which martial art is right for me

Which martial art is right for me?

Every martial art uses striking, locking and or weapons. Striking mainly occurs with the head, elbows, fists, knees, shins and feet; Locks are mainly applied with the hands, arms, legs and feet; weapons include anything you can grab, throw or thrust at your opponent – sticks, swords, knives etc. They all however vary slighlty in how these techniques are executed. Before you move into weapons I would strongly suggest you skill yourself in stand up fighting.

In my opinion, kickboxing is the quickest and easiest to learn because there are no large variations with punches and kicks etc. It’s a great workout and within three months (attending at least two to three times a week) you can learn to defend yourself quite well, shape your body and build up some amazing cardio fitness. Eltham Martial Arts Academy offers Muay Thai Boxing for Adults only.

For me, beginning with a traditional martial art first (Karate) gave me great technique and enabled me to transition to kickboxing very easily. Karate, Taekwondo, Kung Fu, Aikido and the like are very traditional martial arts and they usually take around 3-5 years to get really good at them. This is typically because there are so many techniques, combinations and katas (or patterns) to learn. The advantage of these arts is that they provide you with a tradition, discipline, history and a broader range of fighting techniques. They also concentrate on executing techniques to the letter. You need patience for this sort of arts as you need to dedicate at least 3-5 years of training, but the benefits are enormous.

Judo offers the adult participant an all-round workout, providing cardiovascular strength as well as balanced upper and lower body muscle development. A Judo fight is often compared to a rigorous chess match played with one’s body. Each attack has a series of potential blocks and counter moves available. The response to an attack is governed by how well the person drilled their technique as well as their physical capabilities in the form of speed, strength and flexibility. People who train in Judo become “fighting fit” and can pursue their interest recreationally or in competitive tournaments at the regional, state, national, international or even Olympic level.

Taekwondo in Australia is mostly kicking and it is very flamboyant; Kung Fu shows strength, beauty and fluidity; Karate is more like an army boot camp; Aikido dodges an opponents attacks and works with their force and direction to lock, twist and or throw them.

Even the same styles of martial arts (for example the many styles of karate) will usually vary slightly in stances and such depending on the part of the world and the terrain they were designed to be used on. For instance fighting on mountains as opposed to flat land, round logs or water and in addition the stickyness or slipperyness of the ground surface explains the use for particular stances and techniques. Eltham Martial Arts Academy offers Kyokushin Karate.

Where these Arts generally fall down, Jiu Jitsu excels. It’s a very powerful groundfighting art that I think is very good for women or smaller people. It does not generally focus on the ‘stand up fighting’ component as other arts do, but Jiu Jitsu favours ‘shooting in’ and getting the opponent to the ground where a range of locks, chokes and other holds are applied with immediate devestating results. This art requires you getting in close with your opponent because it involves a lot of grappling (close body contact). My limited experience in BJJ was @ Dominance Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Little Dave which I highly recommend.

If you’re talking weapons, Philipino Stick Fighting, Karli or Arnes (they are all the same) is my favourite. It encompasses the use of one or two sticks with stand up fighting (head-butts, punches, elbows, knees and kicks). What I would sum up as ‘Scarry Close Quarter Fighting’. Probably not what I would recommend until you have reasonable stand up basics. The sticks can be replaced with other similar weapons and this is why I particularly like this art. Train with my favourite instructor Andrew Sotiros.

Padding or protective equipment in any martial art is a must. It should not always be used but it certainly helps to prevent continuous injury. Martial arts is all about contact and you are bound to injure yourself from time to time. Toes, fingers, shins, elbows all get brused and bumped from time to time and padding can certainly help prevent the extent of these injuries. Padding is good as it prevents injury but it should not be used all the time and should be used minimally. Shin pads and a mouth guard is in my opinion all that is required. Excessive padding will not allow your body to condition up. Fitness and Conditioning is king with the martial arts and besides, no one is going to let you pad up in a real life situation.

I used to wondered whether I could count on my training when I needed it for real. I remember training in Thailand in 2001-2002 and being out one night when trouble started. To cut a long story short I ended up by myself, face to face with a very big angry American sailor. I accepted the fight was going to happen and I was now fully committed. I was so close to him I actually remember stepping back to wait and see if he would attack. I remember a look of doubt appear on his face and then him stepping away from the fight. It was over. The point here isn’t that the fight never occurred. It’s that in a threatening situation I could count on my training because we train this way. You should be mindful of training in any style where you never know what it like to hit someone as hard as you can and to have them hit you back the same way.

“If you only make up your mind to do it, fear does not exist anywhere except in the mind”.

The most important thing to remember is to continually train. Most people believe that they just need to get their blackbelt and that’s it. IT IS CERTAINLY NOT! Just like anything if you don’t use it you loose it. With Martial Arts it’s all about fitness and conditioning which can only come with training. Your training should be continual and you should not be focused on attaining the belts or singlets but rather whether what you are learning can be used effectively. You should question the quality of the instruction you are receiving if you find yourself advancing through the belts faster than one or two a year when you are training four to five times a week.

Martial arts is all about combat which is about strategy. Being able to execute an effective fighting strategy and counter-strategy under pressure can only be learned while training that way. Make sure whichever art you choose it has a significant component of medium to full-contact fighting, or else you should be questioning whether what you are learning will be effective when it comes time to use it or if you are mearly executing the theory. There is also the very real fear of getting hurt when it comes to fighting and unless you know what it’s really like to hit and to be hit you never really know how your mind will react to it. This training is exactly what all good Martial Arts Schools will give you.

Self Control under pressure!

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Willem van Zanten