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WillyBrandt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:11 PM
Original message
Anyone studying a martial art?
Edited on Sat Apr-24-04 04:16 PM by WillyBrandt
As a newly minted 24 year old, I feel a bit strange about starting up taking a martial art--but, is anyone here currently studying one?

How's it like being a grown-up studying one? How does the balance of time versus work/family work out for you?

Also, what style are you studying? When I was small I took Taekwondo until Purple belt... but really think that Taekwondo, at least in its ATA incarnation, was a bit of a scam. (Good exercise, but simply didn't seem very dangerous, especially in a real-life style fight.) (ON EDIT: By dangerous, I mean effective--that is more than just sport, and that if you're in a real life situation you can either get out of there safe or disable your attacker)

Krav Maga, the Israeli version, looks interesting... anyway, any thoughts are welcome.

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junker Donating Member (403 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:14 PM
Response to Original message
1. aikido - study for life and the point is to be smart, not dangerous
dangerous gets you killed. be smart - stay alive. Aikido, soft style not the 11 month crap from the tokyo police academy. find an art like this where you can learn to roll, say for the first year, then no matter how many times life knocks you down, you roll, and get up.

good luck to you,
path is long, arduous, interesting, rewarding, painful, and worth doing (age 51 speaking here, and can still roll).
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WillyBrandt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:15 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Fair enough. But I think I'd prefer something more balanced
Taekwondo is just a bunch of kicks and punches--from my ill informed view--, whereas Akido seems ultiamtely defensive. I'm wondering what style combines the two the best...
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WillyBrandt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:16 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Have you ever had to use it in real life?
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hellboy Donating Member (84 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:18 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. Martial arts is silly. You need to weight lift and drink lots of
beer. This should give you an ornery disposition and a will to fight.
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WillyBrandt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:20 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. That, and I have to stop shaving and start dipping.
i'd be good to go
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midnight armadillo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 09:05 PM
Response to Reply #3
36. Yup, used aikido
I was in the streets of Reykjavik, Iceland on a Friday night many years ago, when a guy grabbed me very aggressively by the shoulders. I had the guy cold (this is a textbook aikido attack), but it turned out he was drunk and was just trying to say 'hello'.

This was a perfect aikido moment. The sensitivity that aikido develops paid off and I didn't do anything inappropriate or dangerous (who knew he had a friend nearby?!?). How would I have responded if I had spent years studying krav maga or tae kwon do? I dunno, but I suspect I might have reacted more violently and gotten into a spot of real trouble.
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Carl21014 Donating Member (522 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:16 PM
Response to Original message
4. My brother did it as an adult!
He found it very frustration because his goal was to achieve Black Belt, instead of finding something he wanted to do as an activity for life.

He felt every step was just designed to take his money, and they were holding him back just to get more lesson money out of him.

My advise would be to think of it as going to the gym and something you will always do from now on, and you will be happier.
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SmileyBoy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:18 PM
Response to Original message
5. I'm a black belt in Shorei-Ryu.
I took it for 6 1/2 years, from 1993 to 1999.

It's a traditional form of Karate from Okinawa. My sensei was World Female Champion Suzann Wancket.

I was pretty comfortable in it, basically because she was (and is) such a nice person.
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WillyBrandt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:19 PM
Response to Reply #5
7. What's Shorei-Ryu Karate consist of?
Is it mostly a striking art?
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SmileyBoy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:28 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. Mostly kicks and stances.
It's like a cross between Tae-Kwon-Do and Kung-Fu. It's probably more like most forms of Japanese Karate.
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Tandalayo_Scheisskopf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:44 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. It is Goju Karate...
In truth. Google "Miyagi Chogun" for more.

Goju is good, solid Okinawan Karate. Retains much of the chinese influence from which all Okinawan arts spring.
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Tandalayo_Scheisskopf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:20 PM
Response to Reply #7
19. Kicks, punches...
Strikes, holds, throws. It's all in there. You just have to find a teacher who knows where it all is. ;-)
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GreenPartyVoter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:48 PM
Response to Original message
11. Did Tai Chi for a while. Good stuff
wish I'd kept up with it. I think now I am too out of shape to do it! *l*
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Tandalayo_Scheisskopf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:56 PM
Response to Original message
12. Isshinryu karate.
Edited on Sat Apr-24-04 04:57 PM by Tandalayo_Scheisskop

I recommend the experience. Shop for schools like you shop for anything else: Shop smart. If you don't like what you see, leave. If they won't let you watch classes, leave. If they act like a cult, leave.

