How do I learn to Defend myself?
July 26, 2011 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I want to learn how to fight, whats the best martial art for that given the classes offered at my school?

My University is offering discounted classes on various fighting skills, I'm a big guy; 6' 3", 270 lbs (tall, not fat), I want to learn how to leverage my size to kick people's butt's if I ever need to & it sounds awesome.

I've never done any kind of martial art, nor fighting, but I swim regularly, hike etc... I'm healthy and in good shape.

My options include:
) Shaolin Kung Fu
) Traditional Tae Kwon Do
) Shotokan Karate
) Shorin-Ryu Karate
) Shobudo Jujitsu
) Fundamentals of Muay Thai Kickboxing
) Ki-Aikido
) Judo

What would you recommend & why?
posted by snow_mac to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm. I took kung fu for about a year and our instructors were pretty clear on the fact that until you've been studying for years and years, it's not very useful in a fight.

So there's that.
posted by corey flood at 12:23 PM on July 26, 2011

Muay Thai or judo because they practice full-contact (after you get to a certain point) against people really trying to get the best of you. You'll be able to do it under pressure, whereas with stuff that's not practiced that way, you'll never really know what's applicable under pressure.

That said, the best self-defense is being situationally aware and having a weapon of some sort, but since you say fighting, not self-defense, I'm guessing you know and are just interested in it for the virtues of fighting itself.
posted by ignignokt at 12:27 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Talk to the instructors about how much sparring they do.

The most useful martial art to teach you to fight is going to be the one that gets you in the ring soonest against an opponent who seriously wants to beat you.

All the solo practise and technique in the world won't help one ounce in a fight until you've got enough actual fight-hours under your belt to have developed the combat-time awareness to actually apply it.

To that end, I'd probably go with a grappling art like judo just because they tend to let you roll with other students sooner (less risk of serious injury, at least if supervised properly). Of course, grappling is not going ot play to your size advantage as something like Muay Thai is...
posted by 256 at 12:28 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Muay Thai and Judo. Hands down. Big, strong dudes do pretty well in judo, and are really hard to deal with once they get good technique.
posted by Theodore Sign at 12:28 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend boxing. Second to that I'd recommend an MMA course.

From what you have listed Muay Thai would be the best. You're a really big guy though. If you just sharpen your reflexes with sparring time and learn how to kick and punch effectively only people that are very well trained in fighting would be able to challenge you. Your size alone is a good defense since it acts as a deterrent.
posted by zephyr_words at 12:30 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Karate in general varies tremendously in how sparring-oriented it is, from pretty much not at all (or not until black belt level) to day one light-contact. You'd have to check out those particular instructors and see what their focus is.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:31 PM on July 26, 2011

I would also consider wrestling if its offered. Some feel that the wrestler has an advantage when the fight becomes a grappling fight, as most street fights quickly become. Boxing too if you can. I'd rather do boxing one semester and wrestling another than two semesters of a very ritualized sparring-based martial arts.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Muay thai (or any kind of boxing style sports fighting) will give you the hands on practice that you need to be good, and the physical conditioning. it's brutal and effective, although it has some pretty big blind spots because it's a sport, and not meant for street fighting.

If you wanted real street fighting style training, I'd recommend something that specializes in that, or a military style martial art like Krav Maga.

But with that said, the traditional martial arts can bring enormous benefit. You have to be more patient, but they will make you insanely effective given time. The key to effectiveness there is to spend as much time as possible in physical conditioning and sparring.

I know it's a cliche, but you get out what you put into training. I've done several forms of martial arts and sports fighting, and love them all in their own weird, special ways. I hope you find something that you like. As for your size, it can be leveraged to your advantage in any style. You've got reach, and you've got power, those can tip the scales in an other wise fair fight. Especially reach, IMHO.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:36 PM on July 26, 2011

Shaolin Kung Fu - Weak Sauce for fighting.
Traditional Tae Kwon Do - Weak Sauce for fighting.
Shotokan Karate - Can be good, check out a class.
Shorin-Ryu Karate - Weak Sauce for fighting.
Shobudo Jujitsu - Weak Sauce for fighting.
Fundamentals of Muay Thai Kickboxing - Usually good, check out a class.
Ki-Aikido - 100% Straight bullshit.
Judo - Usually good, check out a class.

Karate can be hit or miss (ha) so I'd start with Judo and Muay Thai classes.
But the important part of a class is "aliveness". Without that pressure-testing, any style you learn will be closer to interpretative dance than fight training.
posted by anti social order at 12:38 PM on July 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

Muay Thai will give you double the tools most people in a fight are used to using. If you end up on the ground, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is what you want (I know it wasn't on your list). I've done some MMA training from time to time and these two arts supply almost all of the techniques we were taught.
posted by tommasz at 12:47 PM on July 26, 2011

I'm a big guy; 6' 3", 270 lbs (tall, not fat), I want to learn how to leverage my size to kick people's butt's if I ever need to & it sounds awesome.

