One of the questions that I hear most often when people are looking into martial arts is “How do I pick a school? What do I look for?”, so this two part article will explore the things to consider when picking out a martial art, and then things to look out for in the school that you select. One of the terms that gets tossed around is “McDojo”, which is a derisive term for a school that has only one goal, churn out as many expensive belts as they can. This will help you avoid these schools.
There are many different styles of martial arts, from stand up striking arts such as boxing and muay thai, to ones where you are in close physical contact such as wrestling and jiu jitsu, styles that emphasize joint locks, throws and opponent control such as judo and aikido, and so on. You many also hear terms such as “soft” and “hard” arts. It gets very confusing very quickly, so let’s take a look.
Soft, or internal arts, are ones that tend to take an incoming blow or strike, and move with it and redirect it rather than directly block it. Aikido and Tai Chi are two primary examples of this style of art, as are many styles of kung fu. Many of these also emphasize the mental aspects, often incorporating some type of meditation into the classes and practice. These are the styles that you want to examine a little closer if this is something that you think would appeal to you.
Hard arts are those that tend to meet an incoming force with another force, either to stop or redirect it. Many of the styles that people think of when you say martial arts are of this type, primarily among them karate, tae kwon do and muay thai. They emphasize more of the physical aspect, and while strength is not the only factor, it can be a factor.
Grappling styles are ones where you are in close proximity with your opponent, and you seek to subdue them in some fashion usually aligned along a hold, a joint lock or other submission type of maneuver. Jiu jitsu, judo, Brazilian jiu jitsu are some of the primary known considerations in this group.
Mixed martial arts, or MMA is typically one of the striking arts complemented with a grappling art, most often Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). This is one to investigate a little more thoroughly if you are interested, as it is a “hot” item due to the popularity of UFC, One fighting and other MMA based federations that have sprung up in recent years.
Youtube and similar are great resources. You can search for different arts, different styles within an art, and see classes, tournaments, demonstrations all highlighting their art. Look through quite a few, figure out what might appeal to you, and our next article will take that information and help you to find a school that is right for what you want to do.
Written by: John Paitel, Storm Self Defense & Tactical Fitness
John Paitel is the founder and principal instructor of Storm Self Defense and Tactical fitness, providing self defense seminars and fitness training for the tactical community. A two-time world champion in Tae Kwon Do, he has over 30 years experience in martial arts and teaching others how to effectively implement safety and self-defense techniques.