T Nation

What Martial Art?

I know we have a lot of martial artist on “The Forum”, so I would like to ask you guys opinion.

What Martial Art discipline do you think most fully intergrates strength, flexibility, discipline,“spiritual enlightenment” (define that as you may) and can be looked at as an adjunct to lifetime health? I’m not looking for something that would be “best in a street fight”, but a discipline for lifelong physical and mental health. As always…thanks, Grasshoppers!

Won’t be a popular answer, but I’d probably go with something like Tai Chi. Take loads of each of those things to get really good at it.

Runners-up would probably be Aikido (my own art), Shao lin karate, Daito-Ryu aikijiujitsu, some forms of kung-fu.

Honestly, I think it mostly is dependent upon your instructor, as well as the amount of time you invest in it. If you have specific goals you’d like to meet, I’d suggest you meet with the different insructors in your area, take intro classes (they’re usually free), and ask them how their individual styles would cater to your needs.

If you want spirituality go to church. As far as actual sport, stay away of those who use mostly static katas or forms. Pick a martial art that is partner-centric. Preferably one that uses heavy thai pads, use of combinations (not this one death strike BS), and use of realistic throws.

Lifelong physical and mental health? I agree with akigreg. Tai Chi is the way to go if these are your goals.

Whatever discipline you study do not ever go to a place called Oriental Sports Academy. They have you sign a two year contract weather you attend or not. I spoke with then instuctor and he said not to worry about that because if circumstances change that he would make exceptions. His idea of an exception is since I am moving he will charge me 60% of the contract if I do not pay he will go after the full 100% ot the contract. Learn a lesson from my mistakes. Read the contract and pay no attention to what they say about it. Trust no one. BTW this place is in Virginia.

WAX ON:WAX OFF:PAINT THE FENCE:SAND THE DECK: What the fuck else do you need? There are 4 Karate Kid movies you can mastaaaaah. I am a ninja and I love pancakes!

Were you dropped on your head as a baby? Did you eat paint chips as a kid? Did you play under power lines? Seriously man you crack me the hell up.

Aikido is great for what you are looking for. Has that be cool to each other vibe, and helps you stay loose although the first few weeks are kind of bumpy (you first need to learn fall and flow with the movements). Tai chi is good to but some people find it boring. I personally like to bang so its full-contact street styles for me. I believe in peace and love but sometimes you need to hand out an ass whuppin’…

Yeh man, Tai Chi is a really good choice. and some of the Kung Fu’s. if you can get a reall, thats reall, teacher that is. in the traditional ones often a heigher level “grading” is just as much about medicine, meditation, acupunture, philosofy, and such things as it is about physical aspects. but most of these guys that are setting up schools and trying to teach it have no right doing it. this is actually one of the worlds fastest growing buissness fields, for a couple of years now, so its a little like the supplement buissnes. but in short if you can find somthing like Wing Chung, Aikido, even some of the Karates that havent become sport orientated, they are all good for inlightenment. though like i said try to find somthing along this lines in the West is kind of hard. i think everyone is right when they say Tai Chi, its remaind in tact alot more, its not in the movies which helps alot, too. how about that?

I wholeheartedly agree with Aikigreg, chin and the others. For what you are looking for tai chi is the best. I don’t know about aikido except for what I read but I would defer to Aikigreg and figure it to e really good for what you are looking for. There is a good book about standing meditation which might be real enlightening and might help you on your path it is called The Way Of Energy By Lam Kam Chuen. I believe it’s still available at Barnes and Noble.com. Try following it for one month you might be surprised at the changes it will make in you. Beware it is not as easy as it sounds. Good Luck.

Thanks, guys. With the responses received, I felt that I better give a little more clarification.

For some time now, my primary goal has been aesthetic; and it still is. However, as I’ve gotten older, I have come to realize that there are some VERY important keys to longevity that can’t be overlooked. If we focus just on any one, then we most likely will sacrifice a life that is a long AND HEALTHY one. (Spending the last 30 years of one’s life immobile and/or bedridden, with great looking pecs, would not be much of a life). Those keys appear to be:

1)Diet, diet, diet

2)The maintenance of muscle mass and strength


4)Mental focus and acuity

5)Relaxation, Joy, Happiness, “Spiritual Enlightenment”, etc. (By the way; “Church” is NOT the way many people reach these goals).

The latter is VERY individual. The first four may vary in the WAYS we reach them, but eventual outcomes are relatively the same.

For the longest I’ve struggled with “How do I incorporate strength training?” “What about flexibility?” “What about mental focus?” Then I realized that they ALL can be incorporated in the right form of Martial Arts. Thus my question. Now…a little insight.

