Beginners Guide For Finding The Right Class
by Jaden Taningco
You may be googling “Martial Arts classes near me” or “Martial Arts school” without really knowing what you’re looking for. Hopefully, my brief explanations of some of these Martial Arts styles will help you decide on what you or a child of yours want to try.
I’m going to be discussing Martial Arts styles I have experience with, and have trained at TAMA (Taningco Academy of Martial Arts).
Martial arts is an umbrella term, encompassing numerous styles and disciplines, each focusing on different things. Taekwondo(a style of Karate) may focus a lot on kicking, whereas Brazilian jiu-jitsu(BJJ) focuses on submission grappling. It can be overwhelming to choose a style to practice. It’s important to note the difference between Modern and Traditional Martial Arts. Modern usually refers to styles that have ever-evolving rulesets and techniques. Whereas Traditional means the curriculum stays relatively the same. Traditional doesn’t necessarily mean old, and Modern doesn’t necessarily mean new.
I separate Martial arts styles in 3 different categories, no matter if they are Traditional or Modern martial arts. Different styles usually contain each of these sections, however, just like Taekwondo may be different from BJJ, they’re going to emphasize one section over another. Keep in mind, you can compete with street practical styles, or even defend yourself with styles more suited to competition. We just have to be intentional with what we want to train.
Street practical martial arts teach you how to engage an attacker with as few techniques as you need, with the goal of dismantling their ability to attack, and if possible completely disengage with an attacker and run to safety.
If you practice martial arts, you’ll most likely benefit from some form of personal development. Every good teacher no matter the style of martial art will always emphasize personal development. Traditional martial arts have a heavier focus on adapting the methodology you learn in class, to real-life situations outside of Martial Arts. For example, patience, diligence, consistency, and overall self-discipline, to name a few. Modern martial arts have these same benefits, just with less directed toward the inner self, and more towards drilling and pressure testing your art.
Competitive martial arts, also known as Combat Sports, encompass all kinds of martial arts. You could compete in kickboxing, just as you could compete in wrestling or karate. With varying rulesets across every martial art in competition, it’s important to understand some differences. Some martial arts styles focus on point-style fighting, meaning you don’t look for a knockout or submission, but either to showcase your speed and control over your technique such as competitive karate, or to pin and hold an opponent like wrestling. Then you have the more decisive forms of competition, where you or the other fighter cannot continue. Combat Sports that allow a finish, either by Knockout(rendering someone unconscious) Technical Knockout(where a referee determines that you’re not able to intelligently defend yourself before you’re knocked out and fully unconscious), Submission(where a fighter either breaks a limb, chokes their opponent out, or forces them to tap out before being injured), or by one of their coaches throwing in the towel(signifying for the referee to stop the fight). Oftentimes a fight can end in a Decision. Meaning both fighters fought for their allotted time and neither was finished by the other, and the judges who scored the fight round by round have their scores tallied to choose the winner.
Krav Maga Is an Israeli martial art, developed for the Israel Defense Forces. It encompasses techniques adapted from many different styles of martial arts, both standing and grappling. They train for the most practical and efficient technique to either disable or kill the attacker. This is a great art for learning knife defense as well, even if the most obvious answer to knife defense is running away if you have the opportunity. I would label this as modern Martial arts, as it is ever-adapting. There is Krav Maga competition, but in the purest essence of the art, you cannot simulate a true fight for your life under rule sets. Krav Maga will teach you to attack vital areas that are banned in most Combat Sports/Martial Arts competitions.
BJJ is an ever-evolving art, one that has traditional roots and modern practices. It focuses on the skill of taking an opponent to the ground, controlling one’s opponent, gaining a dominant position, and using a number of techniques to force them into submission via joint locks or chokeholds. This is an incredibly effective art for subduing an attacker as well, as most people don’t know how to stand up from someone in control from a top mount, or side control position, for example. It is also a Combat Sport, where you can take your skills to tournaments, to test your skills against other grapplers. Usually in these tournaments, just like in a BJJ school, there is no striking. BJJ intended for street self-defense has proven time and time again that if you possess even basic grappling knowledge, you can defend yourself against a bigger attacker. The only time BJJ may become ineffective is when there are multiple attackers. Depending on your skill and size, most if not all practitioners of BJJ can’t grapple multiple individuals at the same time. Most self-defense situations will start standing, so consider learning a striking art alongside your BJJ.
