T Nation

Martial Arts

For the last 6 years my main physical goal has been to be at a lean (defined 4-pack) 225lbs. I’m now up to 210lbs so I figure that I’ve got another 2-3 years of consistent, disiplined training and nutrition ahead before I get there. Once I get there I’ll probably back off of training a bit and mainly focus on slowly increasing maximum strengh. But I’ve always wanted to hold a black belt in a martial art, so martial arts training will probably take up my main physical focus. I did a year of TKD in high school but felt that it was missing something for me. So, what do you martial artists recommend as far as style goes? Remember, I’m not looking simply for a “fighting technique” but an honest-to-goodness martial “art”, weapons, kata, etc…

Muay Thai. It’s extremely physically demanding and quite brutal. I enjoyed the few years I spent training this style and would highly recommend it.


I would recommend cross training in two different martial arts if you have the time. I currently take Muay Thai and Philino Martial Arts (Kali, Escrima, Arnis) and highly reccomend both. A boxing/sport art like Thai boxing is great for conditioning, timing, speed and power. They both feed off of each other.

I like Kali because it teaches empty hand, kicking, boxing and weapons together, and the skills and concepts between them are identical. You don’t have to be a black belt to use a weapon in this art. Check it out at www.inosanto.com, or http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~kickbox/kali.htm .

Brazillian Jiu-Jutsu or Jeet Kune Do are also very excellent choices.


Maybe Im wrong, but its looks like soldier was in the market for a more traditional martial art and wants the belts, cultural study and regimented forms that come with it. Muay Thai gyms tend not to have this unless you find a trainer who follows all of the buddhist and Thai rituals. They’re pretty rare.

I would suggest Judo. You have the belt system(the whole concept of belt grades came from Judo actually), a rich cultural tradition and pretty formalized training. You also have the competitive outlet and hard Judo training will make you a pretty tough fighter.

I’ve found Capoeira to be a very enjoyable martial art. It’s physically demanding, rhythmical, and a whole lot of fun. The emphasis on handstands and acrobatic moves tends to make you feel like a kid again - which I think is always a good thing. I also think, if you have a studio nearby, that Wushu (literally “Martial Arts” in Chinese) would be an excellent choice. It’s a smattering of Chinese Martial Arts (some might call it “Kung Fu,” which is really a misnomer originally misinterpretted by Bruce Lee’s usage of the term) rolled into a coherent system that emphasizes not only external but also internal arts. You’ll find it to be very comprehensive as compared to your standard martial arts schools that teach only a few styles. Having been involved in martial arts all my life. I hope to hear from you!

Well, I’ve studied a number of arts and what I concentrate a majority of what little time I have now is with Hapkido and MMA.

There are a number of good arts out there and what I would suggest is look in your phone book; find what is near you and is within your price range and then go observe a few classes and workout with a few classes. You will find what really appeals to you that way.

Since I have studied martial arts since I was 6 and am now 55 I (finally) feel totally qualified to give an objective suggestion.

There is no perfect martial art - despite what anyone says. Someone may be perfect for a particular style but there is no perfect style.

It all boils down to these things:

1.what are your goals in studying martial arts?
2. what styles are available in your area?
3. of the styles available which are convenient? This may sound silly but believe me if it is not convenient you will soon find yourself somewhere else when you should be training.
4. of the styles that are convenient and in your area which seem interesting to you?
5. try them all out - every dojo or training hall that i know will allow you a free session or agroup of sessions at a reduced rate.
6. when you try them out which ones do you relate to? And most importantly, which of the senseis, shehans or teachers do you feel best personifies your feelings of trust? you must trust your sensei
7. lastly, don’t meddle in whatever martial art you choose - you get from it what you give. you must be willing and able to give 3 days a week to this study or you are meddling and you will be one of the many thousands of wannbees i have seen come and go.

I do not in any way agree with the gentleman above who said train in two martial arts at once - bad advice. Once you have reached a level of minimal knowledge then study others to complement your chosen art.

By the way my “main” style is shotokan karate but after receiving my nidan ( many years ago) I have studied brazilian jui-jitsui, judo, kali, many styles of kung fu as well as many other styles of karate.

