There are many reasons why this is the best time to be a martial artist, or to begin training in the arts. One reason in particular really seems to stand out to me. In the past decade or two, the arts have really gone through a renaissance of sorts, taking them from an interesting form of exercise to a profound art of self-development.
I began training in the martial arts approximately 25 years ago. Since then, I have been very fortunate to study several different styles of martial arts with many great instructors. These instructors taught me wonderful things, and their teachings represented some of the best knowledge and material that was generally known at that time.
However, due to recent advances in training methods, techniques, and a deeper understanding of what actually works, I have made the majority of my progress in the last 4 years. I believe that the arts have come such a long way that one year of martial arts training now might be as valuable as 5 years of training would have been a few decades ago.
To understand why this might be, consider the recent surge in popularity of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Here we have a sport that allows for a wide variety of techniques, with two fully resisting opponents. However we feel about such spectator sports, MMA has definitely opened our eyes to new ideas and training methods regarding self-defense.
There are some martial artists who were fortunate enough to be using these methods long before MMA became popular; for most of us, however, the growth of MMA represented an awakening that helped us identify gaps in our old training methods. Certainly, others will have had different experiences, but I feel that my own journey through the martial arts has been the norm over the past several years: a shift in training to place more emphasis on benefits to the student.
This should also come as no surprise if we consider all the advances being made in other fields. Professional athletes are able to enjoy longer and more productive careers thanks to a deeper understanding of the way the body works and improved training methods. However, the advances that have been made in the martial arts recently are, I believe, even more radical.
I have no doubt that right now is the greatest time to study the martial arts!