One thing that we are starting to see are variations of the question of "what martial art should I practice." For example:

I would argue that we should consider these questions, unless they are very specific in scope, to be off topic in general, for many of the same reasons that Board Games.SE and Gaming.SE have banned game recommendation questions: They are not a good fit for a Q&A format. There are just too many answers and too many of those answered are grounded in personal opinions or for which the reasons one art may be a better selection than another are highly debatable.

There are, of course, going to be edge cases and recommendations that might fit better with the format (e.g., What characteristics should I look for in a sensei?), but particularly when it comes down to the arts themselves I'd go with declaring such questions as off topic.

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3 Answers

"What martial arts focus on x?" -style questions

Where x is "grappling" or "self-defense" or "high kicks" or "joint manipulation" seem perfectly valid to me. Some arts do focus on certain areas more than others. It seems plausible that the answers to these types of questions could provide valid, factual responses beyond mere opinion or anecdote.

And if simple opinions of the style "my art is best" are offered, then it seems natural to avoid voting these up or to vote them down if they don't offer clear references as to why these arts are suited for the given requirement.

Another approach is not to recommend individual arts, but instead to explain how to evaluate arts and schools for whatever requirement is given. In the closed "What martial arts focus on self-defense?" question, I attempted to provide an answer that didn't champion a particular art, but rather offered advice about what elements make a school better set up for teaching self-defense.

"What martial arts are suitable for y" -style questions

Where y is "blind and partially sighted people" or "children under five" or "amputees" are equally valid in my opinion. Again, this is likely to solicit opinion, but provided that opinions are backed by solid explanations, they're likely to offer useful information for the asker and future visitors.

Avoiding the word "best"

I think the key might be to avoid loaded words like "best" that will encourage arguments. Questions adopting this format should be edited to use "suitable" and "focus on" instead.

Using "martial arts" instead of "martial art"

Again, I think it's less contentious to ask "what martial arts are suitable" than it is to say "what martial art is suitable...". The plural form shows that the asker accepts that there's not necessarily one "best" art and is looking for three or four to evaluate. It may also be less likely to encourage "my art is best" -style responses.

Choosing a martial art is difficult; we can help

Finally, choosing a martial art to study is a common question because it's very difficult for beginners to evaluate individual arts and schools. There is no site on the web presently that attempts to do this from a neutral standpoint. I think we should accept it as a challenge and do our best to help.

It might be valuable to have a "How to choose a martial art and martial arts school" wiki for a general overview. But I don't think it worth closing more specific questions about suitability for a particular area or person -- instead, we can simply rewrite questions where necessary to solicit facts rather than opinion.

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+1 Excellent points, though I don't agree with "What martial arts are suitable for Y?" since this is largely dependent upon the instructor. There are paraplegic aikidoka, blind karateka, etc. I think we can and should do a lot with community wiki suggestions. I worry that anything that has too much to do with the OP becomes too localized ("I weigh 145 lbs, is Aikido good for me?")... –  stslavik Feb 2 '12 at 17:53
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I agree. The problem with these questions is that they are both subjective and too localised - the question of what martial art to practice depends on too many factors (age, location, past experience).

Possibly a question "How do I choose what martial art to practice?" would be useful. Something like this would stand the best chance of answering these sorts of questions and would provide a suitable question for closing duplicates and possibly linking in the FAQ.

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'What martial arts should I practice' is off-topic, because too personal - but this question comes up often, so the community should probably examine the possibility of a community wiki and/or a series of questions that can help someone decide. Not being able to offer insight into this question would be, I feel, a flaw.

Of course, the answer, in my head, is "It depends on where you are, what's available to you, and who the teachers are", but that's just me - and I'm not the community :)

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given those specifics, we could recommend an art though –  Patricia Feb 2 '12 at 14:00
    
@Patricia probably. I linked to this in one answer on ma.se already - trevoke.net/blog/2008/03/20/… something I wrote a few years ago. I don't really want to recommend an art - but rather, help someone choose for themselves –  Trevoke Feb 2 '12 at 14:49
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