Choosing a Martial Arts Style Picking a School and Teacher Article Summary Questions & Answers Related Articles References This article was co-authored by Herb Perez. Herb Perez is the 1992 Olympic gold medalist in Taekwondo. Perez has created the USA Taekwondo Coach and Athlete development curriculum, and is now serving as Chairman of the Education Committee for the World Taekwondo Federation.There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. If you aren’t Daniel LaRusso from The Karate Kid who just so happened to live next to the karate master Mr. Miyagi, chances are that you are going to have to do some serious research before deciding what type of martial arts you want to pursue. You’ll need to understand your martial art goals, find a form of martial arts that fits these goals, and choose a school and teacher. Remember that there are no superior martial art forms, just superior martial artists. All arts have strengths and weaknesses. Pick the one that suits you best. Part 1 Choosing a Martial Arts Style 1 Learn Jiu Jitsu for self-defense. Most often, people take up a martial art for self-defense purposes. Daniel LaRusso did so. He was being bullied. Are you being bullied? Or are you afraid of being harassed in the future? Every single martial art will teach you how to defend yourself. Your goal will be to find a martial art that emphasizes defense techniques and breaking holds. In many ways, Jiu Jitsu is this martial art, because it uses the opponent’s strength and force of attack as a weapon against him, thus enabling a stronger or bigger attacker to be subdued. When in a self-defense situation, Jiu Jitsu will help you dodge frontal attacks, escape from holds, and get the upper hand quickly. Remember that every martial arts form addresses self-defense. Some are more confrontational than others. Jiu Jitsu is a happy medium. 2 Get physically fit with Kung Fu. The second most popular reason why people practice martial arts is to exercise, to transform fat into muscle, and to increase their coordination. All martial arts do this well, but depending on your own fitness goals, you might choose one martial art over another.  Kung Fu is a great all around body workout. Since Kung Fu utilizes low stances and powerful blocks, it tends to provide a full body workout. This is also one of the most disciplined forms of martial arts. While Kung Fu works all of your muscles, there are martial art styles that emphasize upper body or lower body strength and flexibility. If you’d rather work on your upper body strength, you might choose the Western Boxing style or perhaps Shotokan Karate from Japan. Alternatively, if you want your legs to be in better shape, you might choose a martial arts style with a greater emphasis on leg strength and agility like Taekwondo. 3 Build your self confidence with Naginata. Naginata today is a martial art and an art form that teaches etiquette, respect, and self-confidence. Martial arts like Naginata build confidence because they unlock potential, build muscle, and teach you new skills. Many people who first enter the dojo suffer from low self esteem or simply don’t believe in themselves. Maybe that’s why you’ve chosen to consider martial arts for yourself. If so, you’ll want to find a program and a teacher that will build you up rather than tear you down. Naginata instructors focus on encouraging positive feelings and experiences. Positive reinforcement will be a key aspect of your decision making process. 4 Try Taekwondo to practice discipline and self-control. Taekwondo is the world’s most popular martial art. This probably owes much to its addition to the Olympics in 1988. Many consider Taekwondo to be an artistic form and as such you must have great self control. You must discipline yourself to make every movement fluid, graceful, and deliberate. Because so much emphasis is placed on movement and form, many find Taekwondo to be a great way of teaching discipline and self-control (to children or anyone). Martial arts are regimented and hierarchical experiences and as such demand a high level of discipline and self-control in order to succeed. During your training, you may encounter instruction that runs counter to your preconceived notions. “Wax on, wax off,” Mr. Miyagi told Daniel in The Karate Kid. Daniel was confused because he couldn’t comprehend how waxing a car could possibly relate to learning martial arts. Only later did he discover that the teacher knew better. Follow your teacher as best as you can. Listen to his instructions. Practice frequently. While this discipline will help you become a better martial artist, it will also transfer to your everyday life. 5 Prepare to fight in the ring with kickboxing. In the 1970s, American karate martial artists became frustrated with the strict guidelines placed on competitions. They wanted to make full-contact. This faction splintered off and created kickboxing. Competitors use sparring, kicks, punches, blocks, and shadow boxing to prepare for matches. Because its origins lie within full contact and competition, kickboxing makes for a great martial arts form for those interested in getting in the ring. Some martial arts don’t emphasize ring fighting. Traditional styles of Kung Fu such as Wing Chun or Hung Gar are not designed to teach you to fight in the ring. You can and will learn exceptional self defense in these systems, but it will take a good long while before your basics are solid enough to have any impact in a combative situation. 