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    When deciding what martial art to choose to study, we can feel overwhelmed by the options.  However, I’ve realized what has worked for me recently, and I hope that by sharing this personal experience it will help you in your decision. 

    I started taking American karate when I was 8 years old.  My parents say my brother and I begged them after watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (this was 1986)  Being from a small town there was basically one option for martial arts, but thankfully it didn’t have a tournament focus, but self defense.  Now, at 8 years old I was an incredibly shy kid.  But, I took to karate quite well.  Looking back, karate gave me important skills.  It taught me self confidence, especially since we had a self defense focus.  Even more important, it cultivated that warrior spirit that was inside me, but hiding.  I earned my black belt at 13.  Even now, 16 years later, I can turn on that side of me at a moments notice.  I may not be able to do the same techniques as then, but that mindset remains.

    When I returned to college after my time in the Marine Corps, I wanted to return to martial arts.  Again I found myself in a small town and small university.  However, there was a university Shotokan club.  This was particularly appealing because, while I learned good self defense as a child I really desired that traditional element that was missing.  Shotokan provided this, in addition to teaching me how to really cultivate power within my body.  As a small person at 5’2″, this was particularly nice to learn.  What also made this club great were the instructors who are world champions and great teachers.  Unfortunately, this was not the case when I moved to Texas and I quit shotokan due to time constraints and a dislike of the instructor.

    Then, finally, I found the aikido club on campus.  This was a huge departure for me after spending a huge part of my life with the ‘hard’ styles that focus on power and speed.  Aikido instead focuses on blending with your attacker and staying relaxed.  And when you do that, you find things work incredibly well.  The reason I am drawn to aikido is that it reinforces my own spirituality.  Blending rather than pushing.  Minimize harm to everyone involved.  These concepts, while practiced physically at aikido, also need to be applied to everyday life. 

    You see, when I was a child, I needed to learn strength and cultivate a warrior spirit.  Now that I have a warrior spirit, I need to learn to blend and flow with the world or Force rather than push.  The martial art I chose to practice reinforced the lesson I was learning in other areas of my life.

    So, if you are a timid person, I would recommend a harder style, in general.  Cultivate that warrior spirit first so that it’s always available to you.  If you are a person who pushes through life, forcing things your way, take up a gentler style.  If you are in the middle, perhaps choose something that does a little of both!  In this way you are balancing yourself and approaching growth from multiple levels.  Granted, there are other limitations.  You need to find a school where you feel comfortable.  In many small towns that isn’t an option.  But, when you have the option, I hope this helps you choose.


    At the moment i’m actually looking into several forms i might be interested in persuing. Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, Aikido and Iaido with Budo being number one of the list. But with finances…that’s a whole other story.


    addendum; I did make my choice. Starting Aikido on the 28th.

    Going to check out a GI the days before. Hopefully i got my studentloan by then.
    At least Hakama isnt needed until Kyu 3, cos those seems dirt exensive around
    here. Anyway, this’ll be fun!


    It will definitely be fun.  Don’t worry about feeling uncoordinated, that happens to everyone.  Aikido is an art that definitely takes years to really have a solid feel for.  But, you can also experience success quickly too.  It’s a strange learning curve for someone like me who’s done karate.  lol



    I find Aikido to be a good match for me, as it helps to develop my balance and awareness :)

    Kit Halden

    I tend to lean heavily towards the philosophy of Jeet Kune Do.  But beyond that, I have a very strong “attraction” to a few of the style of Gung fu, (most notabley Northern Shaolin and Ba Gua) as well as ninjutsu.  Combining them is really fun and yields an interesting result.



    I saw some demonstrations of JKD and it looks really interesting. I Favour aikido tho
    becuase of it’s non-agression philosophy. Close call between that and Iaido.


    Just curious about this… but, does no one like the more aggressive styles?

    I know that Jax and I have talked about Shotokan. My son is very interested in this. I have to admit, I like the “attacking” styles a lot. So, just wondering if there is a reason that so many people like the more defensive styles.

    Bright Falcon

    There seems to be a feeling that an aggressive style is inherently counter to an attitude of peace. Personally I’d say there are situations in which both are best, but I really don’t know enough about the different styles to have an informed opinion.


    For me it’s because it no longer matches my worldview and spirituality.  Live is not a battle.  That doesn’t mean an attack can’t be defensive, but that training in that style does not have a defensive focus.  The act of training only seeks to reinforce the illusion of battle, which is what I’m seeking to avoid.  Now, I would be willing to bet you could occasionally find a dojo that still maintains the deep spirituality of a hard style, but I haven’t personally seen one.  And even though we don’t talk about the spirituality behind aikido, I can easily find it myself.  Sure, I could do that with karate too, but in that case I would often be told things that I philosophically disagree against.  Aikido, on the other hand, while not often discussing spirituality (at least in lower classes) doesn’t also discuss things I disagree with. 

    A similar example is a church.  There are valuable lessons in all religions.  And I might find that I could sit through a service at some of them.  But, I would find it much easier if I went to a place that focused on a message of love so I could take away what I wish, rather than a place that decided to go off on how homosexuality is evil.  There may still be something useful in that church, but I would be distracted by having to deal with the things that I found wrong first, rather than on just the good.  Hopefully that analogy helps.

    So, I think that the more in touch I am with my spirituality and transcending the illusions of humanity, the less I want to study something that is focused on attack.  Especially since I can’t imagine a situation in normal life where I’d use it.  Attacking even in defense still gets you arrested for assault in many places.  Aikido can devastate without leaving a mark ;-)

    That’s just my perspective on it.  Some people’s personalities mesh much better with a hard style.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are out of touch with my view of spirituality.  It just means I wouldn’t do well there probably.  :-)

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