Martial arts are made of systems and traditions that have been carried down through many generations and cultures. Almost all of their original designs were for real life combat and self defense – some were even meant to kill. Many forget that the main word in martial arts is “martial”.

Today, due to changes in culture, martial arts are practiced for various reasons that extend beyond self-defense and military and law enforcement applications. People train to stay in shape, for competition, for health and longevity, for stress relief and to gain an indomitable “fighting spirit” among many other reasons.

If you’re planning to start your journey in martial arts or enroll your children into a program, it is necessary to do some research and get to know the various aspects of a martial art if you’re planning to make it a part of your way of life. There are many martial arts styles available today with the mix of the many cultures and ethnicities that we find in modern cities, like in Vancouver, BC.  

To help you on your quest, here are five tips that can guide you in the course of selecting the best martial art for you or your kids!

1. Ask Yourself Why

This is pretty simple! Figure out the reason why you want to pursue learning martial arts. If you have a number of reasons, prioritize them. They can generally be one or more of the following: physical fitness, self-defense, stress-relief, improving health, developing a personal magnetism and winning attitude that often accompanies much martial arts training.

Or for your kids, it could be building self-confidence and self-esteem, respect for others, concentration in school, better social skills and manners, leadership skills and better grades. In my opinion, that style that you train is not as important as the school that you train in. If you can find a school that can provide you with all the benefits listed above, then by all means go and look into joining that school.  At our school, Combative Wing Chun, we have a deep understanding of  what martial arts can do for you or your kids, and you can come see for yourself how we form our programs towards your goals.

2. Choose the Right Style

I know I said that the style is not as important as the school. But on the other hand, every individual is different with different interests, personalities and body types and one martial art cannot be the best for everyone. So here are some of the common martial arts and what makes them unique.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ):

This form of martial art focuses mainly on grappling and ground fighting. BJJ believes in the concept that a weaker person can successfully incapacitate a stronger person by taking him to the ground and then applying joint-locks (making the opponent’s hands reach the maximum degree of motion) and chokeholds (reducing air or blood flow through the neck of the opponent). If you like taking the fight to the ground or have a wrestling background, then take a look at Jiu Jitsu.

Krav Maga:

It is a self-defense system formulated specially for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Krav Maga is practiced by soldiers in tackling real-life situations to give a fitting counter-attack during combat. The scenario training and “no rules” ideology make it a good place to learn realistic self defense.  Some of the best anti-gun defense and multiple opponent training can be learned from Krav Maga.

Jeet Kune Do Kung Fu:

Jeet Kune Do (JKD) is a hybrid martial art founded by legendary martial artist and actor, Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee combined boxing, fencing, taekwondo, wing chun and some other styles to create jeet kune do. Translated from Chinese, it means “the Way of the Intercepting Fist”.  It’s primarily tactic is to “hit first and hit hard” by using the most direct movements for maximum speed, power and non-telegraph ability.  It is not a fixed or patterned martial art but rather is a concept of “style with no style”.   If you love Bruce Lee, then you probably want to look into JKD.

Tai Chi:

If longevity, mind and body awareness, and preventative health are your top motivators for learning a martial art, then Tai Chi is a classic choice. Tai Chi involves both traditional and modern forms of training which are designed to increase your bone density, joint health, cardiovascular and respiratory systems.   Tai chi can be practiced well into your old age.  Some Tai Chi masters can exhibit superhuman feats after decades of training.  If you want to develop amazing fighting ability that does not fade but rather grows with age, then I recommend Tai Chi.

Taekwondo:

This art is primarily a kicking art. It is an Olympic sport and has a very organized system of belt advancement that may keep kids and adults motivated.  This martial art is a popular choice for kids who want to learn martial arts. The lessons are taught according to the age and skill level of every child. In addition to improving your child’s physical coordination, flexibility and balance, Taekwondo also allows one to develop self-confidence and discipline in themselves.

Muay Thai / Kickboxing / Boxing:

This martial art uses attacks with the fists, elbows, knees, feet and shins. Muay Thai Kickboxing gives you a great workout.  Since you are moving, punching, kicking and blocking, you are using a lot of major muscle groups.  Primarily you will develop a lot of kicking power and flexibility and cardiovascular endurance.  It is also known to give you hip mobility and toughen your muscles, shins and elbows.  

Combative Wing Chun Kung Fu:

A unique Wing Chun training system developed by Instructor Young.  It is unique because it combines the signature tactics of wing chun: close quarter combat techniques, simultaneous attack and defense, hand trapping and overwhelming the opponent with quick relentless assaults, with modern combative training methods like ones used by krav maga.  Also there is an emphasis on training the mind and spirit as in Tai Chi to overcome not only physical challenges, but obstacles of any kind that one may encounter in life.

3) Consider Your Age and Physical Limitations

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Some styles are more suitable for kids, and some for adults, and some for seniors. Some may argue that all styles are suitable for all ages, but the reality is that it really depends who is in the class of the style.  For example, most Tai Chi classes have older aged people attending them, so it wouldn’t make sense to send your children to a Tai Chi class (not to mention that the slow movements may bore them.)  Conversely, an elder person would not likely enjoy a Taekwondo class as they are primarily attended by children (not to mention the high kicks would be difficult for the elderly).  Wing Chun however is one of the special styles that cater to children and seniors alike, because extreme flexibility and strength is not a requirement to train it.  At Combative Wing Chun our students range from 9 years old to 54!

4. Find the Right School

As I mentioned earlier, finding the right school is just as important, if not even more important as choosing the right style. A good martial arts school is one where you can be comfortable and have fun learning the art. At the same time, an instructor who is truly inspiring and the peers who encourage you in your practice sessions should also be a part of the school you enroll in. Before signing up for a class at a school, make sure that you check on the following:

  • Try out a class before signing up
  • How do you feel after the class?
  • Is the instructor a good role model for your kids?
  • How are the other students enjoying the class?
  • Are the instructors approachable and knowledgeable?
  • Get a feel of the overall atmosphere.  Is it friendly, fun, competitive?
  • Is the intensity level challenging enough?
  • Don’t opt for the cheapest class, you get what you pay for. You may find that the higher priced classes will benefit you more by keeping you more committed and by offering higher quality training.

5. Choose the Right Instructor

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While choosing the right instructor is a part of selecting the right school, remember that the instructor is likely the person you or your kids are going to follow and model after. Most individuals would like to have an instructor who has an in-depth knowledge on their particular style.  Some may care about an instructor’s lineage, some may not.  You may want to watch some of the demonstrations by the instructor and see if those are the techniques you want to learn.  Or see if he or she possesses qualities that you want for yourself, whether it be fighting abilities, physical traits or character strengths.  But most importantly, an instructor should be a strong leader and someone who encourages you and leads you to become the best person that you can be.  

Find a good teacher, train often, train hard!  This is the key to success on your martial arts journey!