Setting Goals For What You Want From Martial Arts Training

A Guide To Choosing The Right Martial Arts School

A Detailed Look – Post 1

Tai Chi Single Whip

This post will look in detail at question one from A Guide To Choosing A Martial Art School. The guide can be viewed as an earlier post and is also available from the blog menu as a permanent page. I will be using my own schools as an example.
*Disclaimer: I am biased toward the martial art systems that I teach. I feel that they are some of the best martial arts systems out there. I am not biased because I am an instructor and a school owner. I am biased because I am a student. If I didn’t feel that way, I would have found something else to train in years ago. However, I do know that my systems are not the only styles of worth. I feel that the systems I teach are as strong as they are because of the work of my instructor, Grandmaster Rick Ward. He is very open minded to martial arts training. If he saw a weakness of his own, he would find the right Grandmaster to train with that would improve upon his core sytem. He taught me that there is always someone out there who knows more than you do. If you want to be better, find those people and train with them. Any true martial arts style taught by a quality instructor should be able to offer something of value to a true martial arts student. With this being said, I intend to try to portray any style mentioned with fairness and respect.

1. What are your goals and what are you wanting from training martial arts?

This question could be one of the most important questions you should ask yourself before joining a martial arts school. What do you want from your experience of training martial arts? The answer to that question will be the foundation of your choice in schools. For some, this is an easy question. You may be very familiar with martial arts. You may have grown up watching Saturday morning Kung Fu movies, read tons of books on Karate and Judo, own every movie made by Steven Seagal and Jackie Chan, and have never missed a UFC or other MMA match. You may not have any knowledge at all about martial arts, which is fine. Whether The Book Of Five Rings is your favorite book, or right now you are wondering what jewelry has to due with martial arts, you still have to have goals and expectations for what you want out of training and a school. If your expectations do not match with what a school offers, you will not be happy no matter how good a school is. 

Kung Fu Yin Yang

I have taught martial arts for over twenty-three years to a variety of students. I have taught students as young as three years old and students who were in their eighties. I have found five main reasons people want to train martial arts. These reasons are by no means the only reasons people join a martial arts school. They are simply five reasons that have continued to come up over the years. You may have other reasons. Just make sure you clearly define your reasons.

Reason  1. “I have always wanted to study martial arts.”

I believe this is a great reason. As an Instructor, I want students who want to learn. It is especially rewarding to help someone fulfill a lifelong dream. I have adult students who have commented that, “They always wanted to train martial arts as a kid, but couldn’t afford it, or it wasn’t available.” Now they get to do something they have wanted to do for a long time. Passionate students make for passionate instructors. Some people have a particular martial arts style in mind. If you are already interested in a particular style, then start your search there. Sil Lum Kung Fu, Emperor’s Long Fist – Tai Chi, Ba Gua, Hsing I, and Sasamba – Kali, Arnis, Escrima are some of the styles I teach. These styles are relatively scarce in the areas I teach. If you want to learn Kung Fu, then try out a Kung Fu school; even if the Kung Fu school (kwoon) is 30 minutes away and there is a Karate Dojo five minutes from your house. I have some students who are in a similar situation. They are willing to drive a little to get what they want and not settle on just any “martial art.” The same would be true if you are interested if Karate. *Drive 30 minutes and take Kung Fu* (That is just my attempt at humor) If you want a specific style of Karate, be willing to drive a little farther for class, even if there is a Tae Kwon Do school next door. They main point is to decide what you want. If you just want to learn “martial arts”, you could start your search anywhere. Other factors that I will cover in later post may end up being your deciding factors. If you want to be the next Jet Li, then start your search with Kung Fu schools.

TaeKwonDo SparringKarate stance    


Reason 2. “I want to learn self-defense.”

If you want to learn self-defense the first thing to ask a school’s instructor is whether they train self-defense. This may seem simple or even silly. There are schools out there that concentrate more on tournament training than self-defense. This does not immediately make them bad schools, they just have other goals in mind. Can you learn self-defense at a tournament oriented school? Sure. You should be learning blocks, kicks, and punches. This should help you to defend yourself. However, if self-defense is one of your reasons than find a school that focuses on or specializes in self-defense. I teach self-defense at my schools. Many techniques we teach would be illegal in most tournaments. In a real life situation you may have to pull hair, kick to the groin, or jab to the eyes. All this is frowned upon in most tournaments. Does this mean that self-defense based schools are filled with huge brutes trying to dismember one another? Certainly not. You should also find out what a schools self-defense strategies are. Do they teach mostly grappling techniques, like most Judo and Jujitsu schools. Do they teach to defend by using kicks and punches? What happens if they get taken to the ground? Will you learn to defend yourself against weapons? Will you learn to use weapons? One of the things I like best about the styles I teach is that they encompass almost all areas of self-defense. We teach intricate handwork. Students learn blocking and counter striking from Plum Blossom, Wing Chun, and Praying Mantis styles. We also have very good leg work, both with movement, kicking, and leg blocks. We teach grappling from both standing and on the ground. Our ground fighting includes both joint locking and striking. We teach how to use weapons and how to defend against weapon attacks. As a student I loved all these varied techniques. It seemed and still does that there was always something new to learn. As an instructor I love that there is something for every student. If a student is having trouble kicking, they could use Chin Na grappling to defend themselves. If they are bad at grappling, they may have great handwork. Get familiar with a school’s philosophy on defense and choose what you think would work for you. Maybe you can find a school that offers several approaches, and you won’t have to choose just one.

Crane Form Pic

I will cover the remaining reasons in a later post.

For more information on the styles I teach visit our website at 

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