Short Thoughts on Martial Arts I've Done

Kozushi

More than 2500 posts
It seems that some kettelbellers are also interested in Martial Arts. I've been at a few of them for about 30 years, and I figure I'll write down a few thoughts to help others making a choice:

Judo
Generally inexpensive
Balances wresting on your feet and wrestling on the ground
Includes chokes and armlocks, but ground holds also win

BJJ
Usually very expensive
Almost 100% wrestling on the ground
(In my experience) training emphasizes wrestling with your back on the ground
Includes chokes and joint locks (usually armbars) but holding positions count for points

Kendo
Usually inexpensive
2 Handed sword fighting
Emphasizes cutting movements to top of head, right wrist, right side of trunk

Fencing
Usually very expensive
1 Handed sword fighting
Emphasizes thrusting attacks to the chest (except Sabre which is cutting to the top of the head)

Karate
Inexpensive, normally
A "dirty boxing" system emphasizing mixing grabbing and hitting
NOT a kickboxing art - it's a 50-50 grabbing and striking art
Something special about it is that you can do it 100% alone and it's still satisfying

Boxing and MMA - great stuff of course, but getting hit repeatedly in the head can't be healthy, sorry. I don't think all those years of getting hit in the head hard was good for me.

Judo and BJJ are very similar. What I think I've noticed is that the BJJ guys will progress twice as fast at wrestling on the ground, particularly when lying on their backs, but can't do anything else, hehehe, and not that that's a bad thing at all of course! Some judo clubs don't train enough on the ground and that's a weakness in judo pedagogy.

Kendo and boxing are similar due to the foot and hand work.

Kendo and Fencing are not similar (other than Sabre) because your body is held in a very different position which changes EVERYTHING! They are virtually identical in concept but the 2h vs 1h nature of the activities renders them very different in practice!

S&S made an insanely huge difference for me in judo and BJJ, and also a big difference for me in kendo.
 

wespom9

More than 500 posts
Certified Instructor
I love the fact my BJJ club does quite a bit of focus on standing takedowns. One of our instructors has a fairly proficient background in wrestling, and another higher level belt who occasionally teaches came over to BJJ from judo.

I tried karate, I think you were spot on in your comment that it can be extremely satisfying done solo. One other fantastic reason - karate is grounded in proper movement sequencing. Such a focus on technique and posture to increase striking/blocking power... truly incorporates the FMS slogan of "move well. move often". That being said, I think MMA has shown that karate may not stand up to other disciplines for combat's sake. For very basic self defense or general physical and mental health, I think it's a great entry point to martial arts.

I think if I ever were to switch or incorporate other martial arts with/after BJJ, I would do judo or wrestling. Love the grappling arts much more than striking for some reason. I think striking is fun, but for some reason I find grappling more tactically/strategically engaging.
 

offwidth

More than 5000 posts
@Kozushi
Nice summary. One question though...
How do you figure Kendo is inexpensive? I get that dojo fees are usually pretty reasonable, but good bogu costs a small fortune. A composite shinai isn't cheap either. At least that has been my experience.
 

Tarzan

More than 500 posts
I've done a few Martial arts over the years too.

I started doing Karate when I was going to high school and our dojo was focused on kickboxing. Every training session involved a lot of freestyle sparring but it was all stand up stuff with no grappling.

About two months after I started one of our black belts won the Australian title for kickboxing and the fight was shown on the news that night. The entire fight lasted about 30 seconds and our guy smashed his opponent leaving him unconscious.

So I told one person that I trained with the guy who won the fight and the next day I had every tough guy & want to be at school lining up to take a piece of me. I was a twelve year old weakling at that stage so I got more than my fair share of beatings. After a while I learned to handle myself but the first few years were tough.

I thought Kickboxing was the premier fighting art on the planet for almost a decade, but then I watched Rick Roufus get his arse handed to him by Changpuek Kiatsongrit, so I realised there was a lot more under the sun and some of it was better than Kickboxing.

Then cage fighting came along and the Gracie brothers took the world by storm & I realised I just didn't know that much at all. If I ever encountered someone like that I just wouldn't have had the skill set to compete with them.

I couldn't find any BJJ dojos at that time so I did a bit of Japanese Jujitsu to try and fill any gaps. I only did it for a while and learned the basics but never became a proficient grappler.

