Urban Jungle Self Defense, Combat Techniques, Combatives, Krav Maga, Hapkido, Gracie Combatives, the list goes on and on of names used by people proclaiming to teach "the best" in self defense.
Is there really one better than the rest? Is that a question that is more speculative than factual? Is it the art or is it the person that makes the art successful.
History has shown that community at large always flocks towards a trend. Trends are often times based upon perception and not reality. Do you remember the tech bubble in the 90's. Mutual funds for 50% plus gains. The perception was the companies had to be making money, but the reality was the market was rising and returns were high based upon the "irrational exuberance" of the public. People were throwing money into the market and that was what was fueling the upward trend, not the profitability of the companies within the market. Well, the same can hold true in the "martial arts"/"karate" community.
In the 60's and 70's you would be hard pressed to not find a "Kung Fu" theater playing upon someones TV on the weekends. The explosion of growth in the United States was seen in Kung Fu schools because of all the movies being moved. Hapkido, Taekwondo, Karate, and other arts were in the Kung Fu movies being portrayed as Kung Fu. The images seen in the movies gave the perception to the community that Kung Fu was the art to be in. Even a top hit song was written and played throughout the clubs in the United States named "Kung Fu Fighting".
In the late 60's and 70's came the Billy Jack Movies. Billy Jack performed techniques from a Korean system called Hapkido. GM Bong Soo Han, who later appeared in a Billy Jack movie, performed the actual fight scenes in the earlier movies as the stunt double for Tom Laughlin who played Billy Jack. Hapkido became the next big hit. Due to the movies and due to the special forces of Vietnam utilizing the skills of Hapkido, the community sought out this system.
In the late 70's and 80's Tae Kwon Do became the next big hit. The Olympics accept TKD as sport and schools throughout the United States exploded with enrollment. Fast flying kicks excited kids to speak to their parents about enrolling them into what they perceived as being a dynamic fast high flying fun art.
Then came the 90's and the dominance of the UFC and the famous Gracie Family. This family shared their knowledge for all to learn. Cage match after bloody cage match had the Gracie's demonstrating the skills of ground fighting. Soon BJJ was the place to train. Funny shaped disfigured ears became the badge of honor. Schools began to pop up all over and enrollment grew.
Soon another art would emerge, as they always do. This time it was the Israeli art of Krav Maga. Taking from the marketing book of BJJ, Krav marketed themselves wisely as being the self defense system. Prospective instructors soon invested thousands to fly to different places in the United States and abroad for a weekend or week or two course to become a Krav instructor. Techniques appealed to the general public because they were relatively easy to learn and was originally marketed as the art without belts and uniforms.
As time often days, trends change and will continue to do so.
Isn't it true that all styles and systems have good and bad things about them. Isn't it also true that what one person perceives as being a flaw another person will view as an advantage. In other words, a rose by any other name is still a rose. The commonality of it all is that each portray's that they have the proprietary and sole claim of teaching "what works". In most things in life we would refer to a person who see's his way as the only way, as being "closed minded".
We have discovered that instead of promoting a system or style that is dependent upon trends, lets instead focus upon the one thing that every person desires. To feel safe and to have their family feel safe. Elements of Kung Fu, JKD, Boxing, Judo, BJJ, Krav Maga, Kali, Hapkido, Escrima, Wrestling, Taekwondo, and yes the list could go on and on, are key to someone acquiring the vast knowledge that helps them to find their "safety zone". No matter the name, the rose is still the rose. No matter the art or style each carries something of value.
So if a rose by any other name is still a rose. Meaning that if one karate school, or another martial arts school, or a dojo, or a dojang, each have their great points. How do you know which one to go to? First, do not risk the safety of you and your family by making phone calls with the question being "How much does it cost?" It should not matter if it is only $5 a month and what is taught and the manner in which it is taught, is not a good fit for you. Notice what I said "FOR YOU". Someone may give one training facility the highest rating, yet someone who was just there the day prior gave it the lowest rating. Does that mean it is the best school? YES!...For them. Does it mean that it is the worse school? YES!...For Them. But we are talking about YOU.
"So then, how do determine which school to attend? In my city of Colorado Springs there are a lot of Karate schools." The answer is pretty simple. I am sure that you already know this. First check out the website. If you are still interested after that, call the school. Ask if they are a full time school or a part time school? Is this their job or their hobby? Are they working another job (if another job is needed to keep their doors open, there is always a risk of their doors not remaining open). What is their focus? Are they a sport karate school or a school focused upon real world training...or both (remember a person with divided attention supplies only divided instruction. You don't see your family practitioner for your heart problem. You see a specialist ). Do not let them sell you on price! Don't even speak of price until you can feel the value!! That is very important. Don't let cheap set you up for cheap and flawed instruction. Too many games are played when it comes to pricing just to get you in the door. The special trials change as often as the wind blows. 30 days free, 2 weeks free, 3 days free, 90 days for X amount and if you don't like it after 90 days your money is returned to you. Look, all those things are simply to get you in the door. If someone needs to give you 30 days free to show you that they are the right fit for you...NEWS ALERT they are not the right fit for you. You do not need 30 days to be "talked into" why they are a good fit and why you need to select them. Trust your inner self. You can feel if it is a good fit. You don't need the delay sales tactic.
The proof is in the pudding.
As a child I was told how great pecan pie was. Then I tasted it. The proof was in the pudding, or should I say the pie. Sure, others said how much they loved it, but that was them. I had to experience it for me to learn that it just wasn't for me. That doesn't mean it was bad. It just meant that it wasn't for me. The same anology applies to "Karate" schools. To determine which is right for you, take a free introductory class. Sure there are many places to choose from. So narrow the list by following the previous paragraph. There is nothing like "mat experience". After that class you will be in a better position to determine which is for you. Then you will realize that just because everyone says that they teach self defense, it doesn't mean that everyone actual KNOWS and TEACHES Self Defense.
The light bulb will then flash within your mind and you will see that although a rose by any other name is still a rose. When it comes to martial arts, there are no two the same.