Should i do karate or taekwondo?

I was recently awarded best answer in Yahoo! Answers by replying to the following question:

hey guys im a teenage girl and i really want to do either taekwondo or karate. i just dont know which one! what one would be better, and be more to my advantage?
if that makes sence

and here was my answer:

I agree with most answers so far but I would like to add a couple of technicalities. TKD is based mostly on kicks above the belt: that means is very suitable for lean and flexible people.  Anybody with heavy, inflexible legs will suffer and never really pick up on their techniques.

Karate has a much broader range of techniques that include kicks, punches, elbows and knees so it can suit a much wider range of people.  Please bear in mind that there are many different styles of Karate: Shoto Kan, Wado Ryu, Goju Ryu, Kyu Shin Kai and Shorin Ryu just to mention the most popular ones. They all share common factors but they are physically different.

My suggestion would be to have a good look at a few classes, if you have clubs near by, and then think which ones will be suitable for you two.

BTW have you tried considering Kung fu, or Silat or Aikido?

Transfer of knowledge: the pyramidal structure of a martial arts club

The technical basis of most martial arts is full of complex concepts if  compared to many other physical disciplines and sports.

Just think about the number of different strikes that karate, tae kwon do or a kickboxing practitioners have to master or the number of throws that a judo or a aikido students have to learn.  Teaching and learning all moves that a martial art style involves requires a specific approach in the way they are taught.  That’s why the organizational structure of a typical martial arts club is usually different from what is found in other sports clubs and organizations.

The structure of a martial arts club (or school) can be usually seen as having a pyramidal shape where the master (or head coach) is at the top of the pyramid and progressively, at lower levels, are individuals that belong to various ranks like instructor, assistants and other senior students that by definition contribute to the transfer of knowledge.  New students and beginners should usually represent the largest group of people: these will progressively improve they knowledge and climb the ranks.  This concept is important to express that not just master and instructors are taking part in the transfer of knowledge but also the remaining students that, once they learn a new concept, they should be able to explain it and transfer it to others.

A question about “fighting multiple attackers”

I recently answered the following question from Yahoo Answers:

I want to know a good martial arts style for fighting multiple opponents and learn quick takedowns?

just what the question is I want to learn how to defend myself in a situation simmilar to this. Also id like to know ways to defend myself against opponents with weapons. i have no prior exeperience to any marital arts training and im open to all possiblities…

And this was my answer:

While there are martial arts that might be orientated to fight multiple opponents or a single armed opponent (for multiple armed opponents don’t believe what you see in movies…) it is indeed a very difficult and dangerous thing to do. In any case as a beginners as you are you should first learn how to defend against the general thug on the street that might prove to be a difficult task all together.

After a few years, and lots of confidence gained, you might think about extending your training to more difficult situations. Just one extra point: take downs, particularly if followed by grappling are on the opposite side of fighting multiple opponents: think about it, you start grappling one person and his buddies start kicking and punching you while he is holding you… it just cannot work: if you fight several opponents better attack the first one in line, injure him and run as fast as you can.

Meet Steve Tappin

I was recently invited by my friends at Cambridge Kung Fu to an “Escrima concepts” seminar run by master Steve Tappin. Escrima is a martial art originated in the Philippines and it’s predominantly a weapon based system that teaches fighting by using sticks, machetes, knifes and daggers in various combinations of one of two weapons handled at once. The same concepts, moves and drills are applied regardless of the weapon used by the practitioner or his opponent in order to develop automatic reflexes that would work in any situation, at least in theory. If you heard of Kali, Arnis, Doce Pares or Cadena de Mano they are all similar styles: in fact I was told by an instructors that in the Philippines there are literally hundreds of different flavours of this styles, some of which are kept secret and developed among single families.

I heard great things from different sources about master Tappin’s skills: he is one of the (if not the) biggest experts of weapon based martial arts in the UK, with a large number of followers around the world and his seminars are always fully booked. This was an opportunity not to be missed, in order to improve my limited experience of weapon handling that is mostly limited to nunchakus, katana and sai, weapons used by Okinawan styles. When I first saw him I could not believe to my eyes: master Tappin is a large stocky men in his fifties that looks more like a large door security person rather than a martial artist as I was used to think of one until that day. In any case, within a few minutes into the seminar it was obvious that appearance is some time misleading.

The first exercise we were asked to perform was to face, armed with one stick, an opponent with two: the concept was to attack first, one stick at the time, to create space and allow getting close to the opponent and eventually disarming him. We then carried on working in various possible scenarios of one person with two, one or no stick facing another that as well can be armed or bear handed. All concepts explained were amazingly interesting as they could always be transferred across without thinking in what situation our opponent was attacking us. Master Tappin, with his 36 years experience of weapon handling, pointed out and repeated many time that when you are facing a weapon the correct technique makes the difference between walking out of that situation and being killed. A stick or a bottle can break your skull while a knife or a machete can seriously injure you or kill you: the quality of the concepts and the techniques practiced is vital.

It is obvious that a four hours seminar cannot teach stick fighting or defence against weapons: in fact I believe that fighting against a weapon cannot be guaranteed safe in any situation even after years of training. At the same time I was impressed by how many important concepts can be learnt in such a short time and by how many things can be overlooked unless you are taught by a real expert.