A martial art is a great way to stay fit, learn self discipline and gain the confidence that only comes from knowing you can break a guy’s arm if he tries to steal your wallet. Problem is there’s also a lot of shit out there, a lot of scammers, a lot of zealots and a lot of styles that may or may not be suited for you.
First of all you need to check out classes before you commit to anything. A good class should offer you at least one lesson free before you have to sign anything so be wary of those that don’t. Once you get there you should see what kind of facilities they have, how experienced the instructors are and how proficient the students are. If you’re in a class full of black belts then realise they’re either going to be elitist and snobby about it, or the belts are being handed out too easily. If you see a fat black belt who’s uncoordinated and slow then leave. If you see a fast and powerful red belt – be impressed. You should be able to quickly get a feel for whether these are a bunch of guys having fun and learning something at the same time, a group of annoying idiots show-boating and flaunting their imagined power with no real skill, or a group of highly trained serious warriors. Pick which one you’d like to join.
Choosing a style is also key, as each has different strengths and weaknesses that may or may not be suited to your body type and personality. If you’re tall you might benefit from a style that focuses on kicking such as Tai Kwon Do or Kickboxing. If you’re your small and stocky you might want to do something like boxing, or a throwing style like Judo that requires you to get in close. If you don’t have much physical power Tai Chi or Kung Fu might be the one for you with their emphasis on using the opponents’ energy against them.
You also need to choose between martial arts that are more sports like – such as Tai Kwon Do, Boxing or Kickboxing, or deeper such as Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Jujitsu or Ninjitsu. The difference here is that the former will give you a more immediate ability for street fighting or pub brawling, while the latter will take a bit longer but give you skills beyond those you could learn from a sport. You may just want something showy and fun such as Capoeira.
If you really want to be proficient at fighting however you need to have all these skills. Throwing, kicking, close range, long range, internal, external, defensive and offensive… So don’t stubbornly stick to one style – mix and match and change as you feel ready to move on. Bruce Lee advocated this approach as do mixed martial artists who know that you can’t win a fight sticking only to one style – even if it does mean you’ll never become a ‘master’ or be able to look down on people who’ve only studied half their lives. Don’t buy it.
So which martial art? All of them.
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