Help me choose a sport
March 6, 2008 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Jiu jitsu vs. aiki jitsu vs. kick boxing vs. thai boxing etc: Which is best?

So I noticed that the gym to which I belong has a bunch of interesting sports that are more appealing than the usual bunch (jazzercise, nordic walking, etc) and this seems interesting, but I know nothing about these sports... jiu jitsu sounds like fun, but then again, I'm not really sure what its all about. Sure, I could try them all, but I don't really have time and so I hope you guys can give me some hints.

I am in my late 20s, moderately healthy, walk/bike regularly.

I'd like to do a sport that keeps me in shape and, being the practical person that I am, will also give me some other benefit (e.g. learning self-defense). Yeah, walking and swimming will keep you in shape, but what of it? This is why these courses seem more appealing, like two birds with one stone.

So, happy to hear from those of you with experience in one of these sports and with some insights for a total novice.

posted by mateuslee to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of Jiujitsu is it?
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:38 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Given that you don't seem to be looking for anything specific in terms of what these particular styles focus on, I'd suggest just go and watching one of each of these classes. The instructor and the other students will probably be the determining factor in the class. Go see how the instructor teaches, what you actually do in class and if the other students seem like folks you could get along with. This will probably serve you a lot better than comparing objective facts about the different styles.

When I started undergrad, I took a semester of muay thai. It was a killer workout and I lost a quite a bit of weight. However, the instructor was a tremendous prick who especially disliked me, and near the end of the semester I finally just stopped going because the classes were so unpleasant. Unless you're actually enjoying yourself enough to go to class, it doesn't matter how good of a workout it is. I started kendo the following semester and while workout might not have been quite as intense, I was enjoyed myself much more and put forth a lot more effort.
posted by Nelsormensch at 7:39 AM on March 6, 2008

I do Brazilian Jiu Jistu, have done a bunch of kick boxing and judo. They are all great for staying/getting in shape, and they all have certain aspects that would help as self-defense. Jiu-Jitsu is basically 100% wrestling with submissions (chokes and joint locks), Kick boxing is kicking and punching. I know nothing about Aiki Jitsu. I know you said that you didn't have the time, but I really suggest that you try one or two classes of each and see what you like. I never thought I'd like Jiu-Jitsu, but I found that after a few classes I was totally hooked. I'd also suggest looking them up on wikipedia, there's lots of detailed infor there...
posted by Echidna882003 at 7:43 AM on March 6, 2008

What kind of Jiujitsu is it?, yes, good question!
posted by Echidna882003 at 7:44 AM on March 6, 2008

I had a pretty good experience with muay thai. I never actually competed (waaay too slow), but it seemed to be one of the more effective and practical martial arts. I had previously taken taekwondo and found it to be mostly useless in any real world situation.
posted by electroboy at 7:44 AM on March 6, 2008

There is no "best". Some martial arts are more effective than others. Or more practical. Or a better workout. It all depends.

I say, try what your gym is offering. If what you want is a good workout with a self-defense "bonus", it sounds like you've got it. Try it out, and see if you like it. If you don't, maybe you'll be inspired to find a traditional dojo.

Also: Paging tkchrist...
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 7:46 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've been to gyms calling themselves both kickboxing and muay thai, the terms seem to be used relatively interchangeably in the US. Both of them whipped my butt into shape in record time and gave me a real sense that I could handle myself in a fight (though I haven't had to put this to the test). I've only ever watched the jiu jitsu guys, you'll definitely learn practical defense skills but you have to ask yourself, are you ok with spending all that time rolling around with random sweaty dudes? I mean really ok, like balls-on-face ok?
posted by TungstenChef at 7:48 AM on March 6, 2008

As a Judo/BJJ guy -- you know, there's a lot of talk about rolling around with other sweaty guys. I have also rolled with girls. All of that close body contact worry goes away when you realize the other person is trying to kick your ass.

