In this article, I want to explore the numerous cases of both young achievers of high positions (yes, plural) as well as those who were fortunate enough to attain mastery of more than one art. Now, before I do so let's get two counter-arguments out of the way. The two most common I hear are that times were different back then, they were able to train for 12 hours each day and so progressed much faster. That sounds great, except that even then they had jobs and families to tend to just like today. The second myth is that the life expectancy was so short, 20 was middle-aged. The global average life expectancy in the latter half of the 19th century was around 70, also much like today. When you think about it, the conditions were not different and so what we really have is a self-inflicted inferiority complex of the Western martial artist to their Asian counterpart.
So who were these superhuman martial artists that were able to do the impossible? Well, for the sake of time let's just include all members of the Samurai class pre-Tokugawa Shogunate who had to learn not just one, but demonstrate proficiency in 18 different martial arts (collectively called the Bugei Juhappan). In this article, I want to focus on the modern era (post-1868). The short list is as follows: