So you’re starting Martial Arts – but where to begin? With so many variations and styles of Kung Fu alone, learning them all would be impractical as it would literally take up a whole lifetime! Keep it simple, do some research, start here.
In China alone there is a multitude of Chinese Martial Arts. Aside from the traditional based martial arts that date back far into every cultures history, the 1980s gave rise to the development of ‘freestyle martial arts’. This is a more flexible approach to learning with emphasis on sport and competitive advancement. Traditional style teaching at dojos are still accessible today that offer a more less combat-driven approach to Martial Arts.
Traditional Vs Modern
Traditional Martial Arts such as Wing Chun and Tai Chi are often associated with skills such as philosophy, meditation and history. Students gain a complete approach to martial arts through traditional systems repeating exercise such as “sticky hands” or “Qi Gong” which can both be seen as a type of active meditation. This style of learning demands more self-discipline, time, effort and attention to detail but inheriting the knowledge passed down for centuries in the Far East comes at as a weighty accomplishment not to mention sharpened skills & techniques.
Modern teaching see Martial Arts as a sport with emphasis on competing. Many kick-boxing clubs, Muay Thai gyms and Grapplers fall under this banner. Modern Martial Arts is quickly evolving and appeals to those who enjoy competition and want to rapidly develop their skills.
Find a gym with instructors that incorporate modern and traditional methods and ethics. That way you can experience different elements, dictate developmental benchmarks and gain an all-rounded appreciation for Martial Arts.
Finding your Gym
Does the club have a positive atmosphere? Is it in a convenient location? Are the other students enjoying their training? Would you like to train with them? These are only a few points to consider that will make a difference to your overall Martial Arts experience.
Choosing the right instructor for you will vastly influence the way you learn and develop in Martial Arts but also in other areas of your life. There are many instructors with the right attitude and credentials who will take every effort to help you achieve your progress. That being said, although there are no set exams to become a martial arts instructor today, a good teacher should have certificates detailing his grades up to a Black Belt standard together with other documentation. On average, a martial arts instructor should have a minimum of 4-5 years of Martial Arts experience. This varies between martial arts styles but ideally an instructor should have qualifications in first aid, fitness and coaching as well.
Most gyms are affiliated with a National Association or governing body but nothing tops a club with a good atmosphere. You can usually tell whether the instructors are approachable, students are friendly and generally on the same page with one another and having a good time training. A certain amount of discipline, focus and respect is considered quite normal and often encouraged. Often when students that lack these qualities it results in injury and definitely isn’t productive to growth in Martial Arts.
Standards in the gym are crucial to getting the most of your training. A Martial Arts club should not encourage violent practices or promote a bad image. There is usually a mutual respect in the gym and ensure the art isn’t used in a negative and potentially damaging way. Gyms can be a hotbed for bacteria. Make sure their facilities are within your standards.
Every gym has their own code of conduct but there are certain gym etiquettes that you must also be mindful of. Of course you will encounter individuals that don’t sit with you 100% but that’s life. Martial Arts is no exception and there will be people that don’t uphold the general standards at the gym. Don’t be that person.
There are basic precautions like keeping your nails short and removing jewellery and depending on your what you are training in, certain guidelines are set on how to behave in order to respect the importance of overall martial spirit and discipline. Arrive on time, you might bow to your instructor and fellow students, shake hands and don’t engage in rivalries with fellow club members or other gyms’ members and don’t use your skills unnecessarily or with malice.
Just like that! You should be ready to get started on a journey of self development and discovery. Remember to keep a positive attitude because at the end of the day, you are entering a community full of people who all share common values: seeking personal growth by challenging your personal levels of discomfort. Be comfortable being uncomfortable and you’ll do just fine. Oss!