If you’re ready to study the martial arts, you have lots of choices. There are many traditional styles out there to choose from. If you choose a traditional martial art, you study one style where the techniques are taught in their original form. These arts are typically rooted in ancient traditions and include styles like Tae Kwon Do, Wing Chun Kung Fu, Aikido, Judo or Shotokan Karate.
An eclectic martial art is a combination of several traditional martial arts. Some eclectic styles include body conditioning and even some military combat techniques. The main focus is not to study an art, but rather to learn practical self-defense.
As someone who has studied both, I can offer you one piece of very valuable advice. The first factor you should consider in making your choice is to find an instructor places a big emphasis on the basics.
Unfortunately, many consumers of martial art services are more concerned with quantity rather than quality. A common complaint is that “we haven’t learned anything new!” At the end of the day, it is a mastery of the basics that will create a strong foundation.
Whether you decide to study a traditional or eclectic style, the first thing you’ll have to learn is how to control your body. You have to learn how to properly kick, punch, block, evade and fall so you don’t get hurt too much. The only way to get good at the basics is to practice them over and over again. They must become automatic, so that in a self-defense situation, you don’t even have to think.
Many critics of the traditional arts say that the eclectic styles are best if your goal is to learn self-defense. I disagree. Both traditional and eclectic styles teach you how to defend yourself. If you study either one diligently, at a good and reputable school, you will learn self-defense. This is not the issue. Training for self-defense is not the same as training to get into the ring. In a self-defense situation, you want to do the most damage in a short time and then look for a quick way out.
If fitness is your goal, either an eclectic or traditional style will provide you with plenty or opportunities to improve physically. The secret is to attend class consistently.
Another factor to consider is whether has the personality that would enjoy studying an ancient art and all of its ethical and philosophical roots. This may include some form of meditation. Some people want to stay clear of this type of training while others embrace it. If you wish to dispense with tradition, uniforms, foreign languages and philosophy, you’re better off with an eclectic style. Remember, you don’t have to study the art of ballet if you just want to dance!