Updated: Jul 9
Which martial art is the right fit for me or my family...
karate, MMA, BJJ, aikido, kick boxing???
The martial arts can be very complicated place. Most of us see all martial arts as karate, hence movies back in the 80's, which is fine. Karate alone has many different styles and sub-styles and branches of those going back several centuries. But then you add in all the other "arts" such as aikido, judo, jujitsu (which has many components) aiki jujitsu, kendo, Kenjutsu and all the hundreds of samurai arts and components. Sword arts can range in the hundreds and styles can go into much more. And that's just the Japanese arts. Consider all the arts worldwide and it is really overwhelming for the average person.
So how is one to understand and find the right "fit" for your needs and goals. Lets look at five easy to understand tips on choosing what is right for you.
Tip #1 - What's the difference?
There are two types of martial arts...Hard styles like karate, Tae Kwon Do, krav maga. these are arts that employ striking as their primary technique such as punching and kicking. This can be a legal issue if you apply too much force in some states.
Then there are soft arts. These are characterized by flowing movement, striking with open hands, and there primary technique is always movement rather than brute force being used. these are arts that don't kick or punch but elude and evade the energy and redirect it against the attacker.
Tip #2 - Hard Vs Soft
The hard vs soft issue has been a topic for a millennium and it continues today. Best answer to this is what best suit you and your needs. Some people like to hit things and kick stuff. Others don't want to hit people and prefer not to engage in and altercation. It you like to hit, try the hard arts first, but understand that the strikes in the soft arts are by no means soft, it's just a different way of striking. If you don't like to hit things, try the soft arts and you will be surprised at what you thought you could never do.
Tip #3 - Is it Real?
First thing you should look at when you start any martial art is whether it will really work for your or your families' protection. Most schools will let you "try" a class before you buy, so this is your evaluation time. Now don't go in and test the instructor, because that will not be a good way to start your student / teacher relationship. Best to just go in and watch. Things to look for that might be the preverbal "red" flag:
Wasted movement. Are the drills using kicks or punches that are done in succession maybe skipping along as they do the kick or techniques. Kicks repeated in the air are wasted movement and will do no good in a real encounter.
Unrealistic techniques. These are techniques that are just no way set up for any kind of engagement. Techniques just for show and fluff.
No weapons training. If the class doesn't include defense for knife, stick, or gun, then it's probably a sport like football or soccer. You'll spend most of you fights in a ring with judges and referees.
Tip #4 -Does the art go past physical skills?
Most martial arts claim to teach the inner parts of the art, but you should ask how that process works. Most will tell you that it is a personal thing and self discovery is part of the training. That's true, but that can take a lifetime to accomplish and it is a path well worth the walk. In modern times, there has been developed teaching methods that enhance your ability to discover this "self" much easier and faster than your entire life. Self Awareness is a personal thing but your teacher must be your guide and literally guide you through the process.
For children, the teaching should include ways of handling bullies and not just telling them to do this or that, but clearly showing them how through a structured curriculum.
All in all the art should go deeper than just the physical techniques and give you a way to enhance not just your life but the lives of everyone you meet. Live your best life through your martial art you study.
Tip #5 - Fulfill your Goals and not the teachers.
Most important thing to remember is that you are doing this for you and not the instructor. His journey is not and will not be the same as yours. His expectations should be a guided inspiration to your achievements, not his way of feeding his ego. Set your pace and your goals to be accomplished in little stages. A goal is something for you and only you.
No one starts as a black belt and it does not end there.
No student ever walk in my school with a black belt on. Everyone starts the same and is treat the same no matter what. No egos. And remember that when you get to black belt, your journey has just started. Hope this helps you on your journey in Budo. In Oneness