Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a martial art?
- Basically, a martial art is a skill or skillset relating to
human conflict, particularly physical. (Martial = war, art = skill)
2. What is the best style?
- That depends entirely upon you. There is no ultimate, ‘best
for everything’ style or school of the martial arts. There
is only what suits you and your goals.
3. Is karate/kung fu/etc. really useful
in a fight?
- You get out what you put in. If you train hard, with realism
and a focus on using the system to develop fighting skills and
have a good teacher, then yes.
4. Aren’t martial artists all Bruce
- No. In general, martial artists will tend to laugh at Bruce
Lee (or any other kind of) wannabes at least as hard as anyone
else. While admiring other martial artists or martial arts performers
can be used as a great motivational tool, just the same as in
any other field of endeavour, such hero-worship if it is there
at all generally either wears off or becomes a detriment to your
5. Who was the greatest martial artist of
- This is a question without an answer. There is no possible way
to define ‘greatest’ or to judge all practitioners
of the martial arts throughout history that can make this question
6. Can martial artists fly like in Crouching
Tiger Hidden Dragon?
- Firstly, they weren’t flying they were jumping and standing
very lightly. Secondly, I have never seen any evidence suggesting
that this is a reasonable thing to believe you can do. I’ve
never seen anyone do it outside of movies. You might want to stop
believing everything you see on the screen.
7. Could Bruce Lee really fight?
- The evidence is somewhat inconclusive as to Bruce Lee’s
‘real life’ fighting abilities. Given the responses
of his direct students, and the abilities and knowledge they display,
it would probably be a safe bet that even if he wasn’t a
really great fighter, he had some really good ideas. You answer
for this would be ‘probably pretty darn good – very
strong and fast, some great understanding, so he could probably
fight. But he wasn’t a god.’
8. How should I go about choosing a school/style?
- The best answer I can give to this is: Read this article. The
question, "Can you tell me where to find a martial arts teacher
in my town?" is also covered here.
9. Is studying the martial arts a good idea
- It depends largely upon the school and how hard you train. In
general, fitness works less as a motivation for the study of the
martial arts and more as a side effect of training hard. Some
styles focus more on efficiency of movement than anything else,
and so teach you more about conserving energy than burning it.
10. Am I too old/young/female/weak/fat to
benefit from training in the martial arts?
- Short answer: No.
-Long answer: While each of these things will probably have an
effect on your training, they are factors, not disqualifications.
To address the points individually:
Old – you may not move as quickly or as smoothly
as you used to, you may heal more slowly. These will have an impact,
but there are benefits in terms of improved fitness, health, balance,
and refined movement to be found in many systems. Taijiquan (Tai
Chi) is a martial arts system often practiced by older people,
for example. You may not desire to fight in full contact tournaments,
but that isn’t the only valid goal in studying the martial
Young – Children have been trained in the
arts of war throughout history, often as soon as they could walk.
Many schools these days run classes specifically for children,
though many view such classes as largely fitting the McDojo mould.
Some people feel that teaching children under a certain age how
to fight is negative, and some feel that it is not only positive
but important. It really comes down to the parents and the instructor.
Female – There is no reason that being female
or male should have anything to do with it, bar that it will have
some impact on your body type and personal history. It certainly
is ridiculous to propose that someone could not benefit from training
in the martial arts because they are female. In fact, it can be
(and has been) argued that being female is a good reason to train
in the martial arts, as women are often considered to be at greater
risk of being attacked than men (although this argument may be
Weak – Part of training in the martial arts
is improving one’s strength. While it is rarely a goal in
and of itself, it is considered an important thing to develop.
So, being weak is really no barrier to such training, provided
you are willing to work hard to improve your strength.
Fat – Basically the same answer here as for
‘weak’, substituting ‘fitness’ for ‘strength’.
