What is your primary reason for training in the martial arts? There are as many different styles of martial arts as there are instructors teaching them.

For you to get the most out of training, you need to decide why you are going to class. If your purpose is to obtain aerobic exercise, then maybe you need to look into a cardio-kick session or a Tae Bo class. If you want to develop your upper body strength and your ability to punch a hole in a brick wall, you might visit a school that specializes in striking and breaking techniques. If you are a runner or a cyclist and want to do some cross-training, then one of the Korean schools of Taekwondo might be what you need. If you’ve been attacked and want to learn how to defend yourself, there are schools that specialize in self-defense skills.

There are a wide variety of martial styles. Most cultures develop a martial art of some sort, usually based on the cultural stage of its people when the need for martial skills is reached. People who were forced to defend themselves without the availability of weapons developed many of the open hand styles. Farm implements and tools were used as weapons when swords and spears were forbidden to the common people. The Philippine stick fighting techniques were developed to hide martial training in folk dances, turning the movements of the dance into a hidden dance of combat. From the open hand and weapon styles of China, Japan and Okinawa, to the islands of the Philippines and their dances of the warrior, to the foot-fighting techniques of French Savate, to the bare-knuckle brawling of the American colonies, martial skills will arise wherever they are needed.

Weapons styles are also as varied as the open hand styles. Chinese sword styles may have points in common with Japanese Kenjitsu training, but there is also a relation to European fencing styles, broadsword use and even the Roman gladius.

Philippine arnis, or stick fighting, is different from French single-stick or the English quarterstaff, and they also differ from the Japanese bo styles, but all have some points in common. Greco-Roman wrestling, jujitsu, aikido and akijujitsu, and sumo all have similarities as well as major differences.

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