What is the best martial art for me? This is likely one of the most popular questions beginners to martial arts ask here on MAP. Unfortunately we cannot answer this question for you. You will have to do that part your self. What we can do however is help you ask the right sort of questions that will help you find that answer. Be Honest with Yourself Martial arts in general take a long time to learn. Depending on the art it can take years to become proficient, decades to get really good and a life time to master. There is no montage in real life. So before embarking on a study of martial arts, get comfortable with the reality that you may be in it for the long haul. With that out of the way it's time to get to grips with your goals and objectives. What is it you specifically want to achieve? Are you drawn to martial arts to learn some self defence tips? Competition? General fitness? A need to fill some free time? Or simply a general interest in martial arts? These are important questions to answer as they will impact on the advice people should be giving you and the final answer you arrive at. There is for example little point in learning Iaido if you have no interest in swordsmanship and are simply looking for some simple self defence tips. Do You Have any Medical Problems? When considering martial arts it's important to account for any medical issues or disabilities you may have. Does your condition limit the length of time you can train? Does it limit your mobility? Does it cause weakened muscles, bones or joints? Is your vision or hearing impaired? Having a medical condition does not automatically count you out. However you will need to discuss it with your chosen instructor and in some cases a doctor. This is for the safety and well being for all concerned. It is important that you have access to any medications you may need, the instructor knows what to do if something goes wrong and his or her insurance will allow you to practice at their club. General Health and Fitness? While it might be advantageous to be fit and healthy when taking up martial arts. It is in general not a requirement. The training you receive in the dojo, gym or training hall should have some focus on getting you physically fit for training. Many teachers today however focus on teaching techniques and elements specific to the art. So keep in mind you may need to take up additional fitness training. You can do this on your own or join a gym. Stamina, flexibility and strength all play a part in martial arts techniques. So don't focus on one element of fitness and ignore the others. How Far Can You Travel? Traditionally I would phrase this question as “how far are you willing to travel”? However there is a huge difference between being “willing” and “able”. How far you are willing to travel is a longer term concern. Focus on the immediate short term future. How far can you travel week in, week out to get to class. This defines the radius within which you should start your search for a club. How To Find A Club Unfortunately martial arts aren't universally available everywhere. So bear in mind your choice may be limited. In the modern era the first port of call is normally the web. A simple web search with your chosen search engine should turn up some leads. Other sources include the phone book and notice boards in community centres, church halls, sports centres, fitness clubs, gyms, synagogues, mosques, temples, your place of work or study. Basically anywhere people congregate in large numbers. And don't forget to ask family and friends. Once you have found out what is in your area you can check them out. Arrange to visit the club and watch a class. Some instructors will even give a free taster session. Frankly there is no substitute for hands on experience. So take it if it's on offer. And don't forget to ask about the costs. What will it cost? Every club is different. Some clubs charge next to nothing on a practice by practice basis while others have a more structured and professional/retail approach when it comes to collecting money. Some clubs will even ask you to set up automated payments like a bank standing order or direct debit. And some clubs will ask you to sign a legally binding contract. Additionally insurance is almost always a mandatory requirement to be allowed to practice. This is in case you suffer serious injury that requires long term medical treatment or causes you to lose earnings if you or a member of your family needs to take time off work. Normally this insurance will only cover you for club sanctioned activities. Other costs may cover equipment, uniforms, gradings/tests, additional courses and in many cases there will be an annual membership fee that is separate from your practice fee and your insurance fee. The important thing in dealing with the cost is to make sure you know what they are upfront. Read the small print on any contracts or terms and conditions you sign up to and make sure you get a copy. And always make sure you have the option to leave the club and stop any payments when you choose to. Martial Arts as an Answer to Self Defence? To my knowledge there are no credible established martial arts systems focusing specifically on the problem of self defence for members of the public. What they do teach is their own system adapted to try and address modern day self defence requirements. Some schools do this better than others. Some styles lend themselves to self defence better than others. The key element that seems to be mentioned time and again is simplicity. The techniques being taught with an eye on self defence need to be simple, easy and quick to apply and learn. However with all of that said, keep in mind when assessing a martial art that many of the techniques will have been designed to teach the student more than how to hit someone hard. Quite often seemingly long winded and complicated techniques will have a much shorter and sharper variant. So if the techniques of a style you are considering appear to be overly complicated. Don't be afraid to ask if there are shorter, sharper versions of those techniques. Resources and Martial Arts Represented Here on MAP Martial Arts Planet hosts a number of forum areas dedicated to a specific martial art. In these forum areas, members can discuss aspects of their chosen style. These areas of MAP can be a good source of information for the novice. For your convenience I have link to the various different style specific forum areas below. MAP also has an Articles and Reviews section and a Health & Fitness section. Aikido, Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Filipino Martial Arts, Hapkido, Internal Martial Arts, Jeet Kune Do, Judo, Ju Jitsu, Karate, Kenpo, Kickboxing, Koryu Bujutsu, Kuk Sool, Kung Fu, MMA/Submission Fighting, Ninjutsu, Silat, Tae Kwon Do, Tai Chi, Thai Boxing, Weapons, Western Martial Arts and Other Styles.