A Man’s Guide to the Martial Arts: Getting Started

by A Manly Guest Contributor on January 12, 2010 · 80 comments

in Health & Sports

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Charlie Kondek.

Whatever your experience in physical fitness, if you’re considering martial arts as your next undertaking, I’ve got good news and… not bad news, more like some challenges for you to consider. The good news is the martial arts are very accessible. The challenges? The martial arts are very accessible. Finding the right one for you can be tough because there are so many to choose from and, if you’re inexperienced, you don’t know what to expect. I hope this article can provide some encouragement and direction.

Motive

Let’s tackle the first item you’ll likely encounter and knock it out of the way. If you’re wondering if you have the right motive for getting involved, rest assured, there is no necessary motive. Your motive can be very specific, like, “I’ve always wanted to learn to defend myself.” It can seem silly, such as, “I’ve always loved kung fu movies.” It’s probably a combination of these things – just admit them! The simple truth is most martial arts are physical fitness regimens that come from warrior traditions of various cultural backgrounds, and the benefits of them are, besides the building of a sound body and a set of self-defense skills that you may, God willing, never use, a sound mind and the development of your character as a person. Some martial arts articulate this, some don’t, but most share these basic qualities.

It’s also true that your motive for continuing in the martial arts may be quite different than the motive you started with. You may start martial arts because you really want to build up your confidence; you may continue because it becomes your way of life.

By the way, if you think you’re too old to start such-and-such art, most likely that’s bosh. Almost all arts are equipped to allow entry by people of any age and with any physical challenge. Don’t let age or a disability keep you from trying.

The Spectrum

Now to start narrowing down which martial art you’ll pursue. Most of them exist on a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum are those arts structured around controlled exercises, whether solo or with a partner. Picture a kung fu stylist that spends most of his training time perfecting a series of choreographed movements, or a pair of aikido practitioners drilling in set patterns of attacks, take downs and spectacular falls.

At the other end of the spectrum is free play or competition. In these arts, sparring and possibly competing is the emphasis. Picture kickboxers engaged in free fisticuffs (and footsticuffs) or judo fighters trying to slam each other to the mat.

Because this is a spectrum and not an either/or, many martial arts will have qualities of both, and it will be up to you to determine the right balance. You may, for example, be quite happy with a style of karate that employees the pursuit of kata (forms) as well as kumite (sparring).

Now, you may be asking the author at this point, “Hang on. I get these first two parts but what I really want to know is – how will I learn to kick ass? It’s MMA right? What about MMA? Where’s the spectrum in that?”

I’ll come back to that. The short answer is: yes! MMA – mixed martial arts or “cage fighting” – might be what you should pursue. Bear with me.

Asia is a big place! But it’s not the only place.

So China gave us kung fu, Japan gave us kendo and judo, Korea gave us Tae Kwon Do, and muay thai comes from Thailand. There are so many arts from all over Asia, how do you narrow down which one to study? This, honestly, is the hard part, and the only solution is to actually invest some time in learning about each of these arts through reading, watching videos, asking questions and observing classes. Fortunately, the internet is a wonderful resource. Frankly, there are no shortcuts here.

Some words of advice, if I may. In the first place, go with your gut. If you’ve always wanted to practice kung fu, seek out a kung fu instructor. That touches a place in your heart and you should nourish it – martial arts are as much about your dreams as they are about other considerations. Second, a reminder: Asia isn’t the only part of the world that has martial arts. By now everyone’s heard of styles of fighting nourished in Brazil-Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and capoeria. Consider also the oft overlooked martial arts of Europe and America – good old boxing and wrestling, French savate, Russian sambo, or others. If weapons like swordplay are your forte, consider short-listing fencing as well as kendo. And of course modern amalgamations like MMA, shootfighting, close quarter military combatives, and Israel’s krav maga provide even more choices. There’s also been a resurgence of interest in historically researched western martial arts. Keep your options open.

The Problem of Legitimacy

Whatever you decide, find an instructor or coach that is legitimate. Each art you investigate will most likely have a governing body or a set of recommendations or certifications for instructors. Find out what they are and make the best choice. You’ll often run into contention, splits within the art, and differing opinions on what passes for legitimacy within an art. Get as much feedback as you can and make an informed decision.

Have a Plan B

One problem you may run into quite quickly is that of location. Not all arts are available in all parts of the world. You may want to study Brazilian jiu-jitsu but quickly find that only judo is offered within your area. Consider studying judo or wrestling until as such time as BJJ instruction reveals itself, comes to your area, or you relocate. Also, refer again to the problem of legitimacy. Don’t sign up with an instructor because he or she is the only game in town. There are a lot of quacks out there. Better to pass up the quack and settle for another art than to study with someone not qualified to instruct. Anyone in the martial arts who’s legit will be forthright with their credentials or lineage.

Also, you may get involved in the art and learn by experiencing it that it wasn’t what you were expecting. Don’t be ashamed to pull out and try something else. So despite pressure to do so, resist signing a year long contract when you sign up. Paying month to month, even if more expensive, is often a better deal than deciding after several weeks that it isn’t the right style/place for you and yet having to pony up every month for the rest of the year.

So, seriously, what about kicking ass?

All right, I said we would come back to this. “Just tell me what I have to do to kick ass. Do I have to move to China and study for ten years? Do I have to work in a logging camp, pit fighting on weekends for beer money? Tell me the answer.”

That topic is one for another article or a good thread in the Art of Manliness Community. There is no one answer. Candidly, I admire MMA greatly and have even trained in that setting – never, mind you, actually stepping into “the cage.” MMA has effectively shown that hand to hand combat involves skills of two general groups, the striking group and the grappling group. A complete combatant should have skills in both groups. This may involve pursuing more than one art – the proverbial “one from column A, one from column B.” Or you may find a good MMA club that can train you in both, and you may even consider competing. If this appeals to you, why not try it? MMA is a terrific martial art and a terrific modern combative sport in its earliest days.

On the other hand, as I’m sure Art of Manliness regulars could tell you, there’s probably legions of “ass kicking” men out there for whom this question is absolutely irrelevant. The movies are not reality and violence outside of the sporting arena is often a horrible thing to be avoided except when absolutely necessary, as in opposing evil or defending someone. I’m sure there are cops, soldiers, and athletes who are the epitome of ass kickocity but don’t in the least trust the world to give them a fair fight, who go to every confrontation thinking it could turn into an ambush, a stabbing or a gun fight. Anyone can get their ass kicked on any given day. It doesn’t matter to these people as much as survival does.

Maybe that’s enough of an answer for you, or maybe you need to find that out for yourself through the investment of fear and sweat in a gym somewhere. In any case, I salute you and hope you will consider getting involved in the martial arts.

Charlie Kondek blogs about the 1970s TV show “Kung Fu,” is a founder of and contributor to dad blog Every Other Thursday, and practices, coaches and writes about kendo.

I know a lot of AoM readers are involved with the martial arts. What advice would you give guys who want to get into one? How do find the right style and the right school? Tell us about the martial art you’re involved in and why you would recommend it to others.

