Nowadays it’s never been easier for those who want to study a martial art.
Given all of the choices available, which have been sparked by the skyrocketing popularity of mixed martial arts, or MMA, you really can’t go wrong.
While I know this may spark a discussion, if not an argument, in my opinion there are four basic types of martial arts.
There are hard or ‘striking’ styles, such as Tae Kwon Do or Mua Thai, the more graceful or ‘soft’ styles such as the different types of Kung Fu, and then there are the grappling or wrestling martial arts such as Judo and Jiu Jitsu. A good MMA academy blends all of the above.
The last category, which are newer and more martial than art, includes the Israeli Krav Maga and the Russian Sambo. Both disciplines were created in the military of their respective countries, designed for their soldiers to use in combat. They’re both extremely effective and focus on ending confrontations quickly.
In my opinion, there are three guidelines to keep in mind when choosing a martial art:
1. Avoid the Three Bs – Belts, Bowing and Bullshit: Bruce Lee could not have been more succinct when he said belts were good for holding up your pants. I’d avoid a style that focuses on selling you multi-colored belts to gauge your progress. I also tend to shy away from the silliness associated with some of the traditional martial arts.
2. Sparring: If you’re looking at a fighting style that does not offer sparring – donning protective gear and striking another human being – look elsewhere. There is no more effective training than competing against a real opponent who will punch back. It’s much better than punching air.
3. Ground-fighting: Most real-world martial arts will focus on what happens when the student ends up on the ground, which in a real fight is almost a certainty. Ground-fighting training is not fun. It tears up knees and elbows, but it’s a valuable component of any realistic discipline.
Personally, when I’m asked to suggest a style, I recommend Krav Maga, but there is really no wrong answer. If you begin studying a discipline and are left wanting, study something else.
Today’s real-world styles, Krav Maga, Sambo and MMA, are a blend of traditional styles anyway, so a diverse martial arts background is truly a good thing.[youtube ysVMclO0RyU]
VIDEO: Herald-Tribune assistant sports editor Solange Reyner (white t-shirt), studies and competes at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Solange also boxes.