Wow 1000 posts! I spend WAAAY too much time posting here.

I think for this post I will outline my advice to beginners in MA, the ones who may read but feel too shy to post here.

Studying martial arts is a fulfilling and challenging experience which I would reccommend for anyone of any fitness and age group. Martial arts training can span a lifetime, going from learning to teaching and exploring philosophy and theory. In my experience martial arts have built my character as a person and have taught me many valuable lessons which have helped me in daily life. If you are even slightly inclined to considering studying the martial arts, my advice would be to go for it.

Although there is much popularity given to martial arts today, there is also a large amount of misinformation too. Martial arts do not work like in the movies but they do provide tools which the average person can use to defend themselves, if used properly. Martial arts do not generally have connections to religion, so don't be put off by that thought. Customs in martial arts, such as bowing and wearing funny clothes , are done to show respect for teachers and other students and to preserve the heritage of crafts which may be many hundreds of years old.

Martial arts are inherently linked to fighting, however, most martial artists I have met will avoid fighting unless it cannot be avoided. The same cannot be said for many untrained people who feel the need to "prove themselves" and do not have the self confidence which martial arts can give to someone. Martial arts use simple principles of physics and anatomy to improve our ability to fight, restrain people and defend ourselves. These are not the only benefits to be gained from martial arts training, others include:
- Fitness and agility
- Self confidence/respect
- Self control
- Better awareness of our surroundings
- Being part of a friendly community
- And many more

If you are interested in starting martial arts training, the best way to do this is to seek a qualified instructor and learn first hand. Learning from books and DVDs is not a good idea for a beginner, the same as you would not try to learn how to drive a car just by reading a book on it (without ever stepping into a car). The best way to go about finding a school is to look in the local yellow pages under "Martial Arts" and do a search on for martial arts in your area. It helps to show some initiative by doing the above before posting on the forum, you will get a better response if you do. Also, please use the search function to find the answer to your questions before posting a thread here, many people have probably encountered the same queries as yourself before.

Let me say what everyone will tell you about choosing a martial art. No matter what you want to train for, there is no such thing as a "best" martial art. They are all different and good at what they train in.

In general, there are three groups of martial arts: striking arts, grappling arts and weapon arts. Each of these kinds of arts teach a different range of fighting. Striking arts focus on hitting the opponent with different parts of your body. Grappling arts teach how to throw, choke and lock various joints of an opponent. Weapon arts teach how to use and care for various weapons, ranging from sticks to bows and everything else in between. The best way to choose a school is to go there and ask about free introductory lessons, most schools will give you one or two lessons free to see whether you like the art. Ask the instructor as many questions as you can about the art to clear up any mystery or apprehension you have about the art.

Don't go to classes where abusive, restrictive or narrowminded behaviour occurs. Ask around for opinions of martial artists you know or at martial arts stores in the area. If you can't do that, ask on the forum, if you explain yourself you will get a friendly and helpful answer. Many schools are difficult to find and do not advertise much. Often such schools train in community centres or even in universities, if you look carefully you will find them in the darnedest places.

A word of warning, there are plenty of scams out there. If the instructor makes outrageous claims or if there is too much money spent on advertising, be wary. If the fees are outrageous or the school is understaffed (too many students for the teachers to handle) or it has very restrictive binding contracts, it may be a McDojo, and one to avoid. Ask around and research about the average price of martial arts training in your area to judge whether you are comfortable with a certain school's fees. Make sure to ask about additional costs, such as grading and uniform/equipment prices.

There are also a number of martial arts cults which can be avoided by asking the instructor plenty of questions and reading up on them. If you have any worries about a school, ask on the forum, many people here are qualified to advise you.

However, knowledge is power and you can weed out these types of schools with a little research.

Most of the time you will not have to prepare to begin a martial art, you will be taught from scratch in most schools you go to. Being fit does help though, as does doing your own research into the background behind martial arts.

For many people, training once or twice a week is all they can manage, which is perfectly fine. For others, they don't even consider training every day for several hours to be enough. Find a training schedule which you are comfortable with. Many people go on to make martial arts a part of their lives (I know it has been a big part of my life and always will be), it can be a guiding force in your life and can be a great release from the stress of daily life.

You do not necessarily have to fight to train in martial arts. In fact, if you don't want to in many countries it's your legal right to never have contact during training. Some people decide they want to go into full contact training and that's fine too. You should note that if you go into a grappling art, you will have to be put in close contact with a training partner and learn how to fall on the ground safely (which can be a little painful at first). In my opinion however, the benefits of being able to fall safely outweight the minor costs.

If you are seeking martial arts for self defense, search for a school which deals with it specifically. Usually these train in scenario work and teach issues other than just fighting, such as how to avoid danger and how to escape it. Similarly, if you want to train for sport or competition, find a school which trains for that. You will be more satisfied if you do find an appropriate school.

The most important thing is to find an art and a school which suits you.

I wish you all the best with your training whatever you choose and I hope that you will have as fulfilling and enlightening experience as I have had (and continue to have) with the martial arts.

Also take a look at these excellent articles on beginning martial arts:

Seeing as this is my 1000th post, I have tried to make it a meaningful one. I would like to request that a moderator/administrator please make this post into a sticky thread so that those people who are vaguely interested in the arts and read the forum but do not post may have some information which may help them in their pursuit of training.

Edited by Leo_E_49 (07/29/05 05:24 PM)
Self Defense
(Website by Marc MacYoung, not me)