Martial arts are systems or application of different, styles and traditions of combat, defence or methods, that are practiced for a variety of reasons.
There is well in excess of over 200 types of Martial Arts that exist across the world. Some of them are very similar, others are very different.
Many instructors or teachers of martial arts or combat sports will try and tell you that theirs is the best. Errrrr, here is where you smile knowlingly and back away slowly. Because the truth is, that there are very few that can claim their art is the best. You see, all martial arts and combat sports have their benefits and can add so much to your life. But different martial arts suit different people and it is up to the individual to decide what is the best for them. But oh my! How does one work out what is the right one for them without committing to spend the rest of their life to trying each and every one of them? Simple – do your homework.
The a 4 main types of martial arts or combat sports
– hand and/or foot combat (e.g. taekwondo, karate, muay thai, aikido or boxing)
– weapons based (e.g. kendo, fencing)
– grappling or wrestling based (e.g. judo, brazilian jiu jitsu, greco-roman wrestling)
– movement, meditative and energy based (e.g. tai chi chih, qi gong)
Many are combinations of the different types, incorporating the different techniques or influences into their art. And often with different purposes. for example taekwondo, karate and kung fu (and their derivations) are hand/foot combat but also incorporate movement and patterns. Hapkido uses hand/foot combat as well as weapons and so forth.
Most originated in countries or regions subject to oppression where weapons or tools were prohibited and so people were forced to develop their own techniques based on their mind and their body to protect themselves. Others have developed in to sports over time and are competitive at very high levels such as Boxing, Taekwondo, Judo and Wrestling with scoring systems and technology assistance.
Quite often the type of martial arts practiced are dependent on origin, region, founder and instructor and have tenets or philosophies that guide the practice of the art. In much of these, there is a belief or practice that the art should never be used on another in anger or attack, only as a form of defence. If you come across an instructor that tells you otherwise, maybe ask a few more question about their own philosophies, how many fights they have been in and maybe how many times they have been arrested. That should help you decide one way or the other whether or not that particular instructor is for you. Martial arts are NOT about beating people up!
Other questions that you may like to ask yourself in your quest to find the perfect martial art for you are:
1. Are you seeking a guiding philosophy or lifestyle to live by?
2. Do you wish to practice a combat martial art or a movement based martial art?
3. Are you specifically seeking a self defence class?
4. Do you wish to compete as a sport? And if so, to what level?
5. Do you wish to focus of mental and spiritual development?
6. Do you like to use your hands, feet, both hands and feet or weapons?
7. Do you like close distance combat or do you prefer to keep you distance from your opponent?
8. Do you prefer to train with protective equipment or without?
Once you have answered these questions you are likely to have a better idea of the type of martial art you are looking for. Make sure when you are seeking a place to train or practice your art, that you find a qualified and/or experienced instructor that takes an interest in their student’s development. A good instructor also has the ability to adapt and move with the times. Notwithstanding things like technology and scoring systems, the changing needs of self defence and the increasing sedentary work and stressful lifestyles people lead, need to be considered. It’s also extremely important these days that Instructors provide reality based training for this very reason. Increasing violence (due to influences such as drugs) mean that people need to be aware of their surroundings and how to manage potentially dangerous situation. As such, it is wise for Instructor’s to be open to other martial arts and the value that they can offer their students.
So get on to it. Work out what you are after and shop around for the right place for you.
Resources to help you in your research include: