Kung fu in the DC area?
October 29, 2006 6:37 AM   Subscribe

Martial Arts Filter: To make this short and easy, do any of the MeFites in their collective wisdom have any good suggestions on where a 27 year old with no martial arts experience should look to begin learning such in the D.C. area? I not quite that interested in jujitsu, but all other forms I'm wide open to. Any advice you all might have, I certainly appreciate.

My primary goal is self defense. This being spurred on after a stranger entered my sister's apartment and at one point, I had to physically shove him out. And more specifically, I'm interested in locations in the Arlington/Alexandria/Rosslyn (and other nearby areas).

Thanks again.
posted by Atreides to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Based on my personal experience and prejudices, I strongly advocate Aikido as the most interesting and useful of the Martial Arts. Here's one place to check out.
posted by LeisureGuy at 8:38 AM on October 29, 2006

Despite being a keen aidido practicioner, I'm not sure I'd choose it as a novice who's primary goal was self defense. Yes, the right aikido school will teach you self-defense, but aikido is a difficult art which concentrates on ideas of flow & movement which do not necessarily come naturally to everyone & can take much effort to learn. Aikido schools are generally not interested in teaching you effective self defense in the shortest possible time: you need to be in it for the long haul, which doesn't sound like it's what you're after.

I'd also avoid any martial arts variety with a strong competitive element, since the constraints imposed by the requirement for relatively safe competition are often at cross-purposes to learning effective self-defense. Avoid most karate, kick boxing & judo schools for this reason: they will teach you bad habits which may get you into serious trouble in a real situation.

You might want to consider following tkchrist's advice and finding a good MMA (mixed martial arts) school in your area.

Finally, I'd note that personal safety is about much more than martial arts knowlege. Indeed, martial arts can give you a false sense of "invincibility" that can be extremely counter productive. Defusing a situation is almost always preferable to any kind of physical confrontation.
posted by pharm at 9:11 AM on October 29, 2006

As a woman who has been intermittently involved in martial arts (GoJu, which I quite like) since I was a child, I recommend that you look for a club with a high ratio of women upper belts. That is, if less than about 1/3 of the upper belts are women, proceed with caution. Martial arts attracts a lot of macho types, and you want to get an instructor who can keep a lid on unproductive competition and negative attitudes/behaviour towards women members. Chances are if the club retains a lot of women, then they are teaching what women want to learn, and doing it effectively.
posted by carmen at 10:20 AM on October 29, 2006

Thank you for the responses so far, all of them have been helpful.
posted by Atreides at 10:32 AM on October 29, 2006

Krav Maga.
posted by madman at 10:43 AM on October 29, 2006

posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:50 AM on October 29, 2006

As always, I think Aikido is the bomb, but it's not for everyone and it's not always the quickest or best way to feel like you can kick ass or defend yourself. Eventually I think you do develop an excellent sense of how to be safe with Aikido, but if you are motivated primarily by self defense, another martial art might be better.

But my underlying advice is to go to a variety of different types of martial arts schools and see which environment and martial arts style appeals to you. If you find a place where you feel comfortable, train there. Don't worry too much about what kind of martial arts it is - a good teacher is much more important than what brand of kick ass you're practicing.

For the record, I think that many judo schools can be great places for learning practical self defense and where it's not all about hurting/maiming your attacker, so I wouldn't rule those schools out.

I agree with carmen that you want to find a place where women are respected and it's not an overly macho atmosphere (no matter if you're male or female). I also reccomend that you look to see how many students are wounded/wearing splints etc. If they're beating each other up it's not a safe place to train. It is likely that you will hurt yourself in the course of several years of doing any physical activity but if a school expects that students train while injured, I wouldn't go there.
posted by mulkey at 4:24 PM on October 29, 2006

I agree with pharm and mulkey. I've been practicing aikido for 16 years, and if you came into our school asking for practical self-defense classes, I'd try to convince you to take jiujitsu instead.

You might want to think about taking a self-defense class instead of starting martial arts training. You can learn some effective techniques in the short term, then decide if you want to follow up with the commitment to study a martial art.

If you do decide you want a martial art, do as mulkey says and go to as many martial arts schools as you can, regardless of type. Get there before class starts and sit through the whole class. Watch how the students behave and how the instructors and seniors treat the juniors. Decide if this is the kind of place you want to spend several hours (or more) a week. Look for places that ask if you have any questions about their art, not that ask how soon you can give them a check to join.