Many bad, bad, bad, bad, bad schools act like cults. Mumbo-jumbo is a favorite substitute for substantive knowledge in low-quality schools.Avoid mumbo-jumbo and magical thinking at all costs.

The head teacher is not a god. He is just...sensei. Respect them if he or she deserves it. Endeavor to show respect, however. A conundrum, but you will get it after a while, if you train. If someone disrespects you, why should you respect them? What example are they setting?

The school that allows the higher ranks to abuse and brutalise the lower ranks is the school to be avoided at all costs. You are not paying to be abused cannon fodder.

Any school that sticks wacky oriental weapons in the hands of a white belt is nuts. You have several years of learning to stand and breathe correctly, first. Learn to stand and breathe. You will be amazed how easy everything else is, once you learn that.

The True Rules of Karate apply to everyone in the school. You don't get a pass, once you get rank. In fact, the weight on your shoulders just becomes greater, because of the rules.

You cannot learn it from a book. Reading is good, however.

There are no free lunches. Especially in karate.
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WillyBrandt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 04:57 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. Thanks! How much should I expect to pay?
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Tandalayo_Scheisskopf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:04 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. Hard to say.
What the market will bear and what you can afford, I would think.

Avoid schools with contracts. You may leave. It may not be for you. You wanna be stuck paying for a contract. Hey, that tends to suck.

I have heard of schools that, before your black belt testing, have you fill out a financial disclosure form, with documentation, and then charge you a testing fee based upon a percentage of your yearly income. WTF? Run away. Run. That's just nuts.

Where do you live?
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WillyBrandt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:17 PM
Response to Reply #14
16. Fairfield County, CT
There's actually a TaeKwonDo school one block away from me. I kind of want to avoid TKD, but if it's close that's a big plus in terms of making training consistent. It teaches kids and adults; I don't know if the fact that it teaches kids makes it more dubious for adult training.

There is also a Tiger Schullman school nearby, I see, but I'm kind of eager to avoid the McDojo chain schools.

All I can do right now is look through the Yellow Pages; not sure what to do.
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Tandalayo_Scheisskopf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:34 PM
Response to Reply #16
24. Yellow pages are good.
Go to schools. Watch classes. Ask questions. If someone says "If only the other styles knew what we know...", run A W A Y! Cult alert! Cult alert! Dive! Dive!!!

One more thing: Any school that even broaches any talk of religion in their training, get away from fast. Any religion, even Etruscan Idol Worship. Karate is not religion. Religion is religion. There are appropriate places for religions: They are called churches, synagogues, temples. Injecting religion into martial arts, for impressionable n00bs, is a control mechanism and potends dark, dark things ahead.
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Snow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:19 PM
Response to Reply #14
17. Excellent advice, Tandalayo.
I don't have much further to add, just a coupla minor points.

Don't worry about your age - if it mattered when you started, it wouldn't be much of a martial art, would it? I started when I was in the Peace Corps, way out in the boonies of Korea, age 26. Went to the local gym which taught Moodukwan, a taekowndo style, and studied there happily for two years. Then when I came back to the States I bounced around some other places, one of the better was a small scroungy gym in Minneapolis that taught a style called Songmookwan - very heavy on the forms, which I like. It's fine exercise, and very effective fighting style. There's no such thing really as "this martial art is more effective than that martial art". You need to pick what suits you and your mental and physical condition, and that will be most effective for you. It is excellent exercise, and it travels well. I've been practicing it many years now, and glad I started it way back then (30+ years ago now).

Also, don't judge too much by what you learn of the style before chodan (the first degree black belt - by the way, the word chodan or shodan doesn't mean first degree, it means beginner degree). I've found that the longer you keep at martial arts, the more the styles converge. I've learned plenty of aikido type moves in upper level taekwondo, and there're even some moves that bear a lot of resmeblance to taichi. Bit of warning, though. I'm at an advantage in that I'm fluent in Korean & have a cultural entry into the Korean community. Makes it easier to get into the real gyms. But such places are not impossible even for a non-Asian language speaker. In all honesty, I've seen schools run by Americans that were as good as any run by Asians.
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WillyBrandt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:19 PM
Response to Reply #14
18. When I was in ATA as a little kid
I got good exercise, but it was ridiculous how MANY belts they had. Camoflage belt!!! WTF? They of course charged you for every belt promotion.
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Tandalayo_Scheisskopf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:29 PM
Response to Reply #18
22. More belts...
More testing fees. Do the math,

Avoid Schullman's. Just trust me on this. No jive.

I have seen child black belts from Schullman's schools(When I was judging tournements) with diapers under their gi pants.

