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Pros/Cons of different martial arts?
Old 12-10-2008, 01:38 PM   #1
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Pros/Cons of different martial arts?

I'm beginning to think about signing our very active son up for a preschool martial arts class. Around here the Y and several dojos have classes for kids as young as 4, so this will be in 6 months or so. But I'm having a hard time differentiating between the different martial arts in terms of appropriateness for an active and sweet kid. I'm also curious myself -- is there a martial art out there that I'd enjoy participating in? So I figured I'd pick the brains of the folks here, since many of you have mentioned that you practice a martial art.

What are your opinions of the different martial arts (karate, kung-fu, aikido, taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, judo, etc.)? I'm looking for a healthy outlet for my kids (I think that if we try this with our son and it goes well, our daughter will also follow him), and possibly a good outlet for me. So I'm looking for an art that focuses on:

Impulse control
Physical activity (lots of movement would be good -- sitting for a long time would be bad)
Focus on conflict avoidance and resolution (we're not fans of aggressive, fight-oriented activities)
Self-confidence (no lack of that in this house, but we don't want our kids' confidence checked unnecessarily, either)
Meditation or self-calming, self-regulation.
Discipline (least important, our kids get plenty of that at home).

For me, an art that doesn't put a huge amount of stress on the body (I have a chronic knee injury and a chronic lower back injury that require adaptation when exercise or do yoga) would be a bonus. Anything that requires a lot of kicking, twisting, or jumping is not so great for me.

Finally, I realize that a lot of the experience in a martial art depends heavily upon the teachers at the school. My kids and I tend to do best with patient, gentle, consistent and firm instruction (think Mary Poppins) as opposed to aggressive, in-your-face motivation (a drill instructor, say). I'm wondering if different martial arts draw different types.

Thanks in advance for your ideas!
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Old 12-10-2008, 02:15 PM   #2
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I don't have any experience in martial arts, but I did look into karate a few years ago. What turned me off was that the schools wanted you to sign up for a whole year of lessons. So what if I started and decided it was not for me? I understand why schools want the long-term commitments, but for someone unsure if it was for them, it't be nice to have some sort of month-to-month deal.
A plus I found is that the schools will let prospective students watch classes, so I'd recommend you do that. Just in the few I watched, one in particular was a drill-instructor in-your-face instructor and the others were more "nonaggressive". I'd recommend visiting a few with your son and just seeing which one is the best fit for him. It all depends on what you want. Good luck.
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Old 12-10-2008, 02:27 PM   #3
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I did martial arts until I moved out of the city in my mid thirties. Boston, Hollywood, West LA, and San Francisco. Shotokan Karate, Kung Fu, Joe Lewis style kick-boxing. Wherever there are young guys doing this stuff there are guys itching to see how tough they really are. So fom my POV, a non-agressive MA dojo is a pretty hard thing to find. I took classes in aikido with my wife in LA from a Japanese Master. This was fun, and non-agressive. Also while I was stil in high school I took sport judo from a retired Navy guy which was really fun. The class was full of competitive but non-hostile young guys, the coach was great, the padding was good and with decent training the sport is mostly non-lethal.

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Old 12-10-2008, 03:01 PM   #4
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I'll give it a try:

1. Karate (Japanese) focus their fighting technique using the hands.
2. Kungfu (Chinese) with many different fighting styles. They use hands in the south and legs in the north.
3. Taekwondo (Korean) mostly leg
4. Judo (Japanese) grappling. Their focus is to use opponent's strenght to their advantage. They focus on throwing techniques.
5. Jiu-Jitsu (Japanese) similar to Judo but they focus more on join locks and choking.

For you son, I recommend Judo. It's a defensive form of martial art.
For you, I recommend Taichi.

Good luck.
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Old 12-10-2008, 08:56 PM   #5
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I have some experience in Wu-shu, Tai Chi, and Aikido. Wu-shu is an ancient Kung-fu style art that doesn't involve fighting. It's stylistic, beautiful, almost a martial dance. I'm not sure if it would hold a child's interest, especially the boy. However, there's a bunch of weapons routines he might get into - sword, spear, bo, chains. It's pretty cool, wish I was young and flexible enough to do it again. I suspect your daughter might like it a lot. Most places that teach wu-shu also teach tai-chi, which would be great for you.
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Old 12-10-2008, 09:39 PM   #6
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Well, you know my bias but I'll offer my opinions too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Urchina View Post
I'm beginning to think about signing our very active son up for a preschool martial arts class. Around here the Y and several dojos have classes for kids as young as 4, so this will be in 6 months or so. But I'm having a hard time differentiating between the different martial arts in terms of appropriateness for an active and sweet kid.
At this age the martial art is irrelevant because over the next couple of years he might end up trying them all. Our kid couldn't go for more than six months at an activity before she'd see Big Bird or Barney doing something that she'd want to try. And then six months later we'd move on.

