Omega’s Guide – Martial Arts

You have now joined Toastmasters and bought How to Win Friends and Influence People. You  have started to practice what you have read in the latter and are on your way to learning basic social interaction skills.

Now it is time to gain confidence. You will gain confidence in your social skills as you practice, but to really gain confidence you have to have something to be confident about. So this week’s task will be to start training in a martial art.

Why should you train? A few reasons:

  1. Nothing gives you confidence like training in martial arts. Throughout my 13 years of public schooling, I was by far the most confident during the half year I was in Taekwondo.  The accomplishment of attaining a real skill, the manly vigor from hard work and training, the adrenaline of violence, and the knowledge of being able to fend for yourself should violent interaction occur combine to give you confidence like nothing else can possibly match (other than maybe enlisting). A few months of training and you will feel more confident throughout the rest of your life.
  2. You’ll meet people with a similar hobby. Those social skills you’re learning won’t mean anything if you’re not meeting people.
  3. You’re attaining a practical skill that will make you a better person. Martial arts requires and trains you in strength, discipline, and perserverance.
  4. You’ll get in shape. A martial art will require physical activity and will provide a base level of physical fitness.
  5. It will also make you more attractive to the opposite sex. Nothing attracts the femmes quite like being able to display physical dominance through an implied ability to wreak physical violence.

Those together should be more than enough of a reason to join.


Before I go any further, I should say I am  not an expert. I have practiced a martial art for about 3-4 years and done some reading on the issue. What I am writing here is mostly my own opinion and knowledge; people with more experience and knowledge than me may disagree with some of what is written. A lot of the advice concerning martial arts, particularly when it comes to choosing a school/style, can be very controversial. My advice is meant to help guide you at the beginning, but it is not the be all and end all. Use your own common sense.



First, you need to know what your purpose for training is. The type of school and instruction you choose should be determined by what you want to get out of it.

If you simply want a place to get a manly workout, grow some discipline, and hang out with other people interested in the same, most martial arts will do.

But if you have a specific purpose or goal, you will have to choose the right art to accomplish your goal. If you want to sport fight, you will need to choose certain arts that focus on this aspect, such as judo. If you want to try MMA sport-fighting others will be necessary, such as MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. If you want to kick ass “in the streets” (this should always be said with sarcasm/irony) you will need others, such as krav maga. If you want to learn weapons, bujinkan, fencing, or kendo will be the way to go. If you want to steep yourself in long-held martial tradition and culture, most oriental arts will be good. If you want to learn throws you’ll need a different art than if you prefer striking and you’ll need another if you wish to focus on ground-combat.

Each art has a different focus and a different style and will suit different purposes, you should choose an art that is focused on what you want. Also, choose an instructor in that art that will provide the kind of instruction you want.

If an art does not meet your purpose, choose a new one. (This is not a license to jump from art to art or instructor to instructor for no reason. If you’ve tried 3 or 4 instuctors/arts and none are “right”, you should seriously consider whether the problem might be you).

One particular aspect to remember is its effect on your life. An art that focuses on hard training, heavy competition, or full contact can lead to faster, more efficient learning and can be fun, but it can also lead to long-term injury or strain that can have negative impacts on the rest of your life. On the other hand, a holistic art can lead to positive improvements to other aspects of your life. It’s up to you and your preference what you choose, but be make sure to take this into account.

I’ll do a rundown of some of the major arts you might be interested in at the end of this post.


Your Attitude

Before you begin, adjust your attitude. It is the single most important thing on whether you get anything from your training. Training is a commitment, you will only get from it what you give.

  • Are you prepared to attend regularly? If you are not willing/able to attend at least once a week you should just skip it.
  • Be prepared for the long haul. Learning an art takes years of difficult practice. Make sure you are committed. It will often be frustrating and you will often be tempted quit and give up. Don’t.
  • Be prepared to learn. This is simple enough, be open to instruction and have an open mind. You are there to learn, do so.
  • Check your ego at the door. Any good instructor will be correcting you; any good student you work with will offer tips for improvement. When they do, be gracious and improve. Don’t get defensive. Don’t make excuses. Don’t be offended or angry. Nod and accept instruction with gracioussness.
  • Don’t be an ass. The other students are there to learn as well. Treat them with respect; don’t pound on the new guy or act like you’re better than the guy who’s been training for a decade. Help facilitate the other students in learning.
  • Embrace the pain. Instruction will hurt. You’ll be thrown, you’ll be hit, you’ll be tired, you’ll be sore, and your joints will be bent in all kind of uncomfortable positions. Expect the pain, accept the pain, embrace the pain.
  • Relax and enjoy. Don’t be afraid, don’t be tense, don’t be mordbidly serious. This should be fun. Enjoy yourself, enjoy the company of others, and enjoy your training. Don’t go too far with this. Take your training seriously, don’t be an irritating jokester who ruins the training. Fit in with the mood of the dojo; if the dojo’s mood is either too serious or not serious enough for you to train, find one that fits better.



