Where to begin, I have so much to clarify I don’t know where to start.

Training in the martial arts opens a door into a confusing and multifaceted world of methods that are called styles. All of which don’t necessarily lead to the same place.

But most people don’t understand the differences. In general people begin their pursuit of training in the martial arts for many reasons fitness, stress relief, self defence, pass time, socializing to name a few.

But the one thing at the centre of this endeavor is the notion that the skills must work.

There in which lies the confusion!

The question “Which martial art is best for me and my goals?” becomes a valid concern.

Which one to choose. That is the million-dollar question. Every teacher out there no matter how honourable their intentions will promote themselves. Therefore, the student/athlete/client is faced with a daunting amount of advertising and propaganda to get through.

The one truth at the heart of this question is that no one can choose for you!

The reason this is so difficult to answer is because of the wide variety and specialties that martial arts have evolved into!

In order to begin answering this question there are a few things to understand.

  1. They are not all built for the same purpose.
  2. The old ways are not necessarily the best ways.
  3. The truth lies within.

Let’s look at each of these statements individually.

Statement # 1: “They are not all built for the same purpose.”

Some are built for sport:

These are the simplest to identify, their results are tangible and easy to quantify, your success in the event is proof.

  • They are put together to address competing within the sport.
  • They favour a youthful athletic individual.
  • The rules define the type of competition.
  • Preparing for an event can be intensely demanding.
  • Injuries are common.
  • You are facing and opponent of a familiar background.
  • It is a simple one on one dual of consensual combat.
  • Some skills might require long hours to perfect.

Some are built to address self defence:

These will be more difficult to identify, simply because everyone claims to do this. After all, that’s what they were built for in the first place, right?

However, there are a few things to understand about self defence martial arts. There are three main categories, and they are all different.

  • Military martial arts:
    1. They are built to create space and get back to your weapons.
    2. The skills are easy to learn and apply.
    3. Target audience are highly driven and motivated, fit individuals.
  • Policing and protection martial arts:
    1. They are built for restraining and submitting violent offenders.
    2. Skills require lots of development and practice to become functional.
    3. Target audience are professionals under public scrutiny.
  • Civilian combat martial arts:
    1. They are built for un-consensual violence against common attacks.
    2. Object is hurt and escape.
    3. Skills are easy to learn and easy to apply.
    4. Target audience are average citizens.

Some are built for fitness and socialization:

These are the most common type of martial arts schools out there. People want to be fit and gravitate to martial arts schools to do it. Most schools use this approach to keep their doors opened.

  • The focus is on a good workout.
  • Not much time is spent on developing usable skills.
  • Many schools may offer kids programs, after school programs and camps for summer and holidays.

Statement # 2: “The old ways are not necessarily the best ways”.

This statement addresses primarily the traditional martial arts schools.

  • You will see very old and uncommon equipment and exercises being used.
  • These schools will avoid more contemporary exercises in favour of old traditional ones.
  • Sometimes understanding has been lost in the sands of time.
  • Many tactics and methods are continuously practiced for the sake of tradition.
  • They maintain an attitude of ancestor worship.

Statement # 3: “The truth lies within”.

This statement is clearly meant to put the responsibility on the shoulders of the student/athlete/client!

In the many years I have trained in martial arts, I have often come across individuals who have gone to the effort to connect with what they perceive as being the one true source. The truth is that there is no one true source, other than the flame of passion that burns within your heart that drives you to excel.

I am not saying that some teachers/coaches/guides are not better than others. I am simply saying that no one is going to magically awaken your skills and abilities without your passion and dedication, because it’s the passion and dedication that will see you through all the obstacles and difficulties that get in your way as you proceed down the path of martial arts.

Now to answer the question “Which martial art is best for me and my goals”, and yes it will require some effort form you.

Here is a questionnaire to help you answer the question.

  1. What are your goals?
  2. How old are you?
  3. How many times per week are you prepared to train?
  4. How dedicated/disciplined are you?
  5. If your goal is self defence, what type of environment will those skills be used in?
  6. Are historically authentic martial arts of interest to you?
  7. Is the social environment of importance to you?
  8. Do you have a preference of martial art?
  9. Are you in a hurry to achieve your goals?
  10. Are you taking up martial arts for yourself or in support of someone else?

There are no right or wrong answers, this questionnaire is for you and you alone. It will help you choose the martial art that best suites your goals. Be honest with yourself and be prepared to research in order to answer accurately. You don’t want to spend years in a martial art to find out it does not suite you!

No one can choose for you!

Robert Teske