Which Martial Arts Style Should You Choose?

Jairo Guarin
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Are you interested in Martial Arts, but don’t know where to start? Here you will find an overview of a few different styles, their history and backgrounds. So, you can decide which Martial Arts style you should choose.

Whether you want to start doing Martial Arts as a fitness activity, or because you want to learn self-defence to feel safer, the real fact, is that once you start training, you will fall in love with it.

But as you begin your journey you might think ‘Which Martial Arts Style Should I Choose?’

Rest assured, as long as you are training at a good school, you will easily know which martial arts style is right for you.

What is Martial Arts?

Real Martial Arts are not just a simple sport or fitness activity. When practiced fully you can embark on an amazing journey that can turn into a complete lifestyle shift. This will improve so many aspects of your physical, mental, and emotional life.  

Of course, you can take it just as a normal sport. Which you can use to practice, exercise, get in shape, and even learn how to defend yourself along the way. 

But if you take it as what it really is, a discipline, and a way of life, it will give you balance in both physical and mental health. You will also get to know yourself too. Other sports are not designed with this depth in mind. 

Which styles aren’t for you (or anyone)?

It’s also important to know, when a Martial Arts School is good and when it isn’t. For that, take a look at one of our other blogs on this topic – 5 Signs Of A Bad Martial Ars School.

A bad Martial Arts experience can even put the most enthusiastic off. Don’t end your journey early by choosing the wrong place.

But where should you start? What discipline or Martial Arts style should you start with?  

Well, in this blog, we’ll try to answer that question, and hopefully at the end of it, you will have enough information to make your decision. 

So, let’s start with the basics…

How Many Martial Arts Styles & Disciplines Are There? 

The short answer to this question would be, there’s too many to count them all. For example, in Kung Fu, there hundreds of different styles, each with their own sets of techniques and approaches.

Before we get into specifics of which Martial Art is right for you, here is an overview of some of the most popular Eastern Martial Arts. So you can decide if these Martial Arts styles might be one that you choose.

Chinese Martial Arts 

First up, we’ve got one of the most ancient Martial Arts on the planet, Kung Fu.

With hundreds of different styles, that can be grouped in:

Northern Chinese Martial Arts Styles

Also known as “Long Fist” style, focuses more on aesthetics, kicks, legwork, and acrobatics.

It is said that, historically, the Chinese in the north are taller on average than the southern Chinese. Many say that having longer bodies and limbs, would eventually lead others into developing a fighting style that would exploit these physical advantages. They thought higher kicks, deeply extended postures, and quicker, more fluid transitions would suit their bodies better.

Northern China also has a much rockier terrain, and the constant climbing up and down hills would be part of their training routine, to strengthen the legs over time.

Jet Li’s Martial Arts style is a good example of the Northern Chinese style. The actor and Martial Artist has trained in both Northern and Southern styles, but he is best known for his Northern techniques from the Martial Art style called Wushu.

Southern Chinese Martial Arts Styles 

Compared with their Northern counterparts, many say that Southern Chinese people, have smaller bodies. It is said that this led to the development of their close-combat techniques.

Different physical builds naturally lead toward different athletic expressions. The southern climate is muddier, hotter, and wetter than the rest of the country, so Martial Artists from the south favoured styles with stronger and firmer stances.

Southern styles became very external, or hard styles. Hands replaced weapons so that each strike had to do as much damage as possible. Kicks were mostly restricted to striking below the waist. In the south, the terrain was flatter, with more open spaces.

As an example, the famous Martial Artist and Actor Jackie Chan, trained in many styles, and focused more in the Southern techniques (especially in his films from the 1980s).

Similarities between Northern and Southern Chinese Styles  

Although those two styles are different, we find similarities in both of them, and we can even find styles that merges both northern and southern techniques.

With striking, grappling, acrobatics, and weapons techniques, Kung Fu is one of the disciplines with a larger range of techniques and styles. What also makes it a thorough discipline, is that it takes years of practice to master.

