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Martial Arts: Learning to Fight or Learning to Learn

Updated: Apr 2, 2018

What comes to your mind when someone mentions Martial Arts? Cage fighting, badly dubbed films, Meditation and Monks? Is it about a person in a white suit teaching you, learning to kick trees, becoming a champion, or walking up and down in lines punching the air.. ….well sometimes maybe, but not necessarily.

Martial Arts can be a daunting and often misunderstood world. Social media and the Internet are awash with claims about a particular Arts efficacy, self defence prowess, reality based skill, or the most effective technique etc. For every instructor and style there are a hundred comments and agitators writing about why it wouldn’t or would work. Followed by ‘evidence’ of arts being tested in combat, used by the military and police all the way through to people claiming they have harnessed Chi powers. All of this can be confusing and disheartening.

I am not here to pour petrol on the above fire, that seems pointless. Almost all Martial Arts and combat sports have different strengths and weaknesses and yes some are likely to be more effective in a street or contest fight, while others may be better for reducing stress or improving physical toning. As yet I have never been knocked out by chi powers but even this may have something to offer you.

So why should you try it?

Don’t get me wrong, self defence is a hugely useful skill, but that's only one aspect of the many benefits you may gain.

Martial Arts are a form of physical and mental exercise, where you test and challenge yourself, learn your limitations and your strengths whilst developing these new and often useful skills. This learning process is contagious, your mind is like a muscle, if you exercise it and test it you will start to yearn for more.

You will make new friends and discover a huge network of engaging, like-minded people who are committed to understanding themselves better. Some who want to exercise and lose weight, some who want to learn how to defend themselves or win contests, some who love studying the beauty of movement and some who simply enjoy exploring a new skill. All of whom will welcome you and encourage you to keep training, learning and developing, physically and mentally.

I believe therefore, one of the greatest aspects and the fundamental principle underpinning any Martial Art is learning. Not becoming a killer, not getting a black belt in a year and not receiving a nice certificate. Simply improving your own development and self awareness.

Martial Arts have a huge breadth and depth of knowledge that over time can help support, steer and form your own personal philosophy of growth and development. So who knows, in time, you may find yourself in a ring surrounded by cheering supporters, in a Temple meditating quietly or perhaps just feeling a little more healthy, physically and mentally. Art mirrors and enhances your life and Martial Arts is no different.

So which one do you try first?

Any of them.

Like all Art, it is a personal choice. My only recommendation is be curious and examine what you learn critically, In time you will find yourself focusing on one of the many strands this world has to offer and realise what it is you most enjoy or want to concentrate on. This answer may come after a month, a year or ten years training, like in life it’s not a race.

No-one has all the answers and each club, art or style has strengths and weaknesses depending on its roots and aims. There are unfortunately some charlatans, fraudsters and misinformed instructors out there but it’s not hard to spot them, and their outrageous claims, if you examine them critically. If it’s a true art, it will be committed to its own ongoing development and will encourage you to do the same, not just trying to take all your money whilst claiming to be the ultimate answer.

If you would like more information on the broad differences between martial arts to help you choose one to try, please get in touch below.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”


Written by Will Mayo

Will Mayo is a 3rd Dan black belt in Japanese Jiu Jitsu and has been teaching and training in various Martial Arts for over 20 years. He has over a decade of experience in the practical application of Martial Arts and conflict management. He studied Biology and Psychology alongside Philosophy at University and is one of the leading organisers in a non-profit national Martial Arts organisation.

If you are interested in studying martial arts or have further questions about training feel free to contact him on:

Otherwise feel free to visit the organisation he teaches within at

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