In the Chinese martial arts world, there are two broad “streams”: 1) The “hard” school (exemplified best by Shaolin Style Wushu (“wu” meaning the ART of fighting and “shu” is the SKILL of fighting) and 2) The “soft” school (exemplified best by Tai Chi). Shaolin Style Wushu (although not totally a correct term), is commonly known as “Kung Fu”.

The “Hollywood” guys (Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Et al) tend to have “mixed” styles (“Jeet Kune Do” in the case of Lee), and these mixed styles can only come about by having a LOAD of experience. By the way; for you “purist” who stick your nose up at guys like Lee, Chan and Li; they can kick most people’s ass in a street fight and then some. Don’t let the “Hollywood” fool you).


So…Chin and others. What do you think? Do you know of books, videos, schools, etc. known for this approach? My knowledge is “book/research” knowledge. I need the experience and knowledge of you guys that are the actual Martial Artist. With your input, I think I’m getting close! THANKS!

“Spiritual enlightenment” has nothing to do with being an effective fighter IMO. Most “practicing” fighters dont mix the two. Not to say you shouldnt seek spiritual enlightenment. It well worth your time. I just find, most people see the TV show kung-fu and have unrealistic expectations from the sport. And just because the brochure claims to open new philosophies to you, does mean it does. Its a sales pitch. We westerners want to believe in the mystical powers of the asians. Its like saying, I want to play ballball to find spiritual enlightenment. Again, I’m not knocking it, but you might as well take a university class (on zen or whatever) or something of that nature, that will give you a much stronger foundation of new beliefs.

Hey Mufasa. It sounds like you’re looking for an integrated Kung-fu style (just generalizing). If you want to combine hard and soft, pick up inside Kung-fu. Some articles and i’m sure the video section will lead you to a style that blends these together. I think (and it’s been awhile since I’ve looked into kung-fu) the animal styles should have what you want. Like White Crane, Tiger, seven star Preying mantis, etc. Hope this helps. Good luck with your search.

I take Hapkido and Tae Kwon Do. And as I have been noticing sometimes you need to take a couple of different styles to get all you desire. Tae Kwon Do has amazing kicks and can be acrobatic, Hapkido is very graceful but is meant to be deadly and end a fight quickly. Many schools offer a few different styles don’t limit yourself.

As far as inner peace and enlightenment, I would read anything by Bruce Lee. I think he is one of the most underrated minds of last century. Everyone considers him such a great fighter and he was but he was an amazing philosopher, or at least he borrowed alot. I read and recomend that you read “The Warrior Within”. Let me know what you think.

I really think you should check out Aikido.I good school has exactly what you are looking for, the spiritual, the flexibility and almost every school that i went to had almost a family feel to it which i feel is important in any dojo. A good Aikdo dojo also makes you feel like you stepped into an acient japanese shrine. The whole premise of Aikido is to become one with everything, learn to flow. Develop your Ki, the japanese version of Chi.

Mufasa, the truly “elite” martial arts masters throughout history have deemed martial arts… “A melding of mind, body and SPIRIT,” acting as one!

The SPIRIT is that which animates ALL life; without
spirit, there is no life, only inert matter! To be one with spirit is to be one with life and that which created it. Unfortunately, in North America all we seem to hold
sacred are the three F’s: Feeding, Fighting and Fornicating!

Any of the internal arts: tai chi,
aikido, pa kua chang, hsing yi. The problem
with the Chinese internal arts is finding
an instructor who is genuinely experienced
in it as a martial art and not just as low
impact aerobics. A quality aikido school
will probably be easier to find unless you’re
in a city with a large Chinese population like

I make this distinction because I don’t think
you’ll find what you’re saying you want in
a non-martial version of tai chi or hsing yi…

Martial art, like any pursuit, offers you a new way to look at the world. I don’t believe in martial art dogma. Bruce Lee said: having no way as way, having no limitation as limitation". Martial art should be taught in small classes on an individual basis. Most martial arts in the U.S. have become sports oriented. The kicking “ass” portion is only the tip of the iceberg. You tend to see the world thru your unique experiences: if you are a artist, a painter, you view the world thru the eye of a painter. You tend to explain things using painting terms or thru your experience painting. As a martial artist you see the world thru the eyes of a martial artist. Your technique expands into not only a way to fight but a way to understand the your place in the world. There are not many instructors who could guide you thru the spiritual path. Often times the art has to be wartered down to appeal to the masses. Instructors fall into the trap of trying to attract and maintain average students. Students complain they are not getting promoted fast enough for the money they are paying. . .they are promoted, and become instructors. Long winded aren’t I? All martial arts have advantages and disadvantages, I would concentrate on traditional Martial Arts, Kenjitsu, Wing Chun, other forms of kung-fu or non-traditional martial arts: Kali, Silat, thai boxing, etc.