Martial Arts Compared
Choosing which martial art to practise can be a bit like choosing chocolate, says MMA Fighter Carano – There are so many types and varieties.
Basically, they tend to fall into four categories – striking, grappling, weaponry or a hybrid like MMA.
Here's what you can expect from the most popular forms.
Karate (Japanese) Karate relies mainly on high-energy punches, strikes, blocks and kicks. in the beginner's classes, you'll learn set moves that will teach you different techniques and prepare you for attack, defence and counter-attack.
You'll go on to work with an opponent, but there are various stages of pre-arranged sparring before you finally become proficient enough for free sparring, in which you can attack and defend as you wish.
Karate is a good martial art to choose if you want to progress from kick boxing, as the four kicks (the side, front, roundhouse and back kick) are quite similar.
Tae kwon do (Korean) Tae kwon do and judo are the only two forms of martial arts represented in the Olympics. Tae kwon do is an exhilarating sport, born from karate but renowned for its more spectacular kicks. these include the 'axe kick' – in which the foot is swung high above the opponent's head before being dropped onto his/her head or collarbone – the side kick, the jumping front and spinning back kicks, and the flying roundhouse kick. It is believed that the flying kicks were originally developed to knock riders off their horses.
In early classes, you'll learn set moves or patterns, which help you learn the basic techniques and prepare for attack from all possible directions. these fight patterns can be simple with two or three set moves or complex with 20 defined moves. As with karate, sparring is initially pre-arranged with your opponent.
Judo (Japanese) A combat sport, the idea of judo is to grapple with your opponent, overcoming them by tripping or throwing them then holding them in an arm-lock or stranglehold. that means it's very hands-on, which may not suit some women, but there are lots of women-only classes available.
One of the first things you'll learn is how to fall so that you don't hurt yourself when thrown, and can recover and jump up again quickly. You'll also learn etiquette, basic throws and holds, and how to escape from those holds.
Judo is less rigid and repetitive than some other martial arts.
Kung-fu (Chinese) One of the original and more ancient of all the martial arts, kung-fu consists of very natural, beautiful but, ultimately, lethal moves. Many are based on the movements of animals.
There are hundreds of different styles of kung-fu, but one of the most popular is Wing Chun. It happens to be the only martial art founded by a woman, a Buddhist nun, and the story goes that she was inspired after watching a fight between a stork and a large rodent. She was impressed by the way the stork used its wings and legs to deflect and counter-attack at the same time.
Wing Chun has remained a popular form of kung-fu among women because it is simple, direct, excellent for learning self-defence skills, and effective for people with slight builds. It is famous for the one-inch punch, in which practitioners learn to deliver a tiny punch that will send their opponent reeling.
In the beginner's classes, you can expect to learn flow drills, which teach hand speed, reaction times, how to find holes in a defence, power and balance. Classes also incorporate calisthenics and aerobic exercises to help students become fitter, stronger and more agile.
Tai chi (Chinese) More a form of meditation, tai chi is characterised by slow, graceful, flowing movements, said to promote inner calm and enhanced self-awareness. each posture flows into the next without pause so that the body is in constant motion.
Most forms require only moderate physical exertion, although it's still good for strength, balance, flexibility and coordination.
It is the only martial art that requires no special uniform and is not graded. It is also unusual in that it is often performed outdoors and can be practised alone.
For advanced practitioners, it is also an excellent form of self-defence.
MMA Mixed Martial Arts is a combination of several of the above fighting style, and can be used to great effect in self defense and attack.