Tuesday, March 09, 2010

How to choose a martial art

Another great comment and question I got via email a day or two ago, relating to my recent self-defense articles...

I really like your martial arts articles. I am a guy looking into different MA's to find which I want to study. I was reading one of your blogs and in one you say that Aikido is best in self defense and better than Karate by a wide margin. But in another, about a contest between Karate and Aikido, you say that Aikido sucks and Karate rules, and that you can never rely on Aikido in the street. These ideas seem opposite. If you have time, could you clarify. I'm tending toward Aikido because though having decent athleticism, I'm starting brand new at age 40 and I'm fascinated by the idea of using another's force against them. I've heard that Tai Chi also can really be used at full speed as a viable martial art. Ideas on that? I'm considering taking tai chi to start just because I can get into a free class. Thanks for any thoughts you might have.
I'm glad you've been reading my blog and getting something valuable from it. I also love answering questions and helping folks figure out if aikido is right for them.
Sure those ideas in those 2 articles are opposite. That was sort of my provocative way of responding to a guy who had asked me if an aikido guy could beat up a karate guy. The straight answer for you is this, there is no "best" martial art.  Each one has its pros and cons that fit or miss your personality and preferences. You might become great at any of them, and as for a fight between a karate guy and an aikido guy, it'd basically be a question of whoever was luckiest that day.
Aikido works great for self-defense, I think aikido is the best self-defense art I've ever studied (see this article too), though there are some caveats (check out my latest post on the subject). Also, look thru my archives for the topic, self-defense.
Probably the biggest caveat is this - your mileage will vary a great deal depending on what kind of instructor you get. Some instructors teach the art as almost a dance form, while others teach it as a violent, self-defense thing. Other instructors fall all over that spectrum.
Tai Chi is also a martial art with combative applications, but in my experience, it's far harder to find a martial-minded (self-defense) tai chi teacher than it is to find a martial-minded aikido teacher. Most tai chi teachers teach the thing as some sort of eastern health improvement thing instead of as a martial art.
I'd say, go watch several aikido classes (more than one) and see if you seem to jive with the instructor. See if there is a connection there. Then make your decision.  The connection with the instructor is probably one of the most critical factors.
Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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