This trope occurs when there's a style, art, or craft that outshines the others in its particular field, whether that field be combat-oriented or competitive, or not. Becoming adept in this style will, at the very least, make one a capable artist. Mastering it, on the other hand, will make them exceptionally talented within the setting.
There are several forms this trope can take:
- The style counters, or exploits a weakness, in the other predominant style(s) of the time. Since most people use these other styles, this one becomes "the best" only by a relative technicality. Outside of that context, however, the practitioner may fall under Crippling Overspecialization.
- This style is an elite form that can only be used by people with The Gift or an innate ability that most people do not possess. Being able to use it at all places the users above the competition. As such, even a bad or mediocre user of this style can handily defeat other opponents.
- The style combines the best parts of other crafts without any, or few, of their weaknesses.
- The style is just flat out better than all the others. The techniques are better, faster, more efficient, and more flexible than other styles. This typically results in a Lensman Arms Race, where everyone starts to learn it or its counters.
Sub-Trope of My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours. This trope does not have to be about a martial art, but most examples will likely be along those lines, due to the prevalence of violence as the most common form of Conflict. This also tends to overlap with the Master-Apprentice Chain, in that the Greatest Style may only be passed on to specific people.
- Rurouni Kenshin has the Hiten-Mitsurugi-ryu, a legendary sword art used by Kenshin and his master, Hiko Seijuuro XIII. This art makes the two of them, combined, the Worlds Best Warriors. The irony, however, is that this technique is actually not suited for someone of Kenshin's build, though his master had intended to fix that with a special training regimen before Kenshin ran off to join the Meiji Revolution in overthrowing the Tokugawa Shogunate (thus zig-zagging "The Gift" version of this trope).
- Fist of the North Star:
- Hokuto Shinken, the eponymous style of the series (used by protagonist Kenshiro and his brother Raoh) is the most powerful technique in the world, enabling Kenshiro to defeat the endless number of tyrants and savages in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and allowing Raoh to ascend to position as ruler.
- A notable subversion: a mook puts his back to the ground, claiming his particular style makes him invincible. Ken agrees, and does the only thing possible: he walks away. The mook, of course, abandons his posture and gets his ass kicked.
- In the High School Exciting Story: Tough manga, the Nadashinkage is (repeatedly) shown to be the best of all, allowing feats like bullet dodging (from a minigun). There are maybe four people who've mastered it, two of them heroes and the other two villains.
- Ranma ½: Ranma is a practitioner of the Saotome School of Anything-Goes Martial Arts, a style that gives him the skills and flexibility to not only learn but master many of the most difficult and dangerous fighting styles in the world. Genma, who taught Ranma much of what he knows, also used it to develop his own devastating techniques, the Umi-Sen Ken and Yama-Sen Ken. However, Genma also tends to parody this, coming up with such moves as the Crouch of the Wild Tiger (begging for forgiveness), the Howl of the Demon Dog (hurling insults) and the Saotome ultimate move (running away).
- In Claymore, Teresa is the number one warrior of all time, largely because of having such immense power that only a fraction of it could defeat the other top level warriors of her day. However, the other thing that makes her incredibly dangerous is her ability to sense Yoki to such a degree that it gives her Combat Clairvoyance. After Teresa's death, her remains were used to empower her adopted daughter, Claire. Claire happens to be the weakest warrior of her generation, but inherited Teresa's sensing abilities and trained them further so that the stronger an opponent is, the better she can predict their abilities. The catch is that this is useless if her body isn't fast or strong enough to react and counter the foe. Claire's struggle throughout the series is to become stronger so that she can put this style to use against her target, Priscilla, the most powerful being on the planet.
- The Hyuuga clan's Gentle Fist style in Naruto is, combined with the clan's Byakugan, which grants them 359-degree telescopic X-Ray Vision, the best close quarter combat style in the setting. In a world where everyone's a Kung-Fu Wizard, the Hyuuga clan can shut down their opponents' chakras, and internal organs, rendering them powerless and dying with nothing more than a light touch. The clan's Secret Arts also include a spinning maneuver that generates a nigh-impenetrable Force Field, giving them not only the best offense, but the best defense as well.
- Val Armorr of the Legion of Super-Heroes (known as "The Karate Kid"), uses a future style of Karate that has been refined after one thousand years of progress in a universe of superhumans. Val is completely human, but his style is not. It enables him to smash through extremely tough constructs, and damage or restrain superhuman opponents as if he had power equal to theirs.