All are great and all can contribute to your growth - but the most important thing is your teacher. A good teacher is everything.

I don’t care what art you take - if the teacher is bad then it is a waste of time. Hope this helps

good luck.

I am currently taking Krav Maga. It’s a great workout and its application to real world scenarios is great. I tried Tae Kwan Do and as near as I can figure Tae kwan do is Korean for how to get your ass kicked in a street fight. The Krav Maga system incorporates elements from many of the other arts. That’s my 2 cents worth. (Also, Other than TKD and Krav I don’t have much else to choose from in my location.)

I agree with gonta, it all boils down to your instructor, and also, (for me) the other people in your class.

The martial arts have this habit of attracting assholes, like all things in life, and you will find in your travels numerous people who lack talent and discipline but make up for it with a complete lack of self control. If too many of these characters inhabit a class then you will find the training less enjoyable.

I personally train in shotokan karate, but the usefulness of the style is down to you and your instructor. You can get caught up in the whole competition fighting, kata dancing stuff, or you can be lucky and find a club where kata application is the core.

So my point; martial arts instructors are a lot like personal trainers, they may possess the certification, but that is not often worth a lot. Just take it all with a pinch of salt, be objective and only do it if you enjoy it.

It is true, you have to trust your instructor. It’s great when you find some that really want to see you succeed. I’m not sure where you live in CA, but here is a branch of the MA that I study:

It is based on Ninjutsu, and defintely has real-world applications. There’s not a whole lot of long kata work, mostly personal defense senarios. It seems instead of teaching the katas, then application, they teach application of the individual moves, then a long kata. As for weapons, the Dayton branch teaches sword, bo, hanbo, shuriken, kusari-fundo, kusari-gama, and kyoketsu shogei. I wish you well on your search!

To-Shin Do

I have 20 years experience in the arts and have studied the following:

A sport, fun, not effective at all for self-defense.

Wing Chun:
Haven’t seen or tried anything that has a better system of defense using the upper body. Offense and low body defense are a bit weak, and foot work makes sense but doesn’t work in the real world.

Muay Thai:
Exceptionally effective striking offense, simple defense. Lacks much grappling. Not as street as most practitioners would suggest it is.

Jui jitsu:
Very effective self-defense, fun to train with, not much missing here except the striking is not that well developed.

Krav Maga:
Awesome real world self defense. You learn how to fight, and get a real workout doing it. For some a bit too simple (which is a good thing, as the less motor patterns you learn, the less you need to practice it until it becomes automatic)

Try lots of things, focus on one until you understand its application well enough to teach it, then broaden you horizons. (My personal favorites are now Jui Jitsu and Muay Thai, in that order. It is a lethal combination and fun with the “art” element)

Great advice everyone! It appears that there are some serious marital-artists on this board. I think that TKD was too much of a “sport” for me. I did, however, really enjoy the forms (or kata) and the bo staff. Too-Shin-Do, I’ve heard of Stephen Hayes. Wasn’t he the only white man to be taught traditional Ninjutsu in Japan? Thats very interesting stuff but I think its a bit too clasdestine and too combat-based for me. As far as the grappling arts, I understand their importance in real fights (most end up on the ground) I just don’t think I’d enjoy being on the ground during training that much (although Judo may be different?) The Chineese arts have always appeared to have too many “bells and whistles” with all of the jumps and spins. Cappawella (sp?) is fun. I tried it back when I used to break-dance. But again, not quite what Im looking for. Jeet Kune Do, however, looks very interesting. Whomever recommended this form, can you give me more info? Is there a belt system? Kata? weapons? Also, Shotokan Karate has always interested me. My understanding is that its more direct and straighfoward in its strikes? Joint-locks and such? Low kicks only? It also offers more cultural type stuff, with meditation and such? Does it include traditional Karate weaponry, sai’s, bo staff, nunchuku(sp?), etc…? basically, Im interested in a three-times per week hobby. Something that has a tangible progression system. I wanna break boards and such, lol!. Something that wont make me a bare-handed killing machine, but will give me a distinct advantage in the street. And most of all, something enjoyable, fun and fullfilling to compliment my strenght training.

