Martial Arts: How to Choose Which One?
Once you’ve decided that you want to start training a martial art,
you’ll need to decide which one is best for you. Of course, your choice
might be dictated by the schools available in your area, but if you’re
lucky you’ll have the choice of at least a few different types. There
are many different types of martial arts (and even variations within the
basic types) so it’s important to make sure that you research the
techniques and features to find the best fit for your lifestyle and
needs. This general explanation of the six most popular styles in the
United States can help you get started on the decision.
It’s also important to note that there are as many interpretations of
the martial arts styles as there are instructors. Students also
interpret the class differently than other students in the same class,
so other people’s opinions are not always the best determiner of what
style you should pursue. While you are trying to find the martial art
that’s right for you, it is helpful to also try a few classes to get a
feel for the style, instructor and school.
Capture the fun of Mixed Martial Arts
Karate can be translated as “empty hand” which means that it is a
martial art performed without weapons. While the history of Karate is
somewhat vague, its ancient roots have been traced back to China in the
5th century B.C. The more modern form of Karate began in Okinawa, Japan
during the late 1700s. There was a weapon ban in Okinawa at this time,
so people had to come up with system of self defense that used empty
hands – they combined aspects of Chinese martial arts with the Te
traditional to Okinawa. By the early 1900s it began spreading throughout
Japan. In 1964, the Federation of Karate Organizations was formed as a
means to create some continuity for Karate world-wide. Even so, there
are many different styles and variations of Karate today.
Karate is a linear martial art. It uses a wide variety of movements:
kicks, punches, blocks, strikes, evasions and throws. Training focuses
on having a strong offense and puts equal importance on the three areas
of the art: basics, sparring and forms.
• People who practice Karate use their hips to generate power.
• Ranks, values and styles differ from organization to organization.
• Karate, which can be hard and straight line, is very disciplined and
some traditional schools might seem very harsh.
Next: Beating Stress with Martial Arts
Using the influences of the traditional art of Daito Ryo Aikijo-Jitsu,
Japanese fencing, spear fighting and Omotokyo, Moriehie Usehiba
developed the martial art of Aikido (“the peaceful art”). He first used
this name for it in 1942. The basis of this art is to live in a spirit
of protection instead of physical domination. The art of Aikido is ruled
by the International Aikido Federation in Tokyo, Japan.
Aikido is a circular martial art. Instead of winning a fight with
physical domination, Aikido teaches its participants to control and
redirect the negative energy. This leads to a commitment to both
peaceful resolutions of conflict as well as self-improvement through
training. People who practice Aikido learn to use throws and pins as
well as how to immobilize their attackers. They don’t use punches and
kicks, except as a distraction. The basis of the art is to learn how to
stay out of the line of attack and gain control of the attacker’s
balance in order to stop the attacker.
• Aikido does use weapons: jo (a 4-5 foot long staff), Bokken (a wooden
sword) and a Tanto (a wooden knife).
• Aikido is a non-violent method of self-defense.
• The quality of the belt ranks is strictly regulated.
• Aikido lacks many of the kicks and strikes common to other martial
Go to the Fitness Club Net Martial Arts store,
for Martial Arts products:
Dr. Jigro Kano developed Judo after he was enrolled at Tenjin Shinyo ryo
School of Ju-Jitsu because he was frustrated with all of the student
injuries. Judo is a gentle martial art that helps its participants
strive to perfect themselves and to be a value to society. Judo, which
means “the gentle way”, improves physical, mental, emotional and
Judo uses throwing, grappling, pins, holds, locks and choking. However,
the training focuses on safety – participants need to work towards top
conditioning and Judo is always practiced on mats. Judo participants
learn the art through a series of forms that consist of throwing and
sparring – there are no strikes in competitive Judo.
• Judo has a strict set of rules and a clear instructional sequence.
• Judo rules, training and ranks are fairly standardized throughout the
• Judo helps develop complete body control, fine balance and fast
• Judo uses a lot of grappling, throws, grabbing and ground work.
Because of this, it often reminds people of wrestling.