Japanese Martial Arts

Similar to China, there is an extensive history of Martial Arts in Japan. Some of their most famous styles include:

Karate Styles

With four major styles, this discipline features a more rigid and strong style, with more linear stances and techniques:

 Shotokan-ryu: Utilizing wide stances and linear methods, this form enables students to deliver impressive strikes in a quick and efficient manner using the hands, elbows, knees and feet.

– Goju-ryu: Comprised of formidable counter-strike movements in the offensive positions and soft and circular blocks in the defensive positions.

– Wado-ryu: Rather than focusing on contact sparring, it teaches students how to move the body to avoid attacks. As a way of distinguishing itself from other karate styles, this fluid form of karate uses shorter stances compared to other ones.

– Shito-ryu: This focuses on landing powerfully accurate strikes. A high emphasis is placed on technique in this style, as evidenced by the fifty katas students learn, which are predetermined moves for attacks and defense that student must perfect. 

Kickboxing Style

Combines aspects of Karate with Muay Thai techniques. This multi-range combat style uses punches, kicks, elbows and knees. These can vary from grappling to long-distance range strikes. 

Judo Style 

With throwing and grappling techniques, the aim of this discipline, is to lock and immobilize the opponent. Judo practitioners typically devote a portion of each practice session to train “break-falls”, in order that the throwing techniques can be practiced without significant risk of injury. 

Aikido Style 

The techniques are taught to redirect the opponent’s attack momentum, using it against them. This redirection of force also protects their attackers from injury. 
Because a substantial portion of this discipline consists of throws, beginners learn how to safely fall or roll. The specific techniques for attack include both strikes and grabs; the techniques for defense consist of throws and pins. After basic techniques are learned, students study freestyle defense against multiple opponents, and techniques with weapons. 

Iaido & Kendo Styles

The two more popular disciplines of Martial Arts with swords. 
The first one, is a more traditional discipline where they practice with a “iaitou” which looks and feels much like a proper katana (Japanese sword), but the blade has no edge. Where in Kendo, they use a “shinai”, a bamboo sword, and protective equipment. 

Thai and Cambodian Martial Arts 

While so close, geographically, many Asian countries have such varying styles of Martial Arts. Many of which are deeply ingrained in the culture. 

Muay Thai and Bokator

Both use stand-up striking, along with various clinching techniques. The difference between these two, is that Bokator has a traditional approach. 

Bokator follows a belt system and you will learn movements, forms, and techniques in order. 

Korean Martial Arts 

The most widely popular form of Korean Martial Arts is Tae-Kwon-Do. Tae-Kwon-Do is one Martial Arts to appear at the Olympics. This is great news for Martial Arts. However, it is important when we start to compete in the arts, that we maintain their original purpose, which is not to compete in them purely as a sport.

Tae-Kwon-Do Style

A discipline with emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques. In fact, World Taekwondo sparring competitions award additional points for strikes that incorporate spinning kicks, kicks to the head, or both. 

To facilitate fast, turning kicks, Taekwondo generally adopts stances that are narrower and taller than the broader, wide stances used by Martial Arts such as karate. 

Martial Arts From Around The World

Besides the main and popular disciplines, that we just mention, there are hundreds more from all around the globe, Capoeira from Brazil, Krav Maga from Israel, Arnis or Kali from the Philippines, among others… 

So, as you can see, there are many different disciplines, each of them with their own set of styles.

But which Martial Arts style should you choose?

Although, now you are armed with this information, it may seem like you are more lost than when we started. Bear with me for a bit, and let’s continue to the next point, where we can start weighing our options… 

Which One Should I Try First? 

No that you have a good idea of what’s out there you can make a more informed choice.

Again, the answer to this question will depend on your preferences, personality, and energy. 

Martial Arts skills you can learn

Martial Arts are not one dimensional. As you are starting to learn they come in all forms, purposes and backgrounds.

You’ll find some that are built around self defence, others around theatre. Here are some helpful questions that you can ask yourself…

Do I want to practice more combat or self defence? 

Would I like to learn acrobatics? 

Or even how to use different types of Weapons? 

