Choosing to take up a martial art no matter what your age or gender, is possibly one of the best decisions you could ever make. In no time at all your overall fitness will improve dramatically, you will have more self confidence and a stronger mental attitude to cope with the strain and stress of modern day living.
However choosing the martial art that is best for you can often be very difficult, with so many options available, to the would be 21st century warrior. Get this all important first step wrong and choose a martial art that you don’t feel comfortable with and you can quickly become disillusioned with the martial arts in general and give up before you have even begun.
As a potential martial artist you really need to be doing some research before you decide which path you will follow, ask yourself what do I hope to gain from this? Do you just want to get fit? Is defending yourself a number one priority? Or are you just looking for a fun way to exercise?
Martial Arts come in many flavours but in general they can be divided into two main groups hard, external and soft, internal, now try not to jump to conclusions with that statement, soft in this instance does not mean weak nor does hard mean strong.
In order to help with your choice of martial art, what follows is a brief overview of some of the most popular martial arts available today, they differ widely in their philosophies and techniques but ultimately they all have the same goal self improvement, I will let you decide which you class as hard and which you think are soft.
Probably one of the most popular martial arts, with millions of practitioners around the world, Karate was initially developed to be brutally efficient at dealing with a violent attack with its ‘one blow, one kill’ philosophy. However since the end of the second world war much of the bone breaking brutality was stripped away and replaced with a more sport orientated way of teaching.
Steeped in tradition Karate is an excellent way of instilling discipline and respect, particularly in younger students but older students may begin to question the practicality of modern karate in a self defence situation.
If you would like to take up a competitive high velocity sport, guaranteed to get you fit then Karate could be ideal for you. Also worthy of consideration would be the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do, which shares many similarities.
Spirituality and a deep rooted respect for all mankind is at the core of Aikido. Developed by Master Morihei Uyeshiba, who himself was a student of Aikijutsu master Takeda Sokaku. Aikido advocates using your opponents strength against them and ending confrontation with as little violence as possible.
Aikido is truly the thinking man’s (or woman’s) martial art, it’s techniques can take years to master but once learnt will make you a formidable opponent and most important of all, a well rounded human being.
As mentioned earlier Uyeshiba was a student of Takeda Sokaku and his art shares many similarities with Sokaku’s Aikijutsu but as with Karate Uyeshiba stripped away many of the brutal, non-compromising techniques to make it more palatable to a modern audience.
Aikijutsu was the preferred martial art of Japans fearsome Samurai warriors and was honed to perfection on the battlefield, where there was little time for compassion or peaceful compromise.
Krav Maga is a modern martial art developed by the Israeli armed forces for real life do or die situations. Krav Maga training advocates brutally effective techniques that are tried and tested in real life scenarios and it is quickly becoming the martial art of choice for many students who want a quick no-nonsense approach to self defence.
Training in Krav Maga however, can be a lot of fun and is an excellent workout if fitness is high on your list of priorities with its emphasis on building strength and stamina.
That said the actual combat techniques can be quickly learnt by anybody, regardless of size or fitness levels and while respect for your fellow students is a high priority Krav Maga has none of the traditions and fancy uniforms of the ancient arts.
Many regard Tai Chi as a soft exercise routine for the elderly but this couldn’t be further from the truth Tai Chi Chuan actually translates as ‘Supreme Ultimate Boxing’ and is one of the earliest and most deadly of all the ancient arts.
While it is true that training in Tai Chi is available to anyone from small children to the elderly, that just proves how flexible this martial art is. You can take your training in any direction you like from brutally effective self defence to self reflective meditation in motion.
The health benefits of Tai Chi are well documented and the reason it is sometimes associated with the older generation is probably because Tai Chi practitioners live longer than everyone else.
There are so many martial arts available that it would be impossible to cover them all in this article but please feel free to discuss your favourites in the comments below.