Finding a ‘good school’ – 3. Why Martial Arts?

Here’s part three of Curtis Winn’s series on how to chose a good martial arts school.  This post explores the deeper meanings behind the actual study of the arts.  His questions at the end should start a really good conversation here!


Why Martial Arts?

Before the decision is made to pursue martial arts for yourself or your child, it’s valuable to gain an understanding of what you’re buying, beyond just asking your neighbors or friends for their opinion of the school they belong to.  Too many people will say “it’s great!” to either hide any disappointment they may have or simply because they’ve bought into where they are at – both of which are normal responses…no one likes to feel like they’ve made the wrong choice.  We’ll cover cost considerations later – for now, let’s review the benefits of martial arts.

For the uninitiated, there are universal expectations of what martial arts will do for them or their children.  We’ll cover these first and then move on to more sophisticated topics and compelling reasons to take martial arts.

The Usual Benefits

For those interested in the “dim mak” death touch, please stop reading this blog – this isn’t for you.  There are a number of obvious and commonly understood benefits of martial arts that we’ll cover briefly.  The first of which in this post, is self-defense.  There are several approaches to explaining self-defense – from an offensive, drive-them-over-with-your-car approach to maiming the person with the precision of a trained professional.  I’ve tried to take on the perspective of ‘prevention’ in the following text.  I’ve benefited from speaking with several very qualified teachers, higher ranking students and trained fighters…interestingly, they all say pretty much the same thing.  “Avoid it (a fight) whenever you can.  Once you’re in a real fight, you should expect to get hurt.”


Schools, styles and instructors will emphasize different approaches to self-defense.  Regardless of how or what you’re taught, knowing how and where to hit or block another person to prevent yourself from being harmed is valuable information. I’ve had somewhat lengthy conversations with two colleagues who were mugged many years prior.

The first is a devoted husband with three children, who felt a fear that no one should.  While he recounted the episode, the look on the face of this principally good-spirited person was solemn and shaken by an event which he unfortunately remembers every second down to the last detail.  I sat still, listened quietly, and never interrupting, after I had initially asked him, “So what made you think of having your sons take Kempo?” 

The other, a young woman returning from the gym one Sunday morning sprinted up the front steps of her condo, felt a tap on her shoulder while she reached into her bag to get her keys.  She turned to see a face she didn’t recognize and felt something pushing against her stomach.  All she heard, was “I need money.”  Intelligently, she gave the assailant her small purse and held her breath hoping for the best as she looked down to see a gun pointed at her mid-section.  The assailant, or shall I say “asshole,” turned and ran leaving her fumbling and unable to cry or speak as the rush of adrenaline hit her like a freight train.

I’ll forego additional details as I have tremendous respect for these individuals.  The point is that self-defense, while not something most of us will ever need to call upon in our daily life, may prevent you from being harmed unnecessarily or at least give you an awareness to escape potentially significant injury.  I’m not a recognized self-defense expert by any stretch.  The only advice I can provide is the advice that I’ve been given – avoid the potential for such confrontation wherever possible, and that should be 100% of the time.

So where could the benefit of martial arts / self-defense come into play?  An awareness of one’s surroundings, possibly preventing these individuals from being snuck up upon.  Martial arts or self-defense won’t make you faster than a bullet or allow you to manhandle multiple assailants with ease.  But it should help you recognize when a situation is materializing and how to best avoid it before it turns for the worst.

How do you recognize where things are going wrong?  Have you been in a situation where you were ‘stuck’ or had a close call?  How did you avoid the situation?

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2 Responses to Finding a ‘good school’ – 3. Why Martial Arts?

  1. shoheiryuct says:

    I’ve been training for a long time, and, luckily, I’ve never needed to use anything to protect myself. I agree that a lot of what martial arts teaches you involves awareness, discipline, and common sense. You learn to defend yourself by not getting into bad situations in the first place.

    We all fear the scenarios experienced by the people mentioned in this article. In times like these, I admittedly don’t know how I’d respond. I’d like to think that my self-defense training would kick in. Hopefully I’ll never have to find out!

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