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The Beginner’s Guide to Martial Arts

0 Comments 🕔22.Feb 2017

The Beginner’s Guide to Martial Arts

Taekwondo, Shotokan, Tai Chi- Which Combat System is Right For You?

Once you have decided to become a martial artist, you face the difficult process of choosing an art that best suits your needs. Your choices are vast, ranging from traditional Japanese, Korean and Chinese styles, to eclectic American arts, to weapon-orien ted Filipino systems to styles which emphasize tournament competition over self-defense. Each martial art has its own advantages, drawbacks, and colorful history. Wading through this combat quagmire canbe confusing, to say the least-especially if you are a novice.
The following compendium offers readers a brief synopsis of some of the martial arts available to them in North America. It is designed to help beginners make a more authoritative selection when choosing a style in which to train. The styles are categorized by the country in which they developed.

Japanese Styles

Shotokan is a traditional Japanese karate sty/e that features “hard,” linear blocking and striking techniques. Japan’s martial arts, known as the budo (warrior ways), include, of course, various methods of karate-do, as well as judo, aikido and kendo.

Shotokan karate. Shotokan, named after Gichin (Shoto) Funakoshi, is one of the most popular karate styles in the world. According to Funakoshi “The art of karate strives neither for victory, nor for defeat, but for the perfection of the character of its practitioners.”
Shotokan is a very “hard” linear style which has remained true to the so-called “way of the empty hand” by not including weapons training in its curriculum. Although it was originally designed as a lethal hand-to-hand combat art known for its dynamic entry techniques and its theory of “one strike, one kill,” shotokan karate has evolved into a combination of a martial sport and a martial art.
Karate training builds character and helps students discover their physical and mental limitations through hard train- ing. According to black belt George Kwong, shotokan karate is unique because it is “simple and effective for self- defense situations, yet sophisticated and with enough depth for a lifetime of commitment.”
Judo.

Judo is a Japanese grappling method that includes chokes, throws and joint-locking techniques. Unlike karate, judo is a grappling system and has been included as a sport in the Olympic Games since 1964. Judo evolved out of the deadly art of jujutsu and has been described as a method of throwing, choking, joint-locking and holding down a bigger, stronger opponent without causing him serious harm Once practitioners obtain an advanced rank, they are taught deadly, non-sportive techniques for use in self-defense.
Black belt and former judo champion Antonio Guzman says judo “is one of the most complete grappling sports and contains a superior number of techniques.”

Korean Styles

Taekwondo is a Korean martial sport that emphasizes kicking techniques over hand strikes. Korean styles can be divided into two categories: martial sports such as taekwondo and yudo (Korean judo), and martial arts such as kuk sool and hapkido.

Taekwondo. According to the Encyclopedia of Martial Arts, taekwondo has existed under different names for more than 1,000 years, but did not assume its current moniker until 1955. Since then, it has became a familiar name to all martial artists and is probably the most widely practiced art in the world today.
Taekwondo is primarily a martial sport whose practitioners utilize kicking, striking and blocking techniques in a non-lethal manner. According to instructor Sam Soo Han of the Global Taekwondo Federation, “True taekwondo is not a competition with others, but rather a competition with ourselves and our personal standards.”
Taekwondo is especially noted for its foot techniques, which are both fast and effective. Hand techniques are gener- ally employed as follow-up maneuvers. When self-defense moves are utilized, they are usually safer long-range techniques that involve the use of the taekwondo practitioner’s legs.
Flexibility and endurance are strong plusses when practicing taekwondo. Besides the obvious health benefits that come from training, taekwondo also offers practitioners self-discipline and the uncanny ability to change direction at a moment’s notice.
“Taekwondo prepares individuals to use techniques with dexterity and speed in a competitive sport,” says taekwondo instructor Michael Hills.
Hapkido.