Before anything else, go online and find out what kind of martial art instruction is available in your proximity. Knowing you want to learn Jeet Kune Do won’t do you a lick of good if there’s nobody within 500 miles to teach you.

Choose which ones sound interesting then research. Rea search the art being taught itself, the dojo, the instructor,etc. Find out as much as you can about the ones that interest you. Joining an art can be a large investment of time, money, and effort, so know a bit before your begin.

Here’s some things to look out for in your initial research and first visit.

  • Does the instructor/dojo/art have a lot of negative reviews on the internet? There will always be detractors and cranks, but use your sense, are the criticisms valid? If they are valid are the aspects being criticized acceptable to you?
  • Is the dojo/instructor licensed? Some of the more established martial arts, such as Taekwondo, will have central governing bodies. If a dojo is not a member of its central body, there’s probably a reason; be wary. Membership implies a certain basic standard for instruction, but it alone is not a guarantee of quality. Note, many arts do not have a licensing body, so don’t worry about it if there isn’t one, but this also means that there is no guarantee of a base standard of training.
  • Check out the instructor’s credentials. Is he an advanced black-belt in his system (or a few systems) or if in a non-belt system, has he been training for a while with quality instructors? Does he claim an absurdly high amount of credentials? (A 30-year-old claiming to be a black-belt in 12 arts is probably not reliable).
  • Does the dojo/instructor bash other arts? A lot of people get involved in stupid dick-measuring contest over whose art or school is better. If the dojo’s site has a lot of this, it’s probably not worth the time.
  • Is the art the new invention of the instructor who mixed the best of everything? It’s probably a scam. In most cases you want to go with an art that is established.
  • Does the instructor/dojo claim secret, arcane knowledge or super techniques? Most good martial art techniques are fairly simple, mechanically speaking (simple does not mean easy). If the site goes on about their secret techniques or arcane knowledge, it’s likely BS. No, there is no such thing as an unblockable, invincible move. Every technique has a counter and every technique has a weakness.
  • Does the dojo promote a holistic approach to training? Training can encompass more than just learning how to hit somebody. Often it can also focus on other things such as proper diet, proper exercise, balance in life, proper breathing and relaxation techniques, overall body control and usage, etc. Whether you prefer simply learning to just beat people’s faces in or a more holistic approach, see if the dojo support your preference.
  • Related to this is technique versus principles. All arts and instructors will teach both techniques and principles, but on a sliding scale some arts/instructors will focus more on training techniques in response to specific situations while others will focus more on on the use of your body and the training principles behind the techniques. Leaning towards the former will help with learning self-defence faster, but the latter will help with learning it moer thoroughly. The latter is also more prone to abuse, as the results are less immediately tangible. Neither is necessarily better, but you should wathc for this to meet whatever your goals may be.
  • Be careful of dojos that seem to hooked on “cool” things such as ninjutsu, samurai, ancient warriors, special forces, etc., as often poor instructors will try to make up for it with flash. Some arts, such as bujinkan, do have a heritage of ninjutsu or samurai and some, such as krav maga, have a history of military training, so this is not absolute. Also, a little bit of advertising flair is okay. But if the primary focus of the dojo’s site is on “be a ninja in two years”, or “train like the SEALs do”, or something else “cool” like that, be wary.
  • Does the site focus on the training or the belt? The belt is a sign of the training; it is not overly important. If the instructor’s site guarantees you a black belt in two years, or focuses too much on the attainment of the belt rather than the training itself, then he has the wrong attitude. If the belt is that important to you, buy one of Ebay for a couple bucks.
  • Does the site make unrealistic guarantees? If you’re guaranteed to be a black-belt master in a year, skip it. Everybody learns at a different pace, someone guaranteeing something by a certain time period is likely just pushing you through a belt mill.
  • Does the site/instructor make unrealistic claims? No martial art will make you invincible. No art will train you how to “beat” an opponent a foot taller and 100lbs heavier in a fight. No martial art will teach you to beat a gun-wielding maniac while unarmed. There is no such thing as an unbeatable technique.
  • Contracts and introductory classes. A decent dojo will usually give you the option of watching a couple classes before joining. A good dojo will usually have an introductory deal of a few classes or a month of classes for newbies. A dojo requiring an expensive, long-term contract before letting you try or watch a few classes first is likely not a dojo you want to be a part.

