There are countless martial arts styles from around the world, each with their own distinctive purpose and origin. In seeking out an effective means of self defense a potential student can look to a number of styles including Aikido, Kung fu, Kick Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts and Jujitsu. There are striking styles and grappling styles. There are sports and there are cultural fighting arts. Finding the right martial art, can take years, and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Someone interested in studying martial arts should have a general idea of the different martial art styles.
What Style of Martial Art is Best for You?
Start by asking yourself, do you want to compete or do you want self defense? Do you want to part of something more spiritual or more combative? Most schools offer a little of both, but you should know that the primary martial art style of the school sets the tone for the instruction. And if that primary martial art style is a sport or a cultural fighting art- it may seriously effect the self defense instruction.
Once you determine what you want to out of your training then it’s time to begin your search. Remember, each martial arts style or system has its specific purpose. For example, the style of Ninjitsu emphasizes stealth and concealment for a trained assassin, and is little use for someone who is looking to get into shape and not get mugged leaving the mall. Boxing while being a great sport to know is limited to hand striking and is not well rounded, but will build strength and help someone lose weight. Taekwondo is a Korean style of martial arts which is a very popular sport, but lacks throws and grapples necessary to push back an attacker or take the fight to the ground. Mixed martial arts styles are good but are still bound by rules that re designed for safety.
Establishing what you want will make selecting a martial arts style much easier, and it shortens the long list of styles available for a student to learn. If you’re just looking to lose weight the cardio kickboxing class at your neighborhood gym will probably be just what you need, but don’t expect what you have learned in that class to help you against a mugger or rapist. Kendo is another great style that will teach you how to fight like a Japanese samurai, and is great for fitness, spirit and attitude but you will look a little out of place taking your training sword on the train with you to work. If you’re interest is in self defense then you should look at combat oriented styles or systems that have been used in the industrial age. Aikido which was made popular by actor Steven Seagal is a fairly modern martial arts style. It is more about spiritual development than close combat. That old style of jujutsu may have worked against and armored samurai wielding a sword, but against a street thug wielding a box cutter it might not work so well.
Martial Arts and Self Defense
Studying a martial art or a combat sport is a lifestyle that requires a lot of time, training and dedication. Self defense however, is a skill, once understood, can remain effective long after you have stopped training. While most people don’t want to dedicate the time towards martial arts, every person should take a little time to learn basic self defense techniques.
It doesn’t matter what you seek of a martial art whether its fitness, self defense or even the desire to compete in a new sport it is time to begin your research. Resources are abounding on the Internet and in books at your local library. This will let you sort through the hype and get to the history.
A WORD OF WARNING
BEWARE OF THE INVENTOR OF A SYSTEM
There is a persistent myth that all martial arts styles are a product of ancient wisdom and are time tested. This is not always the cases with many styles like Yoseikan which takes many elements from more established styles like Judo and Jujutsu and others and has become its own style. Also be wary of anyone who says they’ve invent their own style that is superior to the rest. Just because a person has bounced a few years or was a cop or a soldier, doesn’t mean they know what works best for you or even how to teach it. What is taught in the military and in the police academies is based on a liability perspective (public perception- we don’t want our peace keepers to be too violent).
Most effective martial arts styles are a result of groups of people working together with the head of that organization usually getting the credit. Jigoro Kano is credited for founding that style, but he was helped by the Japanese government and the “Four Pillars of Judo” Tomita, Saigo, Yamashita and Yokoyama. Close quarters combat systems, lie those from the self defense company are a result of years of training and decades of research. It is impossible for one man to have the experience and the knowledge to dictate what works for everyone. Bruce Lee himself did not set out to establish a style or a system, but more of a way of thinking. How he trained was what worked best for him. How he thought was best for everybody.
Most founders have extensive training and backgrounds and black belt ranks in multiple, established martial arts styles. The lack of government regulation (especially in the united states) has no restriction on what is taught. It’s up to you to find out the who, what, when and where.
This Ain’t Hollywood
Also when choosing a martial arts style don’t use films as your guide even if a competent martial artist is involved with making the film. Film is entertainment. What you see on screen must evoke the right feeling and the right “look”. Fights on film are designed to entertain. If you think you are walking into a room full of bikers intent of killing you and you’re going to defeat them all without a scratch- then I have a “bridge to sell you”. But if acting is your thing, then yes go learn how to fight like “The Matrix”. A system of Kung fu may be the martial arts style you’re looking for.
At the end of the day, anyone can make their style sound good, but unless they have documented proof and some sort of lineage don’t waste your time. Remember, once you decide, your research doesn’t stop there. If there is some sort of intro program or “test drive” take advantage and ask yourself “Is this what I’m looking for?” and “Does this make sense to me?” Don’t be disrespectful, but don’t assume the person is an expert just because they say so. Listen to your instinct and you will be able to determine what martial art style is best for you.