{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carl C January 12, 2010 at 7:08 pm

With the popularity of the UFC and other MMA programs, a lot of these schools are very expensive. In New York City, they often charge $150-200 a month. That’s a lot of chips.

2 Robert B. January 12, 2010 at 7:19 pm

I have done Tae Kwon Do (Kim’s Karate and Jhoon Rhee), currently do Aikido (for the second time)/Shotokan Karate and may briefly take up Judo if I can fit it into my schedule without it affecting my grades. After having gone through the newbie (different from beginner) stage more than once, I have few key pieces of advice for newbies.

First, always ask to see/participate in a class to see if you like it. Remember to wear clothes that can stretch.
Second, if you’ve never done Martial Arts before, your body will probably hate you after each class, which is a good thing as long as there aren’t any sharp pains.
Third, never eat later than one hour before class starts. Trust me, throwing up in your gi is not fun.

Now to shill for TKD and Aikido. The former focuses more on kicking and punching, which gives you a great work out. Aikido focuses more on locks and using your opponent’s energy against himself. You may or may not get a good workout depending on the dojo.

3 Igor January 12, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Martial art per se is a good way to get in shape, and it’s great for mental discipline. So I think you just have to listen to your gut and train what you find is best for you, or if you are not sure sit in a few training sessions of various martial arts and pick one you like. I started Krav Maga about 6-7 months ago and I find it to be just the thing I wanted and it wasn’t my first choice I went to the dojo to sit in an Aikido class but instead ended up on Krav Maga class and desided to give it a try. Now it is something I hope to keep up (just about to take my first exam P1 level next week) as a way of staying in shape along side kettlebell routine. Great article Charlie!

4 Bruce Williamson January 12, 2010 at 8:10 pm

I once heard that there was a martial art that had no offensive moves. Does anyone know the name of it?

5 Tim January 12, 2010 at 8:12 pm

If you’re looking for a cheap alternative, many cities have Judo clubs at the local YMCA or Parks and Recreation program. Hole in the wall Boxing clubs are usually quite cheap as well. The one I participated in during college was $30 a year!

And this being Art of Manliness, I think we at least need to acknowledge Catch Wrestling. Not much more manly than Catch!

6 Brett McKay January 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm

In editing Charlie’s post, I put in a link to a chart comparing the different martial arts. To my untrained eyes it looked useful, but it turns out it was inaccurate. So I’ve removed it. If anyone does know a good resource that breaks down the differences please share it.

7 Brandon January 12, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Bruce- You might be thinking of aikido, which uses the force of the opponent’s attack against him, rather than using force yourself.

8 Mike at The Big Stick January 12, 2010 at 9:53 pm

It’s all about your goals I suppose. if you want to be able to take care of yourself on the street, Krav Maga is pretty hard to beat. It’s designed to inflict massive amounts of damage very fast while staying on your feet. For the simple ‘beauty’ of martial arts i prefer jiu jitsu. It’s also effective for self-defense if a fight goes to the ground.

For fitness I box three days per week at the YMCA. It’s great for cardio and makes you feel like you can take a little bit better of yourself if the need ever arises.

9 Koshin January 12, 2010 at 10:15 pm

I enjoyed the article. I’ve studied Kung-Fu for the last seven years. I initially started because I wanted to find a way to stay in shape after the Marines and I had always loved Kung-Fu movies as a kid. Ever since my first walk in class I’ve loved it. I’ve gained a lot in the short time I’ve studied it – Strength, Discipline and Focus. I’ve also found that I’ve become more calm and peaceful since I started studying. I’ve also met great people from all walks of life and have made many great friends as a result.

One piece of advice I would give to someone evaluating a school is to look at your potential instructor and his senior students. Do this by observing some class sessions. Do you like his teaching style? Is he in decent shape? Do the senior students seem to know their stuff? How much teaching does the head instructor actually do? Is it all managed by other students? When I first started looking for schools. I stopped by a kickboxing/karate/boxing gym and the head instructor looked like he hadn’t done a situp in 10 years. He was all about selling me a contract. I was put off by the high pressure sales style.

When I first walked into my current school, the instructor was friendly and answered any questions I had. He let me jump in and join a beginners class. There as no high pressure sales pitch to drive me toward a yearly contract. He let me make my own decisions based on my experience. Needless to say after my first class I was hooked and haven’t stopped since.

I would encourage anyone to study at any age, you are never too old to start. One of my fellow students is in his mid 50s and he can do pushups on his index finger and can wipe the floor with people over half his age and he started at 50. So don’t think you are too old.

Also walk away from too good to be true sales pitches. Any teacher that promises you that he will turn you into the ultimate badass in a short time is not someone you should be studying from. Many martial arts are a lifetime pursuit and should be approached with patience. Enjoy the journey and don’t focus so much on the end destination.

10 MtN. January 12, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I’ve done Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the last 3 years and also work on kickboxing. There’s a bunch of great martial arts but in my opinion this is the best for me anyway. One piece of advice I’ll give somebody looking to get into Martial Arts is make sure the instructor Rolls/Spars with his/her students if they don’t, look for another place to train. Jiu Jitsu of Die!!!!:)

11 Christopher Preston January 12, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I learned some Brazilian Jiu-jitsu from a student of Royce Gracie (a huge name in BJJ) and absolutely loved it. It definitely depends on what you’re going for as far as motives when deciding what martial art to take. If you’re looking for a sport, MMA is super fun but it depends on your preference as far as philosophy, striking style/focus, and training style etc. If you’re going for self defense, I would highly recommend Krav Maga. I actually teach Krav, and it is not only fun, but it’s brutal, raw, and real. And it has saved my life once, and while I love training, I hope I never have to use it in the real world again. Trust me, it’s effective.

12 Kelsey January 12, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Bruce – Sounds like you’re talking about aikido, which is pretty much a purely defensive art.

13 Playstead January 13, 2010 at 1:28 am

I practiced Muay Thai for years and it put me in the best shape I have ever been in, plus it taught me the correct way to kick and punch. I will say this: regardless of the art you choose, never join a gym without talking to the head instructor/owner and without participating in a class or two.

Also, if you’re looking for a martial art that you can also use at self-defense, then look at Krav Maga, Muay Thai, or an MMA gym.

14 Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com January 13, 2010 at 4:19 am

EVery man needs to know how to fight and remember, if someone starts a fight with you there’s no rules! Seriously though good post. I am going to start Tae Kwon Do training earlier this year and this has motivated me. Krav Maga is crazy too! Its so rough.

15 Graham Hutson January 13, 2010 at 6:43 am

The thing about martial arts is that to achieve any kind of proficiency requires an immense amount of dedication. Like your whole life. Anything less and it’s just a way of keeping fit.

http://www.openzedoor.blogspot.com

16 Jonathan January 13, 2010 at 7:31 am

@ Kelsey & Brandon
Having had some formal training in aikido, I wouldn’t say it’s a completely defensive martial art. While there are no overt attacks likes punches or kicks, the maneuvers and techniques you would use to counter such things become offensive moves and in certain instances fairly spectacular ones at that.

