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rec.martial-arts Newbie Guide
Section - 12 - What Kind of Martial Art Suits Me

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So you still don't know quite what martial art might suit your desires
best. Won't take 'no' for an answer huh?  OK.  Well here are some ideas
that may help you narrow your search.

What are you looking for in a Martial Art?  If you know what you want out
of it, you'll have a better idea of what "kind" of art to look for. 
Typical answers include:
	Better Physical Fitness
  	Street Useful Self Defense
  	Sport Competition 
	Striking Techniques (Punching/Kicking) 
	Joint Lock Techniques 
	Grappling Techniques (some similarities to wrestling) 
	Pressure Point Techniques 
	Traditional/Oriental Weapons 
	Street/Common Weapons 
	Mental & Emotional/Spiritual Development 
	Attractiveness/Fluidity of Movements (this is very subjective) 
	Traditional "Feel" 
	Speed of Advancement/Ease of Learning Techniques 
 
Brief Descriptions of these: 
 
Better Physical Fitness: 
Some people's primary motivation in a Martial Art (MA) is improving their
Physical Fitness. To them, if they can learn a MA while getting fit, so
much the better.

Street Useful Self Defense: 
A primary motivation for many is the ability to truly be able to defend
themselves in a street confrontation against typical street techniques and
weapons.

Sport Competition: 
Many arts contain a greater or lesser degree of competition and some will
encourage their students to compete in local and national MA sporting
events in competition restricted to that particular MA and in various open
competitions.  Awards and medals are sometimes given.  Arts that emphasize
competition too much are thought by some to sacrifice some of the self
defense value to ingrained competition safeties.  Arts that are well known
for their sport value include Tae Kwon Do (TKD), Judo and Kendo.

Striking Techniques:
This is more a facet of a MA and typically describes punching and kicking
techniques.  Some arts emphasize this to a greater or lesser degree with
some focusing on it almost to the exclusion of all other techniques and
with some teaching nearly none of it.  Arts that are well known for their
striking techniques include most Korean arts like Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon
Do, and Okinawan/Japanese Karate.

Joint Lock Techniques:  
This is more a facet of a MA and typically describes techniques that lock,
restrict, manipulate, or sometimes break and dislocate the joints of the
aggressor.  Some arts emphasize this, to a greater or lesser degree, with
some focusing on it almost to the exclusion of all other techniques and
with some teaching nearly none of it.  In arts that teach a variety of
other techniques, joint lock techniques are typically thought of as an
"advanced" teaching and are typically reserved for higher ranks.  Arts that
are well known for their joint lock techniques include Aikido, Pencak
Silat, and Japanese Jui Jitsu (such as Aikijitsu and others).

Grappling Techniques: 
This is more a facet of a MA and typically describes techniques that are
similar to wresting in many ways and include throws and groundfighting
techniques (what to do when one or more combatants are at least partially
on the ground and not standing).  Some arts emphasize this to a greater or
lesser degree with some focusing on it almost to the exclusion of all other
techniques and with some teaching nearly none of it.  Arts that are well
known for their Grappling/Groundfighting are Judo, Brazilian Jui Jitsu, and
some other types of Jui Jitsu.

Pressure Point Techniques:  
This is more a facet of a MA and typically describes techniques that
manipulate pressure points on the human body.  These "points" can in some
cases cause a great deal of pain and some practitioner say that Pressure
Point manipulation can slow down the aggressor, cause limbs to go numb,
stun or even kill an aggressor outright (though this is an extremely
advanced technique not taught to everyone and is still open to controversy
in the MA and Medical world).  Some arts emphasize this to a greater or
lesser degree with some focusing on it almost to the exclusion of all other
techniques and with some teaching nearly none of it.  Arts that are well
known for their Pressure Point techniques include some types of Kung Fu
(there are over 50 well know Kung Fu forms), and some types of Jui Jitsu.

Traditional/Oriental Weapons:  
This is more a facet of a MA and typically describes techniques with
weapons not considered to be militarily effective, or street convenient by
today's standards.  These weapons would include sword, spear, bow, and
staff.  Some arts emphasize this to a greater or lesser degree with some
focusing on it almost to the exclusion of all other techniques and with
some teaching nearly none of it.  Arts that are well known for their
Traditional/Oriental Weapons techniques include many forms of Kung Fu, many
Okinawan Karate forms, and some Japanese forms such as Kendo, Kenjutsu, and
Iaido.

Street/Common Weapons: 
This is more a facet of a MA and typically describes techniques with
weapons considered to still be militarily effective, or street convenient
by today's standards.  These weapons would include knife, club,
cane/half-staff.  Some arts emphasize this to a greater or lesser degree
with some focusing on it almost to the exclusion of all other techniques
and with some teaching nearly none of it.  Arts that are well known for
their Street/Common Weapons techniques include many forms of Kung Fu, many
Okinawan Karate forms, and some Japanese forms, and especially Indonesian
forms such as Pencak Silat, and Philippines forms such as Kali, Arnis, and
Escrima.

