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Published October 16th 2012
How to look like a butterfly and sting like a bee
Martial arts is all the rage but most people are not really quite clear on the details. What usually comes to mind are karate, kung fu, judo, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and may be Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris for the baby boomers who haven't entirely lost their long term memories. Well, there's more to martial arts than these few better known forms and so here's a quick low down on some you may not have heard of.
Though most martial art forms have Oriental origins, there are instances when contributions have been made from other parts of the world. This happens when proponents of the martial art move to other countries as in the case of Mitsuyo Maeda who moved from Japan to Brazil in the 19th century and took Kodokan Judo with him. This evolved into the present BJJ. BJJ stands for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mixed martial arts, which is a self defence cum combat sport specialising in joint locks and chokeholds that a smaller person can use to overpower a bigger opponent.
Aikido translates to the "Way of harmonious spirit". And in keeping with this philosophy, this form of martial arts teaches practitioners to defend themselves while taking care to not cause real injury to the opponent. You learn to deflect the momentum of your attacker away from you. Ironic, isn't? Well, if you're a peaceful soul who wouldn't hurt a fly, which is real hard now that spring is here, but would still like to be able to defend yourself from pesky attackers you know what to learn.
Muai Thai, yes you guessed right, comes from Thailand and teaches you to use eight points of contact to bring down your opponent rather than just two as in boxing with two fists. The eight points are the hands, feet, knees, and elbows. If you insist on using a ninth, that would have to be your head, and no, I'm not kidding.
Kobudo is an ancient Japanese martial art that has not been watered down to a modern version but sticks to its earliest way of training. It was meant to be used to fight armed enemies using weapons as in warfare. For this reason it takes more effort than usual to master. It is usually taught along with Karate as the two forms are supposed to be used in tandem.
And that brings us to Iaido, which is a Japanese martial arts form that involves the use of a sword; a wooden one till you figure out how to avoid the pointy end. You do not engage another individual in combat but master the moves with a sword. In other words, it's all about concentration. It is meant to deal with surprise attacks. Iaido also helps train the mind to remain harmonious while simultaneously ready to leap into action.
So, while that certainly does not cover all forms of martial arts in town, you do get an idea of what's available in case you're interested in getting some quality training. Training is usually available irrespective of age, previous experience, and fitness level. This is best discussed with your instructor prior to enrolling so they know exactly what level you'll fit into. I'm pretty sure they have a plan in place no matter what your level of fitness. That's the magic of martial arts; it's varies so much in intensity that there is a form for everyone.