For example Thai Chi or Qigong, both styles come from China. Their purpose is not primarily in contact with others, but is aimed at the practitioner himself. That is why they are also referred to as inner styles. It’s about dealing with yourself, your body, your movements and your breathing in order to create a different relationship to yourself.
I’ve been to qigong before. I was then told that the movements were originally used for self-defense. Isn’t that the essence of most martial arts?
In principle yes. The original idea of martial arts and martial arts is always fighting and military conflict. Hence the term »martial arts«. This is a collective term for everything we know as martial arts, martial arts and self-defence. Literally it means: the arts of Mars. Mars was the god of war. Nevertheless, courses where you stand alone and imitate movement sequences usually have nothing to do with self-defence. Even if certain movements could theoretically serve to do so.
The movements are usually very slow. For me it was nothing. What styles do you recommend for people who want to really push themselves?
There are many options there. Most martial arts are based on a sporting idea, i.e. the training is exhausting. But there are also very specific offers, for example in studios: fitness boxing, fitness kickboxing, fitness Krav Maga, fitness mixed martial arts.
And that works without close physical contact?
Yes, most of the time the focus is on punch and kick combinations that a trainer demonstrates. There is music for that. Depending on your fitness level, you can increase the intensity and work really well on your cardiovascular system and muscles.
»If you want to learn how to fall, you are in good hands in Judo or Ju-Jutsu«
What about the elderly or people with health issues: can they still do martial arts?
You always have to look at this on a case-by-case basis: does the person have an artificial hip, broken knees or cardiovascular diseases, for example? Of course you have to take that into account. I would definitely recommend an older person who is just afraid of falling down to get a taste of a recreational judo or aikido training course. They’ll be very careful with him. The goal would also be to learn to fall correctly.
So martial arts as fall prevention?
I agree. If you want to take an active approach and learn how to fall, you are in good hands at the Judo or Ju-Jutsu fall school. This can make a decisive difference in everyday life. When I talk to judokas, I often hear: “Then I’ve done my judo role.” Even in situations where you think: That’s impossible, like falling off a scooter. Studies show that martial arts training helps prevent falls, for example Tai Chi or Judo. Apart from that, it can also at the personal development – regardless of whether young or old – help. If you get out of your comfort zone and just try it, you will often be surprised. Suddenly you can do things that you would not have thought possible six months ago.
»The systems are only as good as the people who teach them«
What other tips do you have for people who would like to start a martial art but don’t know which one?
It’s actually difficult to keep track of things these days. You can get quite a lot of information on the Internet, but I always advise listening to those around you: what do relatives, friends, colleagues say? Most of the time there is someone doing something along those lines. That can provide orientation. Otherwise, I recommend going to a trial class: try out different styles. Also pay attention to the atmosphere: How does that affect you, how do the other participants behave, how is the interaction with the trainer, what is the culture there? And, most importantly, do I enjoy it? If you walk out with a smile on your face then it was good.
Certainly a lot depends on the coach. If I don’t like him or her, it’s probably not worth it.
Good that you bring this up. People often think it’s all about finding the right style. But the systems are only as good as the people who teach them. It is therefore primarily about the training-pedagogical knowledge and skills. This also requires the ability to deal with different people accordingly. When I come to training, I should feel picked up.
The participants are often at different levels. It is certainly not that easy for trainers to assess what they can and want in each case.
Right. This is also one of the points that should be clarified during a trial session. Ask about the concept behind the training. You can tell a good coach by having good answers. Especially in Krav Maga, many say: We design the training in such a way that we can train together, everyone within the scope of their possibilities. Others offer different groups depending on the level, for example for beginners and advanced.
Small martial arts ABC
Aikido is a rather gentle, modern Japanese martial art. The goal is to physically convince the opponent that their attacks are pointless.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a modification and further development of Judo and Ju-Jutsu. The focus is on ground fighting, but throwing techniques are also part of it.
Combatives Includes a bundle of different melee and self-defense skills.
Judo (Japanese for “gentle/flexible way”) begins with a fall school. When the practitioner has learned to fall without injuring himself, the duel starts according to the principle of “victory by yielding”.
Ju-Jutsu was developed in Germany. The technique includes elements from Aikido, Judo and Karate and is also used by German security authorities.
Karate (Japanese: »empty hand«) was originally considered a path to self-discovery and self-awareness. Today karate is practiced as a sport and self-defense and mainly involves punches and kicks.
Krav Maga comes from the Hebrew and means »contact fight«. Krav Maga goes back to the boxer and wrestler Imrich Lichtenfeld, among others: In the 1930s, he taught Jews to defend themselves against anti-Semitic attacks. It should enable everyone to avoid conflicts, but also to defend themselves with simple means such as punches, kicks, grabs and ground fighting.
Kung Fu is the origin of many Chinese martial arts. Today there are different styles of kung fu. In the Chinese language, the term first denoted a skill acquired through hard work.
Mixed Martial Arts is a modern full contact sport. The fighters use different techniques, such as boxing, Thai boxing, taekwondo, karate, wrestling or judo. There are therefore relatively few fixed rules; even in ground combat it is allowed to hit and sometimes kick.
Qigong is a Chinese form of meditation, concentration and movement. The exercises are intended to strengthen and harmonize the vital power of the body (the »Qi«). »Gong« means »work«, but also »ability« or »ability«.
Savate is a French martial art. It was originally developed by sailors for brawls. Similar to many Asian fighting styles, punches and kicks are used in combat.
Taekwondo comes from Korea. The three syllables stand for foot technique (tae), hand technique (kwon) and way (do). All in all, you fight more with your legs than with your arms, it’s all about speed and dynamics.
Thai Chi, also known as Taijiquan, is one of the so-called internal martial arts, like Qigong. It is said to improve the flow of Qi (or Chi) and serve personal development and meditation.
Wing Chun is a Chinese kung fu style and was made famous by Bruce Lee films. Legend has it that it was developed by a woman.