I did a bit of Rhee Tae kwon do for a while and it was good for the kicking skills, but I didn't agree with the ethos of not being allowed to hit someone with a higher grade than yourself. In other martial arts schools it's encouraged and helps build confidence and proficiency & it's frowned upon to hit a lower grade than yourself.

I'd like my kids to have the skill set of an MMA fighter but I don't want them involved in fighting or getting repetitive knocks to the head. So I take them to Karate and we have a grappling mat at home.

I'd prefer to take them to BJJ and practice stand up sparring at home but BJJ is just too expensive.
 

Kozushi

More than 2500 posts
@Kozushi
Nice summary. One question though...
How do you figure Kendo is inexpensive? I get that dojo fees are usually pretty reasonable, but good bogu costs a small fortune. A composite shinai isn't cheap either. At least that has been my experience.
Hahaha, good point! But it isn't like the Fencing stuff is dirt cheap to purchase either, especially when you consider that you need the electric gear if you are really going to do it. I'm thinking monthly fees-wise.
 

Kozushi

More than 2500 posts
I love the fact my BJJ club does quite a bit of focus on standing takedowns. One of our instructors has a fairly proficient background in wrestling, and another higher level belt who occasionally teaches came over to BJJ from judo.

I tried karate, I think you were spot on in your comment that it can be extremely satisfying done solo. One other fantastic reason - karate is grounded in proper movement sequencing. Such a focus on technique and posture to increase striking/blocking power... truly incorporates the FMS slogan of "move well. move often". That being said, I think MMA has shown that karate may not stand up to other disciplines for combat's sake. For very basic self defense or general physical and mental health, I think it's a great entry point to martial arts.

I think if I ever were to switch or incorporate other martial arts with/after BJJ, I would do judo or wrestling. Love the grappling arts much more than striking for some reason. I think striking is fun, but for some reason I find grappling more tactically/strategically engaging.
Aha- but consider this - a guy with a good BJJ or wrestling base who then takes up Karate seriously. The other thing to consider is that if someone is going to rely on Karate then they must train Karate which is 50% about hardening the hands. In my own experience, Karate added some good bonus concepts to my judo and MMA skills. For example, certain stances in Karate are not used in judo but when I did I got some benefits from them. Also, for MMA, Karate adopts some interesting guard positions that invite attacks in certain areas allowing me to expect them there. Stuff like that.
 

Kozushi

More than 2500 posts
I'd have to say though that BJJ probably wins out overall for two reasons:

1. It's terrifically safe! No falling. No hitting. Everything is pretty slow, actually! Yet, full strength!!!
2. It's fighting is the most fun by far - you actually construct your fight like it's Lego. Guys that don't do BJJ would have no idea what I'm talking about, but it really is like that - it's like architecture! Seriously!

They're all good exercise, all the arts mentioned.

Now, for self-defence, that's a bit different. They all are good in their own ways. BJJ and judo have an advantage because you don't have to actually harm the other guy if you don't want to - which is a HUGE plus in a country with police and courts. I've defended myself and some other people a few times, and there was no need for any police involvement at all. BJJ may be a wee bit weaker than judo in this area if you don't train in standing wrestling - which is kind of sad because BJJ originally had lots of standing wrestling in it.

Of these particular arts, which is best for fighting in an absolute sense? Fencing. It's a quick stabbing art that applies to blades of any length and can be adapted to just about anything held with your hand.

At the moment I'm only doing Kendo at a club, and a tiny bit of Karate by myself. I'll definitely get back into other stuff someday though.
 

North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
Most of my MA has been informal in my younger years. B&B (backyards and basements). Mostly Karate and Western kickboxing base and my first instructor was heavily influenced by JKD as well. I also wrestled some in HS.

I remember vividly when a buddy introduced me to Muay Thai. Demo'd a round kick and a MT shin kick while I held the heavy bag, following which I immediately undertook shin conditioning and working toward my MT fighting trunks, which I never earned though was told I could have passed the test easily enough.

Next I got into escrima and took some lessons in Silat and Kali, so heavily influenced by these. I have dabbled in learning some 52 handblocks as it appears to have many superficial similarities to some of the SE Asian hand skills yet easier to learn and integrates well with my personal self defense philosophy.

My actual fight experience led me away from learning too much groundfighting despite its obvious advantages one on one. Though I have trained defense against same with a lot of sprawling and some work from the guard, I am not interested in developing an instinct to go to the mat.

