suggests grappling was a part of Karate.
It is funny when people ask what Bruce Lee’s style is. Of course he studied Wing Chun, but, later on he studied so many different aspects from different arts that helped him to fill the void of being an incomplete fighter. Thus, Jeet Kune Do was born. It is not a style. It is a fighting system and does not constrict a practitioner.
Mixed Martial Arts gives solution for many of these style related problems. By integrating many aspects of the art of fighting, we can fill in the loop holes in the fighting system. For example, a practitioner who has been trained in Karate can learn Jiu Jitsu, Judo or Wrestling (there are many more grappling arts) so that if at all he is taken down in a fight, he is able to defend himself from most of the attacks at least. In an opposite scenario, a grappler can study any one of the striking arts to defend himself against a striker’s offense and sometimes use some of his own offense as a support system to his grappling.
The equations below can be used to understand it better.
Striker = Striker
Grappler = Grappler
Striker with Grappling skills > Striker or Grappler
Grappler with Striking skills > Grappler or Striker
It has to be noted that the intangibles like strength, age, etc have been ignored as they are personal attributes. The comparison is just between how equally skilled fighter would fare each other and the difference it makes by adding grappling or striking wherever necessary.
In the end, after all the study made, we can easily come to a conclusion that there are only three styles in Martial Arts.