T Nation

Picking a Fighting Style


I've always wanted to become more familiar with combat and fighting, as my name implies I love physicality and have up till now been expressing that through soccer (which I no longer play) and powerlifting.

I still powerlift and would like to continue doing so, but I'd also like to pick up some sort of combat training. I'm certainly not expecting to be an amazing champion or anything, but just something to introduce me to combat and see where it goes from there.

I know that there is a forum for combat training but this is such a newb question I figured it probably went here.

I have no idea where to start in picking a style. The only thing I can say on the matter is that I have little interest in boxing, but that still leaves a ton of different styles that I don't know the first thing about.

If it helps any, I'm a 5'6, 165lb female.

Should this prove to be a very silly question, well, I apologize in advance.


there is a combat sub-forum on this website which would be great for this question


^^ x2


I would recommend muay thai for you young lady. Soccer should give you great cardio and leg power. Both will help in muay thai. Thai boxing will also teach you to use punches kicks, low kicks, knees, and elbows. Many of the last three variations are good to know for a girl that could be faced with a stronger male opponent as an equalizer.


Well, what are you looking for out of it?

General fitness?
Using traditional weapons?

There are many many styles out there and they're all meant for something different, so you've got to think about what YOU are looking for first.

And quickly, it will become less about the style than the person teaching it, so be wary of sticking to one style because "It works" (whatever that means.) Looking for a good teacher is going to be even more important.


Self-defense and fitness would be my main interests for sure. Later on, however, I could see myself being interested in using traditional weapons. (assuming we're talking about swords / staves / etc) I already am pretty adept at archery so it'd certainly be cool to add some more to my arsenal!

A style that would teach me a way to fight a stronger male would definitely be something I'd like, so I'll look into thai boxing, sounds interesting.

Is finding a good teacher kind of like trying to find a good personal trainer - difficult unless you already kinda know what you're talking about?


what about trying everything and see the one you like more?


You might want to know training isn't going to make you able to beat up a stronger, bigger male that has 50+ pounds on you. I'd say 99 times out of 100 a stronger, bigger male is going to be able to beat up a smaller, trained woman especially if he catches her by surprise. There's a reason for weight classes in fighting.

I'd suggest trying out Muay Thai and/or Boxing though. You can try to find a gym in your area that trains amateur and pro fighters, that way you know you're getting a good gym with good instructors.


bjj can =)


Well, it's tough. Because it's like learning to play football from Bill Parcells vs. learning from the local drunk down at the bar who coaches the local Bad News Bears. Yea, you're learning "football" I guess, but the levels of expertise vary widely, and it's kind of hard to tell what a shitty coach is until you've talked to a good one.

I would not advise muay Thai if you want to be able to fight a larger male. I know you're talking about it from a self-defense standpoint, but MT is a very straightforward style that relies less on finesse and more on head-on power.

Regardless of that, your best bet is to go see what you like. Give MT a shot, and if you like it, stick with it. I know you said you don't like boxing (you suck) but MT is going to be pretty similar in at least half the training (the hands aspect).

I'm not a huge fan of traditional martial arts, but if you have a desire to go that way, I would advise that you look into either Wing Chun, Goju-Ryu karate, or judo. They rely less straight ahead strength and a bit more on using your enemies' force against them to lead them into mistakes.

They are also, in my humble opinion, the ones that seem to be able to be field stripped quickly and made useful for a street encounter.

However, you must be wary of disingenuous teachers when going towards the Asian arts. Anyone can be a self-proclaimed master at Who Flung Fuck Karate, and they'll give you a lineage list going back to Grandmaster Flash who learned it from watching a tiger fight an owl back in Japan in 1739.

This is why things like boxing and MT are a little more reliable - the sporting element ensures that if a guy doesn't know he's talking about, his ass will get handed to him.

So check around, talk to teachers, and if they come off as either a salesman or a wannabe cult leader (there are MANY of these), run away.

Start here.



i fully support what irish said about looking for a teacher over a style
i trained kickboxing in the basement of a mcdojo karate gym that just so happened to have an Olympic gold medalist running all the kick boxing classes and the national team coach driving in once or twice a week ad had quite a few guys with some more than a few bouts under thier belts.

more than style the instructor and community of people you train with will be the determining factor in the quality of your education this goes along with what Grimlorn said

i would definitely say for your purposes grappling is a terrible idea. (for practical self defence application)

the number one self defense martial art is definitely sprinting but id say that boxing or thai boxing
if you want a TMA with a little traditional weaponry you could always try my favorite and find an old school shotokan. it has many useful techniques and you can add in a tonfa if you so desire ( i always thought one would be better used in the hands of a boxer though)


Listen to FightinIrish, he is giving you excellent advice. It IS hard to know how to pick a good martial arts instructor when you aren't sure what to look for. But since you've done soccer, archery, & powerlifting for a while you probably know what good coaching looks like, so look for similarities. A good start is to find a non-bragging, patient person who will work with your strengths and weaknesses instead of trying to force you to be some cookie-cutter trainee. Most combat arts were designed by males for males, so not every aspect of any particular style may be that practical for us females. I believe WIngChun was created by a female, so if you want a traditional art I'd take a look at that (as was already proposed).

