Choosing what Martial Art to take can be a daunting task, especially if you have never taken a class. The wide selections of karate styles that are available make this choice even worse. How do you determine if it is right for me or not: Can I do it? Will I get hurt? Will I be laughed at? HELP! Ok, it really isn't that bad, but you can see where the confusion & anxiety start. Now only if they had a martial art that would use your shaking knees, you would be a black belt already. Hey, I'm thinking here: Kneejitsu. Sorry couldn't help myself. Let's make choosing the right Martial Art a little easier.

The only need you will have it the open mind and sense of adventure to go out and test drive the styles that appeal to you.

The first thing you need to do when trying to find any answer is by asking questions, so ask yourself a few questions. How physical am I? This sounds like a stupid question, but as you will see, the different styles have 2 distinct groupings: hard or soft. Do you enjoy fast action competition? Or do you like precise movements that rely on proper technique to be effective?

Comparison of the Martial Art Styles.

Hard styles use force against force. So you need to be faster or stronger in order to succeed in this martial art. If someone throws a punch you need to be able to hit them first or harder. Soft styles use your opponents force against themselves. These styles have a fluid motion to them and usually large sweeping motions. Here is a quick break them down into by their styles with some of the common names that you may recognize.

Martial Arts that fall into the hard style category include Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing, Karate, and Kung Fu to name a few. This is far from an all inclusive list. These are high energy with emphasis on kicking and punching. They hold frequent tournaments which can also be used for rank testing. Widely recognized through TV, movies and the like have made these styles very well known and many places to practice. The Summer Olympics even features Tae Kwon Do as an event. These forms will help you build discipline, speed, strength, agility, and flexibility. Overall it is a great way to get into shape and protect yourself.

Martial Arts in the Soft styles include Aikido, Hapkido, Judo and Jujutsu. Again, these are more of the mainstream Soft Style Martial Arts that you will find out there. You subdue your opponent though various throws, pressure points, and joint locks. Make no mistake about it, these are just as physical and you get a great workout from them. The first difference you will notice about these styles are the fluid almost dance like movements. You learn agility, flexibility, and speed where you will use your opponent's power and speed against them. In contrast to Tae Kwon Do, instead of punching back as fast and hard as you can, you would step out of the way and place your opponent into an arm lock causing extreme pain. Locking your opponents arm does not take a great amount of strength, just good technique. This makes it a great style for the majority of people looking to get into martial arts. Soft Styles are usually defensive in nature making them a great place to start out or for parents looking for a kid friendly Martial Art.

Now that you know a little about what Style of Martial Art you would like to try, I'll give you the most important part of picking which one to go with. The Master makes all the difference in the world. He should have a complete knowledge of the art form, and many years of experience, and complete dedication his student's safety, education, and advancement. You must find a Master that you like and agree with their philosophy toward learning. Your Master should respect you, yet you are still the student and that respect should be shown back also.

When trying to finally decide what Martial Art to study, make sure you visit each Dojo (gym or training place) and take at least one class from each. Every good place will have demo or sample classes you can attend to get the feel for the style before you spend your money. As always, ask questions…

When choosing a Martial Art, always research the Master and school you are looking to join.

Photo Credit - Greg Livaudais