How to Choose the Right Martial Art for You

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You may be interested in taking up a martial art, or having your child enroll in one. This begs the question: which martial arts style is best for me (or my child)? There’s no right or wrong answer because everyone is different with different aims and motivations for learning a hand-to-hand combat style. Learn the prevailing martial art types and whether each particular style may or may not be right for you.

Karate

Karate may be right for you if you’re interested in a commonly practiced striking-based style. From a striking standpoint, you’ll learn fundamental punching, kicking, and blocking. There are also dozens of styles to select from, such as:

  • Goju-ryu karate
  • Kyokushin karate
  • Shotokan karate
  • Shito-ryu karate
  • Kenpo 

Most of these styles originated in Japan or Okinawa, though there are American offshoots.

Is Karate Right for Me?

Karate may further suit you if:

  • You want to learn a style that has practical applications in a street/self-defense scenario
  • You want to learn a style that’s mainstream
  • You want to learn a style that’s steeped in tradition and culture

Reasons Karate May Not Be Right for You

Karate may not be right for you if you have little interest in the practice of katas. So, what are katas? Katas are essentially a pattern of movements involving punching, kicking, and blocking. It’s done with careful attention to detail and strict form. It’s also a hallmark in demonstrations. Most karate styles have around 10 or 12 katas, ordered according to their difficulty.

Most karate schools will spend at least some time each class practicing katas. Those who are solely interested in the self-defense and hand-to-hand combat aspects of karate may find katas unappealing and even a waste of time.

Related Karate Questions

How Long Does It Take to Get Promoted to a Black Belt?

Most students who are consistent in their training earn their black belt in four to five years. Promotions, though, are at the sensei’s discretion and evaluation of your progress.

How Often Will I Practice Sparring?

Sparring is often reserved for the final 15 to 20 minutes of each class. The rest of class consists of drills, hitting pads, and practicing katas.

Is Sparring Full Contact?

Most schools practice no-contact sparring. The goal is to get the point by having the punch or kick make contact with your opponent’s body, then pull back. However, when strikes are being thrown back and forth, you will get hit sometimes with harder-than-intended force. Some styles, such as Kyokushin karate, may involve full contact sparring.

Which Karate Style Should I Take?

For many students, the style they choose actually comes down to whatever style is available in their local area. With that in mind, some of the popular karate styles include Kyokushin karate, made popular by famed former MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre, and Goju-ryu karate, the style Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid.

Most styles also have very similar fundamentals. There is little variation in the basic punches, kicks, and blocks. The main differences tend to lie in the style of katas practiced. 

Jiu-Jitsu

Learn jiu-jitsu if you want a style that is proven effective against larger opponents. Jiu-jitsu works because it gets your attacker to the ground where you can maintain a dominant position and nullify the opponent’s primary weapons of attack. You can also completely make the attacker a non-threat by rendering him unconscious or immobile via chokehold or joint lock technique. This can be done without causing serious harm to the person, which can prevent you from getting into legal trouble.

Is Jiu-jitsu Right for Me?

Jiu-Jitsu may further suit you if:

  • You’re also learning other grappling styles, such as wrestling or judo, and wish to add submissions to your overall game.
  • You’re interested in competitions, either in jiu-jitsu or a transition to MMA
  • You’re a smaller person and wish to learn a style that may compensate for your petite frame.

Reasons Jiu-jitsu May Not Be Right for You

Jiu-jitsu may not be right for you if you prefer striking-based martial arts. Some people are just more motivated doing training that involves donning gloves, hitting pads, and sparring. 

Related Jiu-jitsu Questions

How Effective Is Jiu-jitsu in a street fight?

Jiu-jitsu is effective for incapacitating an individual, armed or unarmed, and rendering him incapable of using his weapons effectively against you. However, like any style, jiu-jitsu’s efficacy on the streets is not guaranteed.

Is Competing Required for Promotion?

Some schools may require students to compete and achieve a certain placement to get promoted at a higher level. In most cases, competition isn’t required to get promoted from white to blue, or blue to purple belt.

How Can I Practice Jiu-jitsu at Home Without a Partner? 

You can practice drills and movements that are conducive in jiu-jitsu, such as shrimping and flow rolling. Investing in a training dummy will also expand the way you can train at home.

Taekwondo

Learn taekwondo if you enjoy a kick-heavy style of combat. With regards to striking styles, taekwondo is probably the most prevalent martial art next to karate.

Is Taekwondo Right for Me?

Taekwondo may further suit you if:

  • You have a lot of flexibility in your lower limbs
  • You’re interested in participating in awe-inducing demonstrations
  • You’re more interested in the sports aspects of martial arts rather than the self-defense aspect

Reasons Taekwondo May Not Be Right for You

If self-defense is your primary reason for learning martial arts, then taekwondo likely isn’t the best option. The truth is that moves like the axe kick and spinning roundhouse kick – while visually nice to look at – aren’t the most practical in an actual combat scenario. 

Related Taekwondo Questions

How Much Do I Need to Stretch?

Most schools will begin class with stretching. This can make up anywhere from five minutes to the first half-hour of class.

Do I Have to Be Flexible?

Some flexibility is required, though anyone can perform the fundamental kicks and other moves with a little stretching. It’s okay if you’re unable to kick past your torso level.

Judo

Go with judo if you prefer an alternative to wrestle that’s more upper-body-based. Unlike wrestling and jiu-jitsu, judo doesn’t emphasize single or double-leg takedowns or the high crotch. Takedowns and throws are initiated by engaging the opponent’s upper body or employing sweeps.