Hapkido, demonstrated here by former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Jim Gott, is a comprehensive Korean martial art that utilizes techniques from a variety of different combat styles. Hapkido is a comprehensive self-defense system which encompasses all ranges of fighting and is a combination of a number of different styles, including judo, aikido and taekwondo. Defensive responses can range from “soft” aikido-type moves to “harder” karate-style techniques. Such versatility gives hapkido practitioners an effective answer to virtually any situation.
Although hapkido can be used in tournament competition, it is not a sport and many of its techniques are potentially lethal. However, hapkido’s philosophical approach to combat is not aggressive. Practitioners only use fighting tech- niques to counter an opponent’s attack. And, in most cases, they attempt to turn the attacker’s own force against him.
“The unique thing about hapkido is its ability to draw in ideas and techniques from other martial arts, thus making it a truly comprehensive discipline which evolves over time” says hapkido black belt Mario Ceravolo.

Chinese Styles
Chinese martial arts are separated into two major categories: nei-chia (internal) and wai-chia (external). Internal kung fu systems include pa kua chang, fusing-i chuan and tai chi chuan. Practitioners of these disciplines attempt to harness internal power known as chi. External kung fu systems include choy li fut, hung gar, sil lum and wing chun.
Practitioners of external Chinese systems use kicks and punches, rather than chi, to get their point across.

Tai chi chuan.

Tai chi chuan is noted for its slow, graceful movements and its many health benefits, including improved flexibility and blood circulation. Perhaps the best known of the internal Chinese styles, tai chi can be broken down into four significant varieties-yang, wu, chen and sun. Although tai chi is a martial art, it is more commonly used as a healing art. It is widely believed that practicing tai chi’s slow, graceful movements can increase blood circulation, develop flexibility, aid in the function of the heart, liver and kidneys, add years to one’s life, and improve one’s overall health.
As a method of self-defense, tai chi trains practitioners how to use an attacker’s energy against him; they almost never meet force with force.
According to longtime practitioner Cynthia Williams, tai chi’s emphasis on complete and absolute awareness is unique. “The practitioners first learn about their own balance, then they learn to recognize the balance of others,” Williams notes.
Wing chun.

Wing chun kung fu (1) is one of the most popular Chinese martial arts. Thanks primarily to the late Bruce Lee, wing chun is one of the most popular external Chinese styles. Lee’s first formal training came in wing chun, and when he became well-known as a martial artist and actor, wing chun became popular as well.

The late Bruce Lee popularized wing chun.
Wing chun stands apart from other martial arts for two reasons: It is the only style that was created by a woman, and compared to other traditional Chinese combat systems, it can be learned relatively quickly. Wing chun is a very explosive art whose practitioners employ low kicks and fast hand techniques, and utilize the concept of simultaneous attack and defense. Wing chun is often referred to as “the thinking man’s art” because it follows a scientific approach to training. Its use of so-called “feminine qualities” such as softness, passivity and sensitivity must be experienced firsthand to be fully understood.
Wing chun training helps practitioners develop self-awareness, agility and flexibility. It teaches them to use proper timing and correct positioning to defeat an opponent. According to longtime practitioner Fred Kwok, “Wing chun is unique because of the mental and intellectual part of its training. It has perfectly logical movements which are natural and promote spontaneity.”
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Although choosing the right martial art is not exactly quantum physics, it pays to do your homework and research the possibilities. You should take into consideration your physical abilities and limitations, as well as your reasons for training in the first place. Are you primarily interested in learning self-defense, getting in better physical condition, or competing in tournaments?
Cost is another consideration. It is wise to check with several martial arts schools in your area to determine the average rate of instruction before handing over your hard-earned dollars.
Anyone can purchase a black belt and open a martial arts school, so it is important to watch the instructor teach some classes and get an idea of how he handles himself with his students. Ask him what martial arts association he belongs to and where it is headquartered, then call the organization and verify the instructor’s rank and background. Ask some of the other students and/or their parents what they think of the instructor. If the instructor is honest, he will gladly accommodate your request. If he is unwilling to cooperate, move on.
Every martial art offers some kind of benefits, but they can only be gained through hard work and dedication to training. Your choice of arts is virtually unlimited, and it pays to shop around and sample the wares before making a firm commitment.

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