I’d suggest looking into Aikido - I don’t think anyone’s mentioned it. You can download some pretty crazy videos off the net. Whatever you choose, make sure it fits your goals.

Requisite background info:
I have studied martial arts for fifteen years, with primary concentrations in the following arts:
Tae Kwon Do
Muay Thai

Now for the main part of the post…

Jeet Kun Do is not so much a defined style as it is a philosophy. The exact moves you study depend highly upon your instructor’s preference. For example: if you talk to a TaeKwonDo practitioner from school A they know pretty much the same stuff as someone from school B. The same cannot be said for JKD.

Based upon what you stated that you desire (weapons, breaking, kata, meditation, grappling, belt-ranks, etc) the most rounded styles are probably Hapkido and Kenpo (alternate spelling: Kempo). Both styles are hard-line striking/grappling arts, employ weapons, have kata, and do various other things depending upon the school. Both arts are practical on the street and in the cage (with a bit of additional study).

I suggest visiting several schools and trying them out for a week or so. After you have done so, you can choose the school that best fits your needs.

Background : TKD, Aikido, Muai Tai, Sumo for fun, and let me tell you: I’ve powerbombed my fair share of opponents.

I agree with the above, Hapkido. I spent my time studying Aikido and loved it, but it probably lacks the striking you are looking for. I found picking my 300lb ass up off the floor after a 4 foot breakfall from Koetagaeshi to be a hell of a workout, and I’m a grappler by nature.

[quote]Soldierslim wrote:
Too-Shin-Do, I’ve heard of Stephen Hayes. Wasn’t he the only white man to be taught traditional Ninjutsu in Japan? Thats very interesting stuff but I think its a bit too clasdestine and too combat-based for me.[/quote]

Yes, that’s him. He studied under Masaaki Hatsumi whose teacher was Toshigitsu Takamatsu, who combined several (9) lineages in order to preserve them. Hayes also met his wife, Rumiko, in Japan, and she runs the Dayton school with him. Training with both of them is an experience! Grabbing Rumiko is like grabbing a bundle of ropes, she’s quicker and more agile than I can imagine myself being. As for being more combative, that’s probably true. One of my favorite things we did was situational combat. Basically they set up four senarios (in your garden, at the park, in a restaurant, on the street corner) and you were attacked in them. You had to use items (foam props) around you to defend yourself. For example, in the garden, I “sprayed” my assailant in the eys with the hose and then used it to immobilize his arms. In the restaurant setting, people used their hot soup, steak knife, salt or even napkin dispenser to defend. It was a lot of fun.

You may want to consider a combative form of Tai Chi. They’re heavy on forms, have weapons (a couple different swords I think) and with the right instructor can work on the street.

To-Shin Do

For pure “street level” effectiveness I personally dont think theres anything better than Wing Chun.

Hey all…Good thread…I have trained for 16+yrs (5 in TKD, 9 in aikido, and 4 in capoeira, with other arts here and there). I taught for a while and would host “friendship” seminars and invite any and all other arts to come and share what they learn. After that experience, and visting Japan and Brazil, I feel that in the end, all MA’s are the same. Granted, they have highs and lows, but all basically the same. I mean how many ways can you throw a punch or lock a joint? Like others here have said, it is not really the art, but you. You make the art what it can be, and let it develope you as well. That is what it is all about. So train hard, train often, and do like my Sensi told me, train with whomever will train you. Take what you can and learn from it.
That being said,
Capoeira Rules!!

[quote]will-of-iron wrote:
For pure “street level” effectiveness I personally dont think theres anything better than Wing Chun. [/quote]

Good 'ol American Boxing!! and wrestling…

Just want to hijack real quick about some stuff people said. TKD does have real world application, its not just a sport MA. And not all schools of TKD are the same, I’ve trained at several different schools for TKD and they were all distinctly different. Oh, I don’t know how it is for the other MA’s that have belt systems, but for TKD, when you become a black belt it isn’t anything special, it just means you know all the basics and can now learn the hard stuff. But yeah, I myself am looking into Ju-Jitsu and Aikido.