17 Bill January 13, 2010 at 7:54 am

I found an interesting website for older gentlemen that teaches both self-defense and exercise. Check out http://www.canemasters.com

18 Rob Bolin January 13, 2010 at 8:36 am

To wave the flag for the western martial arts, I’ve been a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism for more years that I care to count at the moment, but through it I have studied both armoured and fencing combat – granted it’s not much use for defence on the street nowadays but it is based on centuries old fencing manuals of masters that knew what they were talking about (Fiore, Silver, Di Grassi, Viggiani for example). In fact some of these masters also included grappling techniques that I might investigate this year as well… Ahh so little time, so much to study (I’m also studying Tai Chi for the meditation and movement)…

Have Fun

19 Mark January 13, 2010 at 8:49 am

Learning martial arts for defending oneself and others is all well and good, but you have to consider what your learning.
Take MMA for example.
While it is excellent exercise and teaches you to remain calm and take a punch and certin choked and holds that will hold you in good stead, it isn’t necessarily the best for self-defense.
In MMA you fight mano a mano, in real self-defense you will probably be set upon by a gang(most or a lot of deaths in brawls are caused by gang bashing or people getting knocked down and cracking their heads on the concrete) and MMA fighters fight in a sort of artificial way, clinching with each other so they can rest, a real fights are much more rapid. Learning martial arts for self defense is all well and good, and vital for certain professions, but it disheartens me that many people start martial arts so they can act tough and get in street fights, and many go in over their head and get seriously injured or killed.

20 Alex January 13, 2010 at 9:05 am

Great post! Martial arts are an amazing way to stay in shape and each martial art has its benefits and unique attributes. The main thing to remember though is that as humans we are limited as to the ways we can punch, kick and grapple and use our bodies as weapons. As such, there is obviously a lot of overlap across the various styles.

I’ve trained in judo, jiu jitsu, aikido, tai chi, karate, boxing and savate (french kickboxing). However, it is when I discovered the Russian Martial Art of Systema that my search ended. This martial art is different in that there is no fixed set of stances and movements. It is based on the training of the Spetsnaz (Russian Special Forces). It basically trains adaptability to various situations and environments. Check it out at http://www.russianmartialart.com/

But whatever style you train, if you put the effort and heart into it, you will have a great time and become a better man.

21 Geoff January 13, 2010 at 9:13 am

I’ve been studying Tang Soo Karate for about a year now. I’ve had both a really good instructor and one that was too easy on us. The one that was too easy on us still taught us things, but we were woefully unprepared when it came to actually *doing* things, and it was all because he wanted to be a nice guy. The ‘good’ instructor isn’t necessarily a mean guy, but he’s tough and demanding — think drill sergeant. If you’ve been through a complete hourlong session with him you walk out covered in sweat and tired, but you’ve learned something and gotten what you paid for.

Re: MMA. The interesting thing about this school is that you cannot advance to black belt in Karate without achieving at least a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu. The rationale behind it is that a lot of street fights go to the ground, at which point your Karate skills become much less effective, and the school doesn’t want to turn out any black belts that can have their ass handed to them once they’re put down. I think it’s a good philosophy, although it’s quite demanding and it means that my black belt will take years, rather than months for me to achieve (I’m about halfway there now.) But as others have mentioned, this is a lifelong pursuit. If you know you really need to defend yourself tomorrow, get a concealed weapons permit and firearms training.

Great article, keep ‘em coming.

22 Eric January 13, 2010 at 9:34 am

What is interesting to me is that every martial art has its focus. Kung Fu seems to be striking pointedly in order to render unconscious (which is why the temples are a huge Kung Fu target). Karate is close to Kung Fu, but with a bit more grappling and bone-breaking manipulation. Ju-Jitsu, or Judo (they’re the same thing) seems to have the goal of knocking the opponent to the ground and then pinning them. Boxing, kickboxing, MMA (which isn’t truly mixed-martial-arts; it’s just street fighting) and all of those similar arts are ring-fighters: no bone-breaking, few or no take-downs, eventual unconsciousness through standard punches and kicks.

As someone who has trained in Goju-Karate for most of his life, I can tell you that the first thing you learn in karate is not how to use it, but how not to. I have never once had to use my martial arts on anybody (I’ve gotten close once or twice, though) and sport-, street- or prize-fighting is absolutely out of the question. Use your strengths wisely; never go with the goal of learning to “kick ass”. I lost all sadistic pleasure derived from hitting others years ago; the art and the form and the pure strength and energy of karate, whether solo in kata or working in kumite in partners or larger groups or free-sparring, is what keeps me going.

23 BlackFlag January 13, 2010 at 9:39 am

I train MMA 3 times per week+ some BJJ.. before I trained Muay Thai…
MMA is brilliant.. it develops strenght, flexibility, endurance, proprioception, kinesthetic awareness, balance and of course power and explosivness among other things. It forces you to be all around good in all these things along with striking and grappling. And also after a while you will feel a sense of centerdness or something.. it’s kind of like a peace of mind.. can’t explain it properly.. total calmness..
I disagree with a person who said it’s not useful for self-defense, he mentioned clinching for resting.. well.. take a look at WEC or Showtime, Shooto whatever organization you can.. UFC eg.. you barely see anyone resting there.. take a look on a classical Valetudo (MMA without rounds and rules) and there is no resting (because there are no rounds, fights lasts to the end)..

The downside is.. I weight 60Kg.. thus I barely sweep a guy who weights 80+ Kg.. so I train more of an escapes.. and it’s hard..

Last point: never train to your fullest.. it’s better to train more then more intensive.. knee injury can lasts months, rotator cuff years.. just tapout before you get hurt and don’t be ashamed in training less hours but for a longer period of time.. that’s the secret

24 Mark January 13, 2010 at 9:43 am

The school matters almost as much as the style. I’d take a great boxing gym over a mediocre karate dojo, even though I prefer self defense over sport based styles. Like other posters said, investigate the school first. If they aren’t any good, you won’t learn as much, even if its the style you want to train. Looking around is important because there are so many different styles. You may stumble on one that you’ve never heard of, but is tailor made for you.

Jeet Kune Do and Kenpo Karate need some love. JKD is Bruce Lee’s concoction and is one of the original Mixed Martial Arts, along with Kajukenbo. Both are self defense oriented.

JKD takes bits and pieces from Kali, Wing Chun, Boxing, and even Fencing. Unfortunately, Mr. Lee died before he could round out the system, so there is no grappling in the original curriculum. Some schools add one or two in. The school I go to throws Silat into the mix and just added Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’ve seen others that teach Catch Wrestling and Judo.

Kali and Wing Chun together are stellar for street self defense. They teach you angles, deflections, locks, and how to handle yourself against weapons.