While the beginnings of Taekwondo can be traced as far back as 30 B.C.,
modern Taekwondo began after Korea was liberated in 1945. Koreans wanted
to eradicate all Japanese influence on martial arts, so they began
connecting the Korean martial arts schools and styles to create a
national sport. The name Taekwondo (“the way of the hand and foot”) was
chosen in 1965. 1973 marks the beginning of the World Taekwondo
Federation. It became a part of the Olympics in 2000.
Taekwondo consists of four disciplines including patterns, sparring,
self-defense and a break test. Taekwondo is primarily a kicking art and
there is a large emphasis on sport. People who train Taekwondo need to
combine philosophy, mental and physical discipline and ability to their
• Taekwondo is recognizable by its high kicks.
• Taekwondo black belts exams require a break test.
• Taekwondo training can include the use of vital points to attack an
• Taekwondo schools are often kid- and sport- oriented.
• Taekwondo students often are expected to compete in many tournaments.
The development of T’ai Chi (translated as “the supreme ultimate”) is
credited to Chang San-feng, but Wang Chung-yueh and Chiang Fa elaborated
on the original art. They took San-feng’s 13 postures and devised
continuous sequences that linked them together. T’ai Chi used to be a
greatly defensive art – even deadly. So much so, that the families who
knew it guarded it fiercely. Now, T’ai Chi is less violent and is used
to get rid of more figurative enemies such as stress and fatigue.
People who practice T’ai Chi may use weapons, but the underlying theory
is that the art is used to unify the mind, body and spirit. It is often
now used to guide negative energy away from oneself. There are two ways
to practice T’ai Chi. The long form can take 30 minutes or more while
the short form can take less than 10 minutes. The forms focus on
continuous movement that leads to relaxation and solid stances. In T’ai
Chi, each arm is used to protect half of the body and the hands never
reach past the toes. T’ai Chi can be done alone (forms) or with a
partner (self-defense training).
• T’ai Chi teaches awareness of balance and what affects it in oneself
and in others.
• T’ai Chi has five major styles, but there are always new ones
• The basis of T’ai Chi’s self defense is to meet force and stick with
it until can be redirected instead of resisting it.
• T’ai Chi focuses on slow movements, so people who like vigorous
exercise often find this martial art to be boring and slow.
Kung Fu (translated as “skill and effort”) actually refers to over 200
styles of martial arts (most of which stem from Chinese martial arts).
Kung fu can be traced back to the shoalin temples where the monks used
it for health and spiritual developments as well as a method of self
defense. During the early 1900s, Kung Fu, also called Wu Shu, spread
throughout China when fighting arts became very popular. In the 1960s
and ‘70s Kung Fu’s popularity grew due to the Bruce Lee movies.
Kung Fu is central to the Chinese culture and is used both for physical
wellness and artistic expressions. Within the many different styles of
Kung Fu, there are variations from hard and linear to soft and circular
in technique. Some use weapons (including the common sword, saber, spear
and cudgel) and others do not. The seemingly common thread through them
all, however, is to teach the students to respect the teacher and other
Kung Fu styles. Kung Fu also requires (as well as builds) mental
strength in addition to physical strength to be successfully practiced.
Kung Fu students also often practice some techniques individually and
others with groups. In many schools, beginning training starts with what
is called the Southern Fist style. It involves footwork, kicks and hand
• Kung Fu refers to the hundreds of different styles of martial arts in
• People who practice Kung Fu learn many different fighting techniques
including fist fighting, weapon fighting, routines and combats.
• Many Kung Fu styles use similar principals such as, proper diet, and
breathing, concentration and meditation exercises.
• Some Kung Fu styles use weapons while others do not.
• Kung Fu training improves physical conditioning through strengthening
of the joints and increases speed and reactions.
• Kung Fu’s major difference over other martial arts is that it not only
focuses on outer, physical power, but also involves training the mind
and inner power through breathing exercises and meditation.
I hope you find this information useful. I wish that I could cover all
of the styles that I left out, but it would take an entire book to do
that. If you have any questions about which style would be best for you,
please feel free to call or email me.
This article was presented by:
The Academy of Kempo Martial Arts
P.S. My 3 studios are located in Lynnwood, Kent, and Bellevue,
Washington. If you live near one of those locations, please contact me.