Boxing is one of the oldest forms of self-defense and combat sports, dating back to the ancient Olympic games. While Western Boxing focuses on only punching with your hands, there are different styles from around the world. From everything including your elbows to knees, to headbutts and even kicking. As I said though, if we’re talking about Western Boxing, expect the exclusive use of your hands as your main weapons/self-defense tools. Skills such as head movement, inside and outside fighting(being very close or very far from a standing opponent), and parrying(deflecting) punches are emphasized when you learn the art known as the Sweet Science. Humans have been hitting and punching things for as long as we’ve existed, and as such, boxing could be easier to learn than some Martial Arts styles that focus on Kicking or Grappling. Of course, that alone depends on the individual. The Sweet Science is an art that takes a lifetime to master, and in no way is it the easiest Martial Art to learn. As a striking art, specifically one that is practiced standing 100% of the time, you won’t learn any grappling/ground techniques, except for some light clinching(standing grapple). If you practice boxing, consider taking lessons in BJJ, judo, or wrestling to supplement a more well-rounded skill set.
Thai Boxing or Muay Thai is known as the art of the eight limbs. It is characterized by the combined use of punching, kicking, elbowing and kneeing. Hailing from Thailand, its roots tie to an older art known as Muay Boran, which is essentially the same art without modern training equipment. Muay Thai became popular internationally in the late 20th to 21st century, when Westernized practitioners from Thailand began competing in kickboxing and mixed-rules matches as well as matches under Muay Thai rules around the world. As well as being a practical art for use in self-defense, muay thai is now a Combat Sport. A standing martial art will always lack the required training to counter a grappling art, however, in most encounters where you may have to defend yourself start standing. I would give the same advice to a Western-style boxer as I would a Thai-style boxer, learn some ground fighting for the most realistic self-defense structure.
Filipino Martial Arts
FMA(Filipino Martial Arts)describes military arts hailing from the Philippines. In this section, we’ll be focusing on their national art, Arnis, otherwise known as Kali or Eskrima. The art focuses on the use/practice of baston(wooden stick, in place of a sword)fighting, knife fighting/defense, and open-hand applications. The “open hand”(no weapon) practice of FMA(Panantukan/Dinnanugan boxing) is similar to Western and Thai styles of boxing. Arnis is an art similar to Krav Maga in terms of joint locking and quick practical strikes, but much older with a focus on Sword/Baston fighting/defense. It has ties to Pencak Silat, Muay Boran, Krabi-Krabong(a Thai Weapon style), and other various South Asian Martial Arts. FMA as a whole is included heavily in CQC(Close Quarters Combat)training in many Militaries around the world. A challenging Martial Art, considering the heavy focus on weapons training, you’ll quickly improve your hand-eye coordination even if you’re an experienced practitioner of other Martial Arts.
Shorin-Ryu Karate is considered to be the first style of Karate. It was formed under the influence of Chinese martial arts, particularly Kung Fu. Originating in Okinawa, its roots have spread to many countries and influenced other styles of Karate. Such as Shotokan, Taekwondo, Kempo, the style I personally practice, and many many more. Karate is now predominantly a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow, and open-hand techniques. For competitions, strikes are stopped short, either not making “full contact” or controlling the power of your technique to where you do not KO your opponent. Kata(form) contests are also held at tournaments. Single competitors demonstrate their total body coordination, through a series of predetermined moves that they practice at their school. It’s scored similarly to gymnastics, with a panel of judges scoring your performance. Karate does have practical street defense, but the focus is spread to different aspects of self-improvement, too. You may find schools that pressure test in sparring, meaning they have similar rules to Kickboxing. They won’t pull their punches, but you’ll find no elbows, knees, or clinching like you would in Muay Thai.
