One question the everyone faces in the beginning of their martial arts journey is "What martial arts style is right for me?" Or "What martial art do I learn?" The hardest thing about this is that many new students know very little about real martial arts training and fighting styles. Many see the UFC and now recognize brazilian jiu-jitsu, muay thai, and MMA training; and these systems are seeing a surge in new students. But there are many other martial arts styles out there that maybe more fitting then just a fighting art.
Martial arts can generally be broken up into separate groups. There are the fighting arts such as BJJ, muay thai, kickboxing, kyokusihin karate, etc. These arts have their roots in older martial arts, but are now primarily fighting competition based. But, the combination of these arts is also used in many hand to hand combat systems such as Krav Maga or hybrid systems employed by police and the military.
There are other competition arts that are primarily performance based such as extreme karate or extreme martial arts. This is almost a combination of dance and martial arts. It is know for it’s high flying kicks, acrobatics, fast action, and elaborate combat sequences.
Another class of martial arts would be traditional martial arts. These arts are primarily practiced the way they were 1000s of years ago, with slight modifications to evolve in modern times. Some of the Japanese and Chinese Martial Arts are like this. They can be a history and martial arts lesson combined in one. Some of this training can be very good, but with any martial art, it is hard to find the right school.
There are also many variations and combinations of these. It really does depend on the school, style, who is teaching it, and what background does this person have. Which leads me to another point when choosing the style – finding the right instructor.
My instructor: Sensei Russ St Hilaire who I have trained with now for about 6-7 years was a perfect fit for me. He believes in the hard training I was looking for, he is extremely knowledgeable, he has a great deal of experience in fighting, realistic, and traditional martial arts; but best of all, he always puts his students training first. He is a true teacher in every sense of the word.
So for me, the style: kobukai ju-jitsu and the instructor where a perfect match; but I did not find him or the school immediately. It took me almost 5 years of training other martial arts, working with other instructors and styles, to finally find what I was looking for.
So you’re probably wondering, "How do I find the right martial arts style?" – here are some guidelines.
Why do you want to train martial arts?
What exactly are you looking for? What do you want out of martial arts? Do you want to compete or fight? Are you looking to improve physical fitness? Are you looking for something for self-defense? Or are you looking to learn about an ancient fighting art? These questions you have to answer yourself. But, the answer to these questions helps you find your martial arts path.
Realize that some martial arts systems and instructors are pure bullshit.
Any instructor or teacher who is not humble or thinks that their martial arts system is too secret and deadly to be used against other martial arts is just crap. Don’t buy into it. Look for an instructor who is warm, polite, and is interested in helping you train. At the same time, you should fear this person. It has been my experience, that when I meet a serious martial artist or someone who has spent a great deal fighting and training, they become very humble yet there is always something different about them compared to anyone else.
The Martial Art Style
Now, hopefully that you have and idea of what you are looking for, it’s time to find a style that best fits you. Use our styles section to help you decide. Each style has a quick summary that can easily help you learn about that style and what it’s all about. Included is great information from wikipedia to help you learn more if you are interested.
The Martial Arts School
This is the hard part. Now you have to find the right school with the right style and the right instructor. I’m not going to lie, it’s not an easy task. My one suggestion out of all of this is to try different schools. Go to them, watch a class, meet the instructor. Watch their students. How are they performing? How do they react to the teacher? Are these people that you can get a long with? My training partners are some of my best friends. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for all of them. It is important the school you select fits your personality. Also, use the internet as a resource. Many martial arts schools have a website, do a search, look in the yellow pages, etc. Sometimes the hidden gems are the best ones. Also, if you have a friend who trains, ask him what he suggests.
Lastly – Have the right attitude
What I now get amused by is new students who come in and "expect things". The expect to be the best fighter in the school in days, the expect to know the techniques once its taught to them, they expect to be the new badass in class, etc. I don’t care how big, strong, fast, etc you are, I don’t care what type of athlete you are, or what your status outside the training hall is; when you walk into a new training environment for the first time, shut up, listen to your instructor, and be a sponge. Try to learn and soak it all in. You’re not going to get it on the first night. You’re not going to be able to beat the top guy right away… and if you can, get the hell out of that school, its not for you. Your training should be a long journey, it should be challenging, it should be tough, and you should earn it. You’re going to have to take your lumbs and bruises, you’re going to have to do techniques over and over again, just to understand them. To get good at them, you’re going to have to do it 1000000s of times – no bullshit.
Also, don’t tell other people in the class how to do a techique unless your instructor tells you to. You are not the teacher, you are not the expert, you are there to learn. That is the key, LEARN. To be a good martial artists, you need to always be on the path of learning.