Mental & Emotional/Spiritual Development:  
This is often considered a strong benefit of taking MA's.  Many instructors
advertise their MA directly to parents as a way of increasing children's
Self Confidence, Socialization Skills, and Personal Well Being.  Spiritual
development is a strong component of many but not all MA's.  The Japanese
word "Do" (when applied to a MA) is considered to mean "way" or "path" to
Spiritual Enlightenment or personal understanding (Koreans arts ending in
"Do" have a similar meaning).  In general, any Japanese art ending in Do
will have to a greater or lesser degree a Spiritual or Self Improvement
aspect, while Japanese arts ending in Jitsu are primarily concerned with
martial abilities and will have little or no concept of Spiritual
Enlightenment or Self Development, except as is important and added by the
instructor.  This is largely dependent upon the instructor in any system. 
Arts known for their emphasis on Spiritual Development include many forms
of Kung Fu, especially Shaolin Kung Fu, taiji and certain Japanese "Zen"
martial arts such as the Aikikai form of Aikido.  (note: lots of
generalizations here)

Attractiveness/Fluidity of Movements:  
This is one that's as hard to pin down as the Spiritual aspect.  Suffice it
to say that some arts just look prettier than others.  A master in most any
MA is going to have a fluidity and grace of movement, however that is not
always true of the students.  As a gross generalization, typically,
"circular" arts will appear more fluid and graceful than "linear" arts.  A
simplistic definition of circular vs. linear is that each variation tends
to have a greater emphasis on movements and techniques in its "category."
Thus circular arts will tend to have a lot of sweeping circular and rounded
movements, while linear arts will tend to move in more direct lines.  Also
as a gross oversimplification, linear arts tend to be "hard" (direct and
force/impact oriented) while circular arts tend to be much more "soft"
(redirect and control oriented).  One more gross oversimplification,
circular techniques tend to be more difficult to master than linear. 
Striking arts tend to be more linear and Joint Lock & Grappling arts tend
to be more circular.  Examples of largely circular arts are Aikido and
certain Kung Fu forms (Baguazhang / Pa Kua Chang).  Examples of largely 
linear arts include Tae Kwon Do and Karate.  An example of a very exciting
and fluid art is Chinese Wu Shu.

Traditional "Feel":  
This describes the feel of the "weight of tradition" that is attractive to
some Martial Artists.  Some MA players like to feel like they are
participating in a tradition thousands of years old and readily accept
ancillary aspects of MA study such as bowing and foreign terminology.  Most
MA's have an aspect of "tradition" to them, especially the Asian arts
(i.e., Chinese, Korean, Okinawan, Japanese) and almost all MA's have a code
of etiquette to follow while in the training hall.  Frequently there are
rituals involved, some with religious significance, some merely as a show of
respect for the founder or the instructor.  Some MA's require a uniform and
some (such as Capoeira or Pencak Silat) may not, at the instructor's
discretion.  In general, how "traditional" an art feels is almost entirely
dependent upon the local instructor.  Any given art has instructors who
prefer an informal environment or a more formal one.  Generally, the
further back the roots of the art stretch, the more instructors there are
that will prefer a formal or semi-formal environment though this is
anything but a hard rule.  Further, societal origins will tend to have an
effect on the formality of the training environment.  Japanese arts for
instance tend to be more formal in nature as the Japanese society has a
long standing history of formality in the minutia whereas arts that are
American in inception (there are a few) will tend to be very informal since
the American society is a largely informal society.

Speed of Advancement/Ease of Learning Techniques:  
There are really two separate issues here, though many people equate them. 
A common question is "how long must I study before I know the art?" or
alternately "how long must I study before I get a Black Belt?" Whereas,
another common question is "how long must I study before I can defend
myself?" The nature of these two questions is different.  Most people
equate Black Belt with having achieved Martial Arts godhood.  This couldn't
be further from the truth.  The actuality is, typically, Black Belt (or
First Dan) is where a student is finally gaining a base level of competency
and understanding in his art.  One description that I recently read was to
think of a Black Belt as if it were a Bachelors degree from college.  It is
an expert level, but not a Doctorate level, or even a Master's Degree. 
Those are more typically associated with higher Dan ranks.  This is an apt
description since in most reputable MA's, it should take between 3 and 5
years practice to be awarded a Black Belt.  It is not unheard of for a
reputable school to produce an occasional black belt in 2 to 3 years,
however, this person is either unusually dedicated and practices on a
nearly daily basis or is a Martial Arts Prodigy.  Any school that promises
you a Black Belt in under 3 years or routinely produces Black Belts in 2
years is what's sometimes referred to as a "Black Belt Factory" or a school
that "Sells Black Belts" (McDojo) and should be avoided.  That being said,
the question still remains "how long must I study before I can defend
myself?" If home defense is your only goal, buy a gun and learn to safely
use it.  You can become proficient in the safe use of firearms in a far shorter
time than a MA, and firearms are typically much more effective.  Why do
you think the Military uses them?  Or perhaps you should buy a dog. 
Statistics show that less than 5% of homes that own _any_ sort of dog will
_ever_ be burglarized (this includes those hairless rat-dogs the
Chihuahua).  If this is not an alternative for you or if you are also
concerned about protecting yourself where you can not, for various reasons,
take your gun or your dog, then perhaps a MA is for you.  How much study it
takes for you to become effective at defending yourself is a component of
many different things, including the art its self, your aptitude at
learning it, and the abilities of the person attacking you.  The stories of
Black Belts being beat up by untrained drunks are true.  And also, the
stories of new students using the MA to successfully defend themselves
against rapists and murderers are also true.  Whatever the case for your
aptitude, the more effort and practice you put into learning your chosen
MA, the better you will be at defending yourself and your family.

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