Beginners please read: What Kind of Pie is Best? (Finding a Martial Art)

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Bill Mattocks

Sr. Grandmaster
MTS Alumni
Feb 8, 2009
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A very common question on MT is something along these lines:

"Hi! I'm new and I'm looking to begin training in martial arts. Which art is best?"

An alternative attempts to be more focused:

"Hi, I'm new and I'm X years old and my body type is Y and I've trained in Z arts but not since childhood and I was wondering what art is best for me?"

What kind of pie is best? Or alternatively, what kind of pie is best for me?

Martial arts is LOCAL. On any given day, a student from dojo A can be called a better martial artist than a student from Temple B and vice-versa. It depends on so many factors, which is why there has never been a 'best style' even when one defines 'best' by strict rules.

What I mean by that is that there are great and lousy instructors in every art you can name. None are free of frauds. Few are so bad that they have no good instructors.

Furthermore, a great instructor whom you can't get along with isn't a very good instructor for YOU in many cases. A facility that doesn't appeal to you, fellow students who leave you cold, none of those are good things for you, even if 'everyone says' the instructor, facility, and students are top-notch.

Bottom line, although we are happy to help in any way we can, most of us are going to say the same thing every time this question comes up.

1) Find out what schools are available where you live.

2) Determine if the style of martial arts taught is something you're interested in. Some people prefer to grapple. Some like high kicks. Some like stand up fighting. Some want to learn self-defense only. Some want to compete in tournaments and potentially win trophies. Some want to get in better physical condition. Or any combination of those. All are legit reasons to train, but you want to match your desired outcome with what's being taught or it won't work for you.

3) Make sure the costs and times of instruction work for you.

4) Do your best to investigate the instructor and their stated credentials. There are many frauds out there. Some have very convincing certificates and group memberships hanging on their walls; check them out anyway. There are quite a few fraudulent organizations that exist to confer these things on anyone who sends them money.

5) Attend as a visitor. Go more than once. See how things are done, and decide if that's something you think would interest you.

6) Self-assess. If you're seriously overweight, out-of-shape, older, less flexible, or differently abled, there may be things you cannot physically do unless you are willing to put in the time and effort to do those things along with training, if you are able to.

7) If the training facility uses contracts, ask what happens if you move, become unable to train, or decide it's not for you. Consider how you'll feel paying a monthly fee for several years when you're not able or willing to train anymore.

But what pie is best? The pie you like. The pie you're willing to commit to. The pie that's available near you, at a price you're willing to pay. The pie baked by a good baker, who has access to good ingredients. That's the best pie.
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