Let’s begin with some basic answers out of the way:
- Martial Arts originated as a means of self-defense. While most Martial Arts find their base in Asian countries such as China and Japan, there are a few styles that come from other countries like Africa and South America.
While there is an athletic component, learning good Martial Arts takes years of dedication and practice, much like a musician or dancer in their art. Thus, the term “artist” is used to describe many of the practitioners.
- Young or old, almost anyone can participate in Martial Arts. In general, most schools will not begin instruction for children until at least four- or five-years of age. This generally is because the attention span of children younger tends to be too short to absorb the value of classes. However, that doesn’t mean you still can’t practice some of the Art with your three-year-old at home. Kids love to mimic those around you and as you practice, allow your child to participate as well.
Older folks who have never started Martial Arts before should take caution to start with lower impact styles such as tai chi. Performing Martial Arts should never hurt you and a practitioner should only go as far as their body will let them, not as far as the person next to them. Some physical therapists even use breathing exercises from Martial Arts to help patients who are unable to move.
- There are many reasons to begin Martial Arts. For some, such as myself, there are many health benefits practicing proper Martial Arts. Better breathing, better circulation, better movement, and better understanding of your body. In addition, under a good teacher, children learn discipline, respect, and honor. These are qualities that they will carry wherever life takes them. Self-acceptance and self-esteem are a big part of Martial Arts and anyone can benefit from dealing with these.
- Chances are there’s probably a school right in your area. Martial Arts has become very popular in recent years and schools are spread throughout the world. Some teachers are even willing to teach via correspondence/video training as well as through local seminars that come to your area.
Realize that many training programs will have fees associated to them. If this is of concern, you may want to start at free seminars or clinics often held at local community centers. This is a great opportunity to try out the Art without the commitment of payments. However, realize that normally you will only go so far with "free" classes. You will have to find what level of expense you're comfortable spending. Remember, however, your teacher has probably spent years upon years learning and investing their own time and money. You are asking them now to spend their time to teach you.
- As mentioned above, nearly anyone can practice Martial Arts. Young or old. Sick or healthy. Male or female. There are a multitude of styles out there to meet the needs of almost anyone. Make sure, however, if you have serious health issues, to consult your doctor before starting any rigorous program.
And of course, picking the right teacher is key to obtaining the best benefits. Which leads us to the last topic…
- There are many ways to start. I personally began simply by looking in my local yellow pages and found the listings in my area. These days, many schools have Internet sites and we’ll be showcasing some of them here in this column.
There are many characteristics that I have found helpful when looking for a school to participate in. I’ll share these in other articles. The biggest key is that you’ve got to feel comfortable with what you’re doing. If you’re not comfortable, if you feel like you’re in constant pain, if you have problems or have those “strange feelings” about the teacher. Listen to them. Your body knows what its talking about and it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere.
If you are interested in joining Martial Arts, we’ll be spending the next few articles discussion some of the more popular and general styles available today. Feel free to ask me any questions or mention any styles you have a particular interest in. If I don’t know about it, I’ll be happy to ask around and find out!
Until next time as my Simo says,
Love and Peace
- Sifu Caroline Baker