6 Consider your cultural interests. If you have a respect for or interest in a certain culture, learning more through one of their martial arts can be a great experience. Study Krav Maga if you’re interested in Israel. Study Taekwondo if you’re curious about Korean culture. Try Sumo to get a better understanding of Japanese culture. If that is part of your goal, choose a school taught by a native of that culture, or someone who trained directly under someone of that culture. The instruction will feel more “authentic” and you wil most certainly pick up other aspects of their culture in the process — like language, mannerisms, history, and philosophy. Part 2 Picking a School and Teacher 1 Find a martial arts studio that is near you. In most cases, you’ll probably land on a form of martial arts based on what is available in your area. If it is difficult or time consuming to get to your dojo, you’ll just have one more excuse to not follow through. Search online and in the phone book for martial arts studios. 2 Choose an affordable school. Rarely do martial arts schools advertise their price of instruction in the phone book. Prices could be determined on a monthly basis, over several months, or by how often you train each week. In some cases, the price is negotiable depending on how many people will be taking classes with you (family package deals, for example). There are instructors who charge as little as $50 a month for instruction, and there are those who garner $50 or more for a single one-hour session. It is up to you to determine what you feel is a fair and manageable price for instruction. After some research, you will know who is asking too much. Another good way to save money is to look for classes that do not operate out of a storefront. There are many successful schools that operate in community centers, church basements, YMCAs and recreation halls. Just because a school does not have a fancy storefront does not mean the quality of instruction is inferior. Call and inquire about trial periods, attire required, and membership/class fees. Look out for hidden fees. Some places charge more per class after you’ve attended a certain number of them.  3 Sit in on classes. A great way to get a feel for a martial arts style and a particular school/instructor is to attend a couple of classes before settling on a specific place and style. You’ll get a chance to see the space, meet with other practitioners, and visit the instructor. Talk to the other students. See what they like about the program and what they dislike. Some of the more tenured martial artists in attendance may even have experience about other programs, which will help you narrow down your decision. 4 Decide whether or not the teaching style suits your personality. If you are looking to learn practical martial arts, does the class encourage or allow beginners to get involved in sparring or “free-play” or is this reserved for more advanced students who have spent more time and money at the dojo? Do you want a trainer — someone who will motivate you to push? Do you want someone who will build your self-esteem? Do you want to work one-on-one or in a large class? A Martial Arts instructor’s teaching style will differ based on your goals and the setting you are in. Realize also that beginner sparring, even if encouraged, should be more restricted than the more experienced students because beginners do not usually have sufficient control of their strikes to effectively reduce the chance of injury. 5 Evaluate the community at the school. Take note of the students at your school and the way they interact with each other and their seniors. Are they friendly and receptive? Are they respectful? Would you consider them to be friends? You’re going to be spending significant amounts of time with them, so it is important to understand their personality, as well. You’ll also be putting your safety in their hands; if that makes you uncomfortable, keep looking. 6 Check the teacher’s qualifications. Don’t worry so much about degrees and certificates; there are no universal grading standards and no universally-recognized governing body in martial arts. What’s important is: Who did this person learn from? How long did he or she study with this person? How long has he/she practiced this art? Does the teacher have any experience as a teacher, or is he or she simply a skilled martial artist? Just like great football players can make bad coaches (and vice versa), great martial artists are not necessarily great teachers. Be aware when looking at your local schools that many teachers will tell you that their school/system is the best. There are many martial artists that are very loyal to their arts and will be negative if you express interest in another art. Be careful if this happens; they probably are not the best instructors if they do not show respect for others in this way. 7 Pick a school that fits with your schedule. You may need to set aside a significant amount of time each week to dedicate to your training. Most arts have exercises or forms you can practice at home to keep it all fresh in your mind; if you only practice at class, your progress will probably be stunted. Make sure that you dedicate enough time to attend classes and practice at home. Remember, martial arts are about discipline. Don’t enter into a program without accepting this. Otherwise, you won’t follow through with the program. 