I am interested in learning and practicing a martial art, but I really cannot afford to go to the dojos in my area. Also, most of them are Karate, and for some reason Karate doesn't seem to appeal to me...
Any suggestions on what to pick, and how to learn it for cheap?
I've got 2 years of Tae Kwon Do, plus military unarmed combat (basic aikido and BJJ) plus a little experience with boxing. I've been itching to get back into martial arts for a while. I'm thinking of getting into Combat Hapkido because it is a very practical martial art. My TKD experience taught me a lot of fundamentals but is basically a sport, not a valid method of self defense (good luck landing a number 3 reverse high kick in a real fight). The recent article on AoM brought up a lot of good points about choosing a style. Do you have access to a military base in your area? Most base gyms have martial arts classes in the evenings and most that I have seen are about $30/month. All you would need was access to the base, so if you were a military dependent that would be one option. Only problem with that (other than access) is that there are usually only 1 or 2 styles available (Combat Hapkido and Shotokan Karate at mine).
Most Judo clubs are nonprofit organizations so fees are cheap, the exercise is good, and you learn really good clinch-range skills and enough grappling skills to survive if you have to. Not only that but "alive" training methodology and regular competition is Judo standard operating procedure, so the training will probably be good and effective.
For standup, knockdown Karate is good. Look for Kyokushin, Shidokan (NOT Shotokan), Enshin, etc. I'm not sure how much it is per month but those guys are tough.
I really like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but the problem is that it's gotten really trendy since the rise of UFC so it's expensive. Muay Thai is the same way.
If your looking for fitness any martial art will be fine. It doesn't matter cause each class or training session will give your body a workout. So if fitness is your main concern then pick one that appeals to you, watch youtube clips and see which one you think looks cool and then research your area for a gym, dojo, or studio. There are basically 4 catergories to look into, stand up (IE. boxing), grappling (IE. wrestling), martial arts (karate), and MMA styles (Krave Maga). Each style has there own benefits.
Now, if your looking for cardio and self defense here is my advice, keep it simple. You don't want to try to get cute and fancy in a bar or on the streets. You want to strike quick and then bolt. What I practice and recommend is boxing. A brutal workout but one that gives you a chance to strike quick and leave. You don't tie up, you don't clinch, you don't wrestle, and you can be arms length away. Also, its basic 4 punches, footwork, and a defense (this can be complicated). Not to mention its one of the cheapiest sports to learn.
But, realize every sport has a flaw. Stand up fighters can't grapple. Grapplers can't fight standing up. Martial arts require room and are usually based on caculated movements but, has more in thier arsenal then a stand up fighter or grappler. Most MMA fans will say thats why MMA is the best... Here is where I have a problem with MMA. They are not great in one aspect, they are okay in a few different styles. So a Krav Maga guy won't grapple like a wrestler or be able to block a punch or throw a punch like a boxer. It takes years and dedication to master these sports and UFC fighters try to learn them all in a few months....
Also, on the part of the MMA thing, I see guys who are 'great strikers' mess up on stuff that I learned almost right off the bat. I've seen some guys who are supposedly great strikers but their footwork is a mess.
I do western boxing before, and now I added muay thai, jujitsu and escrima (all separately, but taught at the same school) to the mix, but I focus mostly on my boxing, since it's like William said, it's brutal, effective and simple. The other stuff is so I'm not one sided. Boxing is in fact one of the best martial arts in the world. Best sport as well.
Boxers tend to say MMA striking is sloppy, and you're right if you're talking about straight-up boxing. However, when you add things like leg-kicks, clinch fighting, and takedowns, boxing starts to not work so well. Their footwork is "a mess" because they're out of their element when fighting according to the Queensbury rules. I guarantee that if you were put into a MMA ring with a decent striker you would find yourself eating a few knees, because you'd be out of your element.
Boxing skills are really important to a good MMA game, which is why so many fighters work their hands with boxing trainers, but saying that MMA striking is "sloppy" because it wouldn't work well in an entirely different rule set is ignorant.
I do muay thai as well, and even the people who do muay thai in UFC and WEC and what have you could learn. Mauricio Rua and Anderson Silva are some of the only two who have the kind of footwork that I could talk about for ages.
Even some of my friends who train with Matt Lindland and all the guys over at Team Quest say it. I'm not entirely a boxer, that's just my base. Jujitsu and boxing are what I'm best at.
I went to a MMA gym a while ago just to see what it is like, I had a lot of experience boxing and a little experience grappling (BJJ). So, I wanted to see what it was like to piece it all together. Most of the guys in the gym were amateur level MMA fighters who had more experience in one sport and took up MMA. One was a low level pro kick boxer but, nothing to brag about.
Anyways, I went to the MMA gym and sparred almost immediately. Like you said I ate a few kicks, knees, and I was taken down quite a bit. But, after I fought a few rounds with different styles I figured out how to take each fighter. They were horrible with the basics, jab, basic footwork, distance and blocking punches. It was very easy for me to adapt to each style and beat them, no of these guys ever saw the hand speed, head movement, or footwork like a boxer has. After usually a round I knew what would beat them (IE. wrestlers were suckers for jabs and uppercuts, kick boxers I needed to time their kicks and counter with hard shots, and the MA guys I just needed to rain punches on them and they turtled up.). The only style that really gave me trouble was Muy Thai, no matter what distance I was they could hit me and getting close was too dangerous. They didn't have footwork like me so I was able to move around and they were easy to counter but, Muy Thai applied a lot of pressure that made me uncomfortable.
Yeah I know that feeling, I've gone up against some of the guys who do strictly muay thai and I end up eating something if I get in close enough to punch without moving around a good bit to keep them off balance. But I know a few of the tricks of muay thai as well.
Sometimes your Villages Park District will offer intro MA classes for pretty cheap. I've seen judo, karate, and tae kwon do classes offered as such. Also, check YMCA's, and even medical centers. Centegra for one offers all sorts of fitness related classes including some intro MA classes.
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