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WillyBrandt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:30 PM
Response to Reply #22
23. How do you recommend I get a school in the area?
Any general useful advice? Is it bad if they teach kids too? Are solo shops better than chains? Etc...

Thanks, BTW. Your posts above have been excellent...
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Tandalayo_Scheisskopf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:44 PM
Response to Reply #23
25. I like solo.
Why? Chain places have to send vig back to someone who is usually a waste of skin and gravity. Sadly. Every high-ranking REAL sensei I have ever seen has students who have students, not franchises. The nut to keep a school open can be high, especiall the fancy ones. Add the vig to that and the students have lots of fees, contracts, testing fees, tribute fees, ad nauseaum.

When I walk into a dojo that looks like comparative crap and smells like an old jockstrap and the first person that walk up to me smiles and offers his or her hand with a cheery greeting, without mumbo-jumbo...well, I know I'm home. I relax. I get that "good training thrill" in my stomach. I am gonna have fun, hurt, train hard and learn something. I just know it. I don't like places I am afraid I am gonna mess up by sweating on the carpet.

Another thing: Check the uniforms/workout clothes. There is an inverse relationship to the inherent quality of a school and the flashiness and number of patches on the uniforms, as a rule. Less is more. Gimme a white gi and maybe a black belt, although that is not necessary and severly overrated. Shorts and Tshirt worked in Okinawa for a long, long time.

One of the better dojos I have ever been in wasn't "in". It was a back yard. Great kobudo dojo and no bric-a-brac to knock off the walls with the rokushakubo. :D
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Snow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 07:37 PM
Response to Reply #22
29. Absolutely on the belts.
When I was in Korea doing the low ranks, moodukwan had 8 'kups'. I spent the first three kups wearing a white belt, then I wore a blue belt for three more, then I wore a red belt for the final 2 and into the pre-chodan. They did charge for each kup change exam, but this was in Korea in the early 70's, and it was very small charge indeed.
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scubadude Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:15 PM
Response to Original message
15. Wing Chun Kung Fu is a great combination.
The original style of Bruce Lee. Very devastating. I have seen it used to great effectiveness against other hard styles... Very effective because in Wing Chun you close the gap. Very close in style. While the others retreat, you attack. Combined blocking and attack. Blind fighting. I have seen blindfolded butterfly fighting. Very effective for small people against larger opponents. Not a sporting style, strictly self defense.
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Tandalayo_Scheisskopf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:25 PM
Response to Reply #15
21. Very hard to find...
Outside of major cities with sizable Chinese populations. Even then, they might not let you train in a predomenantly Chinese school. Sadly. Although that is changing, albeit slowly.

Perhaps the best place on earth to train at Wing Chun, or any Chinese art, outside of China or Taiwan, is Hawaii. An amazing crucible of all martial arts, especially Chinese.
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scubadude Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 06:06 PM
Response to Reply #21
26. True, it is very hard to find.
Edited on Sat Apr-24-04 06:18 PM by scubadude
Here are a few places:

On edit here's a link with motion to give you an idea of what distance Wing Chun is used at.
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AngryAmish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 05:25 PM
Response to Original message
20. Brazilian Ji-Jitsu seems the best
Just because most of the winners in no holds barred tourneys seem to be mostly from Brazilian Ji-jitsu.

Don't ask me. I used to box.
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Snow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 07:32 PM
Response to Reply #20
27. Yeah, but that's because the style suited those guys (the Gracies)
very well. Good physical & mental fit. Also, you notice that at the ends of these no-holds barred full contact tourneys the combatants were still alive and usually mostly uninjured. Martial arts is warfare, not competition. Not to gainsay that those ground-based grappling styles can be very effective. But I like a lot of interesting kata, myself.
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AngryAmish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 08:07 PM
Response to Reply #27
34. What is kata?
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Snow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 08:18 PM
Response to Reply #34
35. Kata - forms, the koreans call them poom-say.....
That's all of taichi you typically learn at a beginner level. It's a pattern of moves, done usually by yourself, with a series of offensive and defensive moves while stepping over a particular pattern. They can be very pretty to watch and very good exercise to do. I usually run through the whole palgye series, then about 4 or 5 more upper level forms and that gives me a good workout. Each form in my styles has 20-40 more or less distinct moves, and I must've learned 30 or 40 kata over the years. Don't remember all of them, unfortunately. Concentration, the whole moving meditation thing, all that. Plus, it habituates patterns that then come automatically in a fight.
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DS1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 07:36 PM
Response to Original message
28. I've seen all 5 American Ninja movies. I'm ready for anything
Edited on Sat Apr-24-04 07:36 PM by DS1
:hi: <- if you were here you'd hear the whoosh whoosh as I waved like a true Ninja. You wouldn't be able to see me either :7 <- and forget you saw that, too
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Donkeyboy75 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 07:42 PM
Response to Original message
30. I took tae kwon do for a couple of years
awhile back. It was good for getting into shape, and working on hand-eye coordination. I just ran out of time.

