March 19, 2008

Types of Martial Arts Schools

What type of martial arts school are you looking for?
There are a number of different categories that a school may fall into.

Traditional Schools - Main emphasis is to preserve culture and heritage. These schools seek to embody the roots from which they came, and often have a very ethnic flair to them (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Greek, etc). they tend to be very systematic in their approach to training, utilize curriculum, and tend to maintain a very conservative approach to change. Usually the curriculum is based on ancient strategies / needs with varying degrees of relevance for contemporary times.
Strength: Consistency
Weakness: Relevance

Family / Children's Schools - This type of school emphasizes character and values with the desire to develop discipline and confidence. A family school can use just about any "style" of martial arts to produce these results. The instructors are usually very positive and upbeat personalities.
Strength: Character & Teamwork
Weakness: Watered down to accommodate everyone

Competition Schools - This type of school is geared for competitive events. The main martial sports are Judo, Tae Kwon Do, MMA, Boxing, or Wrestling. These have potential for Olympics or professional competition, and they are usually very focused on preparing for that sport.
Strength: Tried and tested athletes
Weakness: Bound by rules of sport

Fitness Schools - These schools usually have a simple curriculum, and easy to learn movements. This allows them to focus on the exercise and fitness aspects of training. They usually offer a full body workout which includes flexibility, cardiovascular, and muscular development. Fast paced classes make for an intense calorie burning workout.
Strength: Health, Fitness, and Weight Loss
Weakness: Lack of depth for long term motivation

Self-Defense Schools - Committed to the essence of Martial Arts (learning to survive a physical encounter). Usually has a simple straightforward approach to contemporary self defense situations. They are less rigid and are always adapting and changing to meet the current needs. They usually address all aspects of combat while keeping it simple enough to learn quickly.
Strength: Practical Self-Defense
Weakness: I don't know, I'm biased :-)

Show/Performance Schools - These schools represent the theatrical style that is suited for demonstrations, movies, and performance competition. The utilize acrobatics, gymnastics, and stunt training to produce a form of martial arts that is exceptionally appealing to the senses. Similar to skateboarding and other X-Games they are always trying to develop the next "move" or "trick".
Strength: Excitement & Athleticism
Weakness: More "art" than "martial"

Every school must prioritize their goals, and each program needs to choose which categories it will focus on. Many schools combine a few categories in different ratios.

The mix I aim for in my school is 1/2 Fitness, 1/2 Self Defense

I like practicality, and I am not so much interested in tradition, or performance. I appreciate the character building aspects, but since my classes are mostly older adults, I look for people who already have some character. I used to be into competition, but as I get older I really don't care about it as much as I used to.


#1 Safety - People CAN'T train if they get hurt, and injury is counter productive.

#2 Enjoyment - People WON'T train if they are not enjoying the process.

#3 Fitness - Because more people in America die from being FAT than from assaults. As a culture there is a need for purposeful exercise that is enjoyable enough to stick with. Plus, fitness increases your ability to enjoy life and be productive.

#4 Self Defense - Because it is a skill set that is relevant for any age, and it addresses the nature of conflict, which like it or not is a very real part of life in this world. Plus, if you're going to study martial arts, it's nice to know that what your studying is effective in the real world.

A Quick note on Choosing a School

1) Find a school that aligns with your purposes and goals. Beware of people who "offer it all"

2) Don't worry about choosing a "style" because a kick is a kick and a punch is a punch. Rather, look for an instructor who you would enjoy training with.
A good teacher makes ALL the difference.
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