This is the third post in a series about how to choose a martial art. Parts one and two detailed my martial arts experiences prior to Counterpoint Tactical Systems (CTS). Those posts are my history as a martial arts tourist. For most of the styles in those two posts, I was just a novice, and in a few of them – FMA or Jiu Jitsu, I approached an intermediate knowledge. I did not achieve expertise in any of them. As such, I cannot debate their effectiveness or their philosophical standpoints because I never got that far. Only a few ever engaged me, and the arts that I stuck with spoke to me right away. Jiu Jitsu and the FMAs really intrigued me because they seemed most easily translatable to self defense. But I continued to research martial arts, and even today, I like to go through YouTube to check out clips of other arts. To help me organize my research, I’ve divided the martial arts into four general categories: self defense, traditional, sports, and internal. Certain arts may fit under more than one category; so, I tried to list them below under the category that I think they most fit.So, this is all a disclaimer to say that these are my thoughts and opinions only.
Self defense: This category is concerned with the realities of personal defense. These arts continue to innovate and are willing to modify the traditional drills. These arts are involved in researching outside their own style and, for some, outside of martial arts as well. A study of violence is essential to these arts. Efficiency and weapons training are hallmarks of self defense. These arts like to use the word reality. Practitioners should expect to engage in sparring to demonstrate their skills. Examples of these arts are: Counterpoint Tactical Systems, Jeet Kune Do, most of the FMAs, Military Krav Maga.
Traditional: Traditional martial arts are beautiful artifacts of the culture in which they were developed. History and lineage are important to these styles. The traditional arts are hierarchical by nature; respect and discipline are strongly instilled in these students. Traditional arts, at least in my mind, are exemplified by the forms that they practice, such as Kata. Examples of traditional arts are: Shotokan, American Kenpo Karate, Tang Soo Do. Practitioners who value history, structure, and culture will find a home in these elegant arts.
Sports: Martial arts has a long history involved in sports. From wrestling, taekwondo, and judo in the Olympics to boxing, kickboxing, Brazillian jiu jitsu, and mixed martial arts as professions, the sport aspect of the martial arts is alive and well. These arts are typified by rules in which the system operates. Competition and fitness are essential to gaining long term success in the sport. Potential practitioners should expect to be challenged physically and mentally. Those who are easily frustrated will experience stress during the early stages of learning. A competitive spirit is required in these arts. Expect the arts to change as the students age, and some forms of competition will be untenable as the practitioner ages. Sparring is essential to these arts. (Note: For me, martial arts that are exercise oriented, such as cardio boxing or cardio kickboxing, get filed in this category)
Internal: Internal martial arts is the area where I have no experience. Tai chi, Bagua, Qichong, and Aikido are arts that come to mind when I think of Internal Martial arts. These arts are characterized by fluid forms and a focus on breathing. Mental discipline is important, and meditation is a valuable training tool. The arts can be started and practiced at any age from youth to the elderly. I’ve heard that if a practitioner stays with any art long enough, it becomes internal.
That is how I organize the martial arts. It is an arbitrary grouping that makes sense to me, and when I encounter a new art, it gets sorted similar to the above categories. As I said earlier, the arts cross groupings as well. Traditional martial arts have sport tournaments; self defense arts like Cacoy Doce Pares or WOTBAG Balintawak have storied histories and deep traditions while still innovating. If you read anything about Rickson Gracie, you’ll find that his approach to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become like an internal martial art. Internal arts are known for their health benefits; yet, self defense arts like Counterpoint Tactical Systems incorporate pushes and meditation practices learned from those arts. So, whatever art that you choose will have aspects of each of the categories.
The categories are general ways to start your research into the martial arts. The organizational grouping probably says more about me than about the martial arts. I grouped the arts according what I believe is their strengths. In your research, you should do the same. YouTube has thousands of hours of martial arts videos to watch to aid in your decision. To help narrow down your area of interest, I put together a simple process for researching the martial arts.
1.) Ask yourself: What are my interests? Why do I want to get into the martial arts? Self Defense? To have a family activity? To get into shape?
2.) Research what arts are in your area.
3.) Research those arts on YouTube. What do you like? What is really cool about the videos?
4.) What type of training does the instructor have? Does certification matter to you? Can you contact the instructor’s teacher to verify the certification? (Note: certification does not equal skill and vice versa.) Is the instructor actively engaged in learning?
5.) What type of equipment or uniforms are necessary? What type of safety equipment is available?
6.) What is the social environment of the school?
7.) Does the work load of the class met your abilities? Push your abilities? Over- or underwhelm your abilities? Does the instructor tweak the work load for individuals? Do people stand around and talk through most of the classes? Or are they active the whole time?
8.) How is the art organized? How is progress measured?
9.) Upon choosing an art, determine what your goals are in that art? Get in shape? To get a black belt? To be an instructor? To make friends? Make them SMART goals, and progress is unavoidable.
10.) Have fun. Enjoy yourself. Don’t let immediate frustrations get in the way of long term goals. Continually look for that cool factor that renews your interest in the art. Why would you stick with something that you’re not enjoying?
Did I go through this process when I chose CTS? Not explicitly, but over the course of a couple months, I had answers to all but question 2. Should you go through the process and answer the questions? If you feel like it, sure. I think these are important points to consider when entering the martial arts. In the fourth and final post in this series, I plan to discuss how I chose Counterpoint Tactical Systems, and why it continues to hold my fleeting interest when the other arts that I tried, didn’t. Why did I stick with this art when my history indicates that I’m most likely to quit?