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?

5 Answers 5


"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.

  • Thanks a lot..i think i understand the answer...Your statement "If i practice one art for 5 years" was exactly i was looking for. I can divide the routine without affecting the earlier art.
    – Anchal
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 5:54
  • I like this answer, but I'd like to shorten it up into: "Get a solid base from one MA. After that you are likely better informed of both - what you want and what a martial art can give you so you can make an informed decision if and what you should learn next." Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 18:24

The Samurai were advised to master seven different martial arts. I don't expect to master even one in my lifetime. I've been studying Aikdio for 20 years or so now and Tai Chi for one. I've also studied Shindo muso ryo jodo and mugairyu (both for far too short a time). I'd like to study Bagua.

I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with the assumptions underpinning the question. I'm not comfortable with the notion that "mastery" is objectively observable. (We could discuss the criteria for Shihan, but that would be a discussion outside the scope of SE). I'm not comfortable with the analogy with language - there are plenty of people who are fully conversant in their second language, or their third or their ninth.

Below it all I'm uncomfortable with the goal of "mastery". If you study martial arts to be a master, then go to a black belt factory and lay down the money. If you study martial arts to learn, then learn from each teacher as far as they can take you.


Yes, it is possible to become an expert in different martial arts.

The first thing to realize is that all martial arts are, are different ways of moving your body. Some martial arts have overlap in their methodologies - and where that happens, it's easy to learn these arts and become good at them without too much extra effort - the baseline skills and ability for one, is also very solid for the other.

The second thing is that not all skills require the same amount of maintenance. You can get on a bike after not biking for years, and you can ride fairly competently, and the only thing you may have lost is your endurance. In that regard, you may have skills for some arts that aren't hard to keep up, even though you haven't used them much. (I just spent last year bedridden receiving chemotherapy, this year, once I got my general sense of balance back, my coordination to my silat style came back almost instantly.)

Now, all that said, some things are just going to be easier for you to learn and hold onto - that may have to do with what "clicks" for you, and some of that may have to do with your body mechanics and proportions.

Oftentimes I find people who are good at multiple martial arts are good at specific ones because it clicks just so, and you put them into an art that is very different in methodology and they might have a hard time getting it.

So - yes you can learn many arts, some you will be quite proficient in without too much difference in them, and some you will find hard to learn or maintain. It really depends on luck of the draw and your own training.


IMHO, it's not only possible, it's advisable.

Here is the reason: martial arts (in general) are divided into Hard and Soft

A hard technique meets force with force; either with a head-on-force blocking technique, or by diagonally cutting the strike with (one's) force. It is an example of the defender using the attacker's force and momentum against him or her. Although hard techniques require greater strength for successful execution, it is the mechanics of the technique that accomplish the defense.

The goal of the soft technique is turning the attacker’s force to his or her disadvantage, with the defender exerting minimal force. With a soft technique, the defender uses the attacker's force and momentum against him or her Here are some examples:

Hard Styles:

  • kickboxing: low kick aimed to break the attacker's leg.
  • Shotokan Karate: block aimed to break or halt the attacker's arm.

Soft styles:

  • Aikido, Judo

the biggest asset in hard style is force and conditioning

the biggest asset in soft style is technique

I would add one more gradation: semi-hard styles (Wing Chun); the biggest asset there is speed.

Now the fun begins: as far as I know,

  • soft style beats hard one (if I want to stop a hard punch from Shotokan, the best thing to use would be a move from soft style like Aikido,
  • in order to defeat a soft style I will have to use semi-hard one (so far I was unable to find Aikido practitioner who would be able to do anything against a simple chain punch;
  • hard beats semi-hard (good Shotokan punch will break through that chain punch)

all that looks pretty much like Rock-paper-scissors game!

So, in order to be successful, you should have in your toolbox at least 2 instruments out of 3 - having those you will be able to switch between them and properly adjust to the style of your opponent.

Disclaimer: I am aware that a single style may contain all 3 elements (hard/soft/semihard), so you are able to fill your toolbox without going outside of the style; however, I believe that style, specializing in one of these areas, still might give you more

  • Thanks for the answer,,but honestly I am more confused with answer. But practically and with my regular profession i think i have to go with one martial art and have to manage in that. That is why my question was if i start with a different art, is it possible to switch to other one later.
    – Anchal
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 6:04
  • @John- I guess, it depends on what you really want to achieve. Anyway, goood luck!
    – Steve V
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 12:33

It will take years to be an expert in any martial art, but it is definitely possible, even desirable, to become proficient in several different arts. It is a bit counter-intuitive - you might think that Karate would conflict with say, baguazhang. But in my experience each art has helped me learn develop more knowledge of my own body and how it moves - chi kung and yoga are not martial arts, but will help the martial artist achieve balance, grounding, range of motion, proprioception and other skills. Likewise each martial art has something to offer - integrating more than one into your daily practice can help you become a complete martial artist - it is a lifelong journey - and a very satisfying experience.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.