By the way, a martial art would be good for you. Did you see the recent threads badmouthing PBR? You'll need to go kick some beer snob ass. ;)
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IronLionZion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 07:46 PM
Response to Original message
31. Tae Kwon Do and Ishinryu
Tae Kwon Do is no scam but maybe the school you went to didn't teach it right.

I made it to Purple Belt and gave it up when I went to college.
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Nlighten1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 07:49 PM
Response to Original message
32. My 4 year old is taking...
Tae Kwon Do
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Downtown Hound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 08:06 PM
Response to Original message
33. I've studied Tang Soo Do
before, but like your experience with Tae Kwon Do, it was pretty much a joke. I boxed for about a year in high school, and boy could I kick some ass! I think the bottom line about any fighting style is this: you need a good teacher and you need to spar if you really want to get good. I had a great boxing instructor, and he taught me all the moves.

A good teacher in any format will teach you how to handle yourself, but you're going to have to get in the ring and get dirty if you really want to be a better fighter. You can hit or kick punching bags until you can move really fast and you can lift weights until you can really hit hard, and those things help, but you've gotta fight to get good. Look for those things when picking a format. If you find yourself doing nothing but kicking air and yelling Kiiyaaa! for months on end, you're probably wasting your time.

If I was going to study a martial art again, it probably would be jujitsu. But make sure that the teacher is good.
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LostInAnomie Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-04 09:19 PM
Response to Original message
37. I take Judo.
It is mostly throws, chokes, grappling, and holds. It is a safer to practice than jujitsu but can still be very punishing if you need to be. If you are effective enough at it placing punches and kicks in it wouldn't be a problem if you got in a real fight.

There are plenty of sites about it on the web if you are interested.
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ForrestGump Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-25-04 03:49 PM
Response to Original message
38. Yes (wo...this got kinda long)
I've trained in quite a few systems of Asian martial arts -- mainly because I've moved around too much to ever master just one -- and, for all the diffferences, one of the biggest commonalities is that studying martial arts will improve your life, perhaps on levels that you do not even suspect yet. Most of my experience has been in various Chinese 'kung fu' styles, originating in both northern and southern China (there's a traditional, if not hard and fast, geographical division in rthe character of styles from each area). It's really easy, and really commonplace, for someone to claim that their system is better than somebody else''s a given, really, and people do exactly the same thing with cars, guns, wine, women, song, and, of course, polical parties. Given that disclaimer, here's what I think...

Another disclaimer: the instructor's quality is vital. A bad teacher will ruin your experience. Look for legitimate lineage, a family-style atmosphere (well, in Chinese martial arts and TKD, for sure), and good teaching skills and patience, and don't sign any ****ing contracts.

I agree with you about TKD. Tae Kwon Do can hurt if it hits you, no doubt, but as it's taught today it's more martial sport than martial art. TKD stylists tend to develop powerful kicks, including some spectacular jumping kicks, but are typically weak with their hands -- certainly in comparison to the way that a Chinese fighter's hands move and work. Also, because of the heavy emphasis on tournaments, TKD students tend to learn how to fight for the ring, within a narrowly proscribed set of rules. Nothing wrong with that, but giving the impression that TKD's hallmark moves and strategies will work on the street is doing a dangerous disservice. One infamous example is that of TKD tournament sparrers sidling up to their opponents twisted around so that part of their back is presented. Exposing your back in a real fight is, to put it mildly, Not A Good Idea.

In any discussion about TKD, we should bear in mind that there's not just one TKD system. There's a lot of politics in some sectors of the martial arts (wing chun is perhaps the most infamous from the Chinese side) and TKD is a classic example. The two main divisions within straight TKD are the ITF and WTF -- ITF is basically 'traditional' TKD that's very similar to the original Japanese styles whereas WTF is the newer group that got the Olympic franchise. Partly as a result of the Olympics, many WTF schools nowadays focus almost entirely on sport sparring whereas ITF schools will devote attention to forms, self-defense, etc. One of the more intriguing offshoots of the TKD tree was Choi Kwang Do, a system that seeks to minimize the bodily damage that some of TKD's techniques tend to bring out...don't know what the organization's status is these days.

