Martial arts is more than a series of flashy moves like you see in film and TV. It's also an ancient form of physical fitness, spiritual training, and mental discipline. Anyone can learn these styles and techniques, but they require both discipline and enthusiasm in order to be effective.
How to Choose Your Martial Art
Most of the martial arts that we're familiar come from Asia, whether it's Tae Kwon Do (Korea), Karate and Aikido (Japan), or Kung Fu (China). But there are other schools of martial arts from around the world, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Capoeira (Brazil), Krav Maga (Israel), and Jeet Kune Do (USA). Some styles emphasize kicks and punches, others deal with grappling and throwing your opponent, and still others teach redirecting or deflecting attacks rather than dealing them.
When you consider the many styles to choose from, you'll need to look at your own life first. Consider the physical demands that a style might make on you, even if you're young and fit. Remember also that no one can learn a martial art quickly, despite what some instructors may advertise. If you take up a particular martial art, you must decide if it's one that you're going to make a commitment to studying for as long as you can.
How to Practice Martial Arts
The other factor that can intimidate people about martial arts is the training itself. Once you get over the appeal of Hollywood-style fighting, it becomes clear that martial arts lessons start off slow and simple. It takes months, if not years, of endurance and practice before one can consider themselves good at martial arts.
Fortunately, if you're practicing for your physical or spiritual benefit, then you can get through your training with the right attitude. The first thing to remember is that you are taking this course to improve yourself physically and mentally. Martial arts provides greater stamina, reflexes, alertness, and self-confidence. The other thing to remember is that you can borrow from any other tradition or martial arts style to supplement the one you're practicing the most. There's no one right way to perform as a martial artist. It all depends on your ability to discipline yourself and keep your body in the best shape possible.
Image by Edward Dalmulder on Flickr