Kung Fu is a broad term referring to Chinese martial arts. The name Kung Fu essentially means to study, learn, or practice something that requires patience and hard work. Not necessarily the practice of Martial Arts. There are thousands of styles, a few of them being Shaolin, Wing Chun, and Tien Shan Pai. I mention those, a few out of many because they’re similar to each other in aspects of instruction. The reason why Karate has things like Kata(forms), is because most Kung Fu styles have their own forms, called Taolu. The forms themselves are countless, covering open-handed (no weapons)techniques to weapons training. Looking at yourself internally through physical exercise can be hard, but it’s easier with Traditional arts, like Kung Fu. The more you practice, the more you’ll realize there is more than just punching and kicking. The practices learned through Kung Fu allow you to realize a better version of yourself.
Tai Chi is an internal martial art, with most modern practices focusing on physical and spiritual health over self-defense. Seen as a “slow” Kung Fu, it still maintains actual self-defense techniques taught through the Taolu(forms). One can learn to rehabilitate certain parts of their body through Tai Chi practice, as the movements are slow and focus on balance. I myself have used Tai Chi alongside Yoga to rehabilitate my back and legs after various injuries. It is a beautifully nuanced art, with many lessons of patience, and taking care of one’s surroundings and self. There are five main styles of Tai Chi. Chen, Yang, Wu(Hao), Wu and Sun. They all promote personal health through meditation and the practice of the art. Consider other styles for straightforward self-defense and Tai Chi for the improvement of one’s overall health.
Aikido is a style that primarily uses throws and joint locks. Using the momentum of an attacker against themselves, an Aikido practitioner focuses on the redirection of a strike. Either with weapons such as Bokken(wood sword), Tanto(knife), or Jo(short staff), or against open-hand attacks. Aikido stems from an older Japanese grappling art, Daito-Ryu Aiki-jujutsu, an art that focused on situational self-defense based on Japanese customs. Such as defending yourself against a sword while sitting at dinner, or disarming an opponent on the battlefield after you’ve lost your weapon. Aikido is a traditional art that is rich with philosophy, and an emphasis on the pacification of oneself. If you’re looking to master your mind, Aikido may be the right fit for you.
Martial Arts is for everyone. I firmly believe that. No matter your age, belief, or physical ability. I have taught blind/sight-impaired individuals, people with Cerebral Palsy, kids, and adults who have been diagnosed with ASD(Autism Spectrum Disorder) and genetic disorders such as Down syndrome. I have seen these very same students, no matter their physical ability, achieve milestone after milestone in their Martial Arts journey.
I’ll quickly share one instance of a student overcoming their own struggles. Without using personal information, I will refer to this student as L.
L’s grandparents came to our school looking for physical activity for their granddaughter. She was 7, bright smile, was always decked out in pink, and used a walker. L has a form of Cerebral Palsy, a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move, maintain balance, and posture. So the walker for her was essential in day-to-day life, offering her the ability to hold herself upright and walk.
Over the years of stretching, coordination exercises, self-defense drills, and a focus on walking unassisted, L can now walk and move without the assistance of her walker. She is still working hard on her ability to move, but she has come a long way from where she started.
If you’re someone who does not have these genetic/physical disorders, stories such as this will hopefully inspire you. L inspires me to live my life to the fullest, and never limit myself. It feels like I’ve learned more from her than I’ll ever be able to teach her.
If you do have a genetic or physical disorder, don’t be dissuaded from trying out and training in Martial Arts, just take each lesson at your own pace, and have fun! Everyone’s ability is different, and that’s ok. The discipline Martial Arts provides is second to none, and the aspects of honor and respect will provide your life structure. Consistency and hard work are the leading methodologies in my life that I’ve picked up from learning Martial Arts, and I’m happier because of it. It has taught me how to communicate in my personal and professional relationships, and relieve stress from my life.
So whether you’re looking to lose weight, improve your self-discipline, and mental focus, learn how to protect yourself, compete, or learn how your body moves, Martial Arts WILL help you achieve your goal.
Interested in Martial Arts?
You can call us at 937-254-7035, or email us at Tamamartialarts@gmial.com and schedule an appointment today! We provide 2 free private lessons and a free class for Karate, and a free week trial for all other disciplines. Contact us for any additional questions not answered by this article.
Please visit our website Tamamartialarts.com for more information regarding our staff and schedule.
TAMA Black Belt and Instructor, Jaden Taningco