I must confess I have not met Mr Harden .I cannot say whether he is the best martial artist around.
I do of course ask myself the question , how do you decide what criteria one uses to decide who is the best at anything.
Joe raises some good questions. The qualification for my opinion hardly needs to be stated, but I did anyway--"in my experience."
. So what criteria do I use to evaluate martial arts practitioners and teachers? Several: (1) the relevance of the training material and methods offered to my personal training goals; (2) the demonstrated martial skills of the individual in question with respect to control, power, and tactical feasibility under varying degrees of pressure; (3) the consonance between the training methods and explanations taught and the demonstrated skills in usage; (4) the clarity of the teaching; and (5) the kokoro
in which the teaching is offered, a factor raised by Mark Murray above.
Not all skilled martial arts practitioners are good teachers or would be interested in teaching (although much can be learned from training or sparring with them). Not all good teachers of martial arts methods are consummate fighters. Dan happens to be a fortunate (for me) combination of excellent teacher and highly-skilled fighter using the methods and explanations he teaches--with true kokoro
Even so, stating that Dan is the best in my experience
the same as saying that Dan is a better teacher than Sam Chin or could beat Akuzawa in a fight or has more relevant insights into surviving combat operations than Ryabko. I have hands-on experience with all of those gents, but it's been far more limited than training time with Dan, partly because of limited opportunities and partly by choice. In the end it's an unsolicited endorsement based on my own enthusiasm. Capisce
Dan gets a lot of unsolicited endorsements, poor thing.
A lot of my enthusiasm relates to my own personal training goals. I've been interested in internal martial art training methods in large part for physical therapy purposes. I knew how to fight and had plenty of painful experience long before I encountered the internal martial arts or ever heard of Dan Harden. Severe concussions and injuries to joints and spine made me far more interested in health and resilience than in new techniques of inflicting violence on other human beings. I came on this forum and others to find out more about training methods that offered balanced and profound cultivation of health and resilience. I've found training information and methods, including material from Dan, that will help sustain my practice in the years to come. Having found what I was looking for, with the added bonus of some new friendships, I'm signing off from Aikiweb and other forums now, but wanted to add some measure of appreciation to what Howard so concisely expressed in the original post.