The Old And The New

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I could use some guidance on a pretty big topic. I’m a senior expecting to graduate in May with a biochemistry degree. I’ve already accepted a job with a startup across the country developing a pharmacological product that enhances existing drug regimens. It’s way better than being cooped up in some remote government lab as a lowly technician.

Now that I have a job secured, I wanted to explore lifestyle options. A former roommate was from the area I’m moving to, and he used to reminisce about all the things possible out there. One such option is martial arts, which was recommended to me by my brother.

I’d never considered it before, but the martial arts seem popular and more socially acceptable than they were some years ago. Kickboxing and MMA studios are huge. Before I decide, I’m trying to understand and prioritize the different martial arts styles. In other words, the old-fashioned stuff like kung fu and newer things like Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Can someone help me here?

It’s interesting you should use MMA (“mixed martial arts”) as an example after proclaiming how much more socially acceptable the sport has become. Some vocal opponents remain adamant about the mixed messages sponsors and broadcasters are sending to audiences. Skeptics have cautioned us for years to no avail. Fergus Ryan openly questioned whether or not MMA deserved social acceptance almost six years ago.

Controversies aside, the most important thing to undertake the sport for the right reasons. For instance, there’s a fine line between learning martial arts for self-defense (as a last resort) and learning to exact future revenge on someone. One major aspect of more traditional styles of martial arts is their focus on integrity through honor, discipline, and respect. Newer styles (e.g., kickboxing, MMA, etc.) might not emphasize those things at all, which is something to consider as you learn more about them.

Robert Rousseau at ThoughtCo published a fairly comprehensive guide covering the different types of martial arts. That’s an excellent resource to explore. You’ll notice he categorizes styles by their primary modes of offense and defense. Prioritizing them is all about personal preference. Say, for instance, that you plan to move into an area known to harbor late night-thieves and other hoodlums. The main deciding factor would likely be practical applicability. Boxing could be a viable option in that scenario, since it emphasizes balanced agility with powerful striking combinations.

You might have no interest in striking. Styles like Aikido or Judo might be better fits because they exclusively emphasize takedowns and grappling techniques. Judo is even an Olympic sport. These types considered much less aggressive and violent than traditional boxing and now MMA. That being said, all martial arts come with some degree of risk. One author published a noteworthy list detailing the risks and dangers of martial arts practice. The examples range from temporary scratches and bruises to more severe things like broken bones and worse.

Context is everything. Some of the risks you learn about might not apply to all styles of martial arts. That’s why the best idea is to figure out which styles are most appealing (and affordable) before moving. You can then visit different studios that match those targets after you have a permanent residence. It’ll be much easier than making a decision from afar, and you might even get a free lesson or two.

“To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity.” – Bruce Lee

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