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Learn a Martial Art

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by Brendan Wan (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer who enjoys travel & culture.Enjoy more writings from me by visiting my blog at
Published April 19th 2011
Remember the many times you would watch a Bruce Lee movie and just think 'Wow, I wish I could do that!' Well I wouldn't go as far as saying that you can do the amazing things that Bruce Lee does in his movies, but I can say that you can start by joining the many martial arts clubs in Melbourne.

Joining a Martial Arts club is a great, fun and healthy activity you can do on your weekends. You will not only learn new skills in defending yourself, but also learn and practise good values that will benefit your own wellbeing.

In this day and age, we are blessed with the fact that we have many different styles of martial arts to choose from. How do we choose the right school? Hopefully, this article will provide some insight on what to expect from a martial arts school and the many different styles of martial arts out there in Melbourne.

Health benefits of Martial Arts
Firstly, I would like to emphasis the health benefits on martial arts training. Regularly training in martial arts has been proven to hold many health benefits; physical, mental and spiritual. Symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression can be reduced due to the physical nature of training and also the mental training one can receive.

Through training, ones physical fitness can be boosted as martial arts exercises the entire body, increasing strength, flexibility and coordination. Many styles of martial arts involve the practise of sparring, which as a result, can greatly increase one's cardio fitness and concentration.

As well as the physical benefits of regular training, practitioners of martial arts also receive the benefits of mental health which can lead to an increase of self-esteem, self-control, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Though it is often the case that most schools focus on the physical aspect of martial arts, there are still many schools out there that focus more heavily on the psychological well-being of the practitioner.

Martial Arts verses Fighting Sports verses Fighting Systems
Warfare has been around for as long as man has walked the earth; it is in our instincts to fight, whether it is verbal or physical. As a result of warfare, systems of practices and traditions of combat were created, thus the birth of Martial Arts, Fighting Sports and Fighting Systems.
Although they are all products of warfare with similar aims at defeating or defending others, in my opinion, I believe there are some key differences between the three.

A Martial Art is an art form which has its founding roots from military warfare, which over a long period of time has become more stylized and also has gained religious and cultural influences.
Like with any discipline, martial arts aims at finding and progressing ones peace of mind and the ultimate expression of one's self through regular physical and mental practice in the art of fighting.

Fighting Sports are sports that can trace its roots from fighting but with the main aim of competition. Depending on the club, codes of moral conduct and discipline are taught, however, the main emphases of Fighting Sports are on competition and physical fitness.
Boxing and MMA are examples that come to mind.

Fighting systems can be classified as a subgroup of martial arts. Fighting systems de-emphasises the art form of martial arts and heavily focus on the logical nature of a fight. A Fighting System would therefore teach self defence techniques that are realistic and extremely efficient. Example of fighting systems would be Krav Maga and Keysi Fighting Method.

Whether it is a martial art, fighting sport or fighting system, almost all of these products of warfare will unanimously teach that the best path is the non violent path. What is the point of endangering yourself in a fight when you can resolve the matter with words?

McDojo: The Commercialization of the Martial Arts Industry

In the modern world of commercialism, the martial arts industry has increasingly become more and more popular with the number of martial arts schools on a steady rise. The start of the martial arts trend began in the 70's when classic kung fu movies were being shown to western cinema audiences. The next big boom in the industry was when the Karate Kid was released in the 80's, which apparently helped Karate become a mainstream physical activity in America.

Something you should be wary about is the McDojos. The term McDojo is affiliated with schools that have many branches which charge high prices for low quality classes, usually taught by unqualified or incompetent instructors. With the right amount of money, you can fast track yourself to become a black belt in no time, yet by the time you reach that level, you still most likely wouldn't be able to defend yourself in a real fight. So what are the best ways to spot out a McDojo around Melbourne? Here's a list of tips to do when thinking of choosing a school:

Ask questions: As a paying student, the one absolute thing for you to do is ask questions. Find out about the strengths and limitations of the style; ask questions about the school, classes and fees, ask about everything. If you are learning a form, which is a set of routine movements, ask your instructor how you would be able to apply this in real life. If you are learning a stand-up fighting style like karate or kung fu, ask your instructor how you would go about defending against a practitioner of a ground fighting style like jujitsu or judo.

A good instructor will fully admit the limitation of their own style and will offer suggestions on how to strengthen your own weakness when faced with certain situations. A bad teacher would probably compare styles, which is the worst thing to do, and dismiss other schools. There is no such thing as the ultimate style; it always comes down to the practitioner in the end.

Take up a trial lesson: Undertaking a trial lesson is the best thing to do when choosing your school. You will get a feel of the school and see in firsthand how training is commenced and the instructor's teaching style. While you're on your trial lesson, ask your fellow students questions about the style and the school itself, question them on what they like about the school and what interest them about the school.

Evaluate on the instructor: When you see the instructor in the class teaching their students, evaluate them and see if it suits what you are looking for in an instructor. Does the instructor have applied knowledge of the techniques, do they treat their students with respect, and do they focus more on the physical side of martial arts and not on the spiritual aspect of martial arts? These are the sort of questions you should be asking yourself when you evaluate an instructor. Winning many trophies and having a black belt doesn't necessarily mean they are a good teacher.

Also, it is always best to ask questions to the instructor about their own past and their training; who did they train with? What were their reasons for learning martial arts in the first place?

Discuss options: After taking your trial lesson, you should be able to discuss with the instructor about prices, classes and choices on how to reach your own goal. Ask your instructor if you are suitable for this style, see if they are pushy and are selling you something.
An instructor is more of a guide than an all knowing guru; they will only provide the building blocks to your own success.

Find the martial arts that suits to your interest
With a large variety of schools and martial arts styles in Melbourne, it can be difficult to choose which school and martial arts style is best for you. Again, there is no one martial arts style that is better than the other, it entirely depends on you: the student.

It's not always the case that students enrol in martial arts schools to just learn how to fight. Different students have different needs and wants. Some join to actually learn how to fight; some learn to gain more confidence in themselves, while others join with the aim at improving one's health and wellbeing.

If you are in search for a school that teaches good values and discipline, find a school which emphasis on the mental and spiritual aspects of martial arts. If you find that you are interested in the scientific and logical nature of fighting, find a school that teaches effective and efficient self defence. If you are thinking of joining a school because you are interested in the stylized art form of martial arts, then join a school that heavily involves the artistic side of martial arts.

Hopefully this information will give you enough confidence to go out and pursue a martial arts school. So now, it's time for you to get off your backside and join a school. Learn the art and science of fighting, improve your fitness and mental wellbeing and perhaps make some new friends.

For relating articles, please see my articles on Krav Maga and Aikido.
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Why? Learn new skills to help you thrieve in this world!
Where: Multiple locations in Melbourne
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