Kenpo is absolutely ferocious. The style emphasizes incapacitating your opponent quickly so you can be ready for another attack. Lots of strikes to vital spots and weak points. Also, the names of the techniques sound like awesome B grade action movies; Dance of Death, Thundering Hammers, Five Swords, Mace of Aggression, etc.

I’ve been doing both for over a year and I’ve learned so much.

25 John Neikirk January 13, 2010 at 9:52 am

Re: Brett McKay January 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm
I am not sure what link you deleted, but below is an excellent resource for comparing popular martial arts styles.
http://www.bullshido.org/Category:Styles

The following link leads to a series of articles discussing selection of and training in martial arts in general. It is written by a man with over fifty years of martial arts training, with input from some of the finest martial artists in the world.
http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/martialarts.html

26 suba January 13, 2010 at 9:53 am

I’ve been doing martial arts since I was 7 years old. I did Teakwondo, smatterings of Judo, Karate, fencing and kung-fu. I started doing Arnis back in ’97-’98. In my opinion it’s the best martial art there is as it covers a lot of different aspects of fighting- from fighting with swords or improvised weapons to striking to grappling and throwing.

The main problem that you might have would be finding a good school. Unlike Japanese or Korean arts, there is hardly an international body governing Arnis schools. You just have to try it out for yourself.

27 Mark January 13, 2010 at 10:27 am

RE: John Neikirk

That is a fantastic site. Thank you.

28 Jeffrey Peck January 13, 2010 at 11:14 am

I have begun training in Hapkido, or the way of coordinated power, after an hiatus of about ten years. This martial arts style comes from South Korea and implements hand strikes, joint/wrist locks, pressure points, throws, break falls, ground defense, weapon defense. Most notably, it teaches the use of the opponent’s energy against them after having them off balance. Thus, a small person can defend against a very large opponent.
The down side to this style is that defenses against grabs and punches are extremely painful. Hapkido was made for real-life scenarios, not competition. Therefore, your joints take quite a beating. The other down side is that, in many schools, belts do not come quickly.

This is not a bad thing for the art, as it means those who are achieving higher belts are more proficient and more dedicated, but you must be truly dedicated in order to advance.

Most important in finding a martial arts school is visiting as many as you can. You know your strengths and limitations better than anyone and can see if a certain martial art is right for you. If martial arts are an interest for you, it is likely that there is a school that will suit you tastes and needs.

29 Jerome January 13, 2010 at 11:14 am

Keep an eye out for private instructors as well. I’ve found that some of the best instructors are the ones that teach out of a garage or a basement because they’re not into the commercial school setting. The ones I’ve trained with also usually tend to charge less since teaching isn’t about making money for them and they don’t have to deal with the level of insurance liability that comes with owning a commercial school.

30 Todd Erven January 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I’ve been involved in martial arts for awhile (Kali, Silat, Boxing), and I agree with Jerome. A school that is too commercialized is probably going to be expensive and there’s a good chance that you will hardly get any face time with the good instructors. Garage or basement schools are usually very relaxed, cheap, and fun. Plus, it’s pretty manly learning how to kickass in a dark, dingy place.

Advice that I’d give:

Watch out for hidden fees such as excessive belt and testing fees. On that same note, be wary of places that want you to sign long contracts and ALWAYS read the fine print.

Watch out for places that put too much emphasis on lineage, groveling to the “master”, or any mystical mumbo jumbo. They cannot teach you to levitate so don’t buy into that. Find a place where the head instructor is relaxed and easy going, it will make your training experience much better.

Which ever art you pick make sure that there is regular sparring. It doesn’t have to be full force, just as long as it’s unscripted. Knowing 100 different techniques doesn’t mean jack if you can’t apply them against a resisting and unpredictable opponent. Even if there was a Death Touch and you knew it, you still have to apply it without getting knocked the hell out.

Finally, the most important piece of advice that I’d give is to have fun. If you don’t find a place that you truly enjoy training at, then you will eventually stop. If you make sure that you’re having fun with your training then you will keep it up even when you feel like quitting sometimes.

31 Uberhack January 13, 2010 at 1:01 pm

I second John Neikirk on going to bullshido.org for research.
They do a great fob going after unscrupulous schools out there. Unfortunately, there is no standards organization for martial arts schools. Anyone can open a school and say they know what they’re doing. Bullshido members do their best to hunt down schools that offer made up lineages and credentials. Their methods can be a bit caustic at times but they are quite thorough.
@ Eric who said: “Ju-Jitsu, or Judo (they’re the same thing) seems to have the goal of knocking the opponent to the ground and then pinning them.”
Jiu-Jitsu and Judo are not the same thing. Similar but not the same. To put it over-simply, Judo puts much of its teaching into how to throw/take down your opponent, Jiu-Jitsu puts more emphasis on what to do on the ground. There is a significant overlap, but don’t tell a judoka or a Jiu-jitsu guy that their styles are the same. It’s kinda like saying the Yankees and the Sox are the same.

32 RAJ January 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Found this article quite insightful, especially on the reality of violence side. It seems there are two extremes: extremely martial (as in MMA, although this is far from realistic as the author points out) and extremely artistic (Wushu and Aikido come to mind).

WHat I mean is: an MMA fighter must change his training tactics were he to fight in a realistic situation where biting, eyegouging, and groin strikes are to be expected. I have always been amazed at people who have the time to train and keep in shape with high kicks – which must be several hours a week of effort to maintain.

On the other hand, styles or schools that pretend to be “martial” should not call themselves martial art, for they are deceiving themselves and the students.

What I always say is a person from the ghetto with much fighting experience and martial spirit will quickly defeat most black belts who train daily in a realistic full-on altercation. The reality of martial arts is what I am personally after.

My blog focuses on exactly that if you are interested.

33 Charlie Kondek January 13, 2010 at 2:51 pm

I’m blown away by these comments. I’m not surprised that several of the Art of Manliness regulars are martial arts disciples, nor by the healthy attitudes toward the arts and fitness on display here. A lot of great things to read.

Thanks so much for the kudos on the piece. What I was trying to put together was a good piece that one could share with a martial arts noob that would be a great starting point, I mean, just a, “Hey, what about martial arts?” Blammo, send ‘em this link! I think I succeeded in that; the comments are very helpful and insightful.

34 Matt G January 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm

What about good old wrestling. It’s been around in ancient cultures all over the world and it is one of the most manly things I’ve been a part of. Just that struggling against another guy to see who has the most strength, skill and stamina to win. There’s nothing better than getting your hand raised after a sweat-drenched six minutes of battle.

35 Del January 13, 2010 at 3:45 pm

To Kelsey: I would like to think that you are not an aikidoka, for if you are, you will not be saying that aikido is “pretty much a purely defensive art.”

I was told of this story once by my aikido instructor: during one aikido seminar held here in the US, a young shodan asked the guest instructor, a senior yudansha from Japan, why there was no offense in aikido. The yudansha told the young shodan, “if you think that there are not attacks in aikido, then you are sadly mistaken.” One of the first things that was taught to us in aikido is to always enter – either directly (irimi) or by blending in (tenkan). The few waza that employs stepping back is stepping off a line followed by an irimi or tenkan. Most of my sempai always reminded me, “you cannot never keep stepping backwards faster than somebody moving forward to attack you.”

