How Do I Choose a
Choosing a martial art can be a very confusing task, and indeed it is a decision that is often made quite
arbitrarily. Many random factors come into play: what is the easiest place to get to, what is the practice
schedule, what does it cost, what have I heard of, what do I like the sound of, what does my friend practice,
and so on. And that's fine, because those things certainly do matter. This brief outline is intended to provide
some additional information to help you as you consider your options. Ultimately you'll go with your gut
feeling, try something, and see if you like it.
Within the GWU Exercise Science
Currently there are four martial arts taught within the GWU Exercise Science Program (in alphabetical
order): Aikido; Shotokan Karate; Taekwondo; and Tai Chi. Following are general descriptions of each:
- One way of categorizing different martial arts is into two general types: styles that mainly emphasize
punching and kicking (Karate, Kung Fu, Taekwondo), and those that mainly emphasize grappling and
throwing (Aikido, Judo, Jujitsu). Many styles include both strategies, but most emphasize one over the other.
You will probably want to think about which type feels most right for your body and your personality.
- A rough distinction can also be made between styles that are oriented towards tournament competition
and those that de-emphasize the sport aspect or avoid it altogether.
- In an important sense, all styles are ultimately personal. Schools and systems, or "styles," have grown
around the personal training and teaching preferences of certain great masters. These different styles may
embrace many similar essential principles, even though they may not appear that way to the beginner. Even
within styles of the same name there can be various, differing branches. Thus the most important question is
not whether one style is better than another, but whether the particular teacher and training atmosphere appeal
to your personal preferences.
The essence of Aikido ("The Way of Unity with the Universal Force") technique is spherical motion around a
stable, energized center. Aikido is known for its graceful techniques, swift, seemingly effortless movements
that throw an attacker or, by means of subtle pressure applied to the joints, immobilize and control the
opponent. Either effect is the result of precise timing, leverage, and the instinctive use of centrifugal and
Karate ("Empty Hand") uses a variety of methods including kicks, punches, blocks, sweeps, and evasions, as
well as (to a lesser extent) joint manipulations and throws. Shotokan Karate includes both "hard" and "soft"
techniques, and makes approximately equal use of feet and hands. The
instructors are affiliated with Tsutomu Ohshima's Shotokan
Karate of America, emphasizing realistic fighting techniques and
an internal focus ("Mind and technique become one in true karate" according to the style's founder, Gichin Funakoshi). The sport/competition aspect
is not heavily emphasized.
Taekwondo ("Way of Kicking and Punching") is a Korean martial art that places primary emphasis on
kicking and footwork, with hand techniques and joint manipulations also included in the curriculum.
Taekwondo develops flexibility, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness in its practitioners through training
in basic techniques, forms, and free sparring. This martial art also has a highly developed competition aspect,
and is now an Olympic event. The GWU Taekwondo club also has its own Web page
The slow movements of Tai Chi Ch'uan ("Yin Yang Boxing") are graceful, powerful, relaxed, balanced, and
meditative. Developed in China over a thousand years ago, this form of exercise unites the mind and the
body, combining aspects of meditation, exercise, visualization, and martial art. The study focuses on the
subtleties of relaxation, breathing, and body alignment.
For more information contact:
Aikido: Jack Susman, email or 202/337-4071
Karate: Laurence Libelo, email
Taekwondo: Brian Wright, email or 202/362-5387
Tai Chi: Ron Luntz, 703/486-1263
A complete schedule of the GWU Exercise and Sports Activities Program is available.
About Karate |
About SKA |
SKA at GWU |
EXSA 026 |