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Choosing a Martial Art
Choosing which martial art to study is a very personal decision.
 Related Resources
• Choosing a School
• Martial Arts: Beginners
• Why Kids Should Study Martial Arts
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Black Belt Magazine: Rookies
• "Is Martial Arts Training For Me?"
• Newbie Guide to MA Training
• Rec.Martial-Arts FAQ

What style of martial arts should I study? Lots of folks have sent in that question to your humble Martial Arts guide in the past few months. Unfortunately, I can't make that decision for you. I'll give you advice until your ears turn blue, but deciding which martial art to study is a very personal decision.

The martial arts require a different sort of commitment than taking up other pastimes like bowling, or checkers. The martial arts start to permeate the rest of your life. Martial artists often find that their increased body awareness, balance, and coordination changes their lives outside the dojo. To this day I can't ride a train or bus without "aisle surfing" to practice my balance.

Martial arts also encompass philosophical and spiritual dimensions in addition to physical exertion. To many, the "moving meditation" afforded by martial arts study enhances clarity of thought, improves mental focus, and promotes a sense of inner peace.

What style of martial arts should I study? Sifu Glen Doyle, in his book "The Martial Artist's Way", devotes an entire chapter to this dilemma. Doyle illustrates making The Choice with a few choice examples. Like what would be the best choice for a 6' tall, 200lb bouncer: tai chi, fencing, taekwondo, or judo? While tai chi can be practiced well into the golden years, and fencing develops lightning-fast reflexes, would either be directly useful for dragging drunken fools out of a bar?

The "best" martial art to study, therefore, is the one that's best for what you want to do with it--in terms of your physical attributes, spiritual needs, and philosophical interests.

Check out a variety of different arts. The links available through this site provide plenty of information about the attributes of each art. You can then match up the art to your preferences. You can ask yourself questions and see what matches your answers.

  • Do you want to do kicking and punching? Maybe karate, taekwondo, or kung fu would be good choices. Would you prefer more kicking than punching (taekwondo) or vice versa (boxing)?
  • Are you comfortable being touched by other students? In some arts, there's no contact at all (kyudo). In others, you'll spend all your training time in near-intimate contact with your partner (Brazilian jiu-jitsu).
  • How much damage do you want to take (or dish out)? Some martial arts are renowned for the devastation you can inflict upon your opponents--for example, muai thai kickboxing--while others let your opponents defeat themselves (aikido).
  • What feels the most comfortable for your body type, strength, and flexibility? While strength and flexibility undoubtedly develop as you train, you may find yourself naturally gravitating toward a certain art because it "fits" your body better. For example, a stocky, powerful guy might find grappling arts to be a natural fit, whereas a tall, limber gal might find her leg flexibility put to good use in taekwondo.
  • What are your spiritual and philosophical goals? Some martial arts allow almost religious experiences in the focus and flow of executing techniques (aikido, kyudo, iaido). Others are purely practical: (krav maga, no holds barred fighting).

Once you've identified several likely candidates, find some schools in your area and attend some classes. Most places should let you watch or even work out once or twice for free. Check out what the style is really like. Then, you can make an informed decision.

Welcome to a lifetime of improved fitness, increased vitality, and fun! Welcome to the martial arts.

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