We’ve been covering specific martial arts, like last week’s McBryde Guide to Karate, now we’re delving into this category as a whole.
Martial arts are combat practices, traditions that have a variety of purposes including competition, self defense, fitness, spiritual development, and mental/physical development. Such forms of combat are ancient arts, with evidence dating back 4,000 years or more in a variety of cultures.
Types of Martial Art
The martial arts can be categorized based upon their combat focus (unarmed, armed, weapon type), their intent (defense, sport, fitness), and whether they’re based in tradition or they’re recent creations. We’re going to focus on the combat-oriented arts this time around.
Weapon-based martial arts teach the student armed combat for different melee weapons and how to counter other armed attacks with your chosen weapon. Historical European martial arts tend to focus on weaponry, with several centuries of melee weapon development going on across the continent. Some forms of Chinese martial arts have a weapons component, and Japanese martial arts have extensive weapon styles that someone can train in.
Some weapon-based martial arts styles are: kenjutsu/kendo, kyudo, canne de combat, singlestick, eskrima, silat, and even modern fencing.
Unarmed martial arts have a striking focus, a grappling focus, or a hybrid of the two, with further concentration on specific types of strike or grappling. Boxing and Wing Chun focus on punching, while Capoeira, Taekwondo, and Savate are kick-based. Karate and Sanshou are further examples of strike-based martial art.
We’ve been talking about grappling-based martial arts over our previous articles. Wrestling and Judo employ both throwing and pinning techniques, while Hapkido is a combination of holds and throwing. Other hold-based martial arts are Jiu-jitsu, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and Aikido. Sumo wrestling is mainly throwing-based.
We could further break things down, but you probably get the idea.
Picking a Martial Art
There are so many different martial arts that you could specialize in, the difficulty comes in deciding which one to go for.
In many cases, it depends entirely upon what’s available in your area. For a small town, that could be not a damn thing – or maybe karate. If you’re close to a decent-sized town, you’ll have more options open to you.
The other factors to consider are whether or not you want to pick up something that’s weapon-based or unarmed, how intensive you want your regimen to be, and how much money you’re able or willing to invest. If your budget is low, weapon-based arts may not be for you, or you may want to stay away from the competitive arena.
If you have specific traditions that you’ve always admired, such as Tae Kwon Do, your best bet is to give that a try. Your gut instinct is usually right – you’ll either find that your reasons for admiring that particular art were right, or you’ll decide it isn’t for you and move on. You don’t have to go with Asian martial arts if they aren’t your style, either, as there are plenty of other options. Capoeria, for example, is Brazilian and combines a music, acrobatics, and dance. You can also give boxing or wrestling a shot. Both are common, and both are fairly accessible.
There’s really no secret to picking a martial art to try. Really, it’s up to you, and requires some research on your part. Look up videos of the different martial arts that might catch your attention, talk to instructors, and get in touch with other students to see what they think.
The Art of Judo
When Dr. Jigoro Kano created the martial art of Judo, he probably never imagined it might one day become an Olympic sport. The entire point of this sport is its competitive element, where the objective is to throw an opponent to the ground and subdue them. In fact, this competitive portion is part of the draw of Judo.
Pre-arranged forms of strikes made by the hands and feet are part of judo, as are defences with weapons, but they aren’t allowed in competition or in the free-practice portion.
Even from the beginning of the sport, contest was important. The first Judo tournaments started two years after Judo was founded and continue today; the founder was even asked to become chair of a committee for creating the first jujutsu contest rules, which were meant to also cover Judo contests. Each contest was meant to be fifteen minutes long and were to be judged based on throwing and grappling techniques. If the opponent is thrown onto the judo mat and lands on their back with sufficient force – striking flat – and are pinned for an appropriate amount of time, they lose. If they are forced to submit, that counts, too.
When Kano, the sport’s founder, demonstrated judo at the Olympic Games in 1932, he wasn’t too keen on the idea of judo becoming part of the Olympics. He felt that judo was not simply a sport, it was a principle of life, of art, and of science, as well as a means for cultural attainment.
Even so, judo joined the Olympics in 1964, was dropped in 1968, then brought back on board in the next set. The first winner of the Olympic gold in judo? A Dutchman named Anton Geesink!
It took nearly twenty years for the women’s division to be introduced, and it arrived on the scene in 1992.
In private practice, judo hasn’t deviated much from Kano’s initial vision, which was of a martial art that could be practised in a realistic way. Free practice was the central portion of judo’s teaching theory at the time, while competition was to be the practitioner’s test of their understanding of what they’d learned. In order to keep judoka (practitioners) safe, it was necessary to limit striking techniques to those prearranged kata forms, and initial joint manipulation was limited to the elbow. Judoka also had to be trained in ukemi, or ‘break falls’, for safety during throws, and initially they practised on rice straw mats called tatami. Now there are a variety of judo mats available to help soften the impact from a throw and prevent injury, though many still use the traditional tatami.
Judo isn’t simply a sport, it’s an art, and it can be considered a philosophy. A way of life. You can make judo part of your life and practice at home, to lead toward a much healthier outlook and overall state of being.
Check out our range of judo mats in our online store, and if you don’t see what you’re looking for, visit our ‘contact us‘ page and we can help you find it.
Why Get Into Martial Arts?
Everybody has different reasons for getting into the martial arts. For some, it’s a spiritual pursuit, getting them more in touch with their inner selves or with spirit, or the divine. For others, martial arts are a purely fitness-related thing, where the student works on improving their physical health.
Martial arts are an excellent focusing tool. Going through different moves, learning techniques, and practicing requires you to concentrate on what you’re doing. If you’re not particularly good at focusing on at ask, this is a great way to develop that skill – and focus is important for a lot of things in our daily lives and at work. They help you develop a sense of discipline, too, as you have to practice what you’re learning in order to improve – and if you want to keep improving, you have to keep learning and attending your training.
Another major reason to get into martial arts is that it can teach you how to defend yourself in a dangerous situation. For most people, this won’t be something worth worrying about, but if you live in a sketchy area or if you’re just overall concerned about this sort of thing, well, why not? Give it a go.
What Do You Need to Get Into Martial Arts?
That depends on the martial art. For some, like MMA, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and maybe boxing, combat sports wrestling accessories like singlets and headgear would probably be a good idea. Especially mouthpieces and other protective gear. Weapons-based martial arts will require the weapon that your technique is teaching, while other arts have their own specific uniforms.
It doesn’t hurt to have a special area in your home where you can practice, that has proper padding available, weights, a punching or kick bag, and whatever other training gear you feel would be beneficial. One of the keys to making it in the martial arts is frequent practice!
Remember, if your gym is lacking in equipment, you can always get a quote from us for some great mats.
How to Get Involved
Check your local gym listings, Google, clubs, schools, and even recreation centers for information on classes and training opportunities. The library and the internet are good sources of general information on your art of choice.
Next, take a look at The McBryde Guide to Cheerleading.