Which martial art should I learn?

My interest was piqued by the other martial arts thread…

So, where can I find information about the pros and cons of all the different martial arts? What’s the difference between judo and karate and kung fu and jujitsu and taekwondo and taichi and hapkaido? Which discipline would be best for (don’t laugh) horse riding? No, I don’t want to karate chop my horse, but I do want to have more balance and core strength and flexibility. And when I fall off of him I want to roll gracefully away from his hooves and end up without a scratch. :wink:

How much do martial arts classes generally run? How much are the outfits? If I’m in decent shape now, how long should I expect to attend classes and/or how often would I need “tune ups”? Or should I just stick with pilates?

I studied Kung Fu for a number of years and practiced the *horse stance * for countless hours.

Martial arts is not just a way to stay fit. It’s also a philosophy if you buy into that bullshit. Not a bad one as most philosophies go. In addition to fitness it improves your ability to defend yourself if the situation should call for it.

I do not recommend it as a particularly great form of fitness. I studied it for years and though I was strong, flexible and agile, it did not really sculpt my body like other sports or fitness routines. I’ve been training for well over 20 years at various sports and I can honestly say that martial arts (in and of themselves sans running, lifting, swimming, cycling) don’t offer much in the way of aerobic or cardio training. They do offer a good calistetics workout, much like pilates. You’ll certainly get better at push-ups through doing martial arts training. But I would not count much on great weight loss unless you modify diet and train very long and hard on a daily basis.

I’m not really well-versed in all the styles, but I personally take American Kenpo, the Tracy system.

I like Tracy’s kenpo. For me. But unless you get a super-gung-ho instructor and manage to have a class that’s all serious adults that want a good workout, kenpo isn’t going to help you accomplish what you want to accomplish.

We do get a fairly decent workout but kenpo is more about self-defence than other arts which seem to get more into the realm of gymnastics.

BTW I’m not knocking Tracy’s kenpo and not knocking other arts. This is just my opinion in regards to what samm is specifically looking for.

Allow me to recommend Krav Maga and its underlying philosophy.

Open, easily-assimilated movements that adjust to any body type. No rules.

In an uncertain situation, it is easier to apologize to someone who was not attacking you than it is to heal an injury after you find out they were.

I’ve participated in Tae Kwon Do & Aikido, and watched Karate & Kung Fu. They all practice falling & rolling (especially Aikido). Of those, Aikido was the only one where I don’t recall a horse-stance. But then again I didn’t participate all that long (hoping to go back soon though!!).

Any art you get involved in should help you with your balance & coordination. Not to mention falling & rolling :wink:

Tae Kwon Do is very popular these days - it’s an Olympic sport, fer cryin out loud! So you should have no trouble finding a school in your area. It’s a ‘hard’ art - the focus is on overpowering your opponent. Lots of jumping & kicking. Karate is very similar.

Aikido & Kung Fu are ‘softer’ arts - the focus is more on redirecting your opponent than overpowering him. There’s less punching & kicking, and more redirecting & throwing. Not that it’s any less of a workout, mind you.

Every instructor teaches a little bit differently, and brings their own experiences to the school. So a TKD instructor who’s also studied Aikido might teach more redirection & throwing than a TKD instructor who hasn’t, and vice-versa.

Prices vary pretty wildly - where I was in NH I was attending a TKD school for $35 / month. Here in Raleigh, NC the least expensive thing I’ve found is an Aikido school for $80 / month.

I’d advise you to find out what’s available in your area, then go watch a class & talk to the instructors. You’ll get a much better idea of what’s available & whether or not you like a particular style.

I know very little about the ones already posted, but I’ve been studying the grappling arts for years now.
I have about 4 or so years of brazilian jiu jitsu, sombo, and judo behind me and I strongly suggest you look into a grappling school. You can almost always get a free lesson or two and it will open your mind to a whole new world of fighting style.

You might want to avoid Sumo wrestling :stuck_out_tongue:

I second Earthworm Jim’s recommendation to go out and look at classes. As with anything else, there are good instructors and bad instructors and there are some out there just waiting to part you with your money.

