Thumb through any martial arts magazine from any time in the past up to today and you’ll find a lot of advertising. You’ll see systems advertised as “The World’s Most Lethal Fighting System,” or teachers as, “The Deadliest Man Alive.” If you don’t look at martial arts magazines – I’m not kidding here, these are serious ads.

But what’s the truth? Are there really systems or teachers which have proven to be “the best.”

In a word: no.

In the world of advertising in the United States, false advertising is a form of fraud. So, how could a person say their fighting system is the best if it isn’t true?

You can thank a legal concept known as “puffery”. Yes, puffery is a real legal term. The Federal Trade Commission defines puffery as:

“A term frequently used to denote the exaggerations reasonably to be expected of a seller as to the degree of quality of his product, the truth or falsity of which cannot be precisely determined.”

The FTC expects 1000 different pizza shops in Boston to claim they have Boston’s best pizza. Why? because there is no objective measure of “best” in this sense. What you can’t do is make factual claims which are false. For example, if your pizza shop says its pizza is covered with real gold flakes and it isn’t – there will be in trouble.

The debate about martial arts systems is likely to go on as long as human beings populate the earth. In the 30s – everything was about Judo or Jujutsu. In the 40s and 50s Judo and Karate were big. In the 60s and 70s Kung Fu Made a big splash. Everything in the 80s was about Ninjas. In the 90s through now, MMA and military style combatives are all the rage. Who knows what’s next.

These trends are always driven by the media. From movies to the UFC. After the Stephen Seagal  movie, “Under Siege,” came out in the early 90s, everybody was teaching reverse grip knife fighting.

So expect a lot of puffery and look at it all with a grain of salt. My own business cards say, “Maine’s Best Self Defense Training.” Do I believe it to be true? Absolutely. Can I prove it’s true? Absolutlely not. There’s no way to measure it.

We do teach a comprehensive system based on concepts and principles designed specifically for self-defense with no sporting aspect.

I have examined many of these “ultimate” systems out there. Many of them have very good information. However – the ones with the very extreme advertising seem to suffer from the same problems. They are usually really limited, often focusing on a single or small group of techniques rather than training concepts or principles. If those techniques fail (and all techniques fail sometimes) you’re screwed.

Just be careful how you spend your hard-earned money, and try to get good in-person training.

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