We all need a push sometimes, and if you were looking to take up martial arts then this might be the push you’ve been waiting for. This article is about a student’s first steps and serves as a quick guide to starting martial arts. It’s largely based on advice I’ve received from instructors and peers with many years experience. Personally, I’ve only recently been introduced to Karate and Brazilian Ju Jitsu, the latter of which has now become my favourite hobby.
People say that to get the most out of anything in life, you’ve got to make a commitment and give it your best. On the other hand, when you want to try something for the first time, you’ve just got to get out there and give it a go. I’d say martial arts is no exception!
When you’re starting martial arts, it’s really good to know what you want to get out of it. People I’ve talked to started practicing martial arts for a whole bunch of different reasons. Yes, martial arts is for self-defense, but it offers much more than that. Training in martial arts means training both body and mind.
Most people who train at my gym do so mainly for fitness, while some want to develop a new skill, and others have their sights set on winning competitions. For me. the best feeling is the massive high I get after training. Sparring against your highly trained peers tends to make everything else in life seem blissfully simple by comparison… and the skills you learn begin to build your confidence quite quickly.
So what do you need to know before you join your first class? Well, one tip if you’re not feeling overly confident is to bring a friend along. A bit of friendly competition can also be helpful during class, and afterwards my mates always enjoy a good training de-brief over a few Friday beers. Bringing friends along is by no means essential though, and won’t stop you from training - so don’t use it as an excuse to put off joining!
In most martial arts you’ll be paired up with a partner anyway. Which brings me to my next tip, trust your training partner. Within your class of choice, you’ll be learning from both your instructor and your peers, and they’ll be learning from you. Collaborate with each other to get the technique you’re learning down pat. Slow it down and focus on developing your technique, it’s like learning a phrase in an unfamiliar language.
I’ve heard instructors compare learning martial arts to learning a new language a few times and I think this analogy is really apt. So when you turn up, expect not to speak the lingo. And if you’re sparring? Expect to lose. Even to children. You’ll be training your mind because you’ll be forced to manage your mental state; get mad or flustered and you’ll end up wasting energy and making mistakes. After a few months of Brazilian Ju Jitsu I’m still focussing mainly on trying to ‘survive’. You really need to leave your ego at the door.
When you enter a dojo or gym, watch out for the various traditions that are to be observed. The training areas, which are usually matted out, shouldn’t be entered with footwear on and you should also bow first. You also bow as you exit. Generally, classes begin and end with everyone lining up in rank and bowing to the instructor and will then bow to or shake hands with all their peers. It all sounds pretty involved but it’s actually really easy to pick up by shadowing the other students. And that’s all you really need to know.
So whatever class or classes you were interested in, now’s the time to organise a time to attend. There’s no stopping you. With classes for beginners or the slightly older folks, as well as classes for young children becoming more widely available, age is not much of a factor. Neither is your level of fitness. Many classes have a fitness component to build specific kinds of strength and endurance, so you don’t have to get fit in order to train: You can actually train in order to get fit.
Go to as many different classes as you can. See what you can get for free while you figure out which class suits you. Talk to instructors about which forms of martial art would suit you best, and, if you wish that you’d started martial arts a long time ago, remember that the next best time to start is now.
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By Matthew Egan | Content Writer | TMAA Member