Recieved this question in my inbox, said i would post a fuller answer on the main forum:
if a beginner, should one stick to only one style? or is it ok to mix training? have heard several conflicting theories about this. just looking to clear up the view.
Short answer, is I think it is better to have a strong base/understanding of a main style before trying to branch off to other styles.
I should start off by asking what your ultimate goal is in training. Self defense? Competition career? MMA? Fun?
Self Defense- The thing is, I think training in ANY martial arts is beneficial for self defense, but the best defense is the "Nike defense", in other words trying to avoid or run away from the situation entirely. Any martial arts instructor that has you feeling like a dangerous weapon who can handle any situation is doing you a huge disservice in my opinion. In those situations where contact is unavoidable, then any kind of martial arts training and mindset is helpful because you would not appear to be a victim and have confidence instead (bullies always go after the weakest possible target, but not appearing to be that weak target, an attacker is more likely to wait on the next opportunity).
Competition career/MMA- Alright, if you're planning on competitng in your chosen art, then it would make sense to learn and train as much as possible in it. But what about Mixed Martial Arts? MMA is still in its relative infancy right now, and I would argue that the most successful MMA stars right now had a strong base in something before they got into MMA, whether it was Jiu Jitsu, Sambo, Boxing, Muay Thai, or whatever. Yes cross training is important, but this came much later down the road, after on art has been understood or at least mastered. I'm not personally a fan of the jack of all trades but master of none mentality. Note that this means it would take a long time for someone to properly prepare for MMA in my opinion. There are a lot of people who are entering MMA with minimal training time overall, and I think that winds up showing in their records and the fact they will never elevate over a certain level. Is it possible for someone to just train MMA in the future an be successful? Possibly, but I would argue we definitely haven't seen it yet.
Fun- Well if you're simply training for fun, then whatever you feel like is the correct answer I guess. I would like to add, that while I'm all in favor of students coming in and having fun, as an instructor I get a more than a little frustrated with people who don't have the goal of becoming better. No one is expecting you to be the next Chuck Liddell or Roger Gracie, but a responsible instructor wants to see you get a bit better each time you come in and evolve into the best martial artist you can be.