Our taekwondo instructor teaches kids as young as four years old, too, but he has a black-belt instructor for every four kids and the class is never bigger than eight students. Plenty of individual attention. The kids start out as bodies in perpetual motion, unable to even look you in the eye let alone stand still. But after a few months they're able to snap to attention, stand quietly for all the way up to 30 seconds (sometimes), execute a couple of different forms, and feel every bit as martial as Bruce Lee. I've also seen our instructor succeed with kids who are dealing with ADHD, Asperger's, and autism.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Urchina View Post
What are your opinions of the different martial arts (karate, kung-fu, aikido, taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, judo, etc.)? I'm looking for a healthy outlet for my kids (I think that if we try this with our son and it goes well, our daughter will also follow him), and possibly a good outlet for me. So I'm looking for an art that focuses on:
Impulse control
Physical activity (lots of movement would be good -- sitting for a long time would be bad)
Focus on conflict avoidance and resolution (we're not fans of aggressive, fight-oriented activities)
Self-confidence (no lack of that in this house, but we don't want our kids' confidence checked unnecessarily, either)
Meditation or self-calming, self-regulation.
Discipline (least important, our kids get plenty of that at home).
All martial arts are great with a good instructor, and they're all horrible with a not-so-good instructor.

Most instructors will satisfy all of your above points. Conflict avoidance is mainly telling the kids to walk away from a bad situation and find a grownup. They may be told not to use martial arts outside the dojang. We parents have observed an interesting effect when siblings take the class-- they fight less often. I don't know if it's because they can do real damage with their new skills or if it's because lapsing into martial arts distracts them from the argument, but the conflicts are much more verbal and much less physical.

It helps that when the instructor teaches a proper stance, the kid looks confident instead of like a victim. A good instructor, let alone a good martial arts instructor, will focus on what a kid is doing right (and congratulate/reward that) while ignoring what a kid isn't doing right. After a while the kids only do the "right" stuff. I highly recommend the book "Double Goal Coach" for these techniques. It gives the kids the vocabulary to describe their feelings, too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Urchina View Post
I'm also curious myself -- is there a martial art out there that I'd enjoy participating in?
For me, an art that doesn't put a huge amount of stress on the body (I have a chronic knee injury and a chronic lower back injury that require adaptation when exercise or do yoga) would be a bonus. Anything that requires a lot of kicking, twisting, or jumping is not so great for me.
Well, tai chi will get you started. And it's what you do when you're just about at your end. I'll be joining you when I reach my 70s, or possibly my 80s… if I have the short-term memory to handle the forms.

You may want to try kickboxing for its focus on strength, flexibility, & self-defense. Paddles & punching bags only, no sparring. It's a gateway drug to taekwondo but the kickboxing workouts are actually harder (more aerobic) because you're in constant motion. Taekwondo sparring is much more about anaerobic endurance.

If you're feeling competitive, judo and taekwondo are the only martial arts currently awarding medals at the Olympics. Both have strong professional & amateur national/international competition, both for adults (of all ages) and kids. IIRC karate is also an Olympic contender but I don't know their status.

I tore both my ACLs (one at a time) in three months of judo. Today I realize that my problem was lifting heavy opponents and then twisting my joints instead of using the opponent's momentum. The instructor's problem was that he didn't recognize my bad technique and (when I hurt my knees) he didn't realize what had happened. (I was two years into taekwondo before I sought a doctor for an MRI and a diagnosis.) But maybe you'll have better luck with judo. Stay on your toes and stay off your heels.

I've been told that aikido & hapkido are what you do when you're so old and creaky that you're unable to do anything else but tai chi. Lots of weapons and joint locks in Hawaii, both of which I'm reluctant to get involved with for fear of further injury.

I like taekwondo for its full-contact sparring. I especially like that my daughter has learned to take a wicked pounding (not from me-- teen girls are scary nasty vicious fighters) and still come back to succeed. I also like that she never hesitates to deliver a harsh head shot if I give her the slightest opportunity. Outside the dojang many assault victims are shocked into immobility by the first contact, and she's way past that issue. However if you prefer not to spar, a good taekwondo instructor will support your training all the way to black belt without it.

I've never tried other martial arts. One of our taekwondo black belts swears by escrima, but she's Filipina and she also really likes weapons.