Size is skill. Toughest man I ever met was about your size. A bit heavier at times. He had this way in a bar fight to throw punches like he was hitting a speed bag whilst moving his big frame forward. He came on like a tornado. Bam, bam, bam, bam and just bowled over the other guy.

He used to insist that it was simple logic: in any throwing of fists brute size and strength trumps all. No matter what Grasshopper might know, no matter how quick he is, what tricks he might know, if you have 25 lbs and a few inches on him, he will be a bloody rag doll in seconds under your determined onslaught.

Stay clear of guys that are even bigger than you and that's all the martial arts training you need.
posted by three blind mice at 12:54 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ki-Aikido - 100% Straight bullshit.

This isn't correct. It's probably closer to 99% bullshit, and the reason why aikido gets away with being useless for the vast majority of its practitioners it that the other 1% or so are really, really good. The founder, Koichi Tohei, was a monster at using ki-aikido: there's a notable incident where he took on all comers at a judo meet and floored them all.

But even he practiced judo first. And any martial art where you're banking on being one of those guys who really, really gets it is a crapshoot at best.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 12:57 PM on July 26, 2011

Nthing what most people here have said: Muay Thai and Judo are probably your best bets from what you listed. You want something that emphasizes live sparring against resisting opponents. The instructor and other students make a big difference too; visit a class or two and see if you like the vibe.

was a monster at using ki-aikido

That video doesn't seem to back up your point: all I saw in first minute or so looked both cooperative and choreographed.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 1:05 PM on July 26, 2011

These questions are difficult to answer. An actual willingness to badly injure another human being, practice in the use of all the force available to you, and experience with improvised weapons are useful. These things are rarely taught to civilians by anyone reputable, except after years of study.

Consider getting references to a local instructor from people you know who have actually been in real fights, like cops. Otherwise, spend some time talking to the instructor and watching a class. It all depends on the instructor. An instructor with real world fighting experience is probably more important than which art you study.
posted by Hylas at 1:20 PM on July 26, 2011

That video doesn't seem to back up your point: all I saw in first minute or so looked both cooperative and choreographed.

Okay, then look for other videos with Koichi Tohei -- there are several on Youtube. But keep in mind that "look[ing] cooperative and choreographed" is based on a misunderstanding of what the attacker -- the uke -- is doing. He is not attempting to simulate what a real attacker would do in a real situation. He is attempting to simulate what a trained attacker would do if the target used a jujutsu or aikido technique to counter. So if someone rushed a trained aikidoka and he/she put the attacker in a joint lock, in a real situation that person would crumple at the aikidoka's feet, probably cracking a kneecap in hitting the ground. A trained attacker would either roll or breakfall out of it, so that if the person doing the technique failed to follow up properly, the attacker could rush him again.

So what happens is that people seeing these demonstrations assume choreography and coordination when the techniques are being done correctly. Another example: you will see people throw attackers through the air, only gripping them by the wrist. Is the person doing the technique so massively strong that he or she can produce the huge amount of torque necessary to lift an 180-pound man using only a single hand? Of course not. The attacker is keeping his wrist from getting broken by flipping over before that can happen.

Now, as I said before, ki-aikido is a very problematic martial art for a number of reasons. But there's more going on than meets the eye when you see these techniques.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 1:32 PM on July 26, 2011

I don't think you want a martial art. Traditional martial arts are as much about personal development, mental training, and spiritual well-being as they are about "kicking butt." Most of the traditional martial art instructors I've met would probably try to disabuse you of the idea that kicking butt is awesome -- fighting can be pretty ugly, and avoiding it is the only way to come out of a situation 100% on top.

Still, I'm not out to judge your motives (though I clearly have a personal preference); I just want to give you an idea of what you might encounter. Martial arts classes can fall into roughly 3 categories: traditional, sport, and brawling. The traditional ones are about whole-person development, take decades to master, and have the potential to turn you into a pretty amazing and invincible human being. The sports are fun, great for physical fitness, and not very useful in real fights. The brawler classes will get you ready for a street fight in a hurry and help you find the kinds of people who love to fight. The best way to tell the difference is to visit each class and see whats going on. If you can take a sample class that helps too. Also, go in with an open mind -- what do you really want to get out of a martial arts class? Can the class and instructor you're visiting give that to you? What's the community of people like who attend the class?
posted by cubby at 1:39 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

It all depends on the instructor

Yep, depends on the instructor. It doesn't matter if an instructor can walk up walls, it does matter if they are able (and willing) to teach you to walk up walls (in a short timeframe).

You're a big guy, and that accounts for a lot. Especially if you can learn to deliver that force. Outside of knives or guns, you should learn how to throw a good punch and some basic grappling moves. Learn that avoiding fights is the best thing you can do, and then learn a good offense is the second best thing you can do. The rest is practice.