The TKD that I did was ITF (I also did another, related Korean style for a short time) and by the time I reached green belt I knew that it just was not the style for me. My knees hurt, for one thing, and my mind and heart had become fully captivated by Chinese martial arts. The weird thing about my knees -- I was pretty young and neither then nor now had knee problems -- was weird because all of the kicks that I did in TKD were kicks that I've also done for almost two decades, with no ill effect (barring rare transitory injury) in Chinese styles.

Tae kwon do

One other thing about TKD is that most 'karate' schools in the US will prove to be of Korean, rather than Okinawan or Japanese, origin. In most US cities, actual karate seems pretty scarce, certainly in comparison to the plethora of 'karate' schools that are in reality TKD or Tang Soo Do. TKD's also not especially a Korean style, being based mainly on Shotokan karate (a very popular Japanese style that itself is based on Okinawan styles that have their ultimate origin in China) and only developed in the late '50s. Some will tell you that TKD goes back thousands of years but that's only true if you are referring to its Chinese (via Okinawa and Japan) roots, so it's kind of disingenuous.

TKD schools rule, numbers-wise, in the US and seem to have popped up in every minimall here in SoCal. Many of these schools cater heavily to children -- martial arts can be GREAT for children -- but way too many are 'belt mills' wherein the instructor's prime motivation is to realize a profit and their greed gets in the way of quality instruction. True older Korean arts, or at least arts based on them, are much harder to find -- things like Hwrang Do, Kuk Sul Won, and others. Hapkido's a pretty interesting 'modern' Korean art that incorporates grappling, so would be a far better choice for self-protection.


As for karate schools, here you start to get into a bit of variety, and you're also one (or two) steps closer to the Chinese origin of most extant Asian fighting systems. In general, karate tends to be more 'hard' and linear than the Chinese styles from which they derived. They also have nowhere near as many forms and certainly took a beating in translating weapons forms, though a few weapons endemic to Okinawa tend to be widely practiced by karateka. Also in general, Japanese systems tend to be that much harder and linear than do the Okinawan. Generalizations, but they seem to largely bear out in my experience.

As a Chinese stylist, my view is that most karate systems represent subsets of the more vast parent Chinese schools (much of Japanese culture was borrowed from China, with appropriate filtering). On a practical level, what that means is that a kung fu fighter might have a huge arsenal of techniques and concepts at hand whereas a karate fighter is more likely to keep it very simple...many karate schools just largely drill a few very basic techniques and combinations (e.g., front kick, reverse punch, and blocks to the three basic 'gates') to the point of exhaustion. The end result is that a kung fu fighter might tend to be more agile (both literally and in terms of options available, hopefully without thought) whereas a karateka might just stand his or her ground or move in predictable, linear patterns, but it'll REALLY hurt if one of those painfully-perfected techniques actually hits.

Many kung fu systems emphasize speed over sheer power -- my own preference is to develop power through speed, speed also having a significant shock value -- and use stinging attacks to set up an opening for a real power strike or a minimal-muscular-power nerve or 'cavity' attack. Karate styles tend to exert a lot more 'hard' energy into attacks that are slower, but if they catch you at the right point you're going to be suffering. I favor one approach over the other, because it fits me better and I find it more of a challenge, but both approaches work. That old question of who would win, of a kung fu and karate master, is'd depend on so much more than mere specifics of style, and in the end it could just be a matter of who happened to win on that particular day.

And if you want to talk about a really incomplete martial system -- one that grows less complete very day -- TKD exponents also tend to drill a relatively limited number of techniques (even ITF students don't use their hands as much as karate students, and certainly nowhere near as much as kung fu students) and if you ever catch a TKD black belt's kick you'll know you've been kicked. I've been launched into the air repeatedly by side kicks to a kicking shield that I was holding, and I am not a slight person.

All this is generalization, of course. I'm not very familiar with some of the styles, but in some of the Okinawan systems the influence of southern Chinese white crane and even northern systems like eagle claw are very apparent. Uechi-ryu is an interesting style that looks very much like the lethal white eyebrow and southern mantis Chinese systems, and very unlike other karate styles (except for advanced kata in some systems). Some goju schools are also pretty soft (as opposed to rigid) and Chinese-y...isshin-ryu, too?

Uechi-ryu karate

To add to the fun, in many (most?) karate schools the advanced forms begin to get more complex and softer, and more circular, sometimes very strongly resembling kung fu forms. On top of this, styles morph and split into substyles , declared or not. For example, I know a teacher of shotokan -- a typically rigid Japanese style -- whose tournament experience and background in northern Shaolin kung fu led him to teach a version of Shotokan that, though true in its forms, looks entirely different than the original, especially in fighting (faster, with more continual follow-through, angling, and body looseness). By the way, karate didn't exist in Japan until the early 20th Century (if I recall correctly); it was an Okinawan thing, imported basically as a sport and as a good physical regimen.