If your research leads you to think the dojo might be an acceptable place to learn, move on to arranging a visit.


Your First (Few) Visit(s)

Once you’ve decided on a dojo you want to try, set up an appointment to attend and begin your introductory classes. While there here’s a few things to watch for:

  • The instructor is by far the most important external aspect of any martial arts training. Finding a quality instructor is far more important than which art you will choose; any art will be useful if taught well, and any art will be worthless is taught poorly. Make sure you get a good instructor. Ensure he’s competent, honest, disciplined, knowledgeable about his art, and all-around a fundamentally good guy. If he strikes you as dishonest or sleazy, don’t return. If he slags on other schools a lot, don’t return. If he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing, don’t return. If nothing else, make sure you have a good instructor, that will make up for almost any other faults, while a bad instructor will ruin any other good aspects of the training. An instructor that’s an ex-cop, ex-prison guard, or ex-army, etc. will likely have been in situations of real violence and will likely be a better teacher than someone who has not seen real violence.
  • Is the instructor respectful of his students? A good instructor will correct his students, sometimes harshly, but he will also be respectful when doing so. An instructor who disrespects or bullies his students is not one you want to follow. (Remember above, correction, even harsh, violent, and painful correction, is not bullying or disrespect).
  • Is the class carried out in safe manner? Bruises, welts, and a certain level of pain are a necessary part of training and accidents causing major damage will inevitably happen, but recklessness is not something you should tolerate. If the instructor engages in or allows reckless or dangerous actions leave and do not come back. Of particular note is the dojo’s methods of joint manipulation; holds, bars, and joint manipulations should be done and should hurt but should always be controlled. If viciously reefing on people’s joints is accepted in the dojo, you are going to seriously suffer for it in the long run.
  • Is the training lawful? This is simple, the instructor should not be teaching you to violate the law; if he is, leave. A good instructor will point out the legal implications of the actions he is teaching. He will teach you about the proper use of force. An instructor who doesn’t is not one you should be learning under. ex. If the instructor encourages you to stomp on the face of a downed opponent without mentioning the legal consequences of such an action in real life, you probably don’t want him teaching you. If an instructor encourages picking fights, don’t train with him.
  • Consider class sizes and personal time. Is the class a good size? Optimally it will be about a dozen or less; a larger class is not necessarily a deal breaker, but only if ran well. Did the instructor, or at the least one of the instructor’s high-ranked students give you some personal instruction? Don’t demand or expect the instructor to focus only on you, but he (or in a larger class, one of his subordinates) should occasionally give you some personal feedback.
  • Are the students respectful of each other? A good instructor will maintain discipline and a proper attitude among his students. If his students, especially the more advanced ones, are bullying or disrespectful the instructor and dojo are probably not worth your time.
  • Observe the high ranked students closely. These are the kind of people the instructor and his training will turn you into. Are they skilled? Are they competent? Are they in shape and disciplined? Are they respectful? If the advanced students do not display the qualities you want to eventually display as a martial artist, the dojo is probably not for you.
  • Observe the demographics of the students. The bulk of the general students (assuming you aren’t attending family classes, a ‘new students only’ class, or other demographically specialized classes) should be relatively fit men in their 20-40s. If the students, especially the more advanced ones, are mostly out-of-shape, the dojo has low standards (if some of the white belts/newbies are out of shape, that’s not that big a deal). If there are a lot of children under 16 with black belts, be wary, the training might not have particularly high standards. If there are a lot of middle-aged women, the training likely has low standards. To simplify, if the type of people in the classes loko like the type of peopel who wouldn’t hold up under solid training, you are not going to get solid training.
  • Did you enjoy it? Training is tough and often painful, but you should get some level of enjoyment/satisfaction out of it.
  • Is the training realistic? If you are training for self-defence the training should be realistic. A practical martial art should focus on disarmament, de-escalation, and withdrawal.