- In the modern day The DCU, both Lady Shiva and Cassandra Cain (mother and child) have a fighting style which depends on their natural gift in Combat Clairvoyance. This style enables them to act and react with borderline-superhuman speed and efficiency, making them the two greatest martial artists in the world.
- Another DCU example was the ancient style that died out with the Raul Lama, who was the last master of the discipline and whose students included Tim Drake and Bruce Wayne. It was a style balanced between weaponry, hand-to-hand, detailed anatomy studies, meditation and healing arts that gave those who mastered it unnaturally long lifespans and allowed for mastery of bio-feedback.
- Iron Fist trained in the mystical K'unlunquan martial arts, which enables Ki Attacks and other superhuman abilities. He is also a master of many other styles. In terms of pure technique, his only true rival is Shang-Chi, who has mastery of a greater number of styles.
- Played for Laughs in one Punisher story where a martial arts assassin is sent to take out the Punisher. After commenting on how many styles the guy's mastered, Frank introduces him to one he doesn't know: Car Fu.
- Katanagatari: Male protagonist Shichika gets scouted for the big artifact-sword-retrieval mission of the story after previous-attempt helpers had helped themselves to the swords they were supposed to recover. Shichika is a safe choice because his sword(s)manship-style has no need for swords, and he does prove himself capable to hold his own against the sword-wielders and more. The latter fact would later prove to have been a Foreshadowing.
- The Destroyer series. Sinanju is a Charles Atlas Superpower Secret Art, a Supernatural Martial Art and a Fantastic Fighting Style. It even grants New Powers as the Plot Demands. It's the "sun source" of all other martial arts - in other words, all other martial arts are based on it, and it is better than any of them.
- In Star Wars Legends, Juyo/Vaapad is considered the deadliest of the seven classical lightsaber combat forms, countering most defenses with its unpredictable and aggressive manner. However, it is dangerous to use because the practitioner must skirt perilously close to the Dark Side. Mace Windu is the only Jedi to have ever truly mastered it, and he was considered the greatest lightsaber fighter of his time.
- Teras Kasi, fromMasters of Teras Kasi was developed by survivors of Palawa, a planet that challenged the Jedi Council and was destroyed in the ensuing war. Those who trained in it developed the sheer speed needed to match the Jedi, while closing their minds to avoid influence or revealing their intentions, thus they could fight Jedi armed with lightsabers hand-to-hand and could utterly destroy normal martial artists. Legends ran with this, claiming in various prequel books that Darth Maul and some of the greatest swordsmen of the Order had all incorporated Teras Kasi into their style.
- The early Ultimate Fighting Championship events were marketed as the proving ground to establish the best fighting style. Could wrestling beat karate? Could boxing beat kung fu? The events were co-created by a family of martial artists, the Gracies, who wanted to prove that their style, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, is the best. In fact, their champion did dominate the early UFC events. Fighters quickly started cross-training a variety of styles, including BJJ, taking the best parts of each to create a hybrid fighting style that became known as Mixed Martial Arts.
- In the 1960s, high school track and field athlete Dick Fosbury began experimenting with a radical new approach to the high jump, eventually settling into a style where he went over the bar facing the opposite direction and landing on his back. Most coaches tried to steer him away from the technique, but backed down when Fosbury kept breaking school records. Fosbury went on to win gold at the 1968 Olympics, and his new way of high jumping, nicknamed the "Fosbury Flop," is now used by practically every athlete in the event.
- In the Lucha Libre Hero supplement for Hero System, all monsters take double damage from lucha libre maneuvers by default ... but that only applies to lucha libre maneuvers. A practitioner of karate, savate, muay thai, or any other martial art who finds himself in a Lucha Hero game will be less effective against monsters because that weakness won't apply to his attacks.
- Rifts has a variety of martial arts that mostly amount to some extra melee attacks per round and a couple of bonuses and special moves. Then RIFTS Japan and China added mystic martial arts, which added things like super-strength, magic barriers, astral projection and ki attacks into the mix, along with body-hardening exercises that could make a person to tough to be hurt by normal humans, half certain damage types (falling, kinetic impact, fire, ice) immunity to some effects (stun, paralysis, holds and joint locks) super-strong strikes, and increased abilities, like doubling the time one can run/fight or hold one's breath, leaping forty feet in the air, or beating demons in drinking contests. A max level conventional martial artist could theoretically be beaten by a third-level mystic martial artist. This trend reached it's pinnacle with the Way of the Patient Gun, a mystic martial art that let Gun Masters make both Preston and Wesley look like rank amateurs.
