Martial Arts recommendations?

In this thread, I posted about my extreme clumsiness. Several people suggested doing something like tai chi.

I checked the yellow pages and it’s hard to find tai chi instruction specifically mentioned, so I figured I’d just call one or two martial arts places to ask if they offered this. One said no, but asked what I was looking to achieve. I said “strengthening and balance”. He said for that, they offered “shao lin kem bo” (I’m certain I mangled that!!).

I’m still trying to find a place that does tai chi - the slow-movement part, anyway (I’m not up for anything involving kicking / boxing just yet) but if I don’t have any luck, do any Dopers have any knowledge of “shao lin kem bo”? or suggestions for other disciplines to investigate? I’m totally clueless about the various types and have no idea where to begin looking / what to look for.

Well, just to let you know, Tai Chi is not really a martial art. It’s an art, but it’s certainly not martial.

I’m guessing the person was saying “shaolin kempo”, a great many webpages for which can be found in a google search. I didn’t find any specific references stating that a given school teaches a “slow style,” however.

I don’t know where you’re located, but if you’re in a large enough city to have a Chinatown, there might be a cultural center that would know about classes.

Yeah it’s a martial art. It’s just that a lot of people don’t practice it right.

Mama Zappa, where are you located? Because that will have a big effect on the availability of good instructors.

Another possibility is to look into something like Pilates, since it’s designed to improve your muscle control and body awareness.

Thanks, smiling bandit - yeah, I never considered it as a “martial” art either but when I checked our local parks authority’s class listings they showed a “tai chi 2” class that IIRC mentioned kicking etc - plus one of the classes was run through a martial arts school (one too far from my house to be feasible). So I figured it was worth a try to call some more local m.a. studios to see if they had anything that would suit.

I’ve found that community centers and health clubs are sometimes good places to find a tai chi course. The raquet club I used to belong to offered courses in tai chi chah (probably spelled wrong) instead of tai chi chuan, which was a variant of tai chi that was described as a “moving meditation” rather than a martial art. Apparently it was a bastardization of tai chi chuan and qigong – I don’t buy into the mysticism of qigong, but the whole “moving mediation” thing was both relaxing and helped my balance.

“Shaolin” and “kempo” are two somewhat generic terms that could refer to many different schools. “Shaolin” refers to the temple from which many Chinese arts originated, and “Kempo” is a Okinawan translation of the Chinese “chuan fa,” or “fist law” and could refer to a wide variety of schools. My primary martial art, Kajukembo, is a branch of Mitose kempo by way of Hawaii, but there are many, many other branches of kempo. I couldn’t say exactly what your particular “Shaolin Kempo” referred to without knowing a little more about the lineage of the particular school you spoke with. However, I might make another suggestion if you’re interested in T’ai Chi: Aikido. Aikido is a Japanese martial art similar in philosophy to T’ai Chi, and as a beginner you’ll be going through some basic movements slowly and concetrating on form and balance.

Mama Zappa, have you considered Yoga? That will most certainly work on your strength and balance, without kicking, etc. If, OTOH, you are looking for a self-defense course, consider Aikido.

Linky 1 - Yoga

Linky 2 - Aikido

If I were to resume martial arts training, I would continue with Aikido - it matches what I think of as the “right way” to do martial arts. (Holds, redirection, defense, no kicks/punches). OTOH, I have let myself get too out of shape to find a dojo and jump right in. My goal for this semester to try yoga and see how it goes.

Hope this helps,

Is your desire to not do kicking/boxing related to overall conditioning, or just a desire not to do them? Most martial arts work up fairly slowly and all help with balance and strength. I, also quite clumsy, had lots of fun in Tae Kwon Do, but I was in moderate shape to start with.

Hey, lifelong Clumsy here, and I joined a small Taekwondo club through the local Parks/Rec department. In addition to being clumsy, I am getting older, and way out of shape.

Fortunately, my instructor has been specially certified for training of people with limitations and disabilities; and as a medical technician, she’s also very careful with people’s limitations and avoiding injuries.

It’s been a ton of fun, and the classes are pretty laid back, not the intense in-your face kind of instruction. It’s a good balance of movement (forms), self-defense, and competition through sparring, even though it has a fair amount of kicking and punching. I can recommend it; look for a Songahm club in your area.

I got my black belt last spring.

Clearly, you’ve never seen someone well-trained in T’ai Chi Ch’aun in action. It ain’t all old folks doing slow stretches in the morning sun; those flowing, circular movements are wickedly hard to block when they’re coming at you at combat speeds.

Back to the OP, If the balance and stretching part of T’ai Chi is what appeals to you, try looking at local community colleges or university extension programs; they all seem to have some kind of community thing set up. I kind of like Aikido, actually, though I only studied it for a few months. It is probably the most fun I had at training, being mostly rolls, reaps, sweeps, and the like, and because of that focuses significantly on control and balance. I’d say that any traditional martial art is going to teach balance as a matter of course, but in fact a lot of the franchise-type schools tend to skimp on this stuff and move on quickly to the fancy (read: useless) stuff like overhead strikes, spinning kicks, and the like, while their student stands stick-legged at attention. Dumb.

If you just wanted to leave some poor would-be thug writhing in a back alley, I’d recommend Krav Maga. But that’s far less about balance than “what gets the job done”, i.e. a true martial art. Nasty work, though.


More a factor of my current condition than any overall opposition to kicking etc. - with a broken elbow newly-diagnosed, I’ll want to avoid any fast/sudden movements for couple of months even once the break is “healed”. Plus, at first, I’ll definitely want to concentrate more on balance and control. Once I’m more confident that each kick won’t make me trip over my own feet, then kicking etc. will be more appealing :slight_smile:

We are in a major metro area (near Washington DC) so in theory we should be able to find nearly any sort of activity. Thanks for the suggestions of yoga and Pilates - my neighborhood community center offers both of those, I believe. Aikido might be a good option as well, I’ll see what I can find and check it out. Ethilrist, yeah, “shaolin kempo” is probably what the fellow said on the phone - actually he said “shaolin something-else” and when I didn’t catch the “something else” he said “people are more familiar with the term shaolin kempo”. I’ll check that out in a month or so - supposedly there’s a free initial lesson so it wouldn’t be too costly to at least give it a try.

Good idea - there are a lot of colleges around here. There were actually listings for intro tai chi courses in the local parks authority site, but they were either too far away, or on night when I have an unbreakable commitment. Hopefully when they do their next “session” I’ll be able to work that into the schedule.

Interesting - was that (ability to deal with disabilities) listed a feature in the class description? or did you just luck out?

I’ve fought against someone well versed in Tai Chi Chuan, and I can attest that it is most definitely a martial art. However, here in the west (and probably in the east, too), it’s not as popular in its offensive setting.

If you don’t want to do the hitting, you should do what someone else suggested already, yoga. You will definitely be practicing balance there, and if your gym offers it, pick power yoga, or it might be also called ashanti yoga (I believe, too lazy to look up).