8 Join and get started. Now is usually better than later. Jump right in and get started. You’ve done your due diligence. You’ve decided on one particular form of marital arts over another. You know what to expect. Have fun! Community Q&A Add New Question Question Would Sun Tzu’s book Art of War or other war books be helpful in martial arts, or just for military defense? What makes the “Art of War” so magnificent is that it’s strategies can be used in almost any situation in life. Business, politics, sport strategies, and of course, martial arts. Question What’s the age limit for learning martial arts? There isn’t a maximum age limit. As long as your body can handle it, it’s not too late to start. As for the minimum age limit, it depends on the kid’s attention span and willingness to commit to the martial art. Some schools specialize in teaching certain age groups. Question Can I learn martial arts at home from books? Yes, but use this as a “getting started” option only. It’s good to be somewhat acquainted with your chosen marital art before starting, but you really need a qualified instructor to teach you. Question Can a woman beat a man in a fight? Of course. It doesn’t matter what your gender is. If you’re a man fighting a woman who’s more skilled than you, then you may well lose. Question Can I take martial arts lessons if I wear glasses? Yes, many people who wear glasses take marital arts lessons! Question Is it possible to string together individual moves into one longer move? The answer to your question is yes, however the explanation is a bit deeper. In many ways, combat is about controlling your opponent. Martial arts help you learn the discipline and techniques needed to gain this control. Question What is the best age to start? Cowboy 4 Jesus Community Answer Starting st the age of five or six is really the youngest you should go, any younger and the kid doesn’t have much of an attention span. Question Do I have to discipline myself if I learn a style of fighting? Yes, you will need to be well disciplined to learn the ways of any martial art, or else you could get hurt. Question What if the martial art I want to learn is not on here? That’s perfectly fine! Read up on the martial art you are interested in, or find a studio that teaches it. Ask the instructor if you can sit and watch one of the classes, and after the class is over, you can ask him or her questions. Question Can I learn martial arts off of YouTube? Yes, in the same way you can learn neurosurgery off of YouTube. But would you want to be operated on by someone who learnt surgery in this manner or someone who learnt through thousands of hours being directly taught by a master surgeon? In the same way, your life could one day depend on your knowledge of martial arts. Show more answers Ask a Question 200 characters left Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered. Submit Video .By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube. Article SummaryX If you want to choose the best martial art class for you, think about your overall goals. For instance, if you want to learn all-purpose self-defense, try taking Jiu Jitsu classes. If you want to get more active and build muscle, opt for Kung Fu or kickboxing, which involve intense sparring. Choose a style like Taekwondo or Naginata if you want to gain more self-control and discipline through martial arts. Whichever style you choose, be sure to sit in on a class beforehand to make sure you like the instructor and class dynamic. For more info from our Taekwondo reviewer about the various styles and choosing a school, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Article Info This article was co-authored by Herb Perez. Herb Perez is the 1992 Olympic gold medalist in Taekwondo. Perez has created the USA Taekwondo Coach and Athlete development curriculum, and is now serving as Chairman of the Education Committee for the World Taekwondo Federation. Categories: Martial Arts In other languages: Français: choisir un art martial, Italiano: Scegliere un’Arte Marziale, Español: escoger un arte marcial, Português: Escolher uma Arte Marcial, Русский: выбрать боевое искусство, Deutsch: Einen Kampfsport auswählen, Nederlands: Een martial art kiezen, العربية: الاختيار بين الفنون القتالية, Bahasa Indonesia: Memilih Seni Bela Diri, ไทย: เลือกศิลปะการต่อสู้และป้องกันตัว, 中文: 选择武术 Print Edit Send fan mail to authors Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 1,131,007 times. Did this article help you?