When you think about martial arts, what’s the first thing that pops in your mind? Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Karate? Judo? Or maybe MMA or kickboxing?
Martial arts are ridiculously popular around the world from adults to children, and possibly due to the fact that dozens of styles exist, offering something for everyone. The question remains then: which one to choose?
Before you decide to jump into the nearest school in your area, try using some of the following tips to help you narrow down your focus.
Ask Yourself: Why?
Different styles of martial arts exist for a reason. Each of them offers the user various things. Before you can settle on any particular one, you must understand why you want to practice martial arts in the first place.
There are many personal reasons why someone would want to learn martial arts. Here are some of the more common ones:
•Self-Defense: This seems to be one of the main reasons why people go into learning martial arts. Even so, choosing the wrong style will have you learning skills that may be useless if you ever face an unfortunate attack. At the same time, you can choose the right self-defense style (e.g. jiu-jitsu), but not realize which techniques work best on the mat and which work best for a real attack.
•Fitness: Looking at martial arts from a health standpoint is another big reason why many go into learning a style. Just about all of the arts will work well with this, but some do better than others. Cardio kickboxing classes exist for a reason as they are great at helping you shed pounds.
•Competition: If you want to showcase your skills, then that will have a huge impact on which style you choose. Say you want to fight competitively in a ring. You wouldn’t join a traditional kung fu class, would you? You would instead look to the likes of Muay Thai or boxing training.
•Peace of Mind: There are plenty of people who just want to get away from the outside world, to release the stress from their day-to-day lives. Certain martial arts styles like Tai Chi allow for just that.
Knowing why you want to study martial arts in the first place is an important first step. Without that, you can find yourself stuck learning a style that fails to teach you what you’re looking for. It’s what can lead people to claiming that one art is better or worse than another simply because it doesn’t do what they need it to do for them.
You need to know why you want to practice martial arts in order to find the right style. Otherwise, you won’t enjoy yourself, and what would be the point then?
Research the Arts
This step should be a given. Once you’re clear about what you’re looking for, do some research. It can help you become more aware of the differences between styles. This especially helps with styles that appear extremely similar (e.g. BJJ and Judo), yet are different once you break them down.
Research can also help you further narrow down what you’re looking for. Say you want something that incorporates weapons. Well, many Chinese martial arts include weapons in their training, so you can start there. If you’re purely interested in grappling, then BJJ, Judo, etc. will be more your taste.
By doing research, you’ll also be able to answer more of the basic questions as to what you’re looking for. Do you want to learn traditional or non-traditional styles? Looking for more physical contact or one that focuses more on form?
A good amount of research will readily answer these questions and get you on your way to actually practicing one of the styles.
You don’t want to sign yourself or your child up to just any martial arts school. This is why research, yet again, comes into play.
First things first: find a martial arts class in your price range. Some places offer deals (e.g. family packages, especially if you’re sending more than one child). Some places, unfortunately, overcharge. Prices aren’t always advertised on websites, so you’ll have to call to learn more.
Once you find a school that’s within your budget, head on over to it and sit in on a class. Remember not to make any investments yet. Research always comes first. Even if you’ve settled on a style, things might change. Reading about something and actually seeing it are two different things.
Say, for instance, you’re signing up your child for BJJ. If you sit in on a class with them, they may discover that they’re a bit claustrophobic and not interested in being tangled up on the ground with another kid so much. It always helps to get a visual of what you’re getting into.
Visiting a prospective school also gives you the chance to talk with some of the other students and meet the instructor. You can find out what the students may like or dislike about the classes, and you should figure out from them the teaching style. Is it more relaxed or strict? Are the classes kept small or large? Do instructors motivate and encourage or are they a bit more withdrawn?
This also gives you the chance to feel out the overall environment of the school. Are students respectful toward each other and the instructor? Is safety kept a high priority, especially if children are involved?
Research all you can about a potential school, even the qualifications of any instructor that works there. You will be putting your safety or your child’s safety on the line here in addition to gaining lifelong skills. Don’t settle for anything that may seem too good to be true.
With the vast number of martial arts styles out there, it may be overwhelming to decide which one you want to learn. Just step back for a moment, take a deep breath, and really think about why you want to invest your time, money, and energy into the fighting arts. Once you reach a decision, don’t be afraid to dive on in.