For those who do not see it, it seems that aikidoka only “defend” themselves when attacked or provoked – i.e., they react. But that is not the case: aikidoka RESPOND to an attack, not the attacker. Look for the book “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere,” there is a ton of information there that is explained in not-so-esoteric terms.

36 Del January 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Mike at the Big Stick: I agree about jiu-jitsu and boxing. I want to keep pursuing aikido, but I would like to compliment it with jiu-jitsu and boxing. Unfortunately, there are no gyms that offer either of them close to where I live or work.

37 Del January 13, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Matt G: It’s too bad that many people do not see wrestling as a martial art (i.e., true wrestling, not the one seen in the WWE or TNA). As much as wrestling skills are integrated into MMA, many feel that it’s just a matter of integrating certain techniques from wrestling. As a martial art system, I think it’s a good one.

38 Kelsey January 13, 2010 at 6:05 pm

@Johnathan – I took aikido for four years, so I do have some sense of what I’m talking about as well. Yes, the moves become offensive once they are used against your opponent, but all aikido moves require that your opponent already be moving towards you, attacking. For aikido to work properly, someone has to be attacking you already – you can’t really start a fight with aikido. Therefore, it is a defensive art.

39 Mike Andderson January 13, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Great post! You reminded me that I am not too old to get back into a good Judo dojo (if I can find one here). Thanks and keep up the good work!

Semper FI,
Mike-s

40 Rodolfo January 13, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Just my 2 pennies:
Shotokan used to be quite different. Chopping to the throat, nukite to the eyes, fishooking, crushing the larynx were all part and parcel of karate.
To those who practice karate – how many times have you practiced these? Have you practiced kin-geri? Hell, kin-geri was designed to knock your balls so hard theyd come up your throat. Kicks to the knees were designed to break them.

Too many strip malls, and liability suits.

41 rob January 13, 2010 at 8:56 pm

When on the hunt for a gym, you should really test them out. Take the trials they offer to see if you like the teaching style. Watch a bunch of classes make sure you like the curriculum. Teaching style and curriculum can go a long way in helping out you learning of any art form. http://www.jiujitsueducation.blogspot.com

42 Scottso January 13, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Two additions, I would reccommend Tai Chi & Qi Qong, for a slightly different flavor.

43 OXOjamm January 13, 2010 at 10:12 pm

If you want to stay counted as a real Man, stay away from the Steriod Overdose Clowns of the UFC and their Clown Sisters.

Bruce Lee’s Book, “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do”, says it all. But, if indeed you need to attend a school, pick a school that has certified instructors in AKIDO… and after you run a criminal background check on every one of them, Pick one and Go for it.

After a few Mos with these true Masters, you will be able to make mincemeat of these so-called “Cage Fighters” withiout breaking a sweat. Believe it, they are all drug useing pussies who couldent (and never have) lasted even one min. in a real street fight against a true Martial Arts practitioner.

Vince and the Crew,
OXOjamm.

44 Del January 13, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Kelsey: yes, you can start a fight with aikido. In Yoshinkan aikido, where my aikido sensei started, ikkyo is performed suwari waza with nage (or tori) initiating an attack to get uke to react, to which nage applies ikkyo. There are instances that atemi is applied to get uke to move (attack or enter) then technique is applied.

I know that, for some this is not a good example, but get to watch a few of Steven Seagal’s fight scenes. In a few of them, he initiated attack by slapping the other guy in the face or faking a punch.

45 Kelsey January 13, 2010 at 11:53 pm

I know of Yoshinkan, and I would tend to argue that their practices go against the original philosophy of aikido and of Morihei Ueshiba. I attended a very traditional dojo that emphasized the concept of neutralizing your opponent with the minimum of violence necessary. To each his own, and that’s why different schools have split off. In its original form, however, it is meant to be a defensive art.

“In a few of them, he initiated attack by slapping the other guy in the face or faking a punch.”

Yes, but those slaps and fake punches are not aikido moves, and thus not aikido. Sure, you can provoke a fight with anything and then end it with aikido, but that does not make aikido an aggressive art.

46 Jake January 14, 2010 at 12:00 am

Good article, and great comments here!

I think you can’t go wrong with regular boxing. Punching is faster and easier than ripping out somebody’s throat, and way easier to defend in court. Most importantly, you’ll learn to TAKE a punch. And since boxing is a sport, you’ll have competition to keep you in shape (instead of a sort of theoretical “I practiced this move a bunch of times so I bet I can do it pretty well in real life” kind of thing).

47 Del January 14, 2010 at 8:27 am

Kelsey: atemi IS part of aikido. And, at this point, I will agree to disagree with you. Good luck on your aikido journey.

48 Doublejnyc January 14, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Hey guys, I’m so glad we got this discussion going. Can anyone recommend the top bloggers or blogs in their respective martial arts fields? I’m really curious about Judo.

49 Ben January 14, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I’ve studied and trained in several arts over the last 10 years and all have good qualities. Whatever art/style you choose make sure the instructor is the real deal. I once tried to check out a new jiu-jitsu school near my house and I was told the first class was free but that I wasn’t allowed to participate with the rest of the class. Furthermore, no rolling (sparring) was permitted until you reach Purple belt. It was $250/month. Somehow the school was packed. I think the guy running the school had a 10th degree black belt in marketing.

As others have said, any good school will probably be small and the instructor will allow you to jump in with both feet. A truly great teacher will be invaluable no matter the art.

On the flip side, any bad school will continuously talk to you about how fast you can advance through the ranks. If rank is what motivates you then these schools are perfect. FYI, most but not all Tae Kwon Do school are black belt marketing traps.

50 Del January 14, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Ben: No rolling? That’s REALLY odd. When I did Judo in college, and then moved to Aikido, the first things they taught us were rolling and falling. The first few classes, we hardly had techniques, the instructor made sure we knew how to keep ourselves safe. I agree, that instructor must be a marketing sensei, :D

My Aikido sensei has always held the notion of not wanting many students. There were those that enrolled, thinking that if they attended the minimum number of classes they can test. Boy, did they find out that was wrong! And whenever any of us wanted to test and we weren’t ready, he told us right in our face, but rather tactfully. And he’d tell us what each of us still need to work on, so by the time we actually test, we were really ready.

51 Happy Harvey January 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Hi, I’ve been a subscriber to AOM for a while and training in Fighting Arts for a number of years. I wouldn’t normally stick my oar in, especially as a FNG, but since this is a personal safety issue I felt it was my duty to post.

