Beginner martial arts for girls
If you know anyone who does martial arts, nearly all of them will be convinced that the style they study (judo, kung fu, wing chun, karate, kickboxing, aikido, tai chi) is the best style, and they’ll have a host of reasons to prove it. But the only important martial arts style is the one you choose for yourself. Mookychick tells you how to find the perfect martial arts style for yourself, enjoy it, and not take any bullshit – from anyone.
If you’re thinking of studying martial arts, how do you know which is the best style for you?
1) First of all, anyone will benefit from any martial art. So the best style for you is the one you decide to study. Doing martial arts will inevitably make you stronger, faster, more flexible, fitter, slimmer (in the RIGHT way), better-looking, more confident, more aware. You really can’t go wrong.
2) If you’re just starting out, shop around and look for the best martial art for you. As a beginner you don’t have to be gung-ho about a particular discipline when you don’t yet know much about it. If they have both a karate class and a judo class in your neighbourhood, and you go to your first week of judo but then it coincides with a party the following week and you miss a lesson, don’t panic. Just go to the karate class on a different day instead. See what works for you. You can maybe do a bit of reading up about the discipline, but the important thing is just to go.
3) You’ll see the benefits straight away, but training takes time. Be aware that, even if you attend regularly (say once a week), for the first year you’ll be the equivalent of a baby learning to take its first steps. Enthusiasm is good, and you’ll be enthusiastic, and notice remarkable changes in your physique and learning curve, but you’ll still just be a baby. You won’t get everything martials arts has to offer you all at once. You won’t be Bruce Lee. You’ll just be on the right path – enjoy it!
4) Don’t expect to kick anyone’s ass in the first week. Even Buffy’s martial art skills were crap in the first couple of seasons, because Sarah Michelle Gellar was still learning kickboxing and quite frankly wasn’t very good at it. If you want to pick a martial art because you’ve heard it’s the one most likely to kick ass, forget it. They all kick ass – if you study them for years. As a beginner, you can be guaranteed to be completely incapable of kicking ass for a very long time. But don’t worry about it – even if you can barely hit a punchbag, much less a small dog or even a mugger, it doesn’t matter. You’ll feel like a superwoman anyway. (PS A lot of people say that a tai chi master, of all things, can kick anyone’s ass. This is probably true. Tai chi is a very soft style, the kind you see old people doing in parks on a sunday morning. It looks like very, very slow dancing. Speed it up, and it’s deadly because it doesn’t use strength, just understanding. But you will not kick anyone’s ass with tai chi unless you do it for forty years).
5) Remember that all martial arts teach you the same important things. A lot of martial arts use different styles and techniques to achieve slightly different things. For example, aikido is unarmed combat, originally designed to defend yourself against a guy with a sword if you’ve lost your own. And wing chun was invented by a female monk, and designed partially to be used by women, potentially in small spaces (eg if some guy is crowding you). Some styles look brutal and some styles look pretty. Some styles have you grappling on the mat and some styles have you flying through the air. However, these obvious differences are just window-dressing. Essentially, you’ll see the same basic yet all-important elements arise in all martial arts disciplines:
a) Getting strong, fast, balanced and flexible
b) Truly knowing your left from your right so you can move at ease
c) Learning moves by heart until finally they’re understood not only by your mind but your body (this is called body-memory) so you can do them intuitively
d) Knowing when to attack, when to defend, and when to get the hell out of the way
e) How to breathe (surprisingly important, this. Good breathing can make you calmer, more energetic and more focused)
f) Taking pleasure in a never-ending journey of improvement and discovery
Bruce Lee had this to say about people who worried that one discipline might be better than another:
” I hope martial artists are more interested in the root of martial arts and not the different decorative branches, flowers or leaves. It is futile to argue as to which leaf, which design of branches, or which attractive flower you like; when you understand the root, you understand all its blossoming.”
Bruce Lee, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do
Also, don’t worry you’ve wasted your time if you start off doing one martial arts discipline, and maybe even grading in it, then end up doing something else. You weren’t wasting your time with the first discipline. Far from it! Even though you’ll have to start learning/grading from scratch in your new discipline, your past experience has taught you huge amounts about your body that you will carry with you forever, and will still apply to any new discipine you do.
6) Don’t worry if you start doing a martial arts class and hate it. If you try one martial art and hate it, but think you probably would like a different martial art, don’t worry, and don’t feel guilty that you’ve let your teacher/discipline down. You are doing this for yourself. You have nothing to feel guilty about. Just change your discipline. If you do judo but hate it, try karate. It’ll feel completely different.
7) Don’t worry if you hate your martial arts teacher. If you enjoy your discipline but hate the environment, eg. if you loathe your teacher or feel ill at ease with your classmates, don’t worry. Again, don’t feel guilty. A good martial arts class will always make you feel better, and you clearly haven’t found the right one for you yet. Just shop around. If you love jeet kune do but hate your teacher, go find another jeet kune do class. As I said earlier, it’ll feel completely different. Teachers have different personalities and can teach the same discipline in completely different ways. Some love ritual and uniform, some love to push you physically to your extreme, some love to see you grade, some are uber-relaxed. Remember, someone out there will love the teacher you hate for the very reasons you hate them. And someone out there will hate the teacher you love for the same reasons you love them. The environment of a martial arts class is very important, and finding out what you like and what you don’t is half the fun. So long as you’re friendly and respectful to your teacher, try your hardest while you’re there and have a good time, it will never be your fault if that particular class didn’t pan out. Just move on.
8) People do martial arts for different reasons. Finding out what’s most important to you is half the fun of martial arts. Is it getting buff and looking like a hardbody? Socialising in a warm family group? Practising philosophy through physical action? Looking to defend yourself in a fight? Do you prefer working with partners, with a group, or touching no-one and just doing your own peaceful thing? You’ll find out a lot more about yourself through martial arts classes. You might be surprised at what you’ll learn on the mat.
9) No two lessons are the same. Remember that every time you go to your martial arts class it will feel a little bit different. It’s the same as when you wake up feeling different every morning, because you’ve had a different dream. A lot of people like to channel their aggression and insecurities in the friendly physical safety of the training space. Some days, you’ll have had a wonderful day and when you train it’ll feel like dancing or being the guest of honour at a party. Some days you’ll have had a rough time at school and you’ll just want to punch out a bag, or maybe it’ll take you a whole hour to get in the flow because it’s a tuesday and you just don’t really feel like it. The more you practise martial arts, the more you’ll see that an hour or two on the mat really is like the whole of life, just a lot more sweaty and surpising.
10) Periods. Periods are worth their own special mention. Some days you’ll feel crappy, truly crappy, with a really heavy period, and wonder why on earth you’re moving across a mat like an old bus when you could be at home reading comics and eating chocolate. You may also fear unleashing a crimson tidal wave upon your white uniform/unfortunate teacher because you haven’t changed your tampon. Well, a couple of words of advice here: Firstly, if you really don’t feel like it, skip the class and go home. It’s allowed. Secondly, a good martial arts class can sometimes turn your bad head around and actually make you feel a lot better than when you first walked in there. Thirdly, for god’s sake make sure you’ve changed your tampon, or you could also consider the possibility of a