YMMV, of course, but I have seen a lot of chubby Judo guys, so it won't necessarily whip you into shape. Mostly, I agree with the people who are saying to try them out once and see which you like the best. For me, one of the positives of Muay Thai: You will learn to deal with someone trying to punch you in the face, is outweighed by the negative: You will probably be punched in the face.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:00 AM on March 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Balls on face? Well, at our gym we wear pants ;)
posted by Echidna882003 at 8:07 AM on March 6, 2008

- Most serious Muay Thai and boxing clubs are very serious about cardio and the cultivation of endurance.
- These days, in the US, most kickboxing clubs will be identical to clubs that teach "Muay Thai". In the 90s, American "kickboxing" usually meant boxing + kicks above the waist. With the advent of K-1 and the rise of MMA, the most widely-accepted form of kickboxing accepts kicks below the waist, and the Thai-style of kicking as the most effective.

If you want something close to what you can see on YouTube when you watch "muay thai sparring" vids of gyms in Thailand, well.. you'll have to look a lot harder to find a traditional Muay Thai school that will offer anything close to the rigors of training camps in Thailand. Most of our gyms are pretty soft in comparison.

Avoid, however, thinking of your given martial art/combat sport as a form of self-defense. You never want to have to rely on your barehanded skills when, in that worst-possible-situation, the other guy might pull a knife, pull a gun, etc.

The best forms of self defense that a normal person can have are good social skills in bad situations, good running stamina, and a CCW.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 8:35 AM on March 6, 2008

"Which is best" is a meaningless question by itself. You have to specify best for what purpose and for whom.

It sounds like you're primarily looking for fitness, with some self-defense application as a secondary bonus. I would add that you should also consider how well the sport will hold your interest (because you won't stick with your practice if it doesn't).

From that standpoint:

1) Muay Thai is an awesome cardio workout that will also help with muscular endurance and explosive power. If has some good self-defence applications, especially regarding the use of knees in the clinch. Workouts will tend to involve lots of repetition of the same techniques day in and day out. Good if you like simplicity, not so good if you get bored easily.

2) "Kickboxing" is a generic term that could indicate anything from genuine Muay Thai to watered-down aerobics taught by someone with no real martial arts experience.

3) Aiki-jutsu is strictly a martial art, not a sport. The fitness value would be fairly minimal compared to kickboxing or judo. (Some people would debate the effectiveness of the techniques for self-defence as well. I'm not going to get into that, except to note that you will learn how to fall without getting hurt, which is an excellent skill to have in life.)

4) Jujutsu is another wide open term that covers a variety of arts, some of which are good for fitness, some for self-defence, and some for both. Brazilian jujutsu is an excellent whole-body workout and also teaches at least one aspect of fighting very effectively. Other forms of jujutsu are closer to Aiki-jutsu - i.e. lots of standing wristlocks and armbars, not so much free-form grappling. It's probable that whatever form is offered will have a wide variety of techniques, which is fun for the student who likes to always be learning something new.

I agree with everyone above who states that you should check out each of the classes to get a feel for the teacher and the class atmosphere.
posted by tdismukes at 9:36 AM on March 6, 2008

(Brazillian) jiu-jitsu is really fun because it's very tactical. You'll be surprised at the dynamics of wrestling around on the floor, and the best part is when something in your head just clicks and you implement a technique you learned earlier, flipping a guy over and choking him out. It's kind of like chess with the body, really - there are so many ways to attack different positions.

Judo is fun for the same reasons - there's so many ways to go about throwing someone, and it's very satisfying once you finally pull it off against someone who has been resisting you. Judo clubs usually do a lot of jiu-jitsu/grappling type stuff as well.

As for the sweatiness, you usually don't think about it when you're grappling with someone, although admittedly some positions can be quite awkward - you have to be OK with someone's head pressed into your crotch as you're triangle-choking them, for instance. But again, you usually don't think about it. Just take a good shower afterwards.

I think Muay Thai gives you a great cardio workout, but as other people mentioned it's kind of boring doing the same things over and over again. I didn't really enjoy sparring in Muay Thai as much as jiu-jitsu or judo - you don't have as much time to think, and it's mainly a lot of trading punches and kicks and circling around.