Martial arts are great, but they are just that, martial ‘arts’. Combat sports are great, but they are just that, combat ‘sports’. They may all look impressive and be impressive in their particular arena, but they are highly likely to get you killed when it comes to actual, real world self defense. Don’t believe me? Well, get yourself to the bad part of town, pick a fight then get the other guy on the floor and into an armbar. Then see what happens – do you get shot, or stabbed or kicked in the head? BJJ, great in the cage, tactical suicide on the street where you won’t be fighting just one guy and he and his buddies are most probably armed.

The ‘martial arts’ are also absolutely choc full of liars and con artists. Absolutely crammed with them (this was a big shock and a big suprise to me too!). That’s not a problem if all you really want to do is workout using a nice hobby. But if your family depends on you not being dead or in hospital, then it’s a very very bad thing. If you don’t believe me, there are plenty of revelations around the web. Check out ‘Commando Krav Maga’ and its founder for example, if you doubt what I say.

If you want recreation, the ‘martial’ arts are great. If you want to defend yourself in the real world you need something else.

For those in the U.S this is a good guy to start with:
http://charlotteselfdefense.blogspot.com/
http://www.fightsurvival.com/

In the U.K and also doing more seminars in the U.S is this guy: http://www.corecombatives.com/

These guys are the real deal. Defending yourself and your family is a big responsbility, make sure you do it right.

52 Ozone January 14, 2010 at 9:27 pm

To Happy Harvey’s point: some (maybe lots) of martial arts training does not necessarily lend itself to a fight. And just because you practice martial arts does not mean you will be able to fight. But to say that they are not effective is not true either. Remember, martial arts evolved for and out of combat, and knowing an art well should at least improve your odds of coming out in one piece.

People engage in (nearly) ridiculous arguments about which martial art is better or which is worse. They are ALL useful but it is up to the practitioner to decide how the art serves him or her best. There seems to be this almost pacifist attitude that if you show up and learn something, you are entitled to be the next Bruce Lee. Not at all, and this is where having a good teacher and school come into play. A good teacher will help you learn your strengths and your limits, provided you make an honest effort to learn the art for what it is.

The best way I find to understand martial arts then is to realize that the art is *way* or journey: some want a long journey with lots of sights, others want to get right to the top of the mountain. So each art is a different training regimen. At the end, the view is the same. At the high levels, all martial arts end up looking much more similar to each other than different. All of us have a head, a torso, and (mostly) four limbs: the human body can only move so many ways. Ever wonder why true masters never fight another? Because they know there’s not much point: to paraphrase Bruce Lee, a punch is a punch, a kick is a kick.

I echo what others have said, any martial art that is taught well is superior to the supposedly killer art that is taught poorly. (Me? I play Wing Chun.)

53 Lance Friedman January 14, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Krav Maga. Just look it up. Manly enough for the Israeli army.

54 Charlie Kondek January 15, 2010 at 9:42 am

Hey, DoubleJ, judo is a great art. It’s emphasis is on getting hold of the other guy, grabbing him, throwing him down so hard that he’s done for (flat on his back), and/or rolling around on the ground with him to get him to submit to an armbar, choke or pin. Also involved – you learn to fall! (That’s the part I’m best at.) Very valuable skill. I love the art – it’s like wrestling, competitive, and difficult. I once heard a self defense expert (Geoff Thomspon from the UK) say that if you could take any two arts, they should be boxing and judo.

Judo in the U.S. is in a pretty strange state in that there are at least three federations governing judo’s curriculum, competition and grading. Many judo coaches have to sign up with all three federations just to participate in the various seminars and competitions! If you’re in New York, there’s some great judo – there’s often great judo at your local Y. Head down to a place and watch and see if you like what you see, or ask around at the following message boards: e-budo.com, sub-forum judo, or mma.tv, sub forum judo. There’s probably some other good judo web sites out there that I’m not aware of, so poke around. Maybe you’ll end up at the same dojo as Mike Andderson! Semper fi, man! Ganbare! (gan-bah-ray = “Do you best!”)

55 Charlie January 15, 2010 at 10:21 am

I did combatives (MACP) in the Army up to the instructor level. As far as practical “ass kicking” goes, the key is not to focus on too many techniques or get hung up on styles. Just learn a small number of basic, effective techniques, practice them in various scenarios, and drill them into your muscle memory. You can become a really dangerous fighter just with boxing and a little judo if you have the right attitude and drill it into your muscle memory enough.

Also, we’re trained to use combatives only as a last resort or for situations where the continuum of force doesn’t allow us to use deadly force. IOW, it’s really all about surviving, not being a badass, so if you have a weapon or can use something around as a weapon, that’s preferable to trying to Steven Seagal somebody with some High Karate.

If you want more than kicking ass, then yeah, you can just pick any martial art and have fun and keep in shape (some more than others) with it. But if you seriously want to defend yourself, I’d suggest something like Krav Maga, which is pretty similar to Army and USMC fighting ‘systems’. Also, keep in mind that MMA fighters train to fight one unarmed opponent in a ring with rules for a reward. This is not really practical in actual combat. One thing I couldn’t stand about the MACP was the shift in focus away from what was (in the old Combatives program) essentially Muay Thai and Judo to BJJ groundfighting. Now, the Army is revising its combatives again to tone down the BJJ and train in more stand up techniques because – as many NCO’s at the time of the new system predicted – they discovered that ground fighting doesn’t happen in real combat as often as they thought. More often, you’re using blows and joint locks to secure someone against a wall – i.e., standing up – and you’re usually not dealing with just one (unarmed) person, so being on the ground is hardly ideal. You want to be able to maneuver and keep several people busy so your buddy/buddies can come and back you up. You can’t do that by rolling around on the ground.

Anyway, this is a great article and the most important paragraph was the one about motive. That was right on.

56 John January 15, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Good blog on Judo: http://www.mokurendojo.com/

57 Charlie Kondek January 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Glad you weighed in, Charlie! Thanks! Valuable perspective.

Thanks for the link, John.

58 Mike M. January 16, 2010 at 12:50 am

Having studied Shorin-Ryu Matsamura Orthodox karate for well over a decade, plus western fencing (saber and epee) for ~10 years, I’ll toss in my two cents.

First, look for a club. You can find good commercial instruction, but many of the best training comes from people who teach because they want to, not because they are trying to get a promotion fee out of you.

Second, if they offer a guaranteed rank if you sign a contract, look elsewhere. Come to think of it, if they try to tell you that you can earn a black belt in under 4 years, look elsewhere. Honest promotions are at the rate the student learns, not the calendar schedule.

Third, in the Eastern arts, your instructor should be able to trace his professional lineage to the founder of the style. At a minimum, he should be able to tell you who trained him…and who taught his instructor.

I will admit a preference for the Okinawan arts. The Okinawans had an intensely pragmatic approach. Their karate isn’t pretty…it’s deadly. But it has enough development time behind it to be well figured out. Although you can spend decades learning the more advanced material. Having said that, I will echo what other commenters have said – all styles teach much the same things, but with slight differences in emphasis.

As to sparring, it’s overrated. You need some – but remember, there are NO rules on the street. Which means that there is a long laundry list of techniques I can’t use while sparring because they break bones, wrench joints, gouge eyes, and do all sorts of permanent injury.