My general guidelines for shopping around for MA clubs are as follows:

  1. Will the instructor let you watch the ENTIRE class from start to finish? Some clubs will not, claiming that their techniques are secret… for members ONLY. My experience as shown that they are most likely hiding something that they don’t want you to see until AFTER you have paid your training fees… and that something isn’t anything secretive either. They just want to make you think you are getting in on something that other clubs don’t have. This IMHO is just bull!

  2. How does the instructor treat his students? Is the class extremely militaristic or extremely laxidasical? Discipline is important in MA for sure, but some clubs take it to the extreme. These clubs tend to teach the militaristic/disciplinary side of the art simply because they cannot or will not teach good technique. On the other hand, a club that is too lax in it’s training doesn’t have any direction and students will tend to stall and not progress.

  3. How much are memberhship and testing fees? Just as you would shop around for the best deal on a computer system and weigh the cost against what you get, you must do the same thing with any prospective MA club. Look at what they offer and find out how much they charge for classes. Is it reasonable? Some clubs will charge extremely high fees for testing (promoting) you up the ranks. I’ve heard of some clubs charging over $1000 USD just for a 1st Deg Black belt testing. Also, there are clubs that will promote people whether they are ready for the next rank or not, just to get their testing fees. Ultimately this degrades the whole art as there are more and more people passing on poorly learned techniques. IMHO, clubs like these should be avoided as they are just in it for the money.

  4. What does the instructor think about other martial arts syles? This is more a personal thing with me, but I believe that if one studies more than one MA style, it makes one an overall better martial artist. I don’t see any one style being the “end all, be all” of styles. Some instructors believe that their style is the one BEST style out there and that studying any others is a waste of time. This doesn’t necessarily make an instructor a bad one in my book, but I think it does limit thier view of martial arts.

I hope this helps you in your quest to find a good MA club. I can’t tell you how much MA has helped me. I found a very good club IMHO that has very reasonable membership and testing rates, is disciplined enough to make me want to try harder to succeed and advance, and is very open to having people from other clubs come in. Our Master Instructor has been teaching for 40 years this year and knows how to get the concepts across to everyone.

Good luck.

I’m a second degree black belt in hapkido. I like it because it has a well-rounded mix of kicking, throws, grappling, weapons, and a little bit of everything else. To be clear, there’s no way I could outkick a tae kwon do student, or outgrapple a jujitsu practitioner. I’m not trying to be an invincible Delta Force kind of guy. I just like it because I get enough of a lot of stuff to keep it constantly interesting.

But it might not be for you. I really think that unless someone is really interested in one particular aspect of martial arts, they are usually better off shopping around, finding several classes that interest them to some degree, and selecting the class with the best instructor.

Here are a few of my thoughts that you might find useful in selecting a school:

Ask the instructor how long he’s been practicing his art. If the instructor is young and claims a high rank, move on. If an instructor is young and claims to be a master of two or more styles, move on. There are lots of scammers out there. You’ll do better to find a school in which the head instructor teaches all classes, but in some areas of the country this just might not be possible.

Find classes that are not mixes of children and adults. If you have no choice but to be in a large class, make sure there are a number of assistant instructors to help out. Take a look at the mix of people in the class and make sure you can see yourself among the group. (If all the guys have shaved heads and tattoos, and you don’t, it stands to reason that something about that school attracts only people with shaved heads and tattoos.)

Some schools demand a year-long contract. Some people advise you against signing any contract. I say if you are confident that it’s a good school and you are interested, there’s nothing wrong at all with signing a contract. My classes run about $85 a month, just for reference’s sake.

I hope that is helpful, good luck, and go for it!

The rec.martial-arts faq is probably a decent place to start http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~mcweigel/rmafaq/rmafaq1.html

Try the Cobra Kai dojo in Reseda, CA. The Sensei, John Kreese, is well-known for his commitment to discipline, honor, and fair play - as well as his friendly and stress-free style of teaching the arts.

Have you considered running away, screaming like a little girl? It works for me.

For horse riding, I would recommend Judo.

Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Karate and such are essentially punching and kicking style fighting. Judo is however mostly focussed on throws and holds. The holds require you to be relatively flexible, and of course the throws will see that you are thrown to the ground on your back several times a day. Both of these seem like they could be potentially useful.

