Martial arts have never been as popular as they are today, and there have never been so many of them to choose between. If you were to go back seventy years, you'd have had a choice of boxing or wrestling, with possibly judo as an "exotic" option. Today, there are hundreds of styles.
The short answer is that there's no single martial art that's the best choice for everyone. It will depend on your tastes, your level of fitness, your age and what you want to get out of it. Are you looking to excel in competition, find a fun way to get fit, have the ability to defend yourself? Perhaps you're a young person being bullied at school, and knowing how to protect yourself would give you the air of confidence that would put the bullies off. Here are four of the most popular martial arts that can cover some or all of those requirements.
One of the oldest martial arts, boxing is also one of the most straightforward to start, since it requires very little equipment — just gloves, if you're practicing against a punchbag, and a mouthguard and headguard if you're likely to be hit. Boxing is great for convertingfat into muscle, and it can help develop your agility, strength and coordination. It's also perhaps the most simple and effective martial art for self-defence, boosting the confidence to the extent that attackers are likely to leave you alone. The biggest downside of boxing is the potential for brain injury, but this is largely at the professional level. If you're simply learning to punch and spar at your local gym, it's unlikely to present any more danger than most sports.
The earliest of the many East Asian martial arts to reach the west, Judo is essential a form of wrestling, with emphasis on throwing your opponent as well as grappling on the ground. Besides being a great sport for sparring and competitions, it can be effective for self-defence, as it effectively removes the attacker without inflicting serious injury. However, this needs a bit of adapting, since you'll be taught to grasp opponents wearing specific types of clothing. Like most martial arts, especially those from Asia, Judo can also help you learn self-discipline and respect. Besides this, it has the advantage of being skill based rather than strength based, using your opponent's strength against them. Even if you don't look formidable, you can throw someone much bigger and stronger by using the right moves.
Aikido is a Japanese martial art that combines purely defensive fighting with a regime of spiritual exercise reminiscent of Yoga or Tai Chi. Its combat aspect is like Judo, in that it's largely based on grips and throws, but standing throws rather than groundwork. It also differs from Judo in that it's designed to work only for defence — you can't really use Aikido to attack someone, because it's entirely based on channelling the aggressor's energy. It's sometimes criticised for not being effective at defending against fast punches or close grappling, but this shouldn't be a serious issue since it teaches you to avoid getting into these situations in the first place. Besides giving the confidence of being able to neutralise attacks, the spiritual side of Aikido helps you centre yourself, as well as improving your health through exercise and breathing.
While most martial arts systems are at least partly aimed at fitness and competition, Krav Maga is focused entirely on practical self-defence. It's been used for decades by the Israeli military as their official unarmed combat technique, and has been adopted by many law-enforcement agencies world wide. Krav Maga is a practical system, drawing on a number of older disciplines, that teaches you to disable your opponent and thus remove the danger. This is done by a combination of defensive moves, many from Judo and Aikido, with effective strikes, often as a pre-emptive attack. At the same time, Krav Maga trains you to maintain emotional calm and awareness of your surroundings as you fight, which in turn benefits general self-control. However, Krav Maga probably isn't the right choice if you're after boosting your confidence or taking part in competitions. It is ideal if you're likely to be in situations where you need to seriously defend yourself.
These are just four of the many martial arts available, each of which is the right choice in specific circumstances. Register with TutorExtra to find a private tutor in the martial art of your choice.