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Choosing a Martial Art – Know your Reason

Most of the time when people ask me about what to consider when choosing a martial art style, the first question I will ask them is: “Why do you want to learn?” Those who are truly interested in learning and studying a martial art discipline should search themselves first to understand the real purpose for study. Even though some of us started out by responding to a mailer or by randomly selecting a school from the phone book, it is not something that should be taken lightly. Most of the time there is a significant out-of-pocket expense when studying at a school, so you want to make sure you have selected the best style for your goals. Most people aren’t going to want to fork out hundreds or thousands of dollars and then find out that the style they have chosen is not going to work for them. Deciding whether you are looking to learn self defense, increase flexibility, or just get a cardivascular workout is an important first step.

Certain styles are geared more for the workout and flexibility than for self defense. Styles that are labelled “Sport” systems like Tae Kwon Do tend to be more for exercise than for protection. Styles that are more for fitness may get you into shape, but they will have fewer techniques that you could use in self defense. That is not to say that martial arts that are more designed for self defense aren’t going to give you a great workout, it just might not be one of their main focuses. I tell you from personal experience that I wish I hadn’t spent several thousands of dollars before deciding that I wanted to be learning an art that had a different focus. So, know what you want to gain from the martial arts before you invest your time and money.

Another thing to consider is your body type and limitations you may have. For example, if you have arthritis, you may want to focus your search on a softer art such as Tai Chi. Arts like Karate or Jujitsu are good for some people but an improperly executed technique can easily result in hyperextension or aggravation of the joints. While there are some people who use the martial arts to overcome certain physical conditions, you still want to listen to your body to avoid injury.

Choosing a Martial Art   Know your Reason

Once you figure out what is your purpose for study, you can then begin to focus on the specific style to which you will be most drawn. Generally, for exercise type styles, Judo or Tae Kwon Do are typically chosen. For self defense, Jujitsu, Kung Fu, or a full blown self defense system like Krav Maga are common choices. Within each main family of styles there are variants that offer different levels of fitness or self defense. For example, more techniques in Kenpo Karate are applicable to self defense than those found in Shotokan Karate. Both are labeled “Karate”, but you can find great variety even within the main families of styles.

If you have still having difficulty choosing a martial art to study, you may want to choose one that is made up of many different systems. One example of this is Hapkido, which combines throws and joint locks that you would see in Aikido and Jujitsu with the kicking techniques of Tae Kwon Do. Most systems that are classified as self defense, such as Krav Maga also consist of effective techniques from many different styles. Of course, once you have trained in one style for a while you could always cross train in a different style.

The important thing to remember is that martial arts study is a journey, so prepare yourself by doing as much research as possible before you begin your study.