T Nation

Which Martial Art To Start?


It’s a nice concept, I really like the idea of it and it does look really good when it’s pulled off too, probably why Steven Seagal was so popular. It definitely makes me want to try aikido. It’s always been one of my favourites from when I was young. Only concern is there’s apparently no sparring and it’s not really practical for self defence.


Thank you that seems like a good resource. I’ve never bought any martial arts books before because I was worried it would be no good without hands on lessons, what do you think?


Steven Seagal is a black belt and has mastered that art form for over 20 years or so… It is definitely an amazing art especially if you really get in to the philosophy to understand it. I believe at some point he had lived in Japan to continue growing his skills and for most of his life he took it very seriously.

You can spar with it if you have a willing partner, everything (that is martial arts) will have slow paced sparring until moves are familiar and controlled… Only then you can increase the pace of making the sparring seem more natural.

If Aikido is a childhood desire, I would go with that…

You can learn CQC striking techniques fairly easily from those sort of books on hand to hand combat defense… Learning the vital striking points can be important to familiarize yourself and you can incorporate that with your Aikido skills as you go along.


Yeah if I recall correctly he’s something like the highest ranked American in the world or something. I think the best thing for me is to give all three a try and see which I enjoy the most. I’ll buy that book too.


The instructor is going to have a huge impact on how valuable each art is in the area of self-defense. Stop by and watch a session of each. Given your goal of self-defense; look for sparring and hitting bags/pads in the striking styles and rolling against resisting opponents.

Of your choices in clubs the ones most likely to have what you are looking for are:
Muay Thai

Of course “kickboxing” could be ‘cardio-kickboxing’ not combative.


Luckily I’m in a great position because I’m starting university so a lot of them offer free taster classes so I’ll try a few. I definitely want one with some sort of sparring and pad work.
Thanks for your reply.


Aikido’s biggest weakness, I think, is how long it takes to learn it well enough to use it. Judo can be learned a lot faster and still defend yourself without hurting anyone.

Having said that, I took aikido for three years, and one advantage to that particular club was that they had an additional optional class dealing with weapons, practicing with wooden swords and staves and how to defend ourselves from knife attacks (using wooden knives). The nice thing about learning how to use a staff is that you can then defend yourself with a shovel or rake. I even saw a staff kata performed with a shovel and the students all had a good laugh about it. Of course, the traditional moves often assumed you were being attacked by a samurai, which is unlikely to happen.


There’s a weapons class at the club near me which is something I like the look of, I definitely want some experience defending against them.


Seems to be quite a bit of talk about aikido so I thought I add a few comments for what it’s worth.

Different styles of aikido have different focuses. “traditional”, “tomiki” and “yoshinkan” are the big three in the UK. If it’s traditional aikido, you’ll focus on wrist locks and some pretty (but not overly effective) throws. If it’s tomiki aikido (the British Aikido Association main style), there’s a lot of randori (the grappling equivalent of sparring in Japanese martial arts like judo and traditional jiujitsu). Like judo (tomiki is a style of aikido based on judo competition), the randori is more sport oriented, rather than self defence. If it’s it’s yoshinkan, it’s a bit more aggressive, technical, slower to learn and a lot like more the daito ryu jujitsu style aikido is based on.

To start with, most aikido will seem pretty artificial, as it takes a while to get the technique down. However, once the techniques are ingrained it’s pretty effective as a martial art. I would say that this is probably true for most of the martial arts you’ve listed (I do/ have done judo, aikido, karate, Taekwondo and jujitsu and this applies to all these) - e.g if you did karate you’d probably be able to grasp the basics of a gyakazuki (back hand) punch after the first lesson, but it would take a few years of practicing it before it would really be effective in a real life situation. One final point on aikido - may not be relevant but it’s one of the few martial arts I know of that can be effective as a smaller person against a big person (speaking from experience, when I was at university I once ended up in a situation where a guy that must have had at least 30kg lean mass on me started trying it on one evening and I instinctively did a nikyo wrist lock and he fell to the floor screaming)

As others have said, the best thing to do is to go along to a few different classes and see what you enjoy most.

That being said, I don’t think karate or Taekwondo are what you’re looking for. I’ve done a few different styles karate on and off since age 10 (I’m 27), and although it’s interesting it’s probably not the most practical striking art for self defence. Taekwondo is more of a sport than a martial art - the clubs I’ve trained at do a lot of pad work though if that’s what you’re looking for.

Hope this helps with you choices and good luck!


I think you should go with KICK BOXING. You can learn to use quite well your legs and your arms.



