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QUESTION

If i start my career with one martial art and become mature in that, will that particular martial art become my expertise and will other martial arts always be secondary like a native language and second language?

{ asked by John }

ANSWER

"Wide or deep"? is a classical question in a lot of different domains, and I think the answer depends largely on what your goals are and how you define "expert." You will generally have some set of base techniques–usually but not always from a single style–that you will learn to instinctively fall back on under times of stress, but this doesn't preclude becoming an "expert" in a wide variety of other techniques.

So first ask yourself, "what is my goal"?

Is your goal…

  1. To win fights in a ring? In what style(s)?
  2. To win fights on the street?
  3. To win fights in bars?
  4. To get out with your skin intact from self-defense engagements?
  5. To get mastery over moving your body?
  6. To meditate through forms, perfecting your movements and being completely present?
  7. Mastery of a single martial art for the sake of mastering that martial art?
  8. etc., etc., etc.

The short answer to your question is that it is absolutely possible to become an expert (depending, again, on how expert is defined) in more than one martial art, but your time is not infinite. So if you have 5 hours a week to spend on martial arts, which will be a more efficient way to reach your goals, to spend 5 hours in one martial art, or 1 hour in five?

When you've been practicing one art for five years and decide to add another one, if you still have 5 hours a week, do you allocate 3 hours a week to the new art and 2 to your old one? How will that impact your training?

Unless your goal specifically requires cross-training–and sometimes even then–I generally would recommend reaching some stable state in one martial art (whether that is an "expert" is up for debate), and then deciding if you want to add another one, why, and how much time you are willing to devote to the matter.

{ answered by David H. Clements }
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