Did you know that by reading this article you are taking your martial arts learning into your own hands. You are doing something that 90% of the martial artists won’t take the time to do. The majority of martial artists study from one school, system, or style. And they don’t bother to read about their own style, let alone find out what else is out there.This conscious ignorance is fine for some people. For them, martial arts is a form of exercise, or exploration in to rich traditions of the past. These seemingly ‘myopic martial artists’ don’t focus on the self defense aspects of the arts. (I focus on practical application.)It’s fine to pursue one style and never expose yourself to other arts, as long as you don’t naively start to believe that your style is the best. That could get you in trouble.Note: You can’t know that something is the best, if you don’t know what else exists. Most of the time, we think of best as being a superlative that defines something such as a martial arts style, by comparing it to, and having it surpass, others in the category.One Style is Rarely if Ever The BestLimiting oneself to a single classical style, and thinking that it’s the best for ALL self defense situations could cause a lot of harm. I know that this is a dangerous trap. (It’s almost like magicians who believe their own press. They think they are better than they are.)If you want to learn to defend yourself, to be a master of your art, then you … have to go beyond your own art. Those who know how other styles respond definitely have an advantage, even if the opponent doesn’t respond in the predicted manner.This doesn’t seem to make sense, but it’s true. Just being familiar with different styles will help you generalize your own skills. I promise.So, the next time you are working out with peers from your own style, try to study the predictable patterns that may be indicative of your style. See the pattern, to break out of the pattern.Go Beyond, Or Else!Just think; the other 10% who are going beyond could already be examining the patterns from your style. They are learning to generalize their skills, just the way you should be.Put yourself with this elite 10%, rather than following the crowd.It’s usually the practitioners from what I call “fossilized systems” who claim that their brand of karate covers it all. While it is a complete system, the fact that it’s set in stone, often makes its techniques predictable.Some styles actually crave fighting practitioners from the styles that exhibit hard blocks, reverse punches, and flying kicks. Why do these eclectic styles have such an easy time defeating the hard styles? Because the eclectics have studied other systems. They know how to react.Do you belong to a classical style?If so, that’s fine. You have a rich art, filled with tradition. You take comfort in knowing which techniques will help you with your next belt promotion. On the other hand, I think folks who study classical styles need to be aware of possible challenges in defending themselves against martial arts of the modern world.I urge classical “konfident karatekas” to go beyond their own limitations. Explore other styles. You’ll be glad you did … even if it just confirms that you are in the right style for you.