  • Is there contact? Any good martial arts training designed for fighting will include solid contact.  Many dojos/arts will train at half-speed for learning purposes, that’s fine, as long as the contact is still solid. Solid does not necessarily mean hard though. It’s rather difficult to explain, it’s more something you experience. but I’ll attempt. Think of it like throwing an object. If you underhand a hacky sack at someone, they’ll feel nothing, that’s soft and not solid. If you whip the hacky-sack at someone it will sting, but it won’t not them back or disrupt them; that’s hard but not solid. If you whip a fist-sized rock at someone, you’ll break their rib and knock them to the ground unconscious, that’s both hard and solid. If you lob the same rock at them underhanded, you’ll knock them back and they’ll know they’ve been hit, but without serious harm; that is solid, but not hard. The best training is the lobbed rock; when you’re hit and hitting you want the contact to be felt, to rock you back, to seriously disrupt you, but you don’t want it to be get to the point of serious injury.
  • Does the instructor teach aliveness? To teach basic techniques, the compliance of your training partner is a necessity. No technique is “unstoppable”, in fact most are, mechanically speaking, rather simple to counter if expected. In any training of basic techniques your partner is allowing you to practice on him and vice versa. For example, simply going rigid can stop many a joint lock (short of simply blowing through a joint), but will leave you open to a strike, but because you are practicing a joint lock, your partner probably won’t strike you, so your vulnerability won’t be readily apparent, but your “successful” counter will be. A good teacher should be teaching you how to actively comply with your partner so you both can learn. On the other hand, he should not be teaching you to simply go limp or to fall over for your partner; he should not encourage your to fall when your opponent taps you or to give the lock when your opponent screws it up. Aliveness is allowing your partner to use you, but still providing a level of resistance suitable to his training level/needs. A good instructor should be training his students to actively comply and actively resist.
  • Is there sparring? Any good martial arts training designed will include sparring at some point. Some will arts/dojos will reserve sparring for more advanced students because the system/instructor believes those students without the requisite training will not learn from sparring, while others will through you in right away; either way is fine, but if no one, not even the high-level students, ever spars, the training is unlikely to provide you with any useful fighting skills. Also, sparring should include solid contact. If simple touch is enough to point in sparring, the training will not be teaching you much self-defence-wise.
  • Are you sore/tired? Good training should be work and it should hurt. Not every class will focus on intense, physically tiring activity, some will focus on more technical aspects that don’t require as much physical effort, but if you’ve been going for a month and have never broken a sweat or received a bruise, the training is probably not worthwhile. Again, if you aren’t being hit hard enough to bruise at least occasionally, you are probably not receiving good training.
  • Does the dojo overuse patterns? Patterns, repetition, drills, kata, and or whatever you wish to call it will be involved in any training as you everybody needs to drill the basics, but if everybody spends the entire class running patterns against an imaginary sparring partner the training is going to be of limited use for fighting.
  • Is there a lot of spiritual mumbo-jumbo? A certain amount of talk on qi does not necessarily invalidate the usefulness of a traditional art, but if the art relies on focusing your qi to do techniques over distances or over-emphasizes qi, it might be quackery.
  • Cross-training. MMA has highlighted the problems with focusing solely on striking or, to a lesser extent, grappling. A good school for self-defence may focus on one or the other, but it should cross-train both. If the dojo you attend focuses only on striking, you may want to either reconsider the school or plan to attend a school focusing on the grappling after a few years.
  • Are the facilities maintained? A certain level of messiness is fine, some dojos train outside, and many dojos can’t afford fancy facilities but if the facilities are dangerously run down be wary.
  • Be wary of board-breaking. If any emphasis is put on learning board-breaking, you probably don’t want to return. Board-breaking is a relatively simple skill to learn that has no real benefit beyond looking cool. It’s mostly a waste of time.
  • Everything I said about belts, contracts, secret knowledge, etc. also applies to your introductory visits.