I should point out that the purpose of a martial art is not to avoid aggravating your knee/back injuries but rather to strengthen those parts of your body. The instructors should understand your limits and work with you, not on you. Two years ago I was wearing orthopedic knee braces (and my knees still rattled around inside them), chugging 800 mg ibuprofen every eight hours for weeks, and unable to stand comfortably for more than an hour or two. I was also frequently pulling back/neck muscles. Between the classes and the occasional conditioning clinic I'm now fully mobile and my knees are actually free of pain. Jolie Bookspan helped too. I can do full squats & lunges and even run a few miles. I only wear orthopedic braces during open sparring and then only for life insurance-- my spouse would kill me if I got injured because I wasn't wearing them.

Here's our dojang's website: http://www.oahutaekwondo.com/ The owner took a Marshallese team to the Olympics this year and he'll be back again in 2012. And yes, I do spar those guys at the bottom of the page every week, but they take it slow & easy on us geezers. To them I'm just a mobile heavy punching bag…
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Old 12-10-2008, 10:54 PM   #7
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Quote:
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I've been told that aikido & hapkido are what you do when you're so old and creaky that you're unable to do anything else but tai chi. Lots of weapons and joint locks in Hawaii, both of which I'm reluctant to get involved with for fear of further injury.
Never learned any hapkido, but there's an awful lot of falling down and rolling around in aikido. It's a great art, and yes, it's good for older souls, but requires some flexibility. I'd need to work out for a while (yoga or tai chi) before I would risk it now that I'm creaky and out of shape. But our sensei when I took it was a lot older than I am now, and made it look very easy.
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:13 AM   #8
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Well, tai chi will get you started. And it's what you do when you're just about at your end. I'll be joining you when I reach my 70s, or possibly my 80s if I have the short-term memory to handle the forms..............

I've been told that aikido & hapkido are what you do when you're so old and creaky that you're unable to do anything else but tai chi. Lots of weapons and joint locks in Hawaii, both of which I'm reluctant to get involved with for fear of further injury.
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Never learned any hapkido, but there's an awful lot of falling down and rolling around in aikido. It's a great art, and yes, it's good for older souls, but requires some flexibility. I'd need to work out for a while (yoga or tai chi) before I would risk it now that I'm creaky and out of shape. But our sensei when I took it was a lot older than I am now, and made it look very easy.
I started in taekwondo when I was in my early 30's, but it was too much for my aging body.....way too many aches & pains for my taste. I switched over to hapkido, and loved it! Where taekwondo was more about using your force, inertia, and momentum against your opponent, hapkido was more about using your opponent's force, inertia, and momentum against them. Hapkido involved more throws and falls, and 'joint locks' or holds.....almost all of the kicks are from the waist down (few if any kicks over waist high). As for 'forms' or movements, taekwondo seemed a bit more rigid or structured, whereas hapkido was quite a bit less structured, and a bit more fluid and almost free-form.

For me hapkido was much less stressful to my aging, slightly out-of-shape body.....and caused me far fewer aches & pains. I also practiced some weaponry....especially favored the nunchucks for coordination and strengthening the arms and shoulders.

If you want to try something slow 'n' easy try taichi....you get a good workout, and it's easy to keep from straining various sensitive muscles and body parts. I 'tinkered' with it a little, and am considering doing it on a regular basis.
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Old 12-11-2008, 09:58 AM   #9
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I think 4 is really young for a person to start MA. Meditation for a little child? No. No, no, no, no no... not going to happen. Find some other activity the child can do to stay active, in my opinion. If your heart is set on it, look around. It hardly depends on style for a tot. You want a program geared towards little kids. Watch and see if it seems fun and safe.

For you, as I don't know you, couldn't say specifically. But as a long time martial arts instructor I'd give a general reply. Save yourself the effort and aggravation. Find something you like to do and do that. Whatever art you start, the chances of you still being involved in 6 months is just about nil. It's a not uncommon fantasy people have that just doesn't survive contact with reality. Sorry if this sounds too negative. Just my observation.
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Old 12-11-2008, 10:23 AM   #10
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My oldest son (9) has been taking karate for 3 and a half years. He has a mild case of ADD, and the karate has helped a ton. He now wears a red belt with a black stripe on it. He is involved in year round sports (baseball, basketball, and football), and those activites have helped his karate and vice versa.

His next belt graduation will bring him to brown. His goal is to have a black belt by age 11. I think he will continue because he likes it. There was no downside, except after the "trial period" of 6 months, we had to sign up for a longer term commitment.........
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Old 12-11-2008, 12:20 PM   #11
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I agree with Nords: at age 4, it doesn't matter which MA your son is in.

I did judo for a while. I broke my collarbone, and my tibia+fibula while sparring with much heavier opponents than me.

You can see a number of MA here:
AskMen.com - Top 10: Martial Arts
I hope you'll see one that you like.
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:21 PM   #12
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I'll agree with much of what has been said and add my 2 cents here.

