How to choose your martial art

This is as close as I got to being an action star.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

When I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. They were my idols.

That was a long time ago, and I still haven’t even tried Jeet Kune Do or Kung Fu or any other martial art that Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan studied or practiced.

Instead I became a practitioner of Aikido, which is the discipline practiced by another martial arts hero, Steven Seagal. It’s what I predominantly practice these days. I did practice other martial arts such as Judo, Karate, Danzan Ryu Jujitsu, Kendo, and Pekiti Tirsia Kali, but not as long as I did Aikido.

“So why study martial arts?” you may ask. It’s simply because I like to learn new things. And it’s not because I want to kick ass or have girls admire me for being so manly, although that would be a welcome side effect. Anyway, different people are motivated by different things.

Right now I just want to share some tips for those who’d like to try martial arts. Some people may think they’re too old for this. But that’s nonsense. I know a woman in her forties who decided to learn Aikido some years ago. She is now a black belt and she continues to learn other martial arts as well.

Tip 1: Research.

This is the first thing you would probably do. There are many martial arts disciplines out there. Don’t limit your research to the ones you know.

Aside from finding out more about Taekwondo, Karate and Judo, also check out the lesser-known Capoeira, Pencak Silat and Sambo, to name a few. They all come in a variety of flavors. You may find something that would appeal to you.

When you research, learn the history, philosophy, basic movements, and physical requirements of the art. The internet is a good source of information. Just use Google or wikipedia.com.

Tip 2: Consider the venue.

Just like with choosing a gym, it’s better to choose a dojo, or a martial arts school, that’s near your home or place where you work.

If you choose Aikido, for example, but the dojo is far from your home, the chances of you continuing your training is low. I had colleagues who quit practicing because they found going to the dojo such a hassle.

Of course motivation is a big factor. If you are really motivated to pursue martial arts training, you will find a way. But still, finding a school near your home is much better.

Tip 3: Interview practitioners.

Knowing what practitioners of a martial art have to say about their discipline allows you to make your own judgments. You will know what motivates them.

Ask them what they like about their martial art, what difficulties they encountered when they started out, what makes them come back for more. Ask them about the inadequacies of their martial art, too. You’ll learn a lot from what they have to say.

Tip 4: See yourself sticking with it.

Imagine yourself practicing your chosen martial art. Do you see yourself doing it for months? Do you see yourself sticking with it for years? Do you think you will enjoy learning the intricacies of the techniques? What will motivate you to keep on developing yourself in this art?

Sometimes, it will depend on your temperament or personality. Imagining yourself going through the rigors of training can help.

Tip 5: Try it.

Of course, the best way to know if a martial art fits you is to try it. Observe a class first. Then ask if you can join a class or two. You’ll get a feel of what goes on during practice that way. You’ll also learn the group dynamics that occur.

Some teachers are patient and accommodating, but others are not. It’s the same with the students. Others are rough and impatient with newbies. In that case, you can choose another dojo or class.

Rewards

Learning martial arts can be serious fun. It can instill discipline, promote good health, increase flexibility and strength, improve physical coordination, and teach you conflict resolution skills, practical self-defense moves, and leadership skills. It can even help build self-confidence.

These are just a few of the wonderful possibilities. Keep in mind, though, that there is no perfect martial art. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Eventually some of you would want to learn other martial arts as well, just like I did.

You can actually apply the lessons you’ve learned in one martial art in another discipline. There is always a link. Some principles don’t change.

If you do decide to take up martial arts, I envy you. There’s nothing like coming for practice and learning something new. With the simple tips I listed, you may find a new world of possibilities.

Good luck.

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