As an adult I've never been in a one on one fight and going to the floor with multiple assailants is a quick recipe for being kicked in the head repeatedly (learned first hand), so I train heavily on maintaining mobility, inflicting harm rapidly and escaping and/or finishing as fast as possible, making use of improvised or edged weapons whenever possible. My beginning assumption is I will be facing multiples or hand weapons of some sort.

The advantage to Kali and related traditions is they transition well from handweapon to open hands on both defense and offense, and allow for scaleable responses - redirect without harm, or redirect and counter etc.

Kettlebell and sandbag are naturals for MA as they reinforce instinctive leverage and quick power.
 
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Pavel Macek

More than 2500 posts
Master Certified Instructor
In Chinese martial arts we say: "Practice one family, observe hundred families". I do what most of the legendary masters did: cross-train.
 

Tarzan

More than 500 posts
Of the four people I know to have trained in BJJ, 3 of them dropped out. 1 was injured fairly seriously at training, 2 attained the blue belt and then stopped and the other one is now a purple belt (I think, I haven't seen him for a few months)

A bit of a web search seems to indicate that it's not uncommon for people to stop going before they get their black belt.

Are the stats skewed by higher dropout rates in some dojos or is it a common occurrence in BJJ generally ?

I understand a blue belt in BJJ is a much higher attainment than a blue in many other martial arts, would the average joe think once they've got that far they have enough skills to deal with most sticky situations ?
 

wespom9

More than 500 posts
Certified Instructor
A bit of a web search seems to indicate that it's not uncommon for people to stop going before they get their black belt.

Are the stats skewed by higher dropout rates in some dojos or is it a common occurrence in BJJ generally ?

I understand a blue belt in BJJ is a much higher attainment than a blue in many other martial arts, would the average joe think once they've got that far they have enough skills to deal with most sticky situations ?
I would say a large majority of people drop out before attaining a black belt in any discipline. Discipline and time commitment waver. Enthusiasm wavers. Hard to say for sure whether it is any of these reasons or perceived level of competency that individuals may stop practicing.

I agree with @Pavel Macek 's idea. You want depth in your chosen skill, but examine others to understand your weaknesses.

I don't follow MMA barely at all, but I am guessing that the best martial artist would want to be extremely proficient at one art, and mild to moderate at others. Seems clear that BJJ is top notch for ground game, some sort of Judo/wrestling for takedowns (if this is not included in BJJ practice), and then some form of standup striking art. Muay thai seems the deadliest of standup forms from my view, but again I know little about standup and could be very wrong about that statement.
 

Kozushi

More than 2500 posts
Most of my MA has been informal in my younger years. B&B (backyards and basements). Mostly Karate and Western kickboxing base and my first instructor was heavily influenced by JKD as well. I also wrestled some in HS.

I remember vividly when a buddy introduced me to Muay Thai. Demo'd a round kick and a MT shin kick while I held the heavy bag, following which I immediately undertook shin conditioning and working toward my MT fighting trunks, which I never earned though was told I could have passed the test easily enough.

Next I got into escrima and took some lessons in Silat and Kali, so heavily influenced by these. I have dabbled in learning some 52 handblocks as it appears to have many superficial similarities to some of the SE Asian hand skills yet easier to learn and integrates well with my personal self defense philosophy.

My actual fight experience led me away from learning too much groundfighting despite its obvious advantages one on one. Though I have trained defense against same with a lot of sprawling and some work from the guard, I am not interested in developing an instinct to go to the mat.

As an adult I've never been in a one on one fight and going to the floor with multiple assailants is a quick recipe for being kicked in the head repeatedly (learned first hand), so I train heavily on maintaining mobility, inflicting harm rapidly and escaping and/or finishing as fast as possible, making use of improvised or edged weapons whenever possible. My beginning assumption is I will be facing multiples or hand weapons of some sort.

The advantage to Kali and related traditions is they transition well from handweapon to open hands on both defense and offense, and allow for scaleable responses - redirect without harm, or redirect and counter etc.

Kettlebell and sandbag are naturals for MA as they reinforce instinctive leverage and quick power.
Very good points about the problems with over emphasis on ground fighting. The elephant in the room regarding Martial Arts is twofold: multiple assailants and weapons. Either way going to the ground invites suicide. A special advantage of judo is that no one can hold you or control you leaving you free to run away or to do whatever else you want to do.
 