There’s a lot of unfamiliar names here talking about the usefulness of Aikido and other arts, but I’ll be honest - to me, traditional arts are just so much bullshit. Too much dancing, not enough fighting.

If there is a good reality martial arts instructor by you - and by good, I mean GOOD as in the Kelly McCann/Lee Morrison type - then go with that person.

Otherwise, hit up a boxing, muay Thai, or judo gym, while simultaneously buying and reading “The Little Black Book of Violence” off Amazon (get it here: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Black-Book-Violence-Fighting/dp/1594391297).

You’ll learn more self-defense and fighting skills from those two things alone than you’ll pick up in decades under some prancing pajama-wearing “grandmaster.”


Love this! :joy:

That shit was pretty funny.


Thanks for all the replies, gonna try them either later this week or next, I’ll keep the thread updated with how it goes in case anyone’s interested.


Good advice from both Idaho and Irish. ^^^

The one caveat to Judo though is to be careful if the school is highly focused on Judo competitions. Unfortunately the rules of International Judo have been changed so as to completely eliminate any takedowns where the legs are grabbed with the hands/arms. And while upper body takedowns do occur in real fights, tackles (be they Technical or simply “football tackles”) are probably the most common types of takedown attempts. Being completely unexposed and unprepared for such common types of attacks is not really a great idea if your goal is training primarily for self defense.

On the same token, one of the primary issues with training only in Boxing, Kickboxing, or Muay Thai is again with the different “delivery” situation and style of those sports vs real situations. Those arts are bar none (and I would personally put Kyokushin just below those due to its full contact focus, however its lack of head punching puts it just slightly lower on the totem pole IMO) the best arts for dealing with “Active Combat” striking situations. However, none of them address “sucker punches,” the verbal and postural elements often leading up to the initial Ambush attempt, or the “Artless Execution” that can occur in real confrontations.

That doesn’t mean that I am disagreeing with training in those arts though, you absolutely should. It does mean though that you also need to train for/against more RMA types of common situations and attacks (like “Haymakers” and “sucker punches”), learn de-escalation and verbal, postural, and Cerebral self defense tactics and consider legal and moral ramifications of violence, and of course weapons and multiple opponent skills if you truly want to have the best chances of defending yourself in the real world. RMA’s do these things better than any of the sport systems.

Since you don’t seem to have access to any though, I would suggest doing as Irish suggests and reading books on the subject by experts in the field of real world violence.

A couple other good pick ups include:
-Unlocking the Combat Code by Walt Lysak Jr
-The Gift of Fear by Gavin Debecker
-On Killing by Dave Grossman
-Master Of The Blade by Richard Ryan

Marc Macyoung also has some good books on the subject of real world self defense/violence.

Good luck


As usual when sento, idaho and irish have already gotten to a thread, I have little to add. For reading, I would say On Combat by Grossman is accessible to a wider audience than On killing, but that’s splitting hairs. As has been said, train something you enjoy with the best instructor and class atmosphere you can find. There are a lot of douchebags in MA, unfortunately. I agree with the whole MT/boxing + Judo angle, accepting the limitations of anything that is a pure sport when it comes to personal protection. Personally I give a slight preference to boxing over MT, but that may be a personal bias. That said, I expect Britain has a stronger boxing culture than it does MT so you MAY have more luck finding quality instruction in boxing. Whatever you do, train hard, have fun and be patient with yourself.


Thank you all for your replies I appreciate you taking your time to help me.
After looking at my timetable and money I’ve decided that right now judo isn’t really practical for me and perhaps focussing on one martial art at a time, at least for now, will be easier.
That being said the kickboxing and muay Thai clubs have a joint membership at a very cheap price so I’m going to take advantage of that and train both. I figure the similar nature of them won’t cause any issues and it’s too good of an offer to refuse.
I’ve just had my first kickboxing lesson where I learnt jabs, crosses and two basic kicks. It was very enjoyable and my first Muay Thai lesson is Tuesday.


You are welcome.

Depending on what lineage the Kickboxing hails from it could have lots of carryover and similarities to the Muay Thai, or very little. As a sport the rules and scoring are very different though, so if they are both focused on competition they will probably be fairly different.

Good luck.


Only my opinion here. It’s a big shame there is no bjj or wrestling club. Judo is effective but longevity in the sport is not great and aikido is great, for movies. I would pick kickboxing or muay Thai and apply yourself to it.


I just read a motherfucker defend aikido and say karate may not be the most practical striking art…wut XD


The audacity of some people!