Is Judo Right for Me?

Judo may further suit you if:

  • You’re inspired by high-profile judo-turned-MMA practitioners, such as Rhonda Rousey and Kayla Harrison
  • You have knee injuries that may prevent you from initiating leg-based takedowns
  • You feel like a natural at using momentum and leverage to get your opponent to the floor

Reasons Judo May Not Be Right for You

Judo may not be best for you if you prefer striking or a grappling style that incorporates submissions. While judo can certainly be effective for self-defense, the style is practiced in a gi, and most throws involve grabbing the opponent’s gi or your own in some capacity. It goes without saying that an attacker on the streets is probably not going to have on a gi.

Related Judo Questions

Can I Really Take Down a Much Larger Opponent?

With the right leverage and momentum, it’s possible to take down a far larger attacker. However, successfully doing so comes down to your experience and how often you drill the techniques.

Should I Learn Judo or Jiu-jitsu?

Choose the grappling style you think is more suitable for you. There is no right or wrong answer. Some judo schools may also incorporate some jiu-jitsu into their training and vice versa. 

Boxing

Boxing is great for anyone who prefers becoming adept at mastering the use of their hands as weapons. The great thing is that boxing training also emphasizes heavily on conditioning, so not only will you learn a time-tested form of hand-to-hand combat but also get into really good shape doing so.

Is Boxing Right for Me?

Boxing may further suit you if:

  • You look up to boxing legends like Muhammed Ali, Manny Pacquaio, or modern greats like Saul Canelo Alvarez
  • You prefer to become really good at using one weapon (your hands) rather than learning other techniques like kicks and grappling.

Reasons Boxing May Not Be Right for You

Boxing may not be the best if you want to maximize your arsenal of weapons. Boxing does have a reputation for being one-dimensional since you’re leaving out kicks, elbows, knees, and submission holds. Furthermore, sparring can be intensive and may not be right for those squeamish about getting rocked or having the wind knocked out of them.

Related Boxing Questions

Is Boxing a Martial Art?

Martial arts essentially refer to any form of hand-to-hand combat or weaponless self-defense. Boxing, therefore, is a martial art.

What if I Lack Punching Power?

You don’t need massive punching power to be a good boxer. It’s more important to focus on other variables, such as speed, combinations, timing, and countering.

How often Should I Run to Build My Conditioning?

Your instructor may provide a running plan based on your current fitness level. There are also other conditioning drills you can do in tandem or as an alternative to running. This includes jump-roping, shadow boxing, HIIT training, etc. 

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Learn MMA if you want to be a well-balanced fighter, both on the streets or as a competitor in the cage. MMA involves a mix of the most proven effective styles, mainly jiu-jitsu, wrestling, boxing, and muay Thai.

Is MMA Right for Me?

MMA may further suit you if:

  • You’re an avid fan of professional MMA
  • You have an equal interest in striking and grappling
  • You have an interest in competition, either as a professional or amateur

Reasons MMA May Not Be Right for You

MMA is not suitable if the intensive pace may be too much for you to keep up. With MMA, training sessions move rapidly and may transition between sparring, hitting pads, and grappling. Some sessions may push you to your physical limit, making it suitable only for the most gung-ho practitioners. 

Related MMA Questions

Is MMA Only for People Who Want to Compete?

People learn MMA for reasons beyond competing in a cage. Other reasons for getting involved in MMA includes: building self-confidence, losing weight, and having a community of like-minded individuals.

Can I Begin MMA Training in My 40s, 50s, or Older?

You can train MMA at any age. Most instructors will not push you pass what you can reasonably do at your age level. Your age may also dictate how far you can push during sparring, grappling, or your viability to compete in sports MMA.

Honorable Mentions

Wrestling

Wrestling is a great base for transitioning to MMA. It’s no coincidence some of the top modern MMA fighters have a strong wrestling base. If you can control your opponent, you control the fight. Wrestling is terrific for younger people to get into especially when they’re in their teens. A few drawbacks are that there aren’t a whole lot of wrestling schools. Injuries are also common especially to the knees.

Muay Thai/kickboxing

Muay Thai is extremely effective and involves all of your limbs for use as weapons. You’ll also learn diverse modes of attacks, such as leg kicks and knees in the clinch. As in boxing, this may not be right for you if you’re squeamish about hard sparring and taking shots to the head and body.

Aikido

Aikido is great for anyone wanting a dojo to train and build camaraderie. However, the plain truth is that aikido, while it looks nice in demonstrations, is unlikely to work effectively against an attacker resisting 100%. There’s nothing wrong with training aikido; just have realistic expectations about its efficacy on the streets.

Summing It Up

Here’s the bottom line: there’s no one martial arts that’s right for everyone. Everyone has their own preferences and motivations for learning. Whichever style you choose, just be sure you enjoy it, and the training environment motivates you enough to stick to it long-term. 

Origin fighter

Origin Fighter is a blog for athletes and fitness enthusiasts to learn about Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, Wrestling, Boxing, Health & Nutrition, Performance and more. Origin Fighter also provides information on how to train smarter with resources such as workout plans and diets tailored for your goals.

About the Author

I am a tech nerd and love learning about new topics. In my spare time I enjoy learning and training in different martial arts. I also like learning about how to optimize my health and productivity. This blog is a resource to try and provide info about my learnings along the way. Learn More

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