Fencing? Lovely sport. It’s not likely that you will have to defend yourself with a sword, but it will hone your coordination and reflexes razor-fine.

59 Luke Simpson January 17, 2010 at 10:08 am

i was perusing my local community center mail out form and there are fencing classes available.. Maybe not available in all areas but it is probably a good idea to check it out.

60 Jason January 17, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Interesting article, I have been training in Tang Soo Tao (direct linage from Soo Bahk Do a Korean style) for 19 years..

My advice is to go and have a look around and see what is out there. Decide on the continuum what type of martial art you like and what suits your body type and personality. Do a class and find out about the linage.

I have always said that any style can be great if you have a great instructor.

Enjoy the journey

61 Alejandro January 22, 2010 at 11:29 pm

I studied Tae Kwon Do in the 1990′s, but left the sport before the decade was over. Guess I got burned out, but that was my fault. I was at the advance threshhold and therefore, shouldn’t have quit. Now, at 46, I’m determined to return to the sport and earn my black belt. It was a great compliment to my weight lifting & jogging regimens!

62 Nick Stone January 24, 2010 at 4:29 am

Likely no one will read this comment, so far down here at the bottom, and so late, but here goes nonetheless.

I first got into martial arts as a kid. 7 years old and I was taking Shotokan Karate at a local community college. I did that till I turned 12, and then I switched over to Tae Kwon Do. Got my black belt there before I joined the Marine Corps when I was 19 years old. In the Marine Corps I got a chance to go to the martial arts instructor course, and was an instructor in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP, or Semper Fu for those of you who *might* read this). MCMAP has some elements of MMA in it, which got me interested. I found that all my years in traditional martial arts left me woefully underprepared to actually *fight*.

After getting out of the Marine Corps, I decided to pursue MMA a little more, and got into a whole slew of martial arts that I never even dreamed of. I started doing Jeet Kune Do, Kali, Silat, Judo, BJJ, MMA, Muay Thai, Erik Paulson’s Combat Submission Wrestling, Vale Tudo, as well as old-school boxing and wrestling. The combined total of all these martial arts I think qualifies as “Mixed Martial Arts” in a real way. Time in the cage is great, and will teach you quite a bit, but if you really sutdy the martial arts, you’ll find ways to make whatever you’re learning applicable in the “real” world.

Combine boxing with eye pokes, and you’ll be pretty effective. Combine Muay Thai with using the sharp little heel on you dress shoes, and you’ll take good chunks off people’s shins. Combine BJJ with judo and kali, and you’ll be pretty well set to handle a knife fight or a ground fight. Learning to fight from your back in BJJ helps you *stay* off your back in a street fight. Anything you want to train can be applied to self-defense, if you just think about things “outside the box”. So, don’t be limited by what is a “street” art and what is a “sport” art. They are all applicable if you want them to be.

63 Gabe Romero January 25, 2010 at 2:47 am

I’ve got to say that I’ve participated in a lot of styles looking for the perfect one. Karate, fencing, Kendo, Enshin, Hapkido, MMA, and now Japanese Jujitsu. I’ll try and share a bit about what i know:

First off: As everyone says, McDojos as I call them, suck. You won’t learn anything useful, and they are expensive.

Secondly, as many are saying before me, make sure to test the waters in any school you go to. If they won’t let you then walk out the door. You wouldn’t buy a car you can’t drive right?

The atmosphere of a dojo can vary as well, there are sports and there are arts in my opinion. While Tae Kwon Do, and many sport based point styles are great with a ref, they sometimes don’t go to the street well. Consider Brazilian Jujitsu; I like the style, it’s probably the best thing in a cage one on one, but you can never assume you are fighting only one person in real life.

For me, Japanese Jujitsu has proven itself as a balance of all things (if i can do a small bit of testimony). We do some weapons training such as stick and knife, striking, some grappling, and a whole lot of locks and counters. It’s physically demanding, makes you tougher, and proves itself to me as practical in real situations. (We all wonder how we would do in a real fight, if our training will mean a damn when it comes down to it, because jujitsu has free sparing, and no real forms, i don’t worry so much) I’d personally avoid any dojo where the teachers are all about demo teams. You will never be put in a situation where a running 5 flip, jumping spin-kick is going to be practical.

As all things in martial arts, look for the balance. What works for you is most important. And remember that this is a life long journey, become rounded and learn as much as you can. Don’t get discouraged by injury, get back up and keep going.
I hope you can find what you are looking for, Martial arts have a way of helping you find things about yourself you didn’t know.

64 Greg January 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm

I would recommend Krav Maga as one of less complicated and most efficient hand-to-hand systems in use today. Used by special forces, government agents, AT groups, rangers and such like.Proper training gives you for free ;) another element, such as fitness. Krav Maga is regarded by many as “street fight” rather, than “martial art”, but despite that, it proves itself every day. Then, if anybody around runs Krav Maga trainings, at least try it.

65 Isshin68 February 15, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Hello,
I got into the martial arts in 1968 at 13. One of the founders of Isshinryu in the US was a mile from my house. Got shodan at 17. This was refered to as the blood and guts era of American martial arts. No padding, bare knuckle, no rules. Groin kicks were part of the deal every round. The only fouls were finger tips to the eyes and side kicks to the front or side of the knee.
In 1976 I was senior private student in the US to Great Grandmaster Dr. Kim, Dae Shik, one of the five founders of TKD in the US. Dr. Kim was also at the time of his death 10th dan founder Hosin Hapkido (Tomiki Aikijujitsu influenced) 9thdan yudo, korean judo, and 9th dan TKD, he was one of the founders of TKD as an Olympic sport and director of the Seoul ’88 TKD Olympic games, he was director of Mas Oyama’s first three world championships. I inherited Dr. Kim’s knowledge of martial arts, Kyokushinkai, Tomiki Aikijujitsu, and TKD as a martial arts, something that has been lost.
This is to give you my frame of reference, not to impress you. Growing up I commonly threw 1000 kicks a day and have fought bare knuckle no rules over 3000 rounds.
Find an old school traditional dojo, don’t expect deadly results in just a few weeks.
Kata is not useless….Dr. Kim had me doing the forms 4-5 hours a day no breaks…for real…it gives you a focus no one else has…same as old Shaolin training.
Avoid MMA type schools, they are in great shape, but very ineffective on the street…for these reasons….they can’t take a full power kick to the groin, I grew up with that….you got your cup rang hard, if you even blinked they were all over you…MMA training does not give you instinctive groin protection.
Groin kicks would eliminate all clinching, any front facing an opponent.
On the street, any grappling….people will bite you, and grab your groin…I once saw an annemic meth addict woman, strapped down to a gurney, about 100 pounds take a third of a 260 pound police officer’s bicep off the bone. He screamed, fell down and blood spurted up like a fountain, he was in shock and disabled. The woman was suicidal and found out that day she had full blown AIDS.
I have yet to see MMA fighter that can throw a kick….this is not something you can learn in a few month….their hands are weak…no defense….Have not seen one yet that wouldn’t benifit from two YEARS at a professinal boxing gym….not kidding.