Shotokan karate

One really interesting Japanese system that's the antithesis of most traditional Japanese karate's rigidity is aikido. Aikido is another modern style, derived from earlier Japanese (samurai) variants on jujitsu. Judo has basically the same kind of lineage and is also very 'Chinese' in its use of the opponent's energy against themselves. I think that aikido's just great, and if I were going to practice a japanese style this'd be the one. I've never done it, or been on the receiving end of it, but it looks like some others of DU's warrior-gentleperson squad have already enlightened you.


Jujitsu seems all the rage now because of the whole Gracie Brazilian jujitsu thing. Those boys sure know how to self-promote and, to avoid making this any longer, let's just say that I don't find their attitude or the attitude of other no-holds-barred and 'mixed-martial-arts' fighters, to be admirable. Asian martial arts are constantly endangered in terms of translating to an American context because vital tenets of traditional martial practice -- humility is a big one -- are scarce in this counry, and even seen as maladaptive. When Muhammed Ali put down hs opponents it was funny; when a supposed martial artist brags and threatens it's obnoxious. I never bought in to the whole UFC spectacle because the attitudes involved, alone, disgusted me. They're fighters -- brawlers, often -- and not martial artists, at least as they represent themselves in that arena. That's my perspective as a traditional martial artist, anyway.

Having said that, jujitsu could be a devastating system to have handy, though not lending itself well to competition (hence judo, developed as a kind of 'safety jujitsu'). The origins of jujitsu are unknown but it seems to have spun off the samurai martial regimen and was likely formed from or influenced by Chinese systems that were and are heavy on grappling, such as eagle claw. Professor Wally Jay founded 'small circle' jujitsu, a pretty amazing thing to behold. Definitely consider jujitsu if your prime goal is self-defense.

Jujitsu (Wally Jay)

I saved kung fu for last because it's the most complex and because it's ultimately the root for everything (or nearly so) described above. It's also not right to refer to kung fu as 'it,' because the Chinese martial arts include a totally discombobulating number and variety of distinct styles. I could never list them all, even if I knew more than the tiny fraction that I've heard of or practiced. China's a big, diverse place, with a lot of martial history and at least 4000 years of it involving what we'd recognize as 'kung fu' to one degree or another. 'Kung fu,' by the way, is a misnomer, meaning simply "hard work," "time and effort," or similar.

Most Chinese styles, especially those that are most widely known, either have their origins in one of the Shaolin temples or passed through their at some point in their evolution. Northern styles tend to be suited to taller people and wide-open terrain and are typically focused a lot on longer-range fighting and a lot of acrobatic jumps, kicks, rolls, etc. Lots of going from a very low to a very high stance (or jump), too, or vice-versa...very hard on the legs. It's not all long-range fighting, though, because systems like eagle claw and praying mantis specialize in a lot of grappling and close-range locks and nerve attacks. Some of the more common northern systems include various just called 'northern Shaolin,' several schools of praying mantis (seven star is the biggest), eagle claw, and chang chu'an or 'long fist' and tam-tui.

Northern Shaolin kung fu

Southern styles tend to be suited to shorter people and typically aren't as mobile as northern styles, have lower stances, tend to place more emphasis on strength power than speed power, and were developed for use in more uneven, more congested environments and even on boats. Southern styles that you're more likely to see here include wing chun, choy li fut, hung gar, five-animals, southern mantis, and white crane. Some of these, such as Fukien white crane and choy li fut, seem quite 'northern.'

Hung gar kung fu

By the way, kenpo is typically strongly Chinese -- usually southern Chinese -- in origin. There are a variety of names and schools, but Ed Parker's American kenpo karate is typical and far less karate than kung fu. In Japan Shorinji-ryu kenpo has the origin right in the title (Shorin = Shaolin).

American kenpo...wait a minute...I know this guy (Elvis with Ed Parker)

My bias is, as admitted above, toward Chinese systems. Chinese styles are typified by a lot of empty-hand forms, a lot of weapons forms (usually starting with staff, broadsword, and spear), and a vast glossary of techniques that utilize all parts of the body as well as a very confusing (at first) emphasis on angling and movement during combat. Very dynamic, and typically difficult to 'get' at first.

