T Nation

Martial Arts

I am thinking about taking some martial arts classes. I would like to improve balance, flexability and have a reasonable chance of self defense should the need ever arise. If I do this I would commit to a black belt although at this point I am not totally sure what that really means. What discipline should I take on and why?

IMO wrestling or a related art like ju jitsu is the most effective for real life self defense.Training for power(not bodybuilding)while mastering some form of wrestling would just make you that much better.

What styles are taught in your area?

For balance and flexibility I’d have to go with any of the Chinese arts like kung fu and Wu-Shu. They’re not the best for being able to self-defend immediately, but since you didn’t put that first it’d be my recommendation.

All of the kung fu type arts would be great for flexibilty and balance but an untrained person would mop the floor with you in a fight.

So what from what I gather the balance and flexablility part and fighting and defense are some what exclusive? From a quick reveiw of the phone book it looks like the following are taught in my area: Aikido, Bujutsu, Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, Kadendan Judo, Jujitsu.

Step 1. Ignore anything molsonman says. He’s obviously not intelligent enough to offer an unbiased opinion.

  1. Kung Fu would be good, as would Aikido. Aikido REQUIRES balance. Without it, you can’t do the technique. So for balance it ranks #1 imho. If you want flexibility, kung fu wuold likely top that list, though Hapkido would make a good choice too and be a little better on the self defense scale. If you want immediate self defense ability, jiu jitsu is probably your best bet initially.

  2. Judo and TKD are sports and not martial arts - not in the states anyway, so they’re likely a waste of your time.

  3. If you’re wanting to learn things like grace, balance, flexibility, and thing outside of "kicking ass,’ find something you like and stick with it. you can become effective with anything, but it takes time - might as well enjoy it.

Ignore anything I say? Man I talk from experience. Any grappling art will give you great balance, more so than any art like kung fu or karate. After just three weeks of bjj I was able to completely dominate a tkd blackbelt who was also a provincial champ. I know a guy who has never fought in his life and destroyed a trained kung fu guy that I also know. I did the tkd/karate thing before and I’ll tell you right now that you are better off not training at all if you are looking for self defense.

If I were to choose one of the arts you mentioned with the intention of giving you 1) flexibility, 2) balance and 3) some self-defence application I would choose judo. The thing with judo is you can pretty much gurantee you will be getting a decent instructor for a fairly cheap price while the others are much more touch and go. Contrary to what aikigreg says judo is a martial art (a well respected one at that) and if you train it semi-seriously you will gain all three qualities you are looking for in abundance. 1) Judo vs aikido/kung fu for balance - with very few exceptions aikido/kung fu balance stems around “your” balance only and is trained in conjuction with cooperating partners. Judo is about learning how to disrupt your opponents balance while he/she is trying to unbalance you. Take a guess which is better for practical balance:). 2)Flexibilty - toss up, anything with stretching is bound to be good. Don’t forget, being able to do the splits doesn’t mean the rest of the body is flexible (ie back). 3) self-defence, it is extremely rare that aikido or kung fu has any live sparring. Judo will show you what works and what doesn’t because someone is resisting. This makes all the difference in what works in the street and what works in theory. Good kung fu does exist but chances are you won’t find it - aikido is a beautiful art but even it’s famous practicioners like Seagal state that it’s more about the art than practical self-defence.

This again? ok, now you guys, dont get into a slap fight… Just messin with ya boys…
My one piece of advice for you JD would be this- make sure the instructor(s) isnt a loser. Just cuz the art is in the phone book doesnt mean that is actually what is taught. a lot of schools im my neck of the woods claim this and that, but just end up being boxing with some kicks thrown in, or just normal karate. check out the school, do some research on the art so you know what you should be looking for. Make sure the insttructor is not a royal choad smoker. I personally dont like the barkers- the ones that just sit there lookin like Budha with their huge gut and bark out orders, never really doing anything. But that is not what you wanted to know. I said this before, with any art, you can come away with quite a bit of skill, balance, stamina, and self-defense ability. as long as you think of how to apply these things in the real world. Good luck with your hunt, I hope it isnt as long and tedious as some of mine have been…

Well I have a second cousins’ brother-in-law who fought a black belt and he had no training even though he was 35 years old and he beat that 12 year old almost to death:) The moral of the story is everyone has one. Now to get back to the great debate. The best martial art is the one that you wil enjoy learning and will stick with. As far as flexibility and balance it would seem to me that most martial arts that stress flexibility feature high kicks. This will most of the time adversely affect your balance. The styles that stress balance usually don’t have flexibility as a main goal. Now before I get flamed that is to the best of my knowledge and even though I quite a bit of experience it’s not in a huge variety of arts. To Geoff I appreciate the reply in the last post about the vale tudo. I had heard of it and was curious how it compared to some of the other arts I have heard about. Thanks again for the post.

nice little joke:) thats a good one.
no flames here- but I was wondering what your reasoning behind the high kicks impeding balance was. thanks.

Thanks for the help!

Most of the time when you kick high your center of balance is elevated so that you are easily toppled. Although many martial artists can kick high and won’t necessarily fall of their own accord a small nudge will cause them to lose balance. Now the martial arts that I do know that teach balance (and this is my own experience I am sure that there are many more that I am not familiar with) would be wing chun and tai chi. These arts stress stance training so you have a strong and flexible stance. Although there are other schools that don’t stress that as much. (Much tai chi is done only for health and some wing chun is taught almost as a hard style). In both arts there is emphasis on rooting to the ground and very little kicks all of which are usually low.