Resisting being thrown will also be partially a matter of controlling your weight (i.e. balance) so that you can’t be. And similarly when you try to “throw” someone else, you’ll be mostly using their energy (like if they rushed you) to do so, so it will be a bit of wrangling.

For just balance, you could also look into Taichi though this is more like something serene to do in the morning than something that would show you how to win in a fight. You move very slow though, so good balance would be a must. :slight_smile:

As Sage Rat and others above suggest, Judo and Aikido are what you need to learn to help with your immediate concern of falling off a horse. They teach you how to land when you are thrown - even quite hard.

I can honestly say Judo saved my life solely because I knew how to fall. I was in a motorcycle accident where my front fork seals blew and a tank-slapper (the handle bars go back-and-forth hitting the sides of the tank) threw me in front of the bike because I was holding on so tight when it went down. I hit the ground in a front roll, rolled up onto my feet, slid for a few feet (cowboy boots) and was able to jump out of the way of my bike and a truck right behind it coming at me.

I have also slipped on ice and not been hurt because of knowing how to fall. And then there was a time when I slipped while climbing over a tall wooden fence and landed hard on my back - but I was able to land properly and didn’t get hurt at all. Oh, and of course all the times I was thrown by people in class. :slight_smile:

Another good martial art that will also teach you how to fall is Ju-Jitsu, but it combines a bit more aggressive manuevers in it and is pretty darn good when a fight goes to the ground.

I’d suggest starting with one of those three, then see what you like after you get some experience.

But learning how to fall is pretty neat, pretty easy, and will help you for the rest of your life.


Well that seals the deal for me!

Judo should be a required class to take before one gets their motorcycle license.

Great story, Tomcat :slight_smile:

Since I’m a 5th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, obviously I’m a little biased as to which art you should study. :smiley:

Having said that, I’ll say that the best art for you is the one that works best for you. Look at various styles and see what they have to offer. Watch their classes and if they allow you to do an introductory class or two, do so. Drive-before-you-buy, so to speak. Check with the local BBB about the school, as well.

Talk to the instructors and the students at any school you are interested in joining. Find out the costs up front: how much per month, how much for testing fees, how much for equipment costs, etc. In my school, I have a FAQ sheet that I give to prospective students that explains all this - it’s amazing how much new people appreciate that.

Don’t be alarmed if they ask you to sign a contract for training. Contracts are a normal means of doing business, and actually indicate that the school is being run in a professional manner. I would suggest that you check the contract closely, and make sure that there is an “escape clause”. For example, in my school, if the student is sick or injured to the point where they can no longer train, or if they move more than 50 miles away, we’ll void the contract. If they just want to stop, they pay a cancellation fee and they are out. However, I strongly suggest that you do NOT prepay your training. You won’t save that much and if you need to stop training, you won’t get your money back.

If you would like to email me your zipcode, I’ll check and see if there are any schools from my style nearby and I’ll make a referral for you.

Have fun!

Unless you have an instructor who likes to do practical application. :smiley:

My husband does Gozu-ryu karate, just got his instructors’ level one in tai chi, and is going for his first dan in kobudo in September. I take none of them, but I’m a ‘dojo wife’ and I’ve absorbed a bit. Gozu is one of the ‘softer’ forms of karate- it has a more aikido/kung fu feel to it, and is a bit more about redirection than, say, shotokan. It might not be what you’re looking for.

A good friend of ours does Systema, which is mostly core strength based, heavily into redirection, and might be good for horse-dodging. They do a lot of rolling, falling, and somersaults, and some really hard-core exercising. It’s an interesting fighting style.

I agree with everyone else about watching a class and avoiding “I’m a 20th dan secret ninja master!” schools. I think tai chi or one of the other redirection/soft martial arts might be better for you than karate. And if you like hitting things with sticks, consider kobudo. :smiley:

Unless you want to be a ninja, of course.

And live in the bottom of a well, and flip out and kill people.

I would have likely have been one of those people who died from falling in the thower without my judo training.

Judo is fun because you get to get in there and move bodies. When you throw someone, you know you’re really doing something.