11. What is a McDojo?
- The term ‘McDojo’ is generally used to refer to
a school that aims for profit over the quality of teaching. Such
schools often: charge high fees, include many gradings (which
the students are charged for), don’t allow their students
to expose themselves to other schools/styles (for fear the students
will decide that they are being ripped off and leave), don’t
allow their students to practice their skills in ‘live’
situations (no sparring, or only very light sparring with restrictive
rules), and have other traits.
In short, a McDojo is a school that sells a poor product, often
at a high price, and endeavours to ensure that the students never
learn that the product is deeply flawed. Often they use a ‘Creed’
or Code of Behaviour that the students must abide by to achieve
this, wherein ‘don’t use your skills’ is given
Unfortunately, the upshot of this is that if the
student does get into a violent confrontation, they will often
lose because they have been taught poorly – and sometimes
this event will happen largely as a result of the student being
convinced that they are highly skilled, and acting arrogantly.
12. What should I look for in an instructor?
- In most basic terms, look for an instructor who suits you; who
teaches skills you wish to learn in a manner that suits you to
learn them. If you learn best or are most comfortable in a rigidly
formal atmosphere, you probably won’t do as well if you
choose an instructor who likes to kid around in class. If you
prefer a more relaxed, informal atmosphere then a strictly traditional
school with bows and rigid formality will probably stifle you,
and you will not learn as well.
For the rest, use your common sense. An instructor
who knows their stuff will generally have students who display
it – higher level students will be skilled appropriately,
a demonstration of the instructor’s teaching abilities.
Talk to the instructor, talk to their students.
13. What should I expect to pay?
- There really is no pat answer for this question, aside from,
“what the school/teacher charges.” Some will charge
very little, and by the lesson. Some will charge a great deal
more and by the month. Or other variations.
A note of warning here: the cost of instruction is generally no
indication of the quality of that instruction. Don’t fall
into the trap of thinking that it is. Some expensive schools are
very good, some not so, and the same goes for less expensive schools.
14. How long will it take me to become a
- This question is, ultimately, meaningless. Not all schools use
belt systems, and of those that do, few use the same system the
same way. Plus, it depends upon your talent, dedication, and time…
and how difficult achieving this rank is.
15. What does having a Black Belt really
- At the risk of sounding trite, it means that someone for some
reason has decided that you are worthy of wearing a black piece
of cloth around your waist. That person could even be yourself
– it isn’t unheard of for people with small skill
to buy a black obi and declare themselves a master.
In some cases, people have a darn good reason to
feel good about that piece of cloth. Maybe they sweated blood
for 15 years before being allowed to possess it, and they feel
that they have earned it. Ultimately a belt or rank has meaning
only within the school or system, and really only that meaning
which the owner attaches to it. Outside of yourself and your school,
the belt means nothing, but your skills, knowledge, and understanding
16. As an instructor, what is it my students
expect of me?
- That you will teach them what they wish to learn. The specifics
are between you and them, really. Everyone has expectations in
form and context that differ.
17. What is the difference between Sport
and Self-Defense, what should I choose, which is better, and why?
- Sport generally consists of restricted competition in a controlled
environment with particular rules and a referee. Self-defence
is basically protecting yourself from harm or death in the case
of someone trying to inflict them on you – no rules, no
ref, no set environment.
There is a third variation to be taken into account
that doesn’t actually fall into either category –
Fighting. This is the ability to fight, whereas self-defence refers
to the ability to avoid harm or death. Fighting includes much
focus on causing harm.
The variations do overlap – but they are not the same. A
self defence class will (if it is well-developed) involve a large
amount of focus on such things as avoiding bad situations, reading
people’s intentions, assessing danger, and talking your
way out of danger. The physical aspect of self-defence is not
really the core, though that is often the conception and the focus
of short, poorly designed self-defence courses.
Which is better? Whichever one suits your aims.
If you wish to compete, then train to compete. If you want to
protect yourself, then train to do so. If you want to be able
to get into fights and win, then train for that.