Most systems also include extensive work on nerve strikes and the like, especially at higher levels, and some systems are particularly strong in 'chin na' (grappling). I find chin na a challenge, because there are literally endless possibilities that can in turn be countered in endless ways, but I've come to believe that if you can gain competence in chin na then the straight kicking and punching becomes almost obsolete -- chin na is just so much more energy efficient and (even more a consideration in term of running afoul of the law these days) looks infinitely less aggressive. Seizing and holding, and nerve and other attacks can also keep your opponent right where you want them and can quickly pacify them (kill them for that matter), and if you can control your opponent without breaking a sweat you've already won a major psychological victory over them. Although kung fu fighters compete in tournaments, including in those dominated by karate schools, most styles' strengths are not brought out in such sparring under restrictive rules. With potentially-lethal (and rather unfriendly groin, knee, eye, etc) attacks and nerve and blood vessel targeting being a staple of most styles, as well as chin na and similar exercises in pain, kung fu's basically what I think of as Chinese dirty-fighting.

Wing chun, mentione din this thread, is a popular and interesting style that's pretty atypical of Chinese systems. For a start, it's only got three (I think) hand forms and two (I think) weapons forms. Also, though not surprising for a souther style, most schools never teach kicking above the waist (in practice, even northern Shaolin practitioners kick low, high kicks largely being reserved to train strength and flexibility). Wing chun is excellent for developing sensitivity to an opponent's intent, probably only behind white crane and tai chi in this respect. It's an extremely close-range style and, as traditionally practiced, usually is not very mobile in the big picture although hand movements are extremely rapid. It was ideal for young Bruce Lee, who was terribly short-sighted. Their infighting blocks and strikes are great -- I've done some wing chun and, as a large man, that's very much to my advantage because my natural strength is at long and medium range whereas my close-range ability will be naturally hampered when fighting a shorter opponent. If you can get all the ranges covered, you're set.

So wing chun is an incomplete system in many ways (forms, weapons, and a few other doodads), but as a fighting style it can be pretty phenomenal and would be an especially good choice for shorter or weaker people (the founder was allegedly a Shaolin nun) and, because of its limited catalog of techniques and forms, is far faster to learn and improve at than is true of most other Chinese styles. I tend to favor other northern and southern schools, but I think that a bit of time learning elements of wing chun could profit anyone interested in sparring.

Wing chun kung fu

FInally, tai chi. Yeah, that slo-mo stuff that old people do in the park. Tai chi means "grand ultimate" and tai chi chu'an (or 'taijiquan') really is the grand ultimate martial art. It's of Taoist origin (based on Shaolin kung fu, a Buddhist tradition...things get mixed up in China) and represents the 'internal' side of martial arts, as opposed to the 'external' of karate and what most of us would call 'kung fu.' In reality, at high levels most 'external' systems that are complete begin to resemble tai chi and at high levels tai chi begins to get more boisterous and look more 'external.' In the end, everything gets to the same point. Further, many styles of kung fu (and some of karate) combine hard and soft internal and external elements in a kind of mosaic right from beginning levels. The difference, though, is that to use karate or kung fu in a fight might require only two or three years of training whereas to properly apply tai chi could take decades. In some ways it's like quick and nasty versus slow and quality. Tai chi is arguably better for its students, in terms of overall health and vitality, but the more 'external' arts are quicker to learn some useful basics of.

I won't go any more into tai chi here, because I'm sure that someone here has more experience learning it than I do and this thing's already long enough. Suffice it to say, though, that I was definitely not faking it when I first tried to move a tai chi teacher...despite a fair bit of kung fu experience that had me sensitive to intent at some level, I just couldn't anticipate or counter anything and a slender Chinese man ended up effortlessly hurling me a good ten feet in the air, my trajectory stopped by a handily-placed wall. Amazing stuff. Tai chi is good for everybody, of any age (seniors can particularly benefit and it may save their life with regard to hip injury), and offers benefits far beyond the martial. Indeed, many tai chi teachers do not know the martial aspects -- again, it takes a long time to learn and appreciate those -- and teach it purely as a form of moving meditation or stretching and conditioning. It works on those levels, but if you're interested in it as a martial art and find yourself a qualified instructor of legitimate lineage, you'll be amazed by the power within those same moves. I've never felt as helpless in sparring as I do against even moderately-skilled tai chi people.

Tai chi

Oh -- almost forgot -- check out Thai boxing (devastating kicks) for pure mayhem and, yes, krav maga is definItely worth a look if you're interested in self-defense (done a bIt of it...basically along the lines of Special Forces training, totally combat oriented without the trimmings of forms, etc...easy to learn, a sort of 'best of' of martial arts for defense).