North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
Very good points about the problems with over emphasis on ground fighting. The elephant in the room regarding Martial Arts is twofold: multiple assailants and weapons. Either way going to the ground invites suicide. A special advantage of judo is that no one can hold you or control you leaving you free to run away or to do whatever else you want to do.

If I ever go back for more classes it will be to train some Muay Thai alongside my kids (mostly for fitness) or if just for myself, I've always wanted to learn some judo. Have been shown a few throws but never became remotely proficient even with those.
 

North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
I would say a large majority of people drop out before attaining a black belt in any discipline. Discipline and time commitment waver. Enthusiasm wavers. Hard to say for sure whether it is any of these reasons or perceived level of competency that individuals may stop practicing.

I agree with @Pavel Macek 's idea. You want depth in your chosen skill, but examine others to understand your weaknesses.

I don't follow MMA barely at all, but I am guessing that the best martial artist would want to be extremely proficient at one art, and mild to moderate at others. Seems clear that BJJ is top notch for ground game, some sort of Judo/wrestling for takedowns (if this is not included in BJJ practice), and then some form of standup striking art. Muay thai seems the deadliest of standup forms from my view, but again I know little about standup and could be very wrong about that statement.

In my limited opinion, where Muay Thai excels is in developing a lot of power. The kicks are somewhat more telegraphic than from other traditions, but land with brutal force. The elbows, again somewhat more difficult to deploy, land with crazy amounts of force.

A huge advantage is just conditioning the shins and being able to instinctively block low kicks and counter kicking to the legs. You can shut down someone's mobility very quickly with just a couple of unanswered shots.

Currently this is the part of that tradition I still incorporate in my own practice most often. I recall more than once sparring in Silat and pretty much shutting down opponent's kicking game only using blocks - you can see the look on an opponent's face when they hit bone on bone and aren't prepared.

It is hard on the joints though.

I'm a big proponent of FMA for long term self defense (an old guy with skills and a knife or stick is still quite capable), but it isn't the most effective for sport fighting. Is also not the easiest to practice solo, and in the real world a lot of the trapping and joint locks are very tough or impossible to execute, especially on a boxer. But the redirections are relatively easy to learn, and having any familiarity dealing with knives and sticks is a big plus.
 

Kozushi

More than 2500 posts
Muay Thai is amazing, if you can handle it!

I have to say that doing a martial art because I'm earnestly in need of fighting for real is a different paradigm from doing one to keep a reasonable fighting ability going while more importantly staying fit and getting some excitement in. For instance, for self defence it would be fencing, judo, and something like Muay Thai or MMA. For a balance between healthy sport and self defence maybe BJJ and/or kendo and/or Karate. Judo, boxing and Muay Thai are pretty tough on your body and of course therefore make you into one tough mo-fo. Though probably for the average guy it isn't worth taking these kind of beatings unless there is a real need for them.

I super miss judo and I'll restart that at some point, and it will likely have to be soon because I'm going nuts, but right now the one night out doing kendo is good for keeping my fighting instincts working. All the fighting arts eventually boil down to terrifically similar things if you've done them long enough. I'm talking about strength, speed, distance, timing, positioning, mobility, footwork, trickery, aggression. Exactly what "style" or "move" becomes somewhat academic when you've done the stuff for long enough.
 

North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
Muay Thai is amazing, if you can handle it!

I have to say that doing a martial art because I'm earnestly in need of fighting for real is a different paradigm from doing one to keep a reasonable fighting ability going while more importantly staying fit and getting some excitement in. ....All the fighting arts eventually boil down to terrifically similar things if you've done them long enough. I'm talking about strength, speed, distance, timing, positioning, mobility, footwork, trickery, aggression. Exactly what "style" or "move" becomes somewhat academic when you've done the stuff for long enough.
This is so true. And on top of that, the needs of someone who works the door at a busy club or in corrections has far different needs from someone who only needs to protect themself and not necessarily stop anyone cold or detain them.

I like the Muay Thai even for fitness, but one has to be mindful of how hard they hit those pads, or how much they're willing to be whooped on by a sparring partner. I also used to do slow Escrima stick work with black pipe and ankle weights, work up and down the driveway combining footwork and basic double stick weaves - this before clubbells became repopular or I would have used them too.

