For those trained, skilled, and knowledgeable in one or more forms of martial arts, what are the particular strong-points of each discipline?
That's a difficult question. Be careful, or you might end up having to read a mountain of replies, because there's almost no end to the length such
a discussion could reach.
I'm not a master in any discipline, but I've been exposed to many of them. I'm not particularly fit or disciplined, but I am fairly clever and I
learn quickly, so when it comes to martial arts knowledge, I'm more of a Jack-of-all-trades, Master-of-none kinda guy. Take my advice with a grain
of salt, in light of all that.
My stand-alone favorites are Aikido and Judo - they are powerful and subtle, and they do not require theatrical displays or intense physical fitness.
They're equalizers, to some extent, and allow a person to overcome shortcomings in the weight, age, size, and strength categories. A relatively
small and physically weak individual, using either of the above, can overpower a much larger, stronger opponent with relative ease. (There are others
that employ roughly the same principles, grappling and throwing, joint locks, and so on, but I have no real knowledge of them, so you'll have to
search them out on your own.)
The minute I saw a short, obese man hurl a muscle-bound giant back and forth across a room, without breaking a sweat, I knew it was my kind of martial
art. Being a bit of a giant myself, I knew I didn't want to be on the receiving end of that whupping.
I don't favor the martial arts that rely too much on punches and kicks. I also don't put a lot of stock in those that use pressure points
extensively, because certain body-types (loads of fat or muscle) and mental states (high, drunk, or just really, really pissed) can reduce or
eliminate their efficacy, and to use them requires an innordinate amount of skill.
Knowing some pressure points is one thing, hitting them hard on a moving target is another thing entirely. Maybe it's just me, but I don't have
much use for most strikes, kicks, or pressure points. Some people swear by them, so I suppose it boils down to a difference of opinion that you'll
have to sort out by yourself.
As far as I'm concerned, boxing, kick boxing, taekwondo, karate and kung fu are right out. There are some techniques and principles from those that
can be very useful in certain situations though, so it pays to have some understanding of them. Keep in mind that there are practically endless
variations, regional versions, modifications and hybrids of the arts I just listed, there isn't just one 'karate' (or kung fu) any more than
there's just one butterfly or just one tiger. So, different incarnations of those arts might have more to offer than others, and I just wouldn't
know because my range of experience isn't that
Eskrima is another good (and practical) one to explore, especially if you like knives and sticks (which I do), but it might not be ideal if you've
got bad knees. I liked a lot of the techniques, but some of the stances were not suited to my body-type (I'm six and a half feet tall and weigh
upwards of 300 lbs), so I took what I could, adapted it to my needs, and discarded the rest. Same goes for Karate and boxing.
The whole body approach of Muay Thai (using the large muscles in the torso and thighs to drive the attacks, instead of the small muscles alone), as
well as the use of shins and forearms in close quarters, is very attractive to me because it makes sense.
I also learned a lot fencing, so there's something you might want to try.
I suppose they all have value, and it depends entirely on the dedication of the artist to bring them alive and realize them fully. My personal
preference has always been for Japanese martial arts, they just feel
right, but others feel differently, for various reasons. To each his
I also happen to think that mixing and matching them to suit your needs is the way to go, but I'm sure there are many people who would disagree. In
my opinion, everyone needs a toolbox, and you put what you need in the toolbox, not a bunch of crap you're never going to use. You can learn
something from most, if not all the martial arts.
What are its weaknesses?
I dislike any fighting style that appears theatrical and flamboyant, lots of kicking and jumping around. Try that stuff in a serious street fight and
you're likely to wind up getting hurt. Many martial artists overestimate their own ability and assume that because they can break a brick or kick
over their head that they can win a fight. Maybe they can, but I've seen enough black belts on the ground outside bars, picking up their own teeth,
to be skeptical of that attitude.
One of the nastiest fights I ever witnessed was between a completely untrained, but mean-as-Hell kid, and a black belt who ran his mouth endlessly
about how dangerous he was. Needless to say, the black belt spent half the night lying in the street outside his house, recuperating, after executing
a technically-perfect roundhouse kick (that missed). He got pushed to the ground and beaten senseless by someone with no formal martial arts
That was one example, but there have been others. Working in a bar in NY, I once saw a little Mexican guy who couldn't have been more than 5'2",
stomp the hell out of a tough-talking guy nearly my size who claimed to be a Marine.
Another time I saw an effeminate black gay man lay out this scrappy-lookin', drunken racist prick who was way too eager for a fight to be any good in
I played pool with the gay guy for almost two years in the same bar, and I had some idea of how hardcore he was by the way he conducted himself - very
confident, unafraid. He was a nice guy, but he wasn't about to take any crap from anyone. We got along great.
He probably had to kick a lot of ass in school to protect himself, and he made up in experience and balls what he lacked in formal training.
Another example: this kid I knew in High School who trained for years, from the time he was very young (some form of Karate I think) and was very fit
and strong, had his skull crushed by an untrained, but very angry kid wielding a freeweight.
Point being, there's more to self defense than martial arts training. Arguably, the best defense is avoid pissing people off needlessly. If you
don't go around insulting people, making an ass out of yourself, and being generally unpleasant, you're less likely to wind up in a fight in the
first place, nevermind on the losing end.
If you're nice to people, and still wind up in a fight, at least nobody can say you had it coming.
Anyway, I digress...
Are there some that are "stronger" or "superior" to others?
In my (somewhat) limited experience, Aikido is superior to most (if not all) other martial arts, in the sense that the principles that form its
foundation work equally well against most attackers. I think the same could probably be said about Hapkido, but I don't have much knowledge of that
one - I've watched it, and I know it exists, and I've read a bit about it, but that's it.
By the same token, I'm sure there's some Capoeira guy out there who thinks he can win any fight (and maybe he can), and the same goes for all the
others. If you ask me, Aikido is superior, but I'm sure there are as many opinions on the subject as there are martial arts.
Why might one be better-suited for to learn discipline X, but not discipline Y?
Well, kung fu may not be right for you if you're heavy - all of the styles I've seen favor a lean, muscular build that emphasizes speed to achieve
striking power. I could be mistaken, but all of the kung fu masters I've seen were lean and wirey - not really heavily muscled either, I guess that
there's a tipping point where more muscle just adds more weight, and doesn't contribute meaningfully.
Apart from that, I don't know.
Hope I answered some of your questions. Anyway, there are a ton of good resources on the web, so you can read more about the different styles. Wiki
has got the basics covered on the main styles, in terms of an overview. If you want a more in-depth understanding, there's no option but to approach
someone who's skilled and knowledgable, and ask them to teach you.
Here are some links.