A lot of this is vague and subjective, none of it is hard and fast, so use your common sense and make sure your chosen place to train fits your goals. When choosing your art/dojo you may have to make some compromises based on the availability in your area, that’s fine, nothing is perfect, but never compromise on safety, the quality of the instructor, or the lawfulness of your art.


The Style Wars and Real Fighting

Before I do, I should note a major controversy between traditional and MMA-influenced styles. When the UFC tournaments first started, most of the traditional striking-based schools got blown out of the water in the competition, sometimes embarrassingly so, while Royce Gracie dominated with Brazilian jui-jitsu. Since then, a vocal faction of the MMA-oriented schools have derided the traditional schools as useless (Bullshido is a favoured portmanteau). They will strongly attack the traditional arts and advise against them; they will also demand that any art must show it’s potential “in the ring” before it has any validity.

While there is a lot of BS found in many of the traditional schools and in McDojos, most traditional arts have adapted to the changes by adding grappling curriculum to rid themselves of the deficiencies highlighted by the MMA tournaments (and many of the grappling arts adopted some striking techniques). You can get good training in the traditional arts, whatever some of the style-wars extremists may argue, you just have to be careful for the things I mentioned above so you don’t end up in a scam.

Some of the traditional arts will exclude competition because their training regularly includes dangerous or unsporting techniques (eye gouges, groin attacks, etc.). That’s not a problem, insofar as the art is teaching proper technique properly. Being able to win at sport-fighting in a controlled environment is not the be-all-end-all of martial arts, it’s biggest problem being its heavy focus on ground-based grappling, something you never want to engage in in the real world, but if you never spar or train in active resistance you won’t learn anything of use in a “real” situation.

In terms of “real” fighting most martial arts will give you a leg up on untrained and inexperienced opponents of similar size and weight. No art will allow you to simply make up a huge size difference (there’s a reason MMA has different weight categories) and anybody that claims otherwise is likely untrustworthy. As well, the kinds of people who fight and brawl a lot in real life, generally labelled violent felons, will likely have more “real” experience than anybody in any kind of fighting art. No art will prepare you to “win” against these kinds of fighters.

The major hurdle in a real fight is psychological. A real fight is fast and often unexpected; its not like in the movies, or even the MMA, where people kick and punch each other over many long minutes. Fights usually start and end fairly rapidly because the aggressor wants to seriously hurt the other person and will either succeed shortly or be stopped rapidly. On that point, sheer naked aggression can often overcome any amount of training; the will and desire to inflict damage on another by itself is often usually enough to “win” a fight. Most people are unaccustomed to desiring to seriously hurt people; in any martial arts training, even the most heavy contact MMA, people are generally restraining themselves and trying not to hurt the other. Adrenaline (and drugs) can let the body withstand an amazing amount of punishment; it’s unlikely you will be able to take down someone hopped up on rage or PCP, no matter you training. The combination of surprise, fear, and aggression of a real fight will usually make most of your actual techniques and training. The biggest advantage of training should be simply learning to stay calm instead of panicking in the face of aggression.

In terms of real life fighting, your training will provide you with a leg up, that is all. It is not a guarantee of being able to win or even hold your own. Any art worth taking that is designed towards self-defence should be training you to not panic, to disrupt your opponent (preferably using trained muscle memory), then remove yourself, rather than trying to “win”. You are simply not going to be able to reliably “defeat” much larger opponents, adrenaline-fueled aggressors, or experienced, violent criminals, not to mention the potential legal ramifications of “beating” someone in real life.


The Arts

Here’s a small summary of a number of the more popular/more talked about arts. I’ve tried to be neutral regarding the style wars and have tried to give each each art a fair shake in both its strengths and weaknesses. Partisans of a particular art can feel free to flame me in the comments.

MMA – If you want to do MMA fighting, a specialty MMA dojo/gym is probably the best way to go. MMA places will focus mainly on sport and will often be some combination of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kick-boxing, judo, Muay Thai, and wrestling. You will learn both striking and grappling. MMA sport-fighting will apply to real fighting quite well. You may end up concentrating a lot of effort on less “practical” ground-work (you never want to on the ground for extended periods in a “real” fight) and you will likely be trained out of certain unsporting techniques, such as attacks on the groin and eyes.

Brazilian Jui-Jitsu – This is primarily a grappling art focused on grappling your opponent to the ground to go for submission. It became very popular following its success in the MMA and is a staple of MMA fighting. A must if you plan on doing MMA-style sport-fighting. For practical self-defence, you should do some cross-training if you take this, as you do not want to be going to the ground in public for extended periods of time.

Boxing/Kick-boxing – The classic American martial sport. If you want to get into boxing sport-fighting, this is obviously a must. It’s primarily used for sport and is striking based, so cross-training into grappling is a must if you want to transfer to MMA or for self-defence purposes. Also, be careful about using this for self-defence, as there are major differences between fighting with and without gloves and boxing itself is heavy on rules.

Greco-Roman Wrestling – Another sport-fighting art which is focused mainly on bringing your opponent to the ground, it is essential for that sport. It can also, with cross-training, be a good base for MMA. The rules of wrestling are fairly strict, so it’s probably not the best for strictly self-defence purposes.

Muay Thai – A traditional Thai system focusing on striking with particular emphasis on the use of knees and elbows. It’s a full-contact art with a large emphasis on conditioning. The violence and hard training of it can lead to it being a problematic art to keep up in the long-term. It is a base of a lot of MMA striking techniques and it has its own competition system.