Don't forget to check out local colleges and universities, too. They often have martial arts clubs that are open to community members, and because they don't have rent to pay, the price can be very reasonable.
posted by Joleta at 4:58 PM on October 29, 2006

There are no straight lines in Nature.

My suggestion is to find a reputable Tai Chi teacher. Spend one month with him or her. Then if you can find a better one spend another month. By then you will have enough control of your body to reconsider what you are actually looking for.

Your saying no to jujitsu may be problematic if it is the strong touching that bothers you. Then a month or so of well trained and supervised boxing with proper safety equipment might be appropriate before going further. Dancing with fear can be a hot date, and will certainly clarify the martial issues.

But if you've had your ass kicked a few times or are otherwise familiar with the experience of mortality, then for me Tai Chi is the first art to consider. One learns to respect and be fluent with ones own space, and learns also not to become mired in the imagined fear of someone else's intrusion into it.

posted by elmaddog at 6:33 PM on October 29, 2006

In terms of self defense, jujitsu is the bomb.

If you want to learn to be safe in your body quickly, and get some good exercise and strength development in the process, jujitsu is the way to go.

While tai chi is easily the best form of boxing, you have to commit harder to it, practice longer for it, and expect much slower results, in years or tens of years rather than months to years with jujitsu.
posted by ewkpates at 3:49 AM on October 30, 2006

If Tai Chi is the best form of boxing, where are all the Tai Chi champs?
posted by the cuban at 6:44 AM on October 30, 2006

Its non competitive, it is about balance and distribution on weight, not belts and trophies. When I was living in China every morning when I walked to work I would see dozens of people practicing it in their pajamas, these were old people and I am pretty sure most of them could drop me without a second thought.
posted by BobbyDigital at 6:55 AM on October 30, 2006

1. There are few Tai Chi champs because it is a very subtle art, and not well understood by teachers. In karate you learn to break bricks... imagine if you practiced the motion, how many would be good brick breakers? I've done a fair amount of sparring across styles, and while its hard to be good at Tai Chi, when its done correctly it is the most disturbing of all the arts to face. Ever sparred against Ba Gua? Tip of the iceberg.

2. Given this, most old people can’t kick butt. Tai Chi students (and teachers) make the outward shape, but without the inner principles, they are just chopping imaginary blocks and that doesn't do much on the matt.
posted by ewkpates at 10:38 AM on October 30, 2006

I know you say that you are not particularly interested in jiu-jitsu. Nonetheless, I have to recommend it, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in particular. I think that of all the martial arts, BJJ will be most useful in the shortest amount of time. You could also consider Mixed Martial Arts training. You'll learn to strike, take people down, and fight on the ground. You'll learn it against real, live resisting opponents, which is crucial, unless you plan on punching the air in your self defense situations. Someone linked to a post of tkchrist's above, and it's excellent. I'm not interested in re-hashing all of that, but as I recall, it's totally appropriate, and completely on point.

Quite frankly, I would avoid most traditional martial arts. If you want to be able to fight, they are not the way to go. They are overly focused on ritual and dead patterns that have little, if any applicability to actual combat.

Someone else above recommended you avoid places that stress competition, and I also thin you should consider these schools. You should look for one that doesn't pressure YOU to compete if you don't want to, but don't discount a school because they compete frequently. Competition is not appropriate for everyone, but there are some really great things about competition. First of all, it weeds out the BS. If the competition is actually geared towards subduing an opponent (submission-judo or BJJ or KO-boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai) then the sport will evolve quickly, as competitors pare down the repertoire of art to moves that only advance you towards your goal of subduing/finishing your opponent. Second, it will help you learn to deal with an opponent who is resisting you with all their power. Typically, people compete at a higher level of intensity than they train at. Last, it will help you learn to deal with nerves and aggression, which will certainly be a part of any real self defense scenario.

Anyhow, I've already written more than I meant to. If you have more questions, I'm happy to discuss them. E-mail is in my profile. Also, please give tkchrist's thread a look-it's a very good read, on all things martial arts/self defense. And of course, this post has only dealt with the physical realties of self defense. Please check out Gavin DeBecker's excellent book The Gift of Fear, which deals mostly with the prevention of altercation; far more important than the physical training, quite frankly.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 9:49 PM on October 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

Well, perhaps a Model Mugging course would be better. (There's a Wikipedia article on it.) Here's a local place in DC:

D.C. Impact

701 Richmond Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: 301 589-1349
posted by LeisureGuy at 9:33 PM on October 31, 2006

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