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With all the UFC hype that has been happening over the past few years it seems everyone wants to be a MMA fighter. It is the same now like it was back in the 70's when Bruce Lee came onto the scene. Everyone wanted to practice Kung Fu! I have practiced martial arts for around 20 years now and I have learned a few things that should help you decide what art you would best at. I would like to help direct you to a style that you can excel in and possibly open your eyes to new arts you never even knew existed!
I would first like to give you a little lesson on the subject itself. Martial arts have been around ever since we humans first became intelligent enough to know how to settle our differences with our fists. Thus, martial arts was born! The word martial art has meaning behind it as well.
The world martial came from the Greek word mars, which was in reference to Ares, the god of war in Greek mythology. The word art means to be expressive or to add your own twist to a certain thing, which in this case would be martial or war. So, the basic meaning of this term would be: the expression of war.
The martial art was created for one reason, which was to kill as quickly as possible, with certain factors involved. Such as the environment in which the people resided, the physical properties of said people, and their own beliefs/culture. This is very important to keep this in mind when trying to figure out what style is best for you.
This martial art is an art that focuses mainly on kicks. It was made for the Korean army in 1945. Then, in 2000, it became apart of the Olympics, changing the art to what we know it as now. Taekwondo is a forced to be reckoned with. It's powerful kicks and extra focus on flexibility make it a very particularly hard art to master. Taekwondo is best practiced by people whom are, a little on the shorter side or have long legs, have a more athletic smaller build, and are more flexible than the average person.
Muay Thai is an extremely deadly an unforgiving art which is also known as, "the art of 8 limbs." It's mother style was Muay Baron, which was outlawed because it was deemed to dangerous to be used in the rings of Thailand. In turn, that is how Muay Thai came into play. Muay Baron was created using the elephant as a guide much to the like of how the monks used the praying mantis, tiger, snake, crane, and so on for their kung fu. It was created sometime during the 14th century. It is unclear of the exact date. Muay Thai uses all eight limbs. Knees, elbows, fists, and feet. Muay thai is known for its use in mma due to its crippling low kicks. What most people neglect to realize is that true muay thai is heavily spiritualistic. Muay thai is best practiced by pretty much anyone. Although I would suggest that it be someone who is, short with long legs and arms, someone with good motor skills, tough minded, and someone with a never back down attitude.
Ahhhhhhhhh boxing. Good old fashioned fist to face action. No fancy kicks or pointless katas. Boxing is about as basic as it comes. Boxing has been around since we humans were even able to clinch our fists. I personally believe that it is one the oldest forms of martial arts around today. I mean think about it. When people fight it is their first instinct to throw punches. People were boxing way before any other martial art come about and they never even knew it! Boxing is best practiced for everyone! Its best practiced by people that have long arms, people who are very calculated, and ones that exhibit the ability to stay calm under pressure.
With its beautiful displays to the ancient meaning behind it, Kung Fu is one of the most highly sought after martial arts around today. I mean who would not want to be that guy flipping, spinning, yelling, and taking out massive armies with one kick? Kung Fu, for the most part has been clouded in mystery for the better part of 40 years. Hollywood has twisted what it actually is. Kung Fu is more than the famous chi (inner energy) demonstrations from the monks. Kung Fu focuses mostly on the betterment of one's self. The martial art in itself is a 'means to an end' per say. I found this very important to note because this can cause issues with ones culture and beliefs. Keep this in mind when you consider this art. Aside from all of that, it is one of the more difficult to master and takes many years to even comprehend. I recommend someone who is open to new ideas from a culture and spiritual stand point, a person who is about details, someone who is willing to dedicate a lifetime to learning all the forms. This art is also ideal for someone with a smaller frame and quick reflexes.
Judo is an interesting art to say the least. It incorporates the usage of balance misdirection to make your opponent meet his end eating the ground. Much like Muay Baron it has been dulled down into the sport version we see at the Olympics, but do not let it fool you. It still hurts and is effective... trust me. The samurai of Japan used a form of this on the battlefield centuries ago called Ju-juitsu. There are no strikes in judo only throws and some ground work. I have found it best suited for short (low gravity centered) people, ones with short arms and legs, strong upper body strength, strong grip, and a good sense of balance.
Karate is everywhere. There are soooooo many styles just like kung fu. This is the art that most people see and associate it with any kind of kick or punch. Why? Beats me. All I know is that Karate is one of the most practiced sports in the world. It is not a very old style compared to some of the others on this list. Karate has changed greatly due to all of the other styles that have branched off of the original art. It is important to research all of the other styles for karate as it is an umbrella term now a days. Under this umbrella you have, kempo, shotokan, kyokushin, okinawan, and so many others. Each one of these styles has a certain specialty or way they conduct themselves. For the most part I would recommend a person be mid sized with a medium build. As far as flexibility goes, its not a real need in most of these other arts, but would be a plus.
This style for the longest time was considered (and still is by some people) to be a form of Kung Fu, but for this article I will treat it like it is not. Wing Chun was created to be a natural way for people to defend themselves. It uses the body's natural reactions to end the fight quickly and effectively. It relies on fast, powerful, and direct strikes along with a few sneaky kicks. This style would benefit anyone! There really is not much of a restraint to someone wanting to learn this art.
So with all of this being said I hope that I have given you some insight as to what art you would be best in. Now, please feel free to try whatever style you like! I only made this list for the people who do not want their time wasted trying to find that one perfect art. I would also like to explain that where you might live will be a big factor in choosing what you go after. I urge you to try and learn some kind or art even if it does not "fit" you. You can gain nothing, but benefits from learning and applying yourself in one or all of the arts. I have studied all of these arts and a few more as well and I can tell you from experience that it is worth it. In the future I hope to make a new list of my top best martial arts for self defense as well!