Krav Maga – A stripped down martial art developed for and used by the Israeli Defence Force. It completely removes any holistic aspects and is concerned with teaching someone as efficiently and rapidly as possible to enact violence for survival. It can be thought of as the assembly line martial art for those wanting to learn self-defence as quickly as possible. There is a fair amount of quackery and glorified exercise instructors teaching this art, but if you can find a good instructor it can be good for self-defence.

Karate/Taekwondo – The two big ones of the traditional striking arts; karate tends to focus more on punching, while Teakwondo focuses more on kicking. Both gained strong popularity a few decades ago, but suffered a loss of prestige in the martial arts world following the introduction of the UFC. Due to their popularity, the arts are rife with McDojos and frauds. You can get good training if you get the right instructor and in some areas these may be the only arts available, but be careful. Neither are heavily used in the MMA, but both have their own competition systems. Kyokushin Karate is a form of karate based around heavy contact and would be a solid art for self-defence purposes.

Jujutsu – A traditional Japanese art focused on grappling that has numerous schools and has morphed many times. There is are so many forms of it and it forms the base of so many other schools that I could not give an adequate summary of it. It can mean almost anything.

Judo – A traditional art derived from jujistu that is based primarily around grapples and throws. It is often used as a base art in MMA and it also has its own sporting system. It’s an excellent art to learn.

Sambo – A form of judo mixed with traditional Russian wrestling styles. It has its own sporting structure. While the sport has not had that large an impact on MMA, combat sambo is very much similar to the MMA.

Aikido – A traditional Japanese art focused on using an opponents force against them and on facing multiple attackers. It’s advantages are that it doesn’t require much strength as it is more about redirecting your opponent’s strength and its one of the few arts that concentrates on multiple opponents. It’s often criticized for its unrealistic training and it can have some heavy spiritual aspects to it that some people find off-putting. Shodokan Aikido adds a more competitive and realistic element to the art. It also has a weapons component to it that may be of interest to some.

Kung Fu – Kung Fu refers to a wide variety of Chinese martial arts with a wide variety of emphases and styles; far too many to summarize here. There is a lot of impractical showiness throughout many forms of Kung Fu, so if you are looking for fighting practicality be wary. Wuushu, in particular, is known for it’s showy performance aspects. Wing Chun is one of the most popular forms in the west and is more oriented towards real world fighting; it focuses primarily on close range striking and grappling. Kung Fu often often offers training in traditional weapons and some styles have their own sttructures of competition.

Bujinkan – A Japanese art made of a number of different traditional samurai and ninja schools. It has a very broad focus, familiarizing students a wide range. It also places a relatively strong emphasis on training with traditional weapons; if learning traditional weaponry is your goal this is the art to try.  It’s connection to ninjutsu combined with its lack of official guidelines leads to a high proportion of frauds and craziness. If you can find a good instructor, its broad focus and emphasis on disabling attackers can make it effective for self-defence.

Systema – A Russian martial art with some links to Russian special forces that focuses on body management and movement while eschewing techniques. It can refer to a few different strains of Russian martial arts and sometimes is also used to refer to combat sambo. It has a broad focus and a holistic approach grounded in the Orthodox faith. It’s special forces links and the holistic aspect of it can lead to a fair amount of fraud and quackery. You may be able to find a good teacher, but be careful. It’s history may interest Slavs and the Orthodox.

Fencing/Kendo – These are sword-fighting arts. You won’t get any self-defence value out of them, but if sword-fighting appeals to you, it can be a good way to instill some martial values and discipline and socialize with other people.


Your Goal:

This week your goal is to find a martial art you that interests you, contact the instructor, and join the arts introductory classes.

31 responses to “Omega’s Guide – Martial Arts

  • infowarrior1

    Also potential martial artists should read this:

    And buy this book to apply to their martial arts to make it effective in a survival situation:

  • Boar

    This article series shouldn’t be called „Omega’s guide-xx“, it should be called something like „A guide how to become a man“. Learning to socialize effectively and learning martial arts/working out as some of the pillars of manliness. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next article in the series covers literature/reading/learning.

    Once you write them all you should collect them in one file so people can easily find and read them. I think it would be a good introduction to manosphere principles of self-improvement; certainly better than, let’s say, sleazy pua techniques and such.