Agree with everyone that says you should try each one out and see which one you like best. The first few classes of jiu-jitsu and judo can be boring though, as you're mainly learning how to fall down properly.
posted by pravit at 10:31 AM on March 6, 2008

Also, it's very common to get kicked in the crotch when someone is trying to execute this throw, and I've been racked countless times in Muay Thai, so wearing a cup might be a good idea. I've never actually tried doing jiu-jitsu while wearing a cup, but it's pretty useful for Muay Thai and other kicking sports.
posted by pravit at 10:44 AM on March 6, 2008

The above advice is all good. The only thing I have to add is that the sports and martial arts that include live, full contact sparring (Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, Muay Thai, usually American kickboxing), besides teaching you how to actually fight, are a lot more fun than the ones that don't. It feels far more rewarding to throw, choke, or kick someone that's trying to do the same to you than it does to stand in a line punching the air.
posted by ignignokt at 11:43 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I started Krav Maga and Muay Thai last year and loved them both. As far as fitness, both really stress endurance and conditioning just like boxing. That's proabbly what most people are referring to as repetative or boring classes. Lots of laps, excercises and chops until you are sweating bullets and sucking air like you wouldn't believe (and even after I ran a marathon the year before). I tend to get bored easily myself but seeing results and learning were enough to keep me interested. Also you can mix up your bag work to make things more interesting as combinations are key for any fighting art as well as physically challenging.

Before these classes I played sports and hit the weights regularly. I am 5'7" and was up to 160 pds of muscle via the weights but after starting MT/Krav dropped mad weight to 145 pds in a few months (but that's with taking two forms and 4-5 classes per week). Funny thing is I feel stronger as both incorporate boxing type body weight excercises that stress muscle groups instead of just the isolation that weights do. That is what I believe made me stronger as all my muscles now work together more effectively.

My school moved further out from the city making it impossible to attend after work classes in a big traffic filled city but am looking for other schools to continue my training. All places allow you to try out a class and I agree with everyone to try as many out to see what is best for you.

As for self defence, good schools will teach you the best defense is to either not put yourself in that position or to walk away! I am going to drop the Krav and go Muay Thai and BJJ. Being a small guy, I shouldn't be trading punches with anyone since the odds are they will be bigger than me. Muay Thai is great for conditioning and knowing how to throw punches, kicks and knees but there is no ground work. BJJ is more about leverage (better for smaller guys) and most fights I have seen end up in a wrestling match anyway. He can be a lot bigger than me but if I'm about to break his arm at the elbow, size won't matter much. But like I said, I'll always plan to walk away if I can, especially meeting little girls in class that would kick the living crap out of me! Proves you never know who you are messing with. To avoid overtraining I am planning on MT and BJJ, each once a week.

Any of the choices you mentioned will be great for fitness or, lets say confidence instead of self defense. And my last piece of advise is to echo...."A cup is your best friend!"
posted by skimides at 12:20 PM on March 6, 2008

skimides, it's unfair and highly inaccurate to say that "body weight excercises stress muscle groups instead of just the isolation that weights do."

Maybe you had never attempted a compound or olympic lift before beginning your fight training, which is okay. But isolation lifting is just one way to lift. Power and olympic lifting incorporate more, and sometimes almost all muscle groups than simple isolation training.

I deadlifted and squatted extremely heavy when I was training in Muay Thai and it lent me (with good form, of course) the most tremendous explosive power in my kicks and inside punches. Many of the most successful K-1 kickboxers trained heavily with weights to increase their power (already having form completely mastered).
posted by crunch buttsteak at 1:21 PM on March 6, 2008

crunch buttsteak - Apologies for the confusion but you are right. I meant to say I was only doing isolation excercises before. Now in the gym I do more lifting that incorporates more muscle groups, like deadlifitng and squats, instead of just isolating one muscle. And for the exact reason you specified that these excercises are great for a more complete workout and more power. I was trying to say that anything you do physically that is functional, from punching and kicking to even picking up stuff around the house, incorporate muscle groups so working out to incorporate the systems are better for strength and power than just one component of the system. MT and Krav was evidence to that and as a result I was stronger.
posted by skimides at 7:25 AM on March 7, 2008

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