Also, if I had a choice to steer someone to either a class that taught a technique for ten reps or so then threw you into some "aliveness"/sparring training, or a class that showed how to deliver a technique full force through endless repetition; the latter is going to teach far more than the former. Anybody who is successful through "aliveness" training has a solid base of repetition training.

Beyond all that, Muay Thai is probably your best bet. I'm sure you'll get some easy-breezy combinations of strikes to learn but maybe you'll get lucky and the teacher will tell you to do a thousand elbow strikes. Then suggest some modifications and tell you to do another thousand.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:56 PM on July 26, 2011

Judo is great but it (and most grappling forms) is best suited for one on one combat. Muy Thai probably has a better chance of getting you extracted from a sticky situation quickly. That and good running shoes.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:14 PM on July 26, 2011

If you want to know how to defend yourself in a real-life fight on the street or in a pub, go to the batting cages. Seriously: don't start fights, but if someone is physically threatening you and won't let you leave without fighting, don't even bother thinking about what you can do with your fists or legs. Outside of a sporting or friendly match, assume that the other person will hurt you badly if he can. So either carry some mace and blast him if he's being an aggressive prick or pick up a heavy, rigid object and break his fucking face open. Really. MMA and muay thai are great fighting styles, but do you really want to give some drunk asshole the opportunity to hit you in the head out of a misplaced sense of honor?
posted by clockzero at 2:17 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

The best reason to study an "alive" full contact martial art is to cure yourself of the notion that, deep down, you have the potential to be the biggest badass on the planet. Once you see how scary the top guys/gals are, and how easily they throw/tap/KO you, it puts things into nice perspective. An alive art will cure you of Ego issues real fast.

In addition, you will have a perfect outlet to drain your aggression away. You have to be seriously messed up to still want to fight after sparring/rolling for hours. If you have something to prove, you do it on the mat.
posted by Theodore Sign at 8:51 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you are not certain that you are going to stick with a martial art for the years it takes to become proficient, I recommend Judo. The early parts are about not getting hurt. How to fall, how to get hit, kicked, etc.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:46 PM on July 27, 2011

You will learn real, reliable fighting skills in the Judo and Muay Thai classes. All the other martial arts listed are of dubious value in real combat. If I were you, I would try 1-2 Judo classes and 1-2 Muay Thai classes, and then pick the one with the better instructor. Here are some things to ask yourself to help you decide which instructor is better:

*Is this guy a dick? If so, move on to the next class.
*Does he/she seem to make safety a priority?
*Are the explanations of technique and strategy clear?
*Does the instructor seem to have a plan for the class, or is does he seem to be making it up as he goes along?
*Does the instructor respond well to questions?
*When students are practicing, does the instructor move around the room to make sure everyone is getting it, and offer corrections when necessary?

Those are some of the first things that came to mind to help you determine whether or not the instructor is a good one. Other things matter too (ex: do the classes build on one another? does the coach seem genuinely concerned with the week-to-week progress of the students?) but can't easily be judged in only a class or two.

If you try both of them and like both instructors, pick the one that you enjoyed most. If that is a tie as well, pick the one where the other students seemed coolest.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 9:13 PM on July 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ki-Aikido - 100% Straight bullshit.
It's probably closer to 99% bullshit, and the reason why aikido... (snip cavates)

Been a while, but I'm gonna answer this for the next searcher.

"Aikido" is a martial art that is designed not to hurt people. Even its fans agree isn't the quickest route to be competent in a fight. IMO its best left to those that want a traditional Japanese martial arts experience but aren't keen on actually fighting. There are some 1%'ers that make it work, but those types would make anything work so I don't think they should be taken as a typical case.

"ki-aikido" is based on that martial art and adds mystic mumbo-jumbo. You actually are supposed to train your "inner ki" (force powers) to the point you can knock people out without touching them. No, really, you train to gain mystical powers. So.. yeah.

You can see a demonstration of ki powers in this hilarious news report on some strip mall sensei. The reporter calls on the local Gracie academy (a well known and respected gym in BJJ/MMA circles) for some volunteers and you can see future UFC star Stephan Bonnar trying not to laugh at the silliness.
posted by anti social order at 1:41 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

"ki-aikido" is based on that martial art and adds mystic mumbo-jumbo. You actually are supposed to train your "inner ki" (force powers) to the point you can knock people out without touching them. No, really, you train to gain mystical powers. So.. yeah.

Sorry, that's just not true: it is not the case that mainstream ki-aikido claims that you can "knock people out without touching them". So ... no. Not really. And the hilarious news report you cite is of a karate instructor, so I have no idea why you think that's relevant to ki-aikido. Instructors in taiji will talk of kong jin and aikido instructors of all styles will mention that one can "throw" people without touching them. In both cases, what they are talking about is getting an opponent to overextend him- or her- self to the point where they lose balance and fall.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 3:43 PM on August 4, 2011

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