The martial arts are fantastic in many ways. It is a great form of exercise. It is a great way to reduce stress. It allows you to gain better control of your mind and body. It allows you to feel safe and protect your loved ones. Everyone both young and old can reap benefits from practicing the martial arts, regardless if your goal is to just have fun or to become a serious blackbelt.
But not all martial arts are the same. I like to classify them into 3 very broad categories: light styles, medium styles and hard styles. An example of a light style would be Tai Chi, where you are moving with the energy of the fight and blocks and strikes are not intended to be deadly. An example of a medium style would be Kaizen Karate’s base system of Tang Soo Do. In Tang Soo Do, when you are blocking, you are moving the punch or kick out of the way, sometimes by just taping it. The idea is to help it avoid hitting you by using quick precision and not strength in each block. Finally, an example of a hard style would be Kenpo, the style used for our kata, Master Form. In Kenpo, each block is intended to hurt or even break the bones of your opponent. It is meant for street defense and intended to cause much bodily harm.
These are not the only differences between the systems, but they are a big difference. When choosing which Martial Art you want to practice, you might consider factors such as the style’s general philosophy, what are the main attacks and what are the main defenses, etc. One way to do this is to read up on each system you are interested in to find out this information. Another way would be to visit the actual school and see how they implement the style in their classes. Because we have incredible information access in the form of the Internet, you can check out YouTube and see videos of that style in action. All of this can be extremely helpful in making up your mind. For more information on various systems, check out my blog on this topic: http://www.kaizenfitnessusa.com/blog/2015/1/14/a-broad-look-at-the-martial-arts
One interesting aspect of these various martial arts is which one might fit you better. Perhaps you have a philosophical approach that might mesh with the specific art. Perhaps you admire someone who does a specific art and wish to follow in their footsteps. For adults, I would advice taking into consideration where you are in your life with respect to your physical condition. I like to think of this as ‘ages and stages.’ For each age and stage of your life, there can be a martial art that more aligns with where you are at that stage.
For example, if you are relatively young and in very good physical shape, you might be well suited for a style that involves more agility and higher kicks. Tang Soo Do or Tae Kwon Do might be great fits. Both require a lot of athleticism to excel. You are expected to be able to kick effectively to the head and even spin and jump in some of the movements. These arts offer a broad range of the sport side of the martial arts and you will find many tournaments that might interest you to test your skills.
As you get older and move into a different stage of your life, you might find your ability and flexibility to not be where it was as a younger person. As we age, our bodies tend to become more fragile and rigid and we tighten up. A perfect style for this stage in your life might be Kenpo. It features kicks below the belt so it is much less reliant on flexibility, and it is big on the self-defense aspects of martial arts, which could be more practical as well.
If you are in a place where it is really impractical to put much force in your kicks and your flexibility remains an issue, perhaps Tai Chi would be a good way to go. The flow of motion is very helpful to maintaining your basic movement, and the soft style can be friendly to an older body.
Learning to listen to your body is an art unto itself. As you become more in tune with this skill, I encourage you to factor everything into your decision with respect as to which martial art to practice. I truly believe that everyone should practice martial arts as it provides benefits to all who do. But, be smart about which art you choose and feel free to change from one to another as you move into the different seasons of your life. This will enable you to continue to practice for hopefully a lifetime, providing you will a lifetime of amazing benefits.