Choosing the Right Martial for You

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Many people who decide to study a martial art usually attend the school nearest them.  Although this may be convenient in time and distance, it might not be a good "fit" for the student.  When choosing a martial art for either yourself or your child, one should keep two major thoughts in mind:  First, is why do I want to study and what am I attempting to accomplish, and secondly does this school and the instructor have my best intrest in mind.

Let's begin with why am I seeking to study a martial art.  Well, there are many reasons people give to answer this question.  Some are: I am seeking self defense, I am seeking socialization, I am seeking exercise and fitness, I want to reduce stress, I need a hobby, I need to get into shape, I want to compete at tournaments, and I just want to take "something" different.  With all this in mind, the student must narrow down all of this to the lowest common denominator--that is what martial art "fits" me.  With different body shapes and personal abilities, as well as personalities, not all arts are suited for everyone.  And a good point to remember here is that "there is no ultimate anything", there are only good martial artists.  If one "style" was the ultimate style, there would not be so many martial art systems throughout the world.  Do not be fooled by the instructor who tells you that you can become a Black Belt in a year if you sign his contract and train with him.  He is a salesman, not a martial artist and does not have you or your child's best intrest in mind.

Style is important to the student.  If you are lean and have long legs, a kicking or striking art like Taekwondo may serve you well.  However, if you are short or stocky, a more low to the ground art like judo or other grappling arts might work better.  Then one must ask, am I studying for sport or self defense.  The tournament champ who spars for points with rules and has a room full of trophies just might not survive on the street in a real world fight for his life.  Other things to consider is a stand up fighting art like karate or Taekwondo compared to Jujutsu or Judo where one may spend a lot of time on the ground.  This brings the question to mind, if I got in a serious encounter in a parking lot with an attacker, do I really want to be rolling around on the ground fighting for position.  Although in a dojo with nice mats this might be fun, on concrete it is not.  In our school we teach both sport Taekwondo and Traditional Taekwondo and Tactical Hapkido. And a shot term Women's Self  Seminar. Taekwondo for sport is just that, sport with rules.  It is a great workout, fun and tournament oriented.  Traditional Taekwondo is self defense oriented, but from a fighting distance. It uses stirkes and kicks, but from a standard fighting distance.  Being a more self defense oriented school knowing that the attacker can get inside that range, we added Tactical Hapkido, a stand up grappling art involving joint locks, sweeps, pain compliance and control techniques, as well as chokes.  This is a serious art with no sport aplication and saves one from having to roll around on the ground in a parking lot.  It is also not about strength, but technique much like Aikido where a smaller person can defend themselves against a lager opponent.

In seeking a martial art, these are things to consider for yourself or your child.  This brings us to the second part of selection, picking out a school and instructor.  As I mentioned earlier, a school or instructor who promises a Black Belt in a year if you sign a contract is a salesman.  In selecting a school, one can tell from just entering and observing if this is a traditional school with traditional ways of honor and respect or a Mac-Dojo who is in business to take your money.  Also observe the instructor and how he/she interacts with the students and how the students interact with eachother.  This will tell you a lot about the quality of education.  Remember, even a chimp can be taught to spin kick or do a roundhouse, but what is important about a school is what the student takes with him/her when class is over and enters back into his/her personal life.  

In selecting a school one should look for the following:  Instructor certification (not all black belts are certified to teach).  Is there a free introductory class or class?  This gives one a chance to "get a feel for the fit."  Is the school clean and hygienic?  Does the instructor talk openly about fees and other cost.  Read everythig before you sign anything.  And shop around.  The school nearest you just might not be the best one suited for you.  The internet is also a great place to research the arts before you go out seeking information.  There is nothing wrong with being well informed.  It just might save you from the "sales pitch trap."