Hey there. I’m never on this section, so forgive me if this has been answered already.
I am 17 years old and will be participating in ROTC in college in order to become an officer in the Army. I quit football this year due to too many injuries and currently compete in powerlifting. However, I would also like to take up a martial art. Not just to fuck around like a typical teenage badass who takes a couple of MMA classes and thinks I’m ready to step into the octogon. I want to take a martial art that will have legitimate carry over to the military and possible combat situations. So here’s what I have it narrowed down to:
This is actually a pretty good question and a fair one. There’s a lot that goes into it also.
See, in the beginning, martial arts were all meant for war - hence the “martial” part. It’s part of the reason they taught you to fight with a staff, a sword, nunchucks, etc. - at least in Goju-ryu - becuase the Japanese back in the day would not let the Okinawans use weapons, so they have to improvise with the tools that might be found on one of their farms.
Many arts started this way, and many of the moves, while people believe them to be empty-handed techniques, were really designed to be used on a battlefield, with weapons, against armored men on horseback.
The problem with many of those arts TODAY is that although their principles are still applicable, the game has changed totally. It’s kind of like football - essentially you score a touchdown the same way now as you did in 1920, but most of the stuff you’d see happen on the field back then would be totally anachronistic today.
So, although the principles apply and TMA’s can still be used today, if you were to take them out on to a real battlefield or war situation, you would have to adapt them. To a degree Hapkido, which seems to me to be a martial art that’s gaining in popularity, is like this - they incorporate high kicks, flying kicks, and other things that are wholly unrealistic.
However, from what I’ve read, the art is a pretty adaptable one that is trying to keep up with the times. They’re reacting to modern day stresses and trying to work that in. This, however, will depend heavily on the teacher - if you get one that wants you only doing kata, working with nunchucks, and bowing to the Korean flag (always a rub of mine with TMA’s - I don’t bow to other flags), then although the art is adequate, that teacher may not. Have a critical eye.
Muay Thai is going to figure into this the same way that boxing does for me. Everyone here knows that’s my first love, but it, like Muay Thai, is going to have some pretty big limitations in what qualifies as a “battlefield” today - most likely some Middle Eastern city that you would be tramping through with 70 lbs of gear and a rifle.
Muay Thai will teach you to punch adequately (not as well as boxing, but adequately) and its knees and elbows are vicious. But you must keep in mind that if you do MT, you’re going to have to do all the research on “self-defense” yourself. MT isn’t going to teach you how to tell if you’re being interviewed for attack, who looks suspicious and who doesn’t, and all the other things that are necessary for being in a hostile environment. Now, to a degree you won’t have to worry about that because the military is going to teach you how to deal with this. But it’s also not going to address guns, knives, fighting your way to a gun, how to fight while you have a pistol on your side, etc., and for the military, these are pretty key.
On the other hand, of course, it’s going to toughen you up and get you used to full-contact misery and definitely instill a fighting spirit and a callousness that won’t be gained from less stressful arts. So there’s good and bad points.
Judo is great, plainly put. In today’s changing landscape of the battlefield, it’s not like you’re landing on Okinawa anymore and just going in with a rifle and an entrenching tool looking to kill whatever’s in front of you. The job of the American soldier, many times, is peace keeper (or, some say, occupier.) This means that you’re trying to “win the hearts and minds of the people,” and just going around killing is not the way to do that. Restraining someone is more important than ripping their throat out, and arresting them and bringing them in for questioning and interviewing is closer to what is likely to happen. This kind of thing is where judo (and to a lesser degree, BJJ) shine. You can restrain them without seriously injuring them, if they engage closely you can throw them and knock the wind out of them, giving you time to get your zip ties on them again, without seriously injuring them and killing a potential source or getting yourself into trouble for using excessive force on the citizenry of a hostile country.
I like judo for this because it’s a stand-up art that’s going to make you maintain balance, and with enough practice you’ll be able to employ it effectively even while armed and with your pack on. And as I said, grappling has its advantages here - my buddy was a prison guard in Baghdad for about a year, and when in the prison, you have no gun on you, just pepper spray as I recall. The things he used on the prisoners to “convince” them to do what he wanted were very, very simple grappling techniques such as grabbing them in the meat of the triceps with a firm grip and pulling hard, which causes more pain than you think it might.
The first time I learned a figure-four lock was from a buddy of mine who spent a couple years in Afghanistan - he applied it so quickly when I was fucking around with him that I made him teach it to me. Again, very basic grappling, very beneficial when you’re trying not to kill someone but you want to make it known that you’re in control.
Now krav maga, and to a certain extent all other “Reality-based self defense arts,” are going to be a crap shoot. As the above poster said, Krav isn’t really krav anymore - they’re not teaching the same shit to civilians that they taught to Israeli commandos or whatever, and the basic level of combatives taught in the IDF doesn’t appear to be any more complicated or better than a lot of what the US Army will teach you when you get there.
From the krav classes I have seen, they are kind of jack-of-all trade types - they don’t punch particularly well, but they do it well enough, they won’t win a NAGA tournament, but they know enough holds to restrain, etc.
The one thing that they do work with that the others (aside from maybe hapkido) don’t is weapons and multiple attackers. In a krav class, whether you’re armed or not will apply. They’ll teach you weapons skills, and real weapons skills, not shit with rice grinders, and they’ll probably go into more scenario based training that’s not dependent upon squaring off with someone in a ring. Krav is a military art, and it should be taught as such.
The problem, though, is that there are a million different teachers that vary GREATLY in quality. If you find a guy with actual battlefield experience, take that class even if he’s teaching tai-chi. If you find a suburban housewife teaching it, you may want to be more wary. But then also, we have Miss Parker on this board who, if you looked at her, would not intimidate you, but she’s one tough broad and really does her homework and trains her ass off in Krav. She’s an instructor I would trust. So there’s no easy answer… you kind of have to go with your gut on that.
Another possible problem with Krav is that being as they’re teaching you similar things that you’d learn in the army, you may have to unlearn some of it when you actually get into the Army, especially if you were further into the art where they start talking on more militaristic tactics.
At the base of this, though, Idaho is right - the best art is the one you love, because that’s the one you’ll train your ass off in. I took Goju-ryu for many years off and on, and although I progressed, it never truly became a part of me because the love wasn’t there. Once I started boxing, I found what I was looking for, and I live the sport. As a result, my skills have increased three times as fast in only a couple years as opposed to Gojuryu, which I took for a much longer time. When you love the art, nobody will have to FORCE you to train in it, and that means that every rep will be taken more seriously, and that art is going to benefit you far more.
Also, once you learn the basic principles of fighting, and you feel that you’re starting to ingrain them, you can begin to integrate other pieces in. I’ve done that with boxing by reading about crime, crime prevention, and self-defense in general to fill in the gaps that boxing leaves. You’re lucky because you’re going to have the military do that for you. But either way, checking out guys like Kelly McCann, who I highly, highly recommend, could only help you - guys who have really created new “martial arts” that deal with everything from hand-to-hand combat to guns and folding knives and batons.
I don’t like the current trend of moving towards BJJ for the army - its dangerous, simply put, to be on the ground, even more so when you’re in a third-world shithole where literally even getting mud or water in your mouth could get you sick as shit. I think the army is a bit misguided in doing that, but hey, what do I know…
Sorry for the long post… being sober on a Sunday morning makes me long-winded I guess.