In South Carolina in the 1960's there were not many martial arts schools. In my town it was not a question of what you wanted to study. You went to the only dojo that was there. The only place that had choices was Columbia over 40 miles away. So I studied karate, jujitsu, judo, and Northern Goshu Kung-Fu from my first instructor. He closed the dojo. The next dojo was in someones front yard the first year (summer and winter) . We studied Shito-Ryu, and Kamishin-Ryu. That lasted for several years. Then a class opened up teaching Zen-Shoto-Kai (Shito-Ryu, Chito-ryu, Shotokan). It ended a year later. After that we got a Kyokushinkai Instructor to come to my town for a short time. He was killed shortly after starting. Then I traveled to study Zen-Shoto-Kai again. From that I began traveling to Charleston, S.C to study Shorinji-Tetsu-Ken-Ryu Kempo from the Soke-Dai, Robert Kelly. In 1975 I received my First black belt (Shodan). Later that year i traveled to Charlotte, N.C. to study privately with Sifu Larry Hartsell, one of Bruce Lees students. There I was taught Jeet-Kune-Do principles and wing Chun. In the early 1980's I moved to Charleston, S.C. to become one of a small group of personal students of James "Ron" Cherry Shihan. He taught Toraken-Do Kempo, Toraken-Do Jujitsu, Toraken-Do Karate, as well as Hapkido and Kobudo. I was taught the Bo, Jo, Sai, Tonfa, Cane, Yawara. He also Taught Iaido, kenjutsu and Tanto Jutsu. I moved to Virginia in the mid 1980's there I continued to study under Shihan Cherry as well as an Isshinryu Master in Virginia, Karl Hovey. During the years between 1985 and 1992, I had the privilege of training with a high ranking Shorin-Ryu (Shobayashi) instructor who trained often in Okinawa under the Soke there.
If i had had the choice, I would have studied one style for all those years. but that was not possible due to things beyond my control. What i lost in having to change style I made up for in getting a very broad picture of the martial arts, how they are alike, and how they are different. For the first 15 or so years of my training, i believed that some styles were superior to others. now i now that it is the quality and depth of the instruction that is what makes someone superior, not the style. I believe this because I have seen it reflected in students and their abilities no matter what style. While others often tout their style as being what others should study, I do not. If i recommended a style I studied and the newcomer was to get a bad instructor, it would not be good for him. However if he studied a different style from a really good instructor, that would be better. Styles are like cars. we may have our favorites, but one is not better than another. If it gets you where you want to go, that is what matters. To get caught up in what style is best is silly waste of time. So is the many questions asked on Y/A from those "Looking for a style that has....." All styles taught as they were originally designed have everything in them that is needed. Deciding on a style that is not available to you is of no use. People that truly want to learn should only be concerned with, can they find a competent instructor.
My observations come from the experiences listed above, and the fact that I hold masters ranks in Karate, Kempo, and Jujitsu, (Three very high ranks) as well as black belts in several other styles.
Martial Arts training and research over 43 years (since June 15th of 1967).
Teaching martial arts over 36 years (since 1973).