- Exalted has multiple circles of martial arts for mortals, Exalted, Celestial Exalted, and Sidereal Exalted. Mortal - non-magical - martial artists can break a brick and jump over a hedge. A Terrestrial (weakest Exalted) martial artist can break a boulder and jump over a building. A Celestial martial artist can break a city wall and jump across a mountain. A Sidereal martial artist can split a soul and jump to Heaven. Specific flavors include:
- Bondage Fighting? Laughing Wounds.
- Turning yourself into a living golem with extendable magic claws? Prismatic Arrangement of Creation.
- Charcoal March of Spiders: when you absolutely, positively have to punch out everyone on the continent twice in the same instant, accept no substitutes.
- One Celestial Monkey style charm permits you to make a called shot to the area that represents someone's primary virtue. Temperance is the head, Conviction the guts, Compassion the heart, and Valour the groin
- In Virtua Fighter, Lau Chan's style of Koen-ken is considered a "total offensive package" with both speed and power. It's to learn the secrets of this technique that Lei-Fei betrayed his order of Monks, and later betrayed and tried to kill Lau himself. After this betrayal, Lau has basically accepted that this style is now doomed to die with him.
- Final Fantasy VIII: the gunblade is noted in universe to be hard-to-master weapons, and the only practitioners we see are 2 people: the hero Squall and his rival Seifer.
- Fire Emblem Tellius: The greatest style is the one used and taught by Greil, the leader of the Greil Mercenaries. Even past his prime, Greil was seen as having super human strength, and Ike as a rookie practitioner was able to become one of the strongest fighters on the continent within about one year.
- Played for Laughs by Street Fighter's Dan Hibiki, who created his own martial art called as "Saikyo Style"note , which is all but powerful.
- Not played for laugh is Ansatsuken which is used by Ryu, Ken, Akuma, Gouken, and a few others. It is generally shown to be the deadliest martial art in the entire universe and the reason why Bison keeps coming after Ryu. It's also why Akuma wants him. The martial art, notably, also produces the Dark Hadou. Notably, Sakura and Dan both have a small amount of training in it, which is what makes them dangerous to World Warrior levels. Even if Dan shows a little bit of a good thing is a major bad one.
- Karin's Kanzuki-style martial arts is apparently one of the most elite styles in the Street Fighter world. Karin's story mode states that the best techniques of the style are those which are rare even for the heads of the family (by design, its strongest member) to fully master. Amongst its abilities is the skill to defeat enemies with nothing but a Battle Aura, and (according to Karin herself), the ability to levitate like Dhalsim. It's telling that, on Street Fighter V's stat chart, Karin is amongst Zeku and Akuma in technical skill ranking.
- Zeku, Guy and Maki's Bushin-ryu is a refined version of a very ancient art of ninjitsu, which several characters refer to as one of the best combat styles in the world. It's also hinted that Zeku forms his own organization and passes it along to his pupils, who will become the Striders.
- Part of the reason why Sagat went so crazy after Ryu's defeat (before it was Retconned) is that his Tiger style Muay Thai was considered the greatest in the world with him as its greatest master. Sagat's defeat rebuttled this. While not strong to the level of superhuman abilities, Sagat pushed himself after this defeat that while he may not be able to achieve Ansatsuken levels of destruction, his Tiger style is certainly a second best at worst.
- Gosu has the (Twelve) Divine Heavenly Destruction Techniques. Created by the Heavenly Destroyer, this style of martial arts was used to bring the murim to its knees and bow to the might of the Heavenly Destruction Sect. As noted by the Heavenly Destroyer's disciple:
- Tower of God arguably has Arie Swordsmanship. Known to be uniquely powerful and impossible to describe, Word of God even stated that the only way to defeat a user of Arie swordsmanship is to either be overwhelmingly stronger than them or to be better at Arie swordsmanship than them.
- Whateley Universe: It's called "Do", and is Discussed in Tea and Synergy:
Do. The Sun Source Martial Art, of which all other schools are fragments, or pale reflections. ... Do would be perfectly flexible in its application and perfectly suitable to the dynamics of the human form. And Do wouldnt be limited to hand to hand combat ... or even combat. Do would apply to EVERYTHING!
- A meta-example in Avatar: The Last Airbender: the various bending types use moves from martial arts. Earthbending is based on the real-world Hung Ga, but Toph's Earthbending is miles above anyone else's, was self-taught (or rather taught by being around giant badgermoles), allows her to use metalbending (no one else in the series can), and is based on one called Southern Mantis style.