When a child, teen or adult gets bullied, they often run to the nearest martial arts school. Too often, the martial arts schools are either: (1) incompetent; or (2) full of bullies who like to practice on new comers. Sometimes, the school is so hard-core, like many Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) schools that the newcomer is over-whelmed. As one lady’s son once told me, “You’ll push me over my limits!” before running out of the room. (Well, yeah, it was my job to do that, but not to an extreme.)
If you are bullied (or just lost a fight) you need to commit to the training, just like exercise, eating and sleeping. You have to approach martial arts with the same dedication. Former world karate champion, Chuck Norris, once described in an article, a student who could only perform six situps and three pushups. Yet, the student persisted and eventually earned a black belt.
Now the question is always, “what is the best martial art?” Short answer: all of them if they are taught properly. I trained in different styles, but settled on western kick-boxing as I was already fit from the military and distance running. Plus, I just had my butt kicked a few days before. I was determined to hand out my own butt-kickings, so I trained hard and worked on my strength. Within four months of training I was able to hold my own in the ring and win a confrontation. Within seven months, I had my first kick-boxing match (and won by a Technical Knock Out (TKO)).
The fastest way to decide on the competency of a school is to look at the students. The instructor might be a great athlete, but unable to pass on their skills to their students. Hence, you might see lots of nice, but very unfit, uncoordinated people. If they hang out, talk lots and goof around, then you might be wasting your time. The same goes for long training sessions of little or no explanations.
Kick-boxing, boxing, wrestling, judo, jujitsu, some forms of karate and other contact martial arts rely heavily on physical conditioning. Some tae kwon do and karate training are disciplined, but may take longer to learn than the contact styles. This is why I recommend them to younger, fit people who have the stamina and ability to recover from training to take the “hard” martial arts. The internal forms of martial arts like aikido and tai chi are also very demanding, but require less heavy physical conditioning.
But here is the thing that people confuse over and over again regarding martial arts. Self-defense expert, Marc MacYoung explains that martial arts, fighting and self-defense are separate. Unlike martial art sparring, fighting is never a fair one-on-one event. Often attacks are not fights, but rather ambushes. In the military, we trained for ambushes, raids and reacting to being fired at. (The old charging across an open field at an enemy went out of fashion back in the Napoleonic times.) This means that self-defense is being able to avoid the attack and see trouble coming before trouble starts.
So, does this mean that martial arts training is useless?
Heck, no. Martial arts training is an awesome way to build some handy skills to use in a fight or self-protection, along with fitness, health and self-discipline. The self-discipline enables a person to avoid being hurt by insults or drawn into an argument or fight. The trained martial artist has the patience and confidence to avoid trouble. They will tend to walk straight and unhurried and will often project confidence. This makes the bully think twice about attacking someone who appears confident.
After three months of consistent training, the trainee usually becomes physically fitter and healthier. After six months, they are mentally stronger. After a couple of years of training, the martial artist finds that the self-discipline moves into other areas of their life and are able to handle situations in school, work and home. The person with the self-discipline and determination will be able to ignore the put-downs, insults and jeers from low-level people.
The trick is to keep training while life, work, school and, yes, some bullying continues. That, my friend is the hardest part. That is what keeps you going when family, friends and institutions (like schools) fail. Chuck Norris called it developing inner strength.