I am a firm believer in finding the martial art that is best suited for your needs but I’d be lying if I said that is an easy endeavour. The general public usually knows very little about the martial arts and a lot of the time searching info can be overwhelming just because of the large number of martial arts styles available. I will try to alleviate some of those problems here and see if we can un-muddy the waters a bit. One thing I should mention right off the get go is the fact that many of these arts do offer the same benefits. Many times just trying something and seeing if you enjoy it may be all it takes to find what you need as your needs may not be as specific. This is more than likely the case if your focus is on health and fitness but even then your needs may require something specific.
When you come to the decision that you would like to join a martial arts class I recommend you come up with two simple lists. In one of the lists you’re going write down what benefits you want to get out of training and on the second write down any considerations that will also impact your choice. These would be things such as your health, injuries, commuting, budget, baby sitting, scheduling or anything else they may impact your decision. Once you have a clear idea what you would like to get out of a martial arts class the next thing to do is have a look online and in local listings as to what clubs are available in your area. Each of these clubs is going to offer one or more different types of martial arts and what you want to do is then go online and/or use other resources such as the library to research a little bit about each of the arts offered. Read a little bit about each of the arts first and then go check out video resources such as YouTube to see these martial arts in action. I also think it’s important to look over descriptions of other arts that may not be listed in your area as there may be something that really appeals to you that you may have to search down or get involved with at a later date if the opportunity presents itself. I had to do that with kenjutsu. I was really keen to learn the art and it was only after passively searching for about 20 years did I find someone teaching it nearby. The scope of this discussion is pretty big so I am going to break it up over several posts so I am going to start with a general list with descriptions to get the ball rolling. As I delve into it over the next little while I will get very specific and even breakdown different styles within these various martial arts. Karate and Kung-Fu in particular can benefit from these lists as the styles are diverse and many. Some arts and styles can be well suited to body types as well. Here is a general list of arts and what they offer:
- Karate. Striking a kicking art. Great for fitness. Some spiritual growth. Medium to high self defence. Medium to high intensity. Light to heavy contact. Can be competitive. All body types. Large variety. Japanese in origin.
- Tae Kwon Do. Striking and kicking art. Mostly kicking. Great for fitness. Medium self defence. High intensity. Olympic sport. Medium to heavy contact. Medium self defence. All body types but great art for people with long legs. Korean in origin.
- Judo. Throwing and grappling art that focuses on takedowns and throws. High intensity. Medium to high self defence. All body types. Olympic sport. Japanese in origin.
- Jui-Jitsu: Throwing and grappling art that focuses on grappling. High intensity. High self defence(probably the best). Great for all body types. Competitive. Great for fitness.
- Tai Chi: A striking art that is mostly practiced as an exercise system but if described as Tai Chi “Chuan” it is being taught as a martial art system. Low intensity. Low to medium fitness. Low to medium self defense. Great for those in their later years or at a low fitness level. Spiritual growth. No contact. A style of Kung Fu. Chinese in origin.
- Kung Fu: Striking art. Various styles that are very diverse. Wing Chun, Shaolin, Tiger, White Crane, Ching I, Pakua, Praying Mantis etc. Low to high self defence. Medium to high fitness. Medium intensity. Some spiritual growth. Light to medium contact. Chinese in origin.
- Aikido: A throwing with some striking and in some cases weapons. Medium intensity. Medium fitness. Low to medium self defence. A battlefield art altered to promote and focus on harmonization with opponent and spiritual growth. Some groups teach jo staff and Japanese sword techniques as well. Aiki-jitsu version (as all jitsu do) leans more towards practical techniques.
- Kendo/Iaido: Japanese sword art. Kendo is a sport verison of Japanese sword combat whereas iaido is a spirtual system that teaches Japanese sword drawing techniques. Often both are taught together. Kenjutsu and Iaijutsu are the actual old combat schools these art’s derive from and are very hard to find. Kendo: Medium to high intensity. Medium fitness. Low self defence. High competitive. Contact while in protective gear. Iaido: Low intensity. Low fitness. Low self defence. Spiritual growth. Some competition.
- Krav Maga: Striking art. Focuses exclusively on self defence for the modern world. Knife and gun defence techniques included. Medium fitness. Medium to high intensity. High self defence. Israeli Defence Force origin.
- Thai boxing, boxing and kickboxing: All striking arts. All: High competitive. High fitness. High contact. Medium to high self defence. High intensity. Thai uses knees and elbows as well as kicks and punches. This description does not include cardio kickboxing. That is a separate animal that I will talk about late.
I hope this general primer gives you a general idea what to expect from these popular martial arts. I will go into each of these and others with more detail in the near future. In the mean time I hope this wets your appetite for a particular martial art. Please feel free to message me if you would like me to talk about a particular system or aspect of one.