Firstly, you should never under-estimate the effect that movies and television have had on your perception of the martial arts, and what they achieve.
Secondly, martial arts are like flavours of ice-cream... there are 21 different flavours... with each one offering a different taste experience.
Thirdly, if you can understand what you're actually looking for at an unconscious level, you won't waste time and money walking a path that won't take you where you actually want go at this particular point in your life.
But let me start with a story that might clarify those three basic points :
Some time ago I had a young man come along to watch one of my Ninjutsu classes. I present a reality-based expression of traditional strategies and tactics, however my training program does include a range of traditional weapons.
When I asked him what he was looking for from a martial art experience, he immediately answered "Japanese sword." I was actually presenting the basics of a traditional sword scroll in that class (which made his eyes light up)... but I quickly pointed out that we also study stick, knife, and a few other other more exotic Japanese weapons.
I suggested that he watch the class, and while he did, maybe he could think about what it was that he wanted and didn't want from a martial art.... just make a mental list of the important points.
At the end of class, and to my surprise, he said to me "I actually know what I want now!"
He explained his short list of wants and don't-wants, and when he finished I responded by asking him "And if you found an art or school that offered you all that, how would it make you feel?... what would it do for your life?"
He lowered his head in thought, paused for a moment, then looked at me and said in a knowing tone of voice "It would give me inner peace!"
"Congratulations" I said. "Now you know something that many experienced martial artists don't know about themselves. You know what you're unconsciously seeking from a martial art."
At that point I recommended that he not undertake the study of Ninjutsu... simply because his unconscious perception for achieving inner peace rested solely on the study of Japanese sword. Instead I suggested that he go and have a look at an Iaido school (sword drawing and cutting), or a Tameshigiri group (test-cutting with a live blade).
I could tell by the look on his face that he was surprised that I wasn't going to accept him as a student... but he agreed that it felt like the right thing to do.
So I wished him luck on his Musha Shugyo (warrior quest), and shook his hand. And as he walked away I could see that he was very pleased with his new realisation.
So there you have it... a simple way to understand what you're unconsciously looking for from a martial art experience. All you have to do is 3 things :
- first, make a short list of the things you want in the training program
- then make a short list of the things you don't want in the training program
- and finally, ask yourself this question "If I was to find an art or school that gave me everything I wanted, how would it make me feel? What would it do for my life?
To help you start on your list, here are few examples of what some people want and don't want from a martial art experience :
- some people want meditation... some don't
- some want weapons training... some don't
- some want tradition... some want street... some want both
- some want tournament... and some want a meaningful philosophical aspect
- some want an art that complements their career in security, police, or the military.
Finally, keep in mind that all martial arts will give you a self-defence capability of some description. But they are not all the same. I feel that this is important to point out, because most people believe that any martial arts training will make them effective in every kind of confrontation.
But that isn't the case... so you should choose an art that deals with the kind of confrontation you're expecting to come up against. The three basic ranges are as follows :
- close quarter *(grappling attack)
- medium range *(punching attack)
- long range *(kicking or weapon attack).
Here's a brief description of some of the more popular arts, and the ranges they specialise in :
- Judo focuses on close quarter grappling... and Brazilian Jujitsu on ground grappling
- Wing Chun and Tong Long focus on close and medium range (entrapping and striking)
- choose an art or two that might suit your self-defence concerns *(ranges)
- next, make a short list of the things you want and don't want in the training program
- then calm your mind and ask yourself "If I was to find an art or school that gave me everything I wanted, how would it make me feel? What would it do for my life?
It's just a light meditation... one that feels more like a day-dream... but the insight will be there!