Krav maga

Y'all come back now, y'hear?
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Snow Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-25-04 08:05 PM
Response to Reply #38
41. Wow! Ummm, that about covers it Forrest - good job.
Few minor picks. When Forrest here is talking about TKD, aka taekowndo, he's talking the american variety. Main founding fathers were Jhoon Rhee and General Choi, and, he's exactly right, what they teach is what they learned during the japanese occupation, ie shotokan. TKD was illegal in korea during the japanese occupation. However, General Choi left Korea after a major political fight with the rest of the martial arts establishment, and what he brought over here was the system that got him booted out of the country. Korean TKD is still a pretty hard style, but by the mid 70's when I started it was no longer shotokan.

As I mentioned above, i'm a TKD student, and I'm much faster and proficient with my hands than my feet. I have learned some of the fancier kicks - scissors kick, tornado kick - but never used them in sparring - most I'll do in the way of high kicks is high in-out or out-in kick to get defenses out of the way for a hand attack. Simple is best - front kick surprises the tournament bunch. The lovely dramatic kicks are a tournament thing, & i don't do those. DOne a few, & found it's harder than blazes to get points called for a hand technique. Also a lot of TKD styles don't allow head attacks, especially with hands, take-downs, or blind spinning techniques. Then it's not really warfare anymore, it's competition sport.
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ForrestGump Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-26-04 01:37 AM
Response to Reply #41
43. Thanks for that
The origins of TKD have always seemed somewhat contentious, I suspect perhaps not entirely unintentionally. General Choi died just two or three years ago, didn't he?

I agree about the front kick -- same with kung fu sparring in that there are so many more exotic kicks (even basic roundhouse and side kicks, etc, are fancier) available that people are often taken completely by surprise when you throw out a simple front snap kick. Fast, straightforward, less telegraphed than other kicks, and to some degree 'hidden' by the leg's position within the body's plane. And if you really want to do some damage, putting the hip all the way into it with a front thrust kick will really spoil your opponent's day -- definitely not a tournament piece!

I've heard that it's hard (depending on the tournament) to score with hand techniques a lot of times -- definitely sucks when your hands are good and, yeah, it's unrealistic in that hands can remove an opponent from a real self-defense situation at least as readily (arguably more so) than can legs.

Happy striking!
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Taverner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-25-04 03:50 PM
Response to Original message
39. No but I'm considering taking Krav Maga
Anyone ever do it?
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ForrestGump Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-25-04 04:17 PM
Response to Reply #39
40. Little bit
Very practical, quick and easy to learn, and effective in self-defense. It also includes firearms and knife training, etc (I didn't do that part of their program) and I understand that its basic purpose is to allow Israelis, inside and outside the active military, to defend themselves. Doesn't require any previous martial-arts background -- it essentially distills down the essences of a variety of fighting systems (though as a kung fu dude, given that most of these systems ultimately trace roots back to China, nothing I saw was 'new' or a quantum leap in execution or concept) into a straightforward fighting system. Still, you'd be better off if you had done martial arts before...less of a learning curve and you'd be more likely to be conditioned to take blows (and deliver them).

I only learned some krav maga as an adjunct to my Shaolin training, with which it was 100% compatbile (redundant, actually, though it'd take you way longer to reach a comparable fighting level in kung fu), so maybe someone else can add to this. Really, if I were interested solely in self-defense, including acknowledgement that the modern world is ruled by guns, krav maga would be the thing I'd probably turn to. The forms, traditional weapons, esoteric concepts and methods, and aesthetics of traditional Chinese martial arts appeal to me even more than fighting (basically a series of high-speed problem-solving exercises, wherein you get whomped if you get the answer wrong), however. No question, though, that with krav maga you could learn the basics relatively quickly and master them to the point where they're second nature, which is exactly how you want self-defense to be.

If you have a krav maga instructor in your area, go talk with them and watch a class. Just run if he or she comes off as some pumped-up egomaniac of a survivalist -- some of these 'Special Forces'-type of thigns attract dubious characters and the current trendiness of krav maga guarantees a few charlatans.
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durutti Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-25-04 09:22 PM
Response to Original message
42. I'd like to start again.
I studies karate for a bit when I was younger. This time, I think I'd like to try Aikido, Jiujitsu, Judo, Kendo, or Tae Kwon Do. I want something that will give me a workout but teach me something at the same time.
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ForrestGump Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-26-04 01:39 AM
Response to Reply #42
44. Cool!
All of the systems that you mention will give you what you want. Good luck in finding the right school for you!
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