  • WillieMaize24

    I thought this was a pretty good overview. i’If you don’t mind I’d add the following: .
    1. If the dojo lets you test for black belt before you’ve practiced for at least 3 years, be wary. Three and a half years should be the lower limit but usually an honest black belt is earned only after 4 years, or even longer. The first place I trained made people black belts after two years if they showed up regularly and had average ability. It wasn’t until I went somewhere else that I realized what a disservice this was.
    2 Judo is sometimes underrated. It can be very effective once you get reasonable proficiency, and it teaches things that carry over into other martial arts. But make absolutely sure you learn how to fall properly. Otherwise you could wreck your shoulder.
    3 IMO, Tae Kwon Do is only good for people with above average flexiibiiity. People with average or below average flexibility would be better off doing something else. Also I’ve seen very few Tae Kwon Do practitioners who can punch effectively. Shotokan guys can jam their kicks and fire away from close in unless the Tae Kwon Do practitioner is much better.
    4. .There’s a role for chi or qi, but it’s often taught more metaphysically than it needs to be. When you start , it can begin to develop naturally if you reduce tension in the shoulders and in between the ribs.
    5. Don’t underestimate Tai Chi as a martial art. At the four year mark, 2 years of form work and another 2 years of form work/push hands, you’ll probably be a pretty good close-in fighter. If you’re inclined towards an internal system but think Tai Chi is too soft , look into Hsing I.
    6. The internal martial arts, Hsing-I, Tai Chi, Bagua or Pa Kua, can be practiced effectively far longer than the external styles. Cheng Man Chin, a high level Tai Chi instructor, could kick butt into his 70’s. I

  • S_McCoy

    Yes! This is fantastic and should be required reading.

    You didn’t mention beginning fitness, if a guy can’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded, maybe he should spend a little time exercising to get ready?

    I wonder if the fencing and sword fighting is something a fellow should do after he’s done your program for a while? I think both are seen as a little odd and Star Trekkish.

    My experience as a perpetual beginner; there was a time I took a lot of abuse from women, some of it was supposedly “good natured” ribbing, some of it elementary school flirting some of it barely masked hostility. Men also but receiving this treatment from women is particularly emasculating. A guy actually rubbed my head once, he was 30 years older and drunk but still.

    Most of it was my fault, I had a desire to please others more than myself, I was unsure of myself and didn’t have anybody to confide in for support so I ended up displaying behaviors and attitudes that signaled weakness and encouraged abuse.

    Almost immediately after beginning training that started to change, partly because I carried myself differently and mostly because my attitude changed.

    I played sports, tennis, squash, so I had a competitive spirit but the training in martial arts is what refines that spirit I think.

    I still have to deal with hostility and smart ass remarks from morbidly obese women and beady eyed little men but I don’t play along now, life is much better.

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  • Boar

    @WillieMaize24 – thanks for the info about Tai Chi and Hsing-I (I’ve never heard of Hsing-I until today). I’ve decided to start training Tai Chi couple of days ago, mainly for health reasons, but I’ve recently learned that Tai Chi has some real martial applications as well, and that’s always good. I used to train Wing Chun combined with some light weight training in high school for a year and during that time I felt like a beast.

  • Steve Johnson

    Former BJJ practitioner here (quit due to a few joint injuries).

    Absolutely nothing is like BJJ or MMA as far as confidence building goes. BJJ is purely hands on – every class is about half sparring from your very first class. If you’re looking to gain confidence nothing will give it to you better than seeing how you get destroyed by everyone then in a few months you can destroy anyone who walks in for their first class – no matter how big or strong. Some “art” where you don’t spar for years? All it will do is make you look like a fool because you won’t have the skill to back up your confidence (and you’ll do dumb things because you think you’re tougher than you are because you’ve been “training” without being tested).

  • dannyfrom504

    krav. easy to learn and very effective. it’s illegal in MMA. it’s all about incapacitating your oppenent and keeping on mission (from a military viewpoint).

  • Steve Johnson

    Oh, and one more thing. Anything that advertises that it uses “deadly techniques” that are “illegal in MMA” is horseshit – because if it’s illegal in MMA, you can’t practice it full speed on a resisting opponent and if you don’t practice it on a resisting opponent you can’t do it – as cool as it seems.

  • dannyfrom504

    i learned krav with my Marines. i’ve used it in RL and it works.

  • Steve Johnson

    Most people who learn it don’t get to use it IRL – nor are they learning it in the Marines.

    If the advice was “join the Marines” then yeah, that will work. If the advice is “learn Krav Magha” then no, it won’t – at least not as well as learning something that you can actually practice at full speed / full power (judo, wrestling, boxing, Muy Thai, BJJ, and MMA).