I do Krav Maga & love it, but we don't use traditional weapons, so from that angle it may not be what you're after.

My advice is this: See what's offered in your area. Start poking around the web looking at reviews of the schools, just to make sure there aren't a ton of people complaining about the same issues. Go try an introductory class at a school that is convenient enough for you to make it to regularly, & affordable. Then go with your gut.

Your best self defense against a male who means you harm is the ability to draw clear boundaries in your social and professional life, the willingness to recognize a bad situation for what it is, and if it comes to a fight - be utterly ruthless and savage, then run like your butt's on fire.


And one more thing - while I personally am not of the mind that BJJ is a great style for self defense, it is incredibly useful for a woman to get some ground training, and BJJ is pretty commonly offered. You should absolutely be able to fight from guard, but punching & kicking is too useful on the ground to pass up. Then get up & run. Please don't buy into the notion that breaking a man's arm will stop a fight. It might, but it's no guarantee. There are no guarantees of any kind.

Some practical things to learn - defenses against hooks/haymakers (women get slapped, which also comes in from the side), defenses against wrist grabs, hair grabs, bear hugs, being dragged off in various ways.


Wing Chun is shit for self defense. It doesn't matter that a woman developed it or not. It's pretty universally known that it is bad for fighting.

If you want to learn striking, boxing, muay thai, kickboxing are your best bets.
If you want to learn grappling, BJJ, Judo are your best bets. (Wrestling too if you have access to it)


Maybe it's "well known" to MMA douchers who discount all things traditional, but the people with some common sense will understand that it's pretty good, as always, depending on the teacher.


I used to think that way too. I work out with a guy occasionally who has competed extensively in tkd and muay thai. He dabbled in wing chun, so alot of times when we would work out, we would warm up with sticky hands. It is no joke, and definatley effective. Its just alot different than what most are used to.


I agree. It's not as straight ahead as the Western arts, but discounting it completely is foolish.


I don't discount all things traditional, just Wing Chun. There's a reason you don't see anyone using Wing Chun in MMA fights. Why don't we see any of those techniques in boxing? Why aren't people using their hands to deflect punches like in Wing Chun? Why aren't we seeing chain punching in boxing or mma?

A lot of traditional martial arts have been made popular by kung fu movies. But movies are choreographed. Here's a video of a fight from 1953 between 2 masters of their art. One kung fu, one TaiChi.

You can't seriously watch this video of two different styles where both fighters throw just awful punches, and tell me that traditional martial arts don't need to seriously be looked at. I mean they are two different arts and they are fighting the same way, and it looks like two unskilled guys fighting in the street. Any skilled boxer would have destroyed them. Also Wing Chun has been looked at a lot and that's why I made that statement about it being impractical for fighting or there are at least better options for learning how to strike properly. You're a boxer right, but do you think Wing Chun is better than Boxing for striking with just your hands?

I mean why do boxers keep their hands up to protect their chin? Why not just use your forearms and wrists to deflect every punch that comes at you. Why don't boxers stop messing around and just hit someone with one clean blow knocking someone out in every fight? I mean we see guys who are black belts in TMAs taking on 5 guys and knocking them all out with one blow all the time. In movies.


man, i lol'ed hard at that video, i'm going to use it as a deadly weapon against any kung-fu whore i might end up meeting.


They're all for a different purpose. TMA's were not invented for sport, and that excuse of "Well, Why don't they use it in MMA then!?" is just that - an excuse.

First, I love boxing, I really do, but it MUST be adapted to fight barehanded. When you put gloves on me, I generate way more force than my wrists can handle without wraps. Yea, TMA guys don't punch with as much force, but then they don't wrap their hands either, so it's not really optional, is it?

And also, a large percentage of the blows taught go towards the throat or the groin or the eyes or whatever... so you're taking away a lot of options.

These arts were not invented to go in the ring, and many of the moves they teach either hide the original purpose (many were supposed to be used with weapons, but the arts have been diluted to the point where even the teachers don't know this), or they're not being taught well.

If you've ever read "A Fighter's Heart" (which I believe everyone on this forum should), Sam Sheridan interacts with a Tai Chi teacher who can generate more than enough power to put someone down, and it's because his techniques are working off the same principles that boxers' do.

I am disparaging of TMA's often as well, don't get me wrong, but there are guys out there that are good enough at them they could rupture organs with one blow. That tells me that it's not the art, it's how it's being applied, that makes them weak. Hence, the "Find a good teacher" bit.

See, the reason I'm careful about disparaging TMA's is because of guys like Kelly McCann, who teaches a combatives system derived from WWII combatives. A lot of this has the same kind of movements and strikes as the traditional arts did, and while some don't work, many of them do, especially the open handed strikes, the chin jab, the counters to grabs, etc.

None of these will be allowed in MMA, but more importantly, the situations in which these moves would be effective will not arise in the octagon. In a bar, though, they will.

This is a good read about that subject, but if you want to keep talking on it, I'd suggest starting another thread so we don't ruin this woman's question.