So you know you want to do martial arts- perhaps you would like a new way to get fit; maybe you want to learn to look after yourself; or possibly you just need a new hobby; but which martial art should you choose?
The seemingly endless array of combat sports can make it hard to know which one you should take up. How does age affect your choice? Time? Fitness levels? What if you want to learn self-defense but are not bothered about getting in shape? All these factors and more have to be taken into consideration.
Having said that, it’s important to remember that doing ANY martial art is better for your body, mind, and health than doing none.
But that doesn’t mean there might be some which are better suited to your situation. Read on to find out which martial art is right for you.
Pros: Relatively Easy To Learn Great Foundation For Moving On To Other Martial Arts Great For Fitness Good For Self-Defense
Cons: Depending On The Gym, It May Involve Contact Sparring One-Dimensional
Choose If You Are: Looking for a simple combat sport Looking to get fit Looking for a way to relieve stress
The most popular combat sport of them all, boxing has many pros and few cons.
Arguably the least complex martial art, you can go from beginner to a relatively competent boxer in the space of a few months. And you can guarantee that you’ll leave any boxing class dripping of sweat making it a great weight-loss solution while there are few things as therapeutic as smashing a punch bag.
Boxing is obviously a contact sport, and unfortunately some old-fashioned boxing gyms still do not look kindly on participants who do not wish to engage in contact sparring (Note, if you ever train at a gym with this attitude LEAVE. No gym worth your time will force you to spar).
And after transitioning to other martial arts, many people comment that they now find boxing boring and one-dimensional as they’re limited to punches only.
Boxing is a great choice if you’re looking for a tough workout that will get you in shape and help you forget about the world for a couple of hours without making you think too hard.
Pros: Great For Self-Defense Good Mental Workout No Head Contact/ High-Impact Sparring
Cons: Limited Strength & Conditioning Work Difficult To Learn
Choose If You Are: Looking to learn self-defense Looking for a martial art that challenges you mentally as well as physically Looking to avoid head contact and sparring
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, is a grappling and ground-based combat sport where the aim is to control and eventually submit your opponent. This makes it an excellent choice if you’d like to learn to look after yourself (90% of street fights end up on the ground).
BJJ doesn’t just have physical benefits; the vast array of complex submissions, moves, and positions turns it into a real-life game of chess as you workout how to gain the upper-hand on your opponent.
The graded belt system also gives you something to aim for, and the desire to improve your belt ranking can quickly become a new obsession.
Being such a complex sport, it does have the caveat that it is difficult to learn. BJJ practitioners often remark that you will have to train for at least 6 months before your learning starts to come together.
And compared to other martial arts, the strength and conditioning in BJJ is not as strong as, for example, Muay Thai.
If self-defense is your main priority, then BJJ comes highly recommended.
Pros: Great For Self-Defense Great For Fitness Relatively Easy To Learn
Cons: Relatively High Levels of Contact
Choose If You Are: Looking to learn self-defense Looking to get fit Bored of boxing
Muay Thai translates into English as “Thai Boxing.” Also known as the Art of the 8 Limbs, Muay Thai involves punches, kicks, knees, and elbows, and is a stand-up only martial art (no ground work). The use of all parts of the body lends itself to countless combinations and makes it great for self-defense.
With advantages similar to boxing, Muay Thai is an intense full-body workout sure to have you sweating buckets. Relatively easy to learn, you can become competent in Muay Thai within 6 months.
Unless you take out personal training sessions, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid some form of contact in a Muay Thai class.
While no responsible Muay Thai coach will make you spar, you will be holding pads for your partner and this means taking punches, knees, kicks, and elbows on the pads. The pads prevent any pain or injury, but something to be aware of if you are completely anti-contact.
Muay Thai is a good choice if self-defense or fitness is your goal and you want to learn quickly.
Pros: Relatively Easy To Learn Good For Fitness Good Foundation For Moving On To Other Martial Arts
Cons: Relatively High Levels Of Contact
Choose If You Are: Looking to eventually start MMA Looking for a full-body workout
A martial art which dates back thousands of years, wrestling is a test of strength, wit, and technique as you attempt to pin your opponent to the ground.
Strength and cardio are equally important in wrestling, making it an intense workout which works every muscle in your body. Compared to MMA and BJJ, wrestling is much easier to get to grips with and it won’t take you too long to get the hang of things.
As evidenced by Daniel Cormier and Khabib Nurmagomedov, a strong wrestling game is an excellent base from which you can progress on to MMA.
The nature of the sport means that contact is inevitable, and while you will be coached how to manage your falls, the occasional bruise and bump can’t be avoided.
If you’re looking for both a cardio and strength workout, or you’re looking for a starting point to learn MMA, you can’t go wrong with wrestling.
Pros: Great For Fitness Great For Self-Defense Good Mental Workout
Cons: Difficult To Learn Relatively High Levels Of Contact
Choose If You Are: Looking to learn self-defense Looking to get fit Bored of other martial arts
MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, is a combination of all the above combat sports. Popularized by the UFC and Conor McGregor, MMA participation has exploded in recent years and it now claims to be the fastest growing sport in the world.
As a combination of all martial arts, MMA is naturally an exhausting workout, both physically and mentally as you try to piece together the various combat sports and outsmart your opponent.
Arguably the ultimate self-defense martial art, by learning MMA you can be confident you can look after yourself both on the ground and on your feet.
It will come as no surprise that MMA is difficult to learn, so don’t expect to become good at MMA unless you’re prepared to put in at least 3 hours a week.
If self-defense is your main concern, and you’re willing to be dedicated, MMA is the best option. Or, if you’ve been training other martial arts and find they don’t push you hard enough, MMA is a natural step.
This by no means exhaustive list of martial arts will hopefully give you a better idea of which you should choose. From boxing to MMA, there's no shortage of combat sports to choose from.
But don’t sweat your decision too much, it’s very easy to change combat sport and most people give several a try before settling on the one they like most.
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