What is the best martial art for me?

What's the best martial art for me?
Are you asking yourself what is the best martial art for me? ...then this article explains which of some of the most common martial arts styles you may consider best for you. If you are new to martial arts and you have little experience of what each style requires in terms of strength, flexibility or commitment then this article should help.

If you are asking yourself which martial art should I learn, then there are several things that you should consider.

First is to decide what type of martial art you are interested in learning. There are literaly thousands of different martial arts from almost every country around the globe. Some are practiced only in the country of origin and some have become popular around the world.

When deciding on a martial art to learn you should consider the reasons that you have in starting training. Is it to learn self defense, explore another culture, exercise or just to meet new people? Learning a martial art is a great way to satisfy all those goals.


The key styles

Often a martial art is a combination of several different styles that the founder of the art studied and welded together to form his own distinct style. Some Dojos (schools) are affiliated with national or international groups that oversee the art, some are affiliated with no one but the Sensei (teacher) who runs the school.

Here is a list of just a few of the better known styles and their country of origin.

Aikido (Japan)

Often called the way of the open hand this art is taught worldwide. Aikido teaches blending with the force of an attack and then redirecting it rather than opposing it head on. Considered one of the softer martial arts it's techniques are often taught to police because the style allows subduing with little or no harm to the attacker.

Hapkido (Korea)

Employing joint locks and borrowing techniques from a wide range of other styles and weapons. Practitioners gain advantage through movements that uses leverage, avoiding the use of strength against strength.

JuJutsu (Japan)

Often described as the art of softness or way of yielding, this art was first developed by samurai as a way of defeating armed or armored opponents when the samurai was unarmed. It specializes in pins joint locks and throws.

Karate ( Japan)

A striking art that uses hands, feet, knees elbows to render an attacker incapacitated. Some styles also include locks, throws and vital point strikes. Its immense popularity due to martial arts movies in the 60's and 70's have made Karate a generic term that includes most styles of striking arts.

Kung Fu (China)

Is a generic term covering a number of different martial art styles originating in China over many centuries. Some styles teach the use of ki (energy) and are called inner styles. Others stress strength and cardiovascular health and are labeled outer styles. The one thing that they all have in common is the attempt to learn self defense, health and personal development.

Judo (Japan)

Translated as “gentle way” this art is more competitive, where the aim is to throw ones opponent to the ground or incapacitate him through the use of joint locks or choke holds.

Jeet Kune Do (USA)

Founded by the most famous martial artist of all time, Bruce Lee, this martial arts style combines a range of methods and strategies from a number of styles including Wing Chun, JiuJitsu, Boxing and more. It is conisdered one of the most effective styles there is, as the philosphy behind it, derived by it's founder focuses on efficiency. This style is hugely recommended if you can find a capable instructor. Unfortunately many instructors who claim to teach this style are unqualified. If you decide take up this style, ensure you look carefully into your instructor and ask about their direct lineage to Bruce Lee / his students, including the legendry Dan Inosanto.

Tae Kwon Do (Korea)

One of the characteristics of this art is the high, fast and spinning kicks it teaches. Tai Kwan Do is often translated as “the art of kicking and punching. It's training includes patterns, sparring, self defense and break tests.

Tai Chi (China)

An energy exercise that uses exacting movements to promote strength, stamina and flexibility. Often practitioners of Tai Chi seem to be in a world all their own though in reality they are acutely aware of their surroundings.


Find and visit The School

Once you have decided which martial art you are interested in it is time to visit schools. Search for martial arts schools in your area using the largest database of martial arts schools in the world. Most Dojos allow a brief observance of a class in action. Some have specific classes that they allow to be observed so make sure to call ahead for the policy. When you visit a school you can get information about schedules, costs and a general feel of the school. Make sure to ask questions.


Consider Your Strengths

After visiting a few Dojos you probably will find some where the practice seems too hard or too soft for your goals. You need to be honest about what your limits are when searching for a Dojo to call your own. But be assured though, there are schools for every age, strength and ability. There are even many schools that have special classes designed for people recovering from an injury or that have other special needs.


Set A Budget

Starting costs can vary from style to style. A Kendo armor can cost as much as $1000 while an Aikido school would only need a white uniform Keiko-Gi. Some schools require you to sign up for a package of lessons while some let you join month by month. It's your choice.


Starter Classes

Some Dojos offer starter classes that have their own schedules. These classes are generally designed as an introduction to the specific style being offered. It is pretty intimidating to walk into a class where everyone else seems to know what they are doing so a beginning class is a perfect way to try out the style and learn some of the basics. These classes are usually less strict about uniforms and other gear. This is also a great way to experience the art before deciding on the martial art in which you want to train.


The Atmosphere

When you visit a school make sure to observe the interactions between the different students and instructor. Some styles are all business and very competitive. Some are friendlier and more receptive to new students. Neither is better than the other, you just need to find the one that you will be he most comfortable in.


The Instructor

You should also check the training of the instructor(s) to make sure that you are being taught in a safe manner and that they actually know what they are doing.


Are You Moving?

There is nothing more frustrating than working hard to raise in the ranks then find out after you move that your ranking only means something in the school where you started. This doesn't mean that you should only go to a Dojo that belongs to a national accreditation group. It is just something that you should take into consideration before you join. While it is nice to know that there is always a school that you can go to if you move or even just travel a lot, most Dojos welcome new students with open arms and will accept you for your skills no matter where you learned them.



Learning a martial art can be a fun way to get in shape, meet new people and learn about another culture. Just remember that no matter where you are in life or what shape you are in, more than likely you can find a Dojo that you will be proud to call home.

So if you are asking - w'hich martial art is best for me?' The answer is the one where you will feel the most comfortable with considering all factors discussed above, remember to go out and enjoy the martial art you choose, it is a wonderful sport which improves all aspects of health incuding both mental and physical ability.

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stevemoor's picture

Really useful article for people starting out
Sensei Francois's picture

yes good, for beginners and the like
Russell's picture

This is a very good article and covers a number of topics that everyone can make use of when they are out searching for a school.
Chaleira's picture

This is a great article, and can greatly aid those in search of a martial art school to train. There is a lot that goes into trying to find a good school and a good instructor. One thing that I do when looking for a school is dig around for all the info on the instructor that I can. His credentials, his history (in and outside of martial arts), his lineage...everything I can find. This can also help out a lot when looking ;-)
Drywalker's picture

Very well written article. I would have added more on looking up on the instructor in charge (have had experience in this field before), and perhaps more on his senior pupils (such as training duration). But you've covered the necessary details well for starters.
cris donovan's picture

a really informative piece that would prove very helpfull to those looking for a place to start. Many people fail to include something along the lines of your "Are you moving?" And while it should govern a persons choice, it is certainly a valid consideration. congrats
Jonny's picture

This article is great for anyone starting out and not sure where to start. I usually research the instructor when I think about joining a class
Karate Kitty's picture

Thanks for sharing. This is definitely a good place to start for any new martial artist. I don't think anyone will have problems deciding after reading your article. Keep up the good work Ash.