The Mcdojo’s in strip malls do teach a watered down, sport version of a martial art.
Mostly to children,,,in the old days children did not do karate, it was too rough.
At the first school I went to J. Pat Burleson, Fort Worth, at 12…grown men were throwing you full power on a hardwood floor….this is for real….
Avoid any school with American in the name…watered down…
The real schools are out there, expect several year study, use the heavy bag.
80% or more of self defense is situational awareness…..don’t space out on your mp3 or cell phone, see what is around you at all times, without paranoia.
Head trauma is to be avoided at all cost. Many of the old bare knuckle fighters have profound neuro damage, epilepsy, etc. It is possible to feel it before it even shows up….good luck.
TW TX

K

66 matt February 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm

if you have netflix then i’d suggest renting fight quest. it’s three or four dvds, but they go through a bunch of different styles, including krav maga, bjj, boxing, karate, savate, kung fu, muy thai, and a few others i can’t remember and probably couldn’t pronounce anyway. it’s basically two guys who train in each discipline for a week and then have guys who have trained in each style for a while beat the crap out of them. it’s fun to watch all the different styles practiced by real masters and even funner to see the guys get put to shame by guys almost twice their age.

67 Fred March 8, 2010 at 6:10 am

thank very much

68 Gabry March 8, 2010 at 6:12 am

S.F….I could not said it better myself.

69 Trent March 11, 2010 at 10:04 pm

I say watch a bunch of different styles. The internet is a great tool for this. Eventually you will see a style and it will make you feel incredible just watching. You will say to yourself, “I want to be able to do that.” Just go with your gut and try it out.

70 ryan March 21, 2010 at 11:43 pm

if it hasnt been said already, beware of mcdojos, if the instructor is passing out belts like candy, or the kids have a million patches on their uniform, or the instructor says its possible to achieve a black belt in under a year. etc.

71 Chuck April 19, 2010 at 7:32 am

90% of ppl who do martial arts are full of garbage. There’s no such thing as a “best martial art”. Leave that to the jokers who want to sit down and theorize all day.

No one wants to hear it, but there is indeed a “formula” to making yourself the best fighter you can be:
1)Be complete – you have to do some form of boxing and grappling, sorry.
2)Train full-contact
3)Know how to use your stuff in different situations, be aware of dirty tricks etc

Ppl with real streetfight experience such as Geoff Thompson, Paul Vunak, even Bas Rutten and Tank Abbot LOL, have been using the above formula successfully. You can listen to them, or you can listen to the clowns here.

Last thing, don’t go and use your 10 flower lotus seed gung fu against 10 guys. If you must fight multiple attackers, at least have a weapon, or friends (difficult task for most internet warriors I know).

72 Kai June 15, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Why not just get a gun and trump all martial arts?

In all seriousness I think the above has proven one thing- There is no prevailing consensus as to what the “best” way of defending yourself is. I think any type of balanced martial art that promotes physiological consciousness will get you on the way to becoming a better scrapper.

73 Matthias June 21, 2010 at 7:49 am

Well I will give my 2 cents about Martial Arts but people like Playstead, Blackflag, Todd Erven, John Neikirk, Jake, Charlie & Chuck have pretty much said the whole deal.

You just need to realise that things like eye gauges and ball grabs/ball kicks aren’t magic tricks. Do you really think it is that easy to poke somebody in the eye with your finger when you are trying to fight him? Same goes with those “i got teh deadly” how do you think to pull of a technique that you never pressure tested in sparring. You expect that something you never did against a resisting opponent suddenly is going to work in real life. But i’m not really that good in explaining but at http://www.bullshido.org your ideas about martial arts will get a serious reality check.

Also, in my opinion Isshin68 is just bragging about himself and not saying anything of value. Saying that MMA fighter don’t even have decent kicks? I would like to refer to Master of MMA from National Geographic where Bass Rutten (i think, don’t quote me on this) kicks a crash tests dummy and where its chest compresses 3 inches (don’t quote me on this too but it was seriously darn much). I think that is quite powerful kick and that is just one of his “facts” that he seem to say that really have no connection with realty.

74 Andrew Tharp June 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Wonderful Article. I am the fencing instructor at Indiana University (as well as having received my Martial Arts Certification from there). I am glad that you included fencing in the list, this is one people often forget about. Although it doesn’t have the self-defense characteristics of others, it does have great competition and camaraderie. I have done many martial arts, and agree that it is often hard to find a fit. Just look around and try things, and don’t be afraid of what other people might think. Really, it doesn’t matter if you enjoy Judo or Tae Kwon Do, if you enjoy it, do it!

75 Clayton Blackwell June 24, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I have been interested in the Martial arts for years. I have trained in several styles. I also have trained in both eastern and western sword styles (my favorite is Scottish Cateran (broadsword, targe, and Dirk). What I am interested in now is finding a local place (Spokane, WA) to learn the ill fated Bartitsu. I think this one is very gentlemanly and would be a great addition to my current repertoire of techniques.

76 Christian Sharlow August 12, 2010 at 3:04 am

I love how people use Bullshido.org as an end all be all quantifying agent for all things martial arts. Though there are a lot of good points on that forum, there is more gossip and childish conversation on that forum than need be read by readers of this manly blog.

Since people are on the subject of offering sage advice about martial arts, I too will offer some. “Never listen to sage advice when you can find the answers out for yourself with a lot of sweat, a little blood, and tons of research.”– Me
“One martial art can be appreciated as an advanced form of all the other ones” — A friend.

77 Jeeter October 17, 2012 at 12:39 am

I have studied ninjutsu for 12 years, since i was 5, it instills not only self defence and offence but honor, selflessness and other attributes that go towards manliness. when choosing a martial art, i believe that people should also think hard about bettering themselves and becoming a calmer more effecient person in all aspects of life as well as becoming a finely tuned weapon. rather then taking it as a sport look at it as a combat effective tool ready to be used when the time is appropriate. not to be used to show off to buddies or a girl. and remember, there is always someone better then you. everyone has a master who taught them

78 Charles L. Gray, Jr. February 16, 2013 at 7:43 pm

I take martial arts because of a Dr.’s recommendation as a solution to fix my balance problems resulting from a car accident On 14 Jan I ran into a mailbox, a telephone pole and a brick wall. I was in a semi-coma for 71 days. To make a long story short, I am now a Green belt advanced in Tae Kwon Do. I love martial arts, at 58 I have to. I could be out there enjoying doing other things, but the karate studio is where I enjoy being. Being able to keep up with men and ladies more than half my age is whatt gives me joy! I plan to get my black belt, and at that time I may survey the “land” again, but until that time i will continue to learn my stle of martial arts/

79 Arik July 16, 2013 at 9:18 am

I just wanted to thank you for tipping your hat to historical European Martial Arts.

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