How can one martial art be better than another? Better at what? Does it not depend on what units we measure? For the most part, people will measure it by its success, to serve its purpose of surviving a confrontation. But how much is down to the art, and how much is down to the man that applies the art? Is this not the same as which is more dangerous, the man or the gun?
When considering the art, most martial arts aim to overcome the opponent. Of course, some are more suited to specific situations and that is where they excel, however often in their strength also lies their weakness through exclusivity.
If we consider the topic of street defence for example, we would need to develop skills which accommodate the most likely scenarios. With investigation, it becomes clear what we need to train. Variations of armed and unarmed training, multiple attackers, groundwork, strategy, conditioning, awareness, agility, sparring, adrenal training, body language and self defence law. We could also include firearms training, anti car jacking plus many other aspects if appropriate for the environment.
When considering the man, that some arts are different to others may not be so important. More vital is the when, where and how we apply whatever we have to the situation at hand. A great man relies on his ability to apply himself with whatever he has in his toolbox to take advantage of his particular situation. A skillful man can achieve more with less, and a man may know hundreds of techniques, but it is in knowing when, where and how to act that wins the fight.
There is so much talk of one art being superior to another. My bike is better than your bike. This is missing the mark. It is the human spirit, intelligence, awareness, ingenuity and creativity that makes the most decisive contribution to the outcome of combat. This is where the skill lies.
To study budo is to study the self. This is the place to start looking if we wish to develop ourselves. Arguing that this art is better than that art and placing the importance of the art over the man demonstrates peoples ignorance of the martial arts.