Finding your own style

The best way of knowing what discipline and style suits you best, is to actually try it out and see.

This isn’t always easy as time, money and effort play a part in trying out what’s on the market. But, if you are fortunate enough to have the luxury, and are interested in multiple styles go a sek out the best in your area. It won’t take long for you to decide where you want to start.

In my experience, I’ve realised that, even if you do your research, read books, watch videos and blogs on the topic… You will never actually know, until you experience it directly. Even if you have never tried any Martial Arts before, you already have your own style, you just need to find it by getting to know yourself. 

Martial Arts Stereotypes…

Another thing to consider when you choose a discipline and style, is not letting yourself be deceived by stereotypes that, for example, suggest that if you are really tall, you won’t be good in a speed-based style. 

Although it may influence how comfortable you may feel with one style or another, the size and type of your body is not a decisive factor to hold onto. I’ve met many Martial Artists that were over 6-foot tall, using acrobatic, and speed-based styles. 

MMA-Illustration

I’ve also met people who are skinny and light but turned out to feel as heavy as a 10-story building. 

In a way, your energy and style can impact your technique or opponent more than your body type or size. 

So, back to the question…

Which Martial Art Should I Start With? 

Eliminate the styles that don’t appeal to you. There really is no point trying everything at this point to ‘just see’. 

If, for example, you don’t really want to learn how to use a sword, then you know neither Kendo nor Iaido, are the disciplines you are looking for.  

Sometimes is easier to know what we don’t like, than what we do like. 

Hopefully after figuring that out, you’ll have a shorter list of disciplines to go through. 

Shortlist your options…

Then think about what excites you. If you want to learn both punching and kicking techniques, then find a striking art. This should give you a shortlist of what to tackle first!

After that, you can try to do some research on comparisons between disciplines, check out Karate VS Kickboxing for an overview of these two styles.

Martial Arts Theory vs Reality

Even if it’s just in theory (because you won’t really know which style is best for you until you try it), at least it can help you make the decision on where to start at, a little bit easier. 

So, now let’s say that, after some research, you have finally reduced your Martial Arts list to just two, and you have tried them both… And maybe you liked them both! Now what should you do? 

Oh no… 

This is a bit of a dilemma… 

Which one should you choose!? 

Well, let me answer you with a question: 

Do we have to choose…? 

Should I Stick to Just One Martial Arts Discipline and Style?  

Once again, this answer may vary on your personal choice, so let’s go through it by analyzing the Pros & Cons of just practicing one discipline. 

Benefits of doing one Martial Art 

– Your technique will be impeccable and pure, so if you are planning on competing in tournaments where the purity of a style is also ranked (Kata or forms competitions), this will be a good thing to do. 

– After training for several years, you will be able to learn the advanced techniques that require a lot of knowledge beforehand. 

– If you jump from one to another too often, you may find it harder to retain the techniques properly. Eventually, it could lead to a disorganized mix of things, that simply won’t work. 

Problems with doing one Martial Art  

– Your techniques will be limited to the discipline and style that you practice, so, if you practice Tae Kwon Do, your will train your kicks, but not your punches. 

– By practicing different disciplines, you will get to know your body and mind even better, pushing you out of your comfort zone, and trying new things. 

– In a sparring session, if your opponent has knowledge of different styles, you may be at a disadvantage. They might not know your style in depth but may know what the weaknesses of that style are. 

Is it better to train in multiple styles or one? 

You may not always find the best style for you early in your search.

When you practice different disciplines, you can mix your knowledge from here and there, creating your own style. This will make it suit you, instead trying to fit into the style. 

For example, imagine that you are a chef, mixing recipes from different cuisine styles, to make your own personal and perfect dish! 

So, in my opinion, the correct answer is to do both!  

Go out, try different styles, find what you like best, and stick with it while you complement it with other disciplines. Not only that, it will make you grow as a Martial Artist, but also as a person.  

If you are in or around Slough and looking to try some different Martial Arts styles out have a quick read of out Top 6 Martial Arts schools in Slough.

Share your experiences below to help others in the same position as you on their journey 🙂

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