The most important thing is to find a good school. The flavor of martial art matters much less in the first couple of years than being in a good school -- one that will build foundations for body movement, and one that won't get you hurt in the process.

That being said, martial arts can be divided into a few arbitrary groupings, though some might nitpick with my groupings, and it isn't an exhaustive list:

Striking arts: Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, Thai Kick boxing
Grappling arts: Judo, Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu
Blending arts: Aikido, Hapkido, Chin Na, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu
Weapons: Kendo, Kali/arnis/eskrima/silat

Of those, I feel that it is best to start with one of the primary striking arts: karate, TKD, or Kung Fu. Thai boxing is great, but there's a lot more emphasis on hitting and being hit.

The grappling arts can be brutal on the body -- I've had a number of injuries from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and those schools tend to attract the 18-30 year old guys who wrestled in high school. Judo isn't easy to pick up as a first discipline.

Aikido involves a lot of great controlled movement, but it also involves a lot of falling. You'd be taught how to fall and roll safely, so it can still be a very good first art. Hapkido technically contains all of Tae Kwon Do, but more often classes are more similar to Aikido (with strikes) than TKD. My school doesn't offer Hapkido to anyone who isn't at least a green belt in TKD.

I'm not a big fan of Kendo as something I'd like to learn. But the Filipino arts (kali/eskrima/silat) are awesome. Most of the time they'll be a lot less rough on the body, though getting smacked in the hands with a stick is no fun. If there's a decent school of that sort in your area, it might be worth a look-see. The techniques are designed to work with stick/sword/knife/open hand, so it is a very flexible system. If I had time, that's the one I'd add to my TKD, Hapkido, and BJJ training.
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:27 PM   #13
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Oh, and as an addendum, for a 4-year-old, Karate, TKD and Kung Fu are still the best choices. Any of the others will be too complex for them to do well and safely.

I was trying to teach a 9-year-old how to do a soft roll last night, at which I failed miserably... :-)
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Old 12-11-2008, 01:41 PM   #14
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Oh, and as an addendum, for a 4-year-old, Karate, TKD and Kung Fu are still the best choices. Any of the others will be too complex for them to do well and safely.

I was trying to teach a 9-year-old how to do a soft roll last night, at which I failed miserably... :-)
I know from personal experience that a bo can hurt.........

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Old 12-11-2008, 05:19 PM   #15
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One word for ya, Yoga;

Why I Want To Try Yoga*Video
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Old 12-11-2008, 06:53 PM   #16
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I know from personal experience that a bo can hurt.........
Petty interesting FD, but I'm afraid that Frayne's yoga trumps ya permanently.

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Old 12-12-2008, 11:10 AM   #17
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Thanks for the replies, everyone.

Ronin, it's completely possible that this is a passing fancy and that my first day inside a MA school will also be my last. But, it's also possible that I totally dig it. Right now finding the time to do anything is my biggest challenge, but I'd do better with a set class.

As for meditation -- well, both of my kids easily move into meditative states. The fact that they have rich inner lives helps. But I'm looking at MA for them mainly as a healthy outlet for their energy.

BdK, I found your link really helpful. Seeing the arts performed really differentiated them for me. Aikido was the easy winner for me, but I think what I'll do is look for a good teacher (per Nords' comments) and then go from there. For kids, it looks like the options in our area are kung-fu or Karate. I'll also prepare for our kids to switch ideas about what they want to do -- I do this, too (dilettante that I am).

And, have any of you EVER been to a yoga class where the women (all the women, I might add) wore bikinis? Yeah, didn't think so. Nice try, though.
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Old 12-12-2008, 10:38 PM   #18
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Here's a good Wushu video. I had to quit while I was still learning the Bo. I never got this far.

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Old 12-13-2008, 01:29 PM   #19
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Surprised nobody mentioned it, but if there is a salle or instructor in the area, don't rule out fencing. Very much gets you in shape and should not be too bad on the body, depending on the weapon chosen. And typically you do not get whacked hard enough for even a bruise, although clumsy beginners can accidentally deliver a bruise or welt.
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Old 12-13-2008, 02:16 PM   #20
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Surprised nobody mentioned it, but if there is a salle or instructor in the area, don't rule out fencing. Very much gets you in shape and should not be too bad on the body, depending on the weapon chosen. And typically you do not get whacked hard enough for even a bruise, although clumsy beginners can accidentally deliver a bruise or welt.
My ex is a fencer. Excellent exercise, and in their own way, pretty sexy outfits. All that lunging builds some awesome bottoms.

But when an older adult takes up something like this, aren't your opponents mostly Eastern Europeans and former Olympians who have been doing this since they were in Communist Youth Organizations? It's like handball. Everyone you play against started at Coney Island 60 years ago and while they might look decrepit they are really good!

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