Currently I just do footwork drills with shadow boxing and that not often, is more to prevent forgetting stuff. The kids are 9 now and starting to actually get interested in learning more, I suspect just to get a chance to pop me in the head!

Another factor is using any of the striking arts with a fist can break your own bones, especially if your bad guy is big and seasoned and has a thick skull. So whatever you develop as an instinct is what will kick in when perception triggers it. Gotta work on skills that are not going to backfire depending on how used.

Far better to redirect and go, and if legal some pepper spray could really come in handy too!
 

J Petersen

SFG1/SFB
Certified Instructor
With a few of my KB students, I have been incorporating FMA double stick, and occasionally one stick/one knife sinawali drills into their training, since I believe that the patterning, line familiarity, target recognition and footwork are very complementary to other martial disciplines outside of the gym (nearly all of these folks are military). Lately, this training has been fairly in demand, since word has gotten around that I'm just about to retire, and suddenly guys from all over the place want to learn what they can while they've still got me around.

Happily, a university in Japan has accepted my application for the fall semester, and I'm very interested in studying the "Keysi Fighting Method" whenever I won't be too deep into academics. It's reputed to be the style showcased in Batman Begins; no sport application and with the assumption that there are always going to be multiple hostiles. I'm intrigued with the concept of virtually no (or extremely limited) kicking--that could be hard to square with my Tae Kwon Do/Muay Thai sensibilities, so looking forward to hopefully having my horizons expanded.

As for a favorite art, I always liked the philosophy of Marc "Animal" MacYoung when he described the style of PiBu (as in, "Pitcher of Bud"). This involves the practitioner sitting down with the antagonist/s and discussing their differences over said vessel. When the beer is finished and the other party still insists on being unreasonable, the pitcher is then busted over their noggin.
 
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North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
Until I started doing FMA I was pretty much unable to apply any of the more advanced trapping and jamming I'd been exposed to. As a framework it is second to none and works with everything else out there.

As I've gotten older I already kick less, but that's largely due to letting that go in terms of drilling. Any style that emphasizes multiple attackers is not going to sacrifice much in terms of pausing to kick.

As somewhat of a relate I've been watching bare knuckle boxing video occasionally, only the better fights. There's something to be learned everywhere. I almost feel like I could step in there, in a bizarre way it looks like a lot of fun...

I like the PiBu style. No dark liquor though, it tends to heat the blood a bit and could have the opposite effect - folks fighting just for the fun of it ;)
 

ali

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Next I got into escrima and took some lessons in Silat and Kali,
The elephant in the room regarding Martial Arts is twofold: multiple assailants and weapons.
....Escrima.
I've not practiced it for many a year. Back then it wasn't well known, still isn't now, it seems. To be fair though, it is brutal. 4 times a week getting smashed to bits by sticks after 90 minutes of intense strength and conditioning. I couldn't and wouldn't train the way I did back then and couldn't cope with the intensity. I think it is the only system where weapons are trained day 1. Being out of the game and lack current knowledge of martial arts I'm surprised at how krav maga has taken off. From what little I've seen of krav maga, Escrima is very similar....do whatever it takes, with whatever you have kind of thing...and find it surprising that escrima isn't ever brought up, especially so with the influence of Dan Inosanto and Bruce Lee in its recent history. So yeah, 25 years later, still got bruised knuckles from those rattan sticks!
 

J Petersen

SFG1/SFB
Certified Instructor
Escrima is very similar....do whatever it takes, with whatever you have kind of thing...
This is probably only natural when every soldier and sailor throughout history has been using the Philippines as a gas station and the locals have been mixing it up with the gringos. Filipino martial culture is fascinating stuff. If it worked, it was added into the fold. "Purity" be doggoned.

Whereas in places like Japan, which by virtue of being an island nation with a closed door policy for the longest time (and protected surprisingly well by the divine kamikaze wind from invaders off the mainland), they never really had to deal with the crap the rest of Asia did--no savages coming down off the steppe in their part of the world, for example. As a consequence, it seems to me the classical Japanese martial arts never really had a chance to grow outside of its own tiny bubble (after all, it was pretty easy for the pretty boy samurai to act tough when they were the only ones allowed by law to carry swords). One unfortunate symptom that persists: there are combinations in Shotokan karate that you can set your watch by.

Or a fortunate symptom, if you're aware of this and you're sparring with one of these dudes, and he can't understand why he keeps walking into your fist.
 
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