Philip Holder PhD.
Grandmaster North American Wing Chun Association
From copyrighted material / Copyright Philip Holder 2000 – 2017


The answer is YES! But the answer is also NO. Are you confused? Well, let me clear that up for you! In truth, I can say that Wing Chun is best for me. Everyone is different, physically, mentally and emotionally and therefore have different needs. The best way to benefit from martial arts is to find a system (style) and an instructor that fits your unique and individual needs. All martial arts are basically good if taught by a caring and competent instructor. If one single art were “the best”, all others would have died out.

I am not implying that all martial arts schools are of equal caliber. We know that is not true. As in all walks of life, martial arts has it’s share of both good and bad instructors (and varying degrees in between). You can find great schools representing a variety of systems or styles. Within them are many caring, quality instructors. There are also schools and instructors that teach pure garbage. This has absolutely nothing to do with any particular martial art system or style. It has only to do with the level of character, knowledge, and the motives of an individual instructor.


The important question to ask yourself when choosing which martial art style and instructor is right for you is this… What do you hope to gain from your training? The answer to this simple question will determine not only which martial art style will be best for you, but also which school and/or instructor will best serve your needs. Even within a particular style, each instructor will emphasize certain qualities contained within his or her chosen art. A good analogy would be this…if you wanted to drive your vehicle quickly around the curves of a mountain road you would not purchase a dump truck. You might purchase a Corvette or a Jaguar. By the same token, if you planned on moving loads of gravel, you would not purchase the Corvette. You would be better off with a dump truck. Choosing a martial art is no different. If you want practical street-wise fighting skills for the purpose of protecting yourself on the street, you should choose an art that has retained it’s combat qualities and an instructor that teaches in a combat format. This type of training will result in your getting some bumps, buses, and perhaps an occasional headache, but it would be the right tool to accomplish your goal. If, on the other hand, if your goal is to train for social interaction and for recreation and/or exercise, you should choose a school and instructor who would focus on the sport and recreational aspects of the martial arts. The martial arts can be a great way to make friends and get in shape. Some people have absolutely no interest or desire to become great street fighter.


Centuries ago martial arts developed primarily to defend and/or to conquer. In recent years the martial arts have expanded to meet the needs of a broader base of participants. The arts have grown to encompass, sport competition, social interaction, development of self-confidence and self-discipline (absent intense combat training), and much more. Neither way is superior to the other. Both philosophies have merit and are of benefit. Each student must simply choose the path that fits his or her goals and by that choice enhance the quality of his or her life.


If you are a “serious student” who wants to make martial arts your way of life, be sure to seek out an instructor that is a master of his or her art. Mastering a system is not an event. It is a lifelong process. Choose an instructor who has devoted himself or herself to learning the finer points of his or her chosen art. As a serious student, you would be better served to stay away from instructors with a training menu (e.g. someone who teaches, Judo, Karate, Praying Mantis, Tai Chi, and ballroom dance.). I am not implying that a serious student or instructor of a style/system cannot benefit from knowledge of other arts. I am saying that being a master of multiple systems is impractical at best.

Every art is based on unique concepts and principles. Often the concepts of one art will be diametrically opposed to the concepts of another. Neither is better than the other. They are simply different. Lumping techniques from different arts together can, therefore, be like trying to put Dodge parts on a Ford.

When “techniques” from different styles are combined without consideration for the compatibility of each systems principles, it usually deteriorates the quality of both systems. In some very limited cases, however, and with specific purpose in mind, some arts structured with similar principles and concepts can be utilized together in limited ways. As an example, at my school(s) we teach only Wing Chun Kung Fu. I have devoted my life to and I keep my focus on, Wing Chun. We do however incorporate a few elements from other systems within a separate training program (not a style or classical martial arts system) that we call the “Six Zone Safeguard System of Self-defense”. This program, however, is not taught as part of our Wing Chun curriculum. It has one particular and selective application… It was designed for law enforcement and security people who often have the need for “disabling” someone without causing permanent damage. The Six Zone System is also what I would consider a “quickie course” intended for those who do not want to make the commitment to long-term martial arts training.

I personally prefer being a master of one art rather than a “Jack of all trades”. If you are a serious student, seek out an instructor who focuses on one, and only one system. A Jack of all trades will never provide you with the quality instruction that an instructor with a deep and profound knowledge of his or her system can provide. Don’t be impressed with the person who claims to have black belts in 20 different styles of martial arts. Be impressed with the instructor who has a profound knowledge of the physical and philosophical aspects of one art.


If you are simply training for recreation and fun, any instructor with a reasonably good general knowledge of martial arts, that operates an honest, ethical, safe, and well-organized school will probably work out great for you. You will make friends, stay fit, and have a great recreational outlet. There is much to be said for the camaraderie of recreational martial arts. It’s fun, good for everyone, and in particular it is great for kids. To assume, however, that such training will provide adequate self-defense or fighting skills would be in error. Again, it is a case of choosing the right tool for the right job.


The biggest indicator of an incompetent instructor is one with a condescending, and/or negative attitude toward other schools, styles, or instructors. An attitude like that shows that instructors deep-rooted insecurities. If you hear an instructor putting down other arts, you can be assured that the instructor has little himself or herself to offer. Masters that are truly secure in themselves, and who have faith in the merits of their martial arts system, feel no compulsion to bad-mouth the arts of others (or for that matter various methodologies or approaches within their own style). When an instructor feels it necessary to point out what the arts of others “don’t have” or what other arts “do wrong”, rest assured that you have found both an incompetent instructor and a very insecure individual. When an instructor implies that their art is complete and that other arts are lacking, they are showing their lack of wisdom, integrity, ability, knowledge, and character.

As people that love martial arts we have more in common than in difference. We should all work together to uplift the reputation of all martial arts.

When people ask me if Wing Chun is the best martial art, I simply reply, “it is best for me” and that “maybe it can help you too”. I never tell students or prospective students that other martial arts systems are bad or wrong. I simply tell them what I think is good about my chosen system. In that way prospective students can make an educated decision as to what will be best for them.

Those who put down other’s martial arts styles demonstrate their complete lack of maturity. They are showing that they are in it only for ego or the money. Someone who thinks that he or she will make himself or herself look better through belittling others is the smallest of people. Either way, this person will not provide the caring and honest instruction that you need. How can they lead when they still are still so insecure within themselves?

Ultimately, it is important to choose an instructor of integrity, ethics and wisdom. Choose an instructor who you would be proud to have as a father, mother, sister or brother. In the end what you take away spiritually and philosophically will ultimately serve you best throughout your life.

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