I see now. i thought you meant hindered overall balance, not just during the kick. My mistake. I totally agree in that aspect. But, the balance gained from learning how to posistion your body during these kicks can help indirectly with balance at all other times. at least in my case it did. And basic stances in many of the kicking arts are very good to help with overall balance. Im not disagreeing with you, just trying to point something out.

Since I do not know about the arts you mentioned because I have never trained in them, I cant say yea or nay those. but, again, I think a lot of what is grasped is up to the student, as much if not more than, up to the instructor.

sick puppy, what is balance? I think balance in relation to martial arts can be two things. 1) isolated balance ie good balance while throwing a high kick - no one interferes and 2) practical balance - being able to keep your balance while someone is trying to offset it. Most martial arts only practice the first kind. Many others such as sambo, judo and wrestling (although it could be argued to be a sport but…) train both types of balance. Flexibility is another issue in martial arts. Most tae kwon do stylists believe they have great flexibility because they can do the splits. What about upper back or neck flexibility?

I’m not making judgements, just trying to open up new ideas/discussion as most martial arts thinking is fairly stagnant. Sort of like the ideas that Pavel or Westside is to the average weightlifter the concepts from many ma’s are never looked at by “traditional” schools because it doesn’t fit their curriculum, thus most martial artists don’t look past their on noses in relation to physical well-being. I know this is poorly written but I hope you can get the gist of what I’m trying to say.

Da Man and Geoff I agree with what you both are saying. I also both respect your views and the way you both present them. Unless you have experience in a soft martial art it is hard to understand what I am trying to get across. A case in point. When I first started wing chun I had taken Tang Soo Do which is very similar to Tae Kwan Do. I had also fought quite a bit before I even got into Martial Arts and had a basic knowledge of boxing. When I first started practicing the punches in Wing Chun I would have the habit of drawing my fist back because I didn’t believe you could generate power so close to your target. Well my instructor saw this and corrected it but 2 minutes later I was back into the same habit. My instructor then introduced me to the 1 inch punch. He had me put a phone book against my chest and placed his fingertips against the phonebook. He then clenched his fist and hit the phonebook with about 40% power from less than an inch away. It felt like I got hit with a baseball bat. While I was hoping my vital organs would assume their rightful places and wishing I lived in a much more populated area he explained again how relaxation and structure wil give you all the power that you need. Needless to say I was very much a believer from that day forward. But if I hadn’t have felt that I would have still thought it was a load of BS and probably would have gone on to another art. By the way my instructor is about 5’ 9" and at that time about 165 pounds. He basically looks like an accountant. Just goes to show you never know. Since that time I have seen people that even put him to shame and they have one thing in common they are all humble people that if you saw them in the street you would not even think that they were anything to fear. To get back to the question of balance. There is a book out by an author named Lam I believe called The Way Of Energy. It’s all about standing meditation. The premise is that you learn how to stand totally relaxed and hold that stance without moving for up to an hour a day. Now you get someone that does this and has even rudimentary martial arts skills they will be very difficult to knock down. The problem with this is most people will not do this. It is very painful to develop and very boring to do. Everyone would rather be out sparring or grappling with someone but if you do this your power in your punches will be unbelievable. After all most of the power in punches and kicks come from the ground and the one with the strongest root will have a stronger punch. But then again most people and unfortunately myself included at this stage of my life don’t have the time or discipline to do this. Well I will probably get flamed for this point of view but I wanted to clarify what I was trying to say to you two because I do respect you past posts.

Sickpuppy: Everyone has a stroy? Ok. The blackbelt in tkd I dominated after just three weeks of bjj is my age and has trained for at least ten years.

I hear what you are saying but I think molsonman is right on this one. Everyone has a story or more accurately, everyone is a salesman. Any ma’s teacher has to have something to show someone or else they don’t have students. IMO your teacher doesn’t have to fight in competitions to prove himself (a good instructor is not always a good compeititor) but his students must. Otherwise how do you know what works? One question I have for your instructor - if you can punch so hard why aren’t boxers using this technique to win millions?

There are many reasons you don’t see punches like that in boxing. One reason is that they may happen and people don’t realize or see them. A long time ago I believe it was Muhammad Ali knocked someone out with a very short punch and everyone thought the fight was fixed but if you look at his footwork and body unity you will see that it was a legitamate punch. The other thing is most boxers you go against are hard to get a clean shot in. It’s not real life fighting it is a sport and they don’t have to worry about getting kicked in the leg so the top half of their body is usually in motion. The other reason IMO is that the use of gloves negates quite a bit of the force of the one inch punch. Much of the power is from the snapping of the wrist and the use of boxing gloves completely neutralizes that aspect. Now Molsonman I need to clarify what I meant by saying everyone had a story. I did not mean to show any disrespect to you or your style. What I meant to say is that you can tell a story and 200 different people can line up and tell a story that has a total opposite viewpoint. Now I know some stories where the grappler lost. But that doesn’t mean it’s an inferior style. It has IMO many valid uses and is superior in many ways to a lot of styles. Very honestly I wouldn’t mind knowing some of it because the biggest strength to me is being able to choke someone out thus ending an altercation without doing great bodily harm. Your legal standing in a case like that would be much better than someone that kicks someone in the knee and does major damage to end a fight. Now in the case of say the Sept. 11 hijacking grappling with 5 people with sharp objects would probably not turn out as well as someone with the ability to do one strike and knock someone out of a fight or preferably life. Just my two cents.