5 Steps To Choosing The Martial Art That's Right For You

Despite the number of people who are interested in the martial arts, very few people have the initiative and intelligence to actually get off their butt and look for someone to teach them. For those smart people that do start to look around, the choices can be confusing:

* What is the difference between karate and kickboxing other than the funny uniform?

* Will I be able to do those high kicks, or even keep up with the rest of the class?

* Which places are going to support me and which will expect me to fight for my right to be there?

With all the choice available, many people just end up going to which ever place is closest to them or, worse yet, shopping around on price. (A quick hint - you get what you pay for.) This is a sad state of affairs, as martial arts can be a massive positive influence on many people's lives - self preservation skills, fitness, strength, health, confidence and focus to name but a few are all benefits of martial arts training.

To help you avoid the traps and pitfalls of choosing a martial art, here are some things to look for in selecting your new path:

Step 1 - Check Out Your Options
Though it can be tempting to go for the school closest to you, it's always worth putting in the little effort it takes to see what else is out there. Sure somewhere may be a 15min drive away, but that is time well spent if your experience is going to be all the better. While you're at it, take the time to look through each schools website - are they talking about benefits that interest you?

Look for a school or gym that gives you the benefits you're looking for.

Step 2 - Does It Actually Work?
This may seem like a funny question at first, but unfortunately all martial arts are not created equal. Due to the different influences during their development, different arts can end up focusing on highly specialised areas and training method. In doing so, they often lose the big picture.

While there are many other benefits to training (see below), if a given art doesn't work effectively in self defense, it is not fit for purpose. Use your common sense here - if you couldn't see a move or technique working under pressure, it probably doesn't. If a group spends it whole time standing in line punching the air, they're not going to be any closer to defending themselves from a real-live person. Moves and techniques that work are straightforward and direct - fancy stuff looks impressive but is unlikely to help you if you really needed it.

Look for a martial art that allows sparring in all ranges - including on the ground. (Note that you shouldn't have to spar if you don't want to, but the fact that others are sparring realistically will show you you're on the right track.)

Step 3 - Is There More to It Than Fighting?
Having made sure the art in question is truly effective in self defense, it is important to recognise that the majority of people are never going to have to use their martial skills outside of training. Thus, it's important to make sure that the martial art you're looking at has other benefits. Yes, the majority of arts will improve your fitness, but what about the rest of your life?

Look for a martial art that recognises and actively coaches the mental aspects of the martial arts - this is the stuff that will boost your success both in and outside of training.

Step 4 - Will You Get Personal Attention Every Session?
Beware shopping around on price - for a school to offer a low price, they have to try and pack as many people into each session as possible. This looks very impressive in photos but doesn't do anything for you when you are trying to learn techniques and moves that are new to you. To learn the right way of doing martial arts techniques - without falling back on strength and aggression - it is necessary to get regular individual attention especially if you can only spare a couple of hour a week to train.

Look for a school or gym that offers small group numbers and individual attention. Consider Private Training if you would really like to progress quickly.

Step 5 - Does The Martial Art Adapt To You?
The fact that an art may have been practised for many years doesn't mean a whole lot to you if the person who originally developed it had different strengths than you. While it is true that most people in the martial arts are alike in having two arms and two legs (to paraphrase Bruce lee), they are not as fast as one another, as strong as one another, or as flexible as one another. Everyone is unique in the combination of attributes they bring to training and the style you choose should allow you to express your uniqueness by adapting to you and not the other way around. A style should provide a foundation on which you can express the different techniques in a way that works for you, your body, and your strengths.

Look for a style that will recognise and adapt to your strengths, rather than force you to adapt to it.

Conclusion
Training in the martial arts can be a massive positive step in your life, but it is vital that having taken the important decision to start training, you take the time to find the martial art that is going to give you the most positive experience. Here is a summary of the steps:

Step 1 - Check Out Your Options
Look for an art that gives you the benefits you're looking for.

Step 2 - Does It Actually Work?
Look for a school or gym that allows sparring in all ranges - including on the ground.
(Note that you shouldn't have to spar if you don't want to, but the fact that others are sparring realistically will show you you're on the right track.)

Step 3 - Is There More to It Than Fighting?
Look for a school that recognises and actively coaches the mental aspects of the martial arts - this is the stuff that will boost your success both in and outside of training.

Step 4 - Will You Get Personal Attention Every Session?
Look for a school that offers small group numbers and individual attention. Consider Private Training if you would really like to progress quickly.

Step 5 - Does The Martial Art Adapt To You?
Look for a style that will recognise and adapt to your strengths, rather than force you to adapt to it.

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