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Many martial artists claim to hold rank in multiple martial arts. Some claim multiple black belt ranks, and some even claim multiple master ranks.

How can this be?

First, it depends on what you consider martial arts to be, sports or “ways” of life. If you consider them sports in which you learn to play and participate, and that ranks just signify your status within the sport, then, just as you may be a baseball player, a football player, or a basketball player, then you may be a rank holder in multiple martial arts. However, if you consider a martial art to be a “way” of life, then you rationally cannot claim high ranks in multiple arts just as you cannot claim legitimately to be both a Christian and a Muslim.

Once you pledge allegiance to a martial art and accept its teaching, principles, and beliefs, and it becomes your way of life, then you cannot also rationally claim allegiance to another martial art. For example, if you truly believe in the concepts of aikido and accept them as your way of doing things, such as using circular motion and yielding to and using an attacking force against itself, then how can you also rationally claim to truly believe in a linear art that meets force with force, such as shotokan or taekwondo, also accept it as your way of doing things.

You cannot serve two masters. You can be the CEO of Ford or of Honda, but you cannot be both. You must pledge your allegiance to one or the other. You may once have been the CEO of Ford, but when you become the CEO of Honda, you will be expected to renounce your allegiance to Ford and accept Honda as your new master.

There are many who do not share this view. They say that they can loyal to two masters. If you owned a business, would you want an employee working for you was also working for a competitor? With whom does the employee’s loyalty lie?

Problems with training in multiple martial arts

You will run into problems when you train in more than one martial art. The multiple martial arts will clash in your thinking and in your actions, causing indecision. For example, if you train using a karate style side snap kick part of the time and then also train using a taekwondo side thrust kick, when you spar or have to defend yourself, your brain and body will hesitate for a second before acting to decide on which type of kick to use. This hesitation may be the difference between your living or dying. Also, many martial arts demand conformity to the art. I once used a karate style side snap kick while sparring in front of a Korean taekwondo master. After he finished with me, I decided not to use karate style kicks again (at least when he was around).

Look at the following chart and try to make yourself say the color of each word aloud, not the word itself.

The right side of your brain tries to make you say the color while the left side of your brain tries to make you say the word. Usually, the left side wins and you say the word, no matter how hard you try not to say it.

This same type of mental conflict occurs when you have trained in two opposing ways to fight and you must instinctively react to an attack. In a surprise attack, when your reaction may determine whether you live or die, you must have one instinctive reaction. If you have more than one type of reaction to choose from, you may hesitate and die.

Many martial arts have the premise that, to understand the true meaning of a hyung/kata/form/pattern, one must perform it hundreds, if not thousands, of times. If we assume a master of a martial art understands the meaning of all the patterns he or she performs, then it can also be assumed that the master has performed each pattern hundreds or thousands of times. If a person claims to be a master in multiple arts, where did the person find the time for all this training?


Be careful when choosing to train another martial art so that one does not detract from the other. Trying many different things always seems to be a good idea at the time, but when you find something you enjoy, it is best to stay with it and perfect it. It is better to be an expert at doing one thing than to be able to do many things. That is why doctors and lawyers specialize in so many different disciplines. If you do decide to try another martial art, it is best to drop the first one and concentrate on the second one and, at some point, make a commitment to one art and stay with it.

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