  • WillieMaize24

    Glad I could be of help. Just remember that it’s important to be consistent in your training. A little bit every day will work wonders after a while. Also with tai chi don’t do too much in one day. If you’re just doing it for health, then once you get some serious practice time in, that should be enough to hold you for the day, even if you feel you could have done more.

    As for Hsing-I (sometimes spelled Xing-I), it’s moe linear than tai chi. It’s easier to learn but doesn’t do as much for you as tai chi does. The two are very compatible. What you learn in Tai Chii helps iin Hsing I and vice versa..

    (BTW, Bruce Frantzis, a well known internal martial arts instructor, tells about how he got to be a believer in Hsing I. Years ago, after he had won the sparring competition in a major karate tournament, he went to Taiwan to learn Hsing-I.He had been in the class for a little while, when a 70 year old fellow student (who’d been training for 10 years) asked him if he wanted to spar. Bruce agreed, thinking he would just go easy on the guy because he was young, and vigorous and an experienced karate tournament fighter, and the other guy was a little, unassuming 70 year old. guy. Well after a few seconds of sparring Bruce realized that he was in for a bit more than he had bargained for, and that to have any chance against this little 70 year old guy he was going to have to go full out, and pull out all the stops. According to Bruce even that didn’t turn out to be enough.)

  • dannyfrom504


    one of the guys that works with me is a civilian and he’s been doing it for almost a year. if you find the right dojo, it’s very possible to learn and use IRL.

    you just have to learn to exersize restraint.

  • Free Northerner

    @ infowarrior: The first link has some decent information, but martial arts training has to be done in person. Books, DVD’s, etc. can not replace real training.

    @ Boar: One of the articles will talk on reading, literature, etc. I was planning to put this into a pamphlet or booklet at the end, and I think I’ll take your naming suggestion for the pamphlet.

    @ willie: Those are mostly good points. I should add the 2-year black
    belt thing to the final pamphlet. When chi is used as a stand-in for tension/relaxation, I see little problem. As for Tai-chi, i know little about it, but was under the impression it was more like yoga than an actual martial art.

    @ McCoy: Physical fitness can often be gained through the training, but I ma going to make a post on that in this series. There may be a little nerditry to swordfighting, but I’m trying to be neutral on the topic. The confidence boost from MA is amazing.

    @ steve: I would agree the confidence from being able to win a BBJ spar is likely huge, but that does not remove the applicability of other arts. Most claims to secret deadly techniques are BS, but real-life self-defence is different from a ring. “Winning” is not and should not be the object; disruption and withdrawal is. There are simply too many variables involved to engage someone for extended periods of time the way cage fighting trains you. Also, any good dojo practices active resistance, even if it is not full-speed sparring.

    @ danny: Krav was actually my first choice but they didn’t have it where I live.

  • bringthereality

    Nice overview.

    I’ll +1 judo as an excellent art to learn. Not only is it effective, but when you combine it with other arts (karate/TKD), you can become a well-rounded martial artist.

    Just a bit of historical trivia: Aikido is derived from kendo. Kind of strange, when you consider that most kendo dojos will require you to have a belt in aikido before starting sword training.

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  • WillieMaize24

    Free Northerner, I’ve been away from the belt systems for a while, but now I noticed some inflated black belt rankings. I know two people who are competent, but no more than competent, who now are above 5th degree black belts, which is unheard of unless, in the Japan Karate Association at least, you’ve been through sesei’s school, and neither of them are even remotely close to that level. .
    Both are probably honest third degrees. The reason they’re higher is that they joined an association of instructors, and the assocaition gave them the advanced black belts.
    Just wanted to point this out.

  • Steve Johnson

    willie – Hate to keep harping on how good BJJ is about all this stuff but… in BJJ you’re a belt level when that’s who you can spar with and beat. If you can beat white belts (who can beat untrained men), you’re a blue belt. If you can beat blue belts you’re a purple belt.

    I have such huge love for the idea that everything is testable in BJJ.

  • Gruesome

    Funny how everywhere Systema is mentioned with a smirk. Maybe because of its Christian Orthodox associations. My theory is that Jesus used a supernatural form of Systema in Luke 4:28-30.

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  • WillieMaize24

    Well this is a bit late, but I thought I’d pass on that those who are looking for more iinfo might want to check out these sites: and
    I can’t evaluate all the information on those forums, but it seems like tere’s lots of good information on them..

  • WillieMaize24

    Also meant to add this about how to tell if a dojo is a McDojo

  • Free Northerner

    Good stuff Willie. Bullshido can be good for pointing out scams, but they tend very narrowly biased and extremely confrontational, so everything needs taken with a grain of salt.

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