Resetting - Looking to Start Over with a New Art


Nov 14, 2013
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Former Hapkido practitioner here. I am looking to restart my journey after a few years without practicing to continue earning self-defense knowledge and application. I am not looking to compete, but to learn, practice, and spar. Would anyone be willing to provide information on the following arts or general advice?
  • BJJ
  • Aikido
  • Arnis (United Modern)
  • Wing Chun
  • Ninjitsu
  • Karate (Shotokan)
  • Tae Kwon Do (WTF)
  • Bagua
  • Muy Thai
I also plan to cross train (in the future) as time permits, especially if the art is more "specialized" in terms of curriculum. Just part of me is torn between broad and small curriculums.

Thanks in advance!
To give you an idea of where I am coming from, I am a KKW TKD (WTF) 3rd degree black belt, Hapkido black belt, and I've done about 8 months of BJJ and a few months of Muay Thai/MMA. When I talk about my experiences, keep in mind that I usually only have experience in one or two schools, and experiences may vary from school to school.

My HKD experience was at my TKD school. Because the TKD school taught strikes and some self-defense, the HKD was primarily focused on wristlocks and submissions.

BJJ - BJJ is tough. Typical class consists of drills, positional rolling, and live rolls. ("Roll" is what we call sparring in BJJ). For the first few months, I was stumbling through drills and completely lost in rolls. I'm at the point now where I can handle drills fine, and can roll well against other white belts (especially new ones) provided they aren't wrestlers, spazzes, or 80 pounds heavier than me.

I absolutely love it, but it can be very frustrating to just lose, lose, lose. This is compared to striking arts, where you do a lot of hitting pads, or arts with forms where you can get in some meditation while you do them.

Aikido - I don't have experience with Aikido. Aikido has a reputation of not sparring, so it's probably not going to be high on your list. But, you should ask, because some schools will. Aikido has a reputation for being ineffective. But I've read news articles of folks using aikido to disarm gunmen. So with the right school and student, it can be effective.

Arnis - I don't have experience with Arnis. I've heard it's the same as Kali/Escrima/FMA, but I've also heard there are differences between them. It's something that I think would be fun to do, but it's not on my radar, and really hasn't been, mainly because it's not been available where I'm at.

Wing Chun - Wing Chun is another one of those arts that gets a bad rap online. There are some schools that teach the entirety of what Wing Chun has to offer, including sparring and methods of power generation. You would probably learn a lot there. Other schools just do "sticky hands", and you probably won't get as much from that.

Ninjutsu - Another one that gets a bad rap online, and I think a big piece is that I don't believe Ninjutsu was ever a real martial art, or at least the way we would categorize it. Ninja was more about spycraft than fighting. I think modern ninjutsu takes the mythos of the ninja more than the actual history of it. And because of that, what you'll learn is whatever the ninja master believes a ninja is. It's kind of similar to Hapkido in a way, in that "Hapkido" can run the gambit from being a replica of JJJ to a replica of AKD.

Karate (Shotokan) - Folks who came to my TKD school from a Shotokan school fit right in. I don't have experience with Shotokan, but I can say if what I say about TKD appeals to you, Shotokan should as well.

Taekwondo (WTF) - The name is now just WT (they dropped the F, probably because of what the acronym means to most folks). The other term you want to use in your search is Kukkiwon or KKW, which is the organization that runs schools (WT is the sport authority for competition).

TKD gets a bad rap because we don't really do a lot of head contact, and so it's unrealistic. Personally, I feel that makes it safer. I thoroughly enjoy TKD sparring. Sparring in TKD is mainly kicks to the body. Not allowed to kick the leg at all, or the head until higher belt levels.

Bagua - Good luck finding a school that teaches bagua. If you can find one, you might want to try it just because you wouldn't get the opportunity at most places. It's been a long time since I've looked at bagua, but when I was first getting into martial arts, it was the one I wanted to take. The main reason is I wanted a martial art that would allow me the space to draw my gun in a defensive situation, and bagua seemed optimal for that.

Muay Thai - If you want a realistic striking art, out of those you listed, this is the best option. If you want to protect your long-term brain health, I would recommend TKD or Karate over Muay Thai. I've only been taking Muay Thai for a few months. I'm learning some valuable things. But if I had to choose one striking art, it would be TKD.

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Sep 21, 2005
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San Francisco
Thank you everyone for your support and objective (and respectful) comparison of the arts! I think that I will either pursue balintawak eskrima (just found this is in my area too) or brazillian jujitsu.
Would you care to share with us how you made your decision?


Orange Belt
Aug 7, 2013
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Would you care to share with us how you made your decision?
Of course!

BJJ - I took a demo class and 1) liked the instructor and 2) see how this would lead to more immediately applicable refinement of hapkido locks and finishes. It also gives a great toolset for responding along the use-of-force continuum.

Balintawak - I have yet to take a demo class, but 1) love the weapon focus, I never ventured too deeply into this and 2) see how the skills are transferrable to empty hand and weapon defense (in time + with practice). I am also in awe of the speed and control practitioners have.

I feel both are able to add onto what I have learned, but via a different lens.