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?

CARISMA Summer Camp 2008

Get a bunch of great people, passionate about martial arts, put them in a pleasant location of Hungarian country side and get them to train martial arts for 14 hours over a period of 5 days, in temperatures ranging between 27 and 38 degrees Celsius. Blend in some great activities like see sighting, wine tasting and eating most meals in a good restaurant and, no doubt, you get a successful summer camp.

The CARISMA Summer Camp 2008 was the fourth on a row that we organized: main purpose of the camp is having a great holiday in an unusual location and at the same time enjoy an important amount of highly focussed training hours. This allows all participants to learn new things, train, practice and correct mistakes about their own techniques. All sessions were outdoor, on grass, in the shade offered by a couple of large oak trees.

Day 1 – Thursday – Cambridge to Csokonyavisonta

Soon after their arrival all participants were allocated to their accommodations: within half an hour the first session started, at 5:30PM. Following a light warm up we started combinations of punches and kicks. Knowing that everybody was up early, had a long trip and was acclimatized to temperatures in the teens or low twenty of this year’s dreadful British summer there was little point in pushing this session into power work, given the afternoon’s temperature in the high thirties.

The underlying principle of this session was to be light and fluid trying to extent accurately all limbs while using proper guard and footwork. Next part of the session was about coaching each other, again to work on footwork and proper guard with the coach calling combinations of punches from the attacker. Followed about half hour of light, half speed sparring: as we were an odd number there was a person that at each session had to spar against two people at once, just to make it more interesting.

We concluded with a few exercises of tai chi – chi kung just to cool down and relax. Dinner at the local Korona Etterem (restaurant) and an early sleep was due. Meeting arranged for the following day at 9AM, ready to start.

Day 2 – Friday

While warming up I checked with the various participants what topic they were mostly interested in covering during the next 4 session, lasting 3 hours each. Here is the list of topics to focus on:

  • Multicombat (4)
  • Basics about round kicks (4)
  • Endurance (1)
  • Jumping kicks (1)
  • Mix, including Wing Chun and Tai Chi (3)
  • Various Techniques with detailed explanation (3)
  • Footwork (2)
  • Sparring (3)
  • Sparring two vs. one (1)

Having a total of four instructors, 3 black and one brown belt, in a group of eleven people surely added great value to the whole camp and lower belt truly appreciated the level of attention they received at all time.

The Friday session covered the following topics, more or less in this order: Round kick clinic: we explained and demonstrated all little details about performing a correct round kick, putting emphasis on the footwork, how to open correctly the hips and coordinating the whole movement together. While we opened this topic we moved over to side and hook kicks that share a good part of the principles with round kick and are usually causing the same problems to people that do not perform well on round kicks. Foot work practice: one person coaching the other, stepping back and forth at different distances every time ensuring that the attacker positions him/herself at the right point before striking jabs and crosses. The second half of this exercise was about pivoting around a central point, alternating the coach or the attacker in the centre, while performing hook punching techniques. Sliding kicks: we practiced various combinations involving sliding round, side and hook kick, and various punches. We finished by cooling down.

For the afternoon and evening we agreed to prepare, cook and eat a traditional goulash, so after visiting the nearby town Barcs and buying all we needed we went to one of the houses were the participants were staying. While a few people started to prepare a cold lunch based on bread, cured meats, cheese and fresh vegetables the others started cutting and chopping the various ingredients: the cooking of the goulash, in a traditional cauldron over the open fire, started at around 4:30PM. The cooking time, in excess of 5 hours was to be spent relaxing, having a drink and with Adam playing his guitar. The result managed to exceed expectations

Day 3 – Saturday

Luckily it rained overnight and it was a bit overcastted: temperature dropped in the low twenties making this session much easier than the previous day.

We started an exercise that both improves guard and foot work: one person attacking with jabs and the other replying with hook punches. We continued with combinations involving sliding kicks and punches. We did then rounds when one person was coaching the other, calling for punches combinations (2 round each person), kicks combinations (2 rounds each) and combinations of punches and kicks (2 rounds each). We finally practiced, from a kick boxer point of view, defending against a chain punching attack as practiced by wing chun practitioners. We finally cooled down.

We spent the rest of the day visiting Pécs a nearby town. During the afternoon we were sightseeing the city centre and then we had dinner in a nice restaurant.

Day 4 – Sunday

After warming up the session started with jab-cross, duck to avoid hook counter attack and jab-cross again. The remaining part of the class included: circular foot work by punching hook punch with both hands while either the coach was pivoting around a central point and getting the attacker to turn around or the coach was turning around forcing the attacker to pivot on a single point. We then practiced free combinations, alternating, of low contact kicks and punches. Combinations of punches and kicks always involving spinning back kicks. Sparring sessions, both semi and light contact. The remaining part of the class was involving simple win chun drills while 3 people in turn were sparring 2 vs. 1.

The rest of the day was spent visiting Badacsony, a winery hill north of lake Balaton: we first had some fine wine tasting from the local wine makers and then had dinner in a nice restaurant with a great panoramic terrace overlooking the lake.

Day 5 – Monday

Being the last day we decided to have an easy day (after training, the session was as hard as the others). Training was organized at the Barcs spa complex with the intention to spend there a good part of the day.

The session included: semi contact sparring, light contact boxing sparring against a wall top ensure no foot work and improve mobility of the torso, combinations of Multicombat that included knee and elbow strikes and some very basic wing chun drills.

At the end of the session, while cooling down we asked people how they felt about the overall camp and what we could have done more or better. While general consent was to be happy overall some of the answers included suggestion for next year:

  • Longer staying, allowing 6 or 7 days of training instead of 5;
  • Possibility of adding 1-2 extra afternoon sessions that might include meditation, yoga, visualization or very basic tai chi practice;
  • More sparring.

The rest of the day was spent chilling out in the spa complex, swimming in the pools, and enjoying the sauna and the large Jacuzzi. Dinner in the local Korona restaurant was the followed by a little get together with a few drinks to celebrate Josh’s birthday.

Day 6 – Sunday – Csokonyavisonta to Cambridge

There was no training on this day as everybody had to get back to Cambridge.

Partecipant to the summer camp were: Adam, Andrea, Chris, Duncan, Hayley, Heley, Josh, Massimo, Robin, Si and Wez. Pictures courtesy and Copyright © Duncan Grisby.

10 reasons why martial art are an effective alternative to gym, aerobic and lifting weights

Although martial arts are not team activities there are many elements of cohesion that motivate martial arts practice more that any other sport. Let analyse why this is true:

  1. Practicing a martial art is a long time investment in your health and well being: the time to proficiency is often long enough to establish good habits in your life, those that last for a long time. If and when you stop training for a while you’ll miss it, both physically, mentally and emotionally.
  2. Most martial arts teach a broad variety of techniques that keep you busy for many years just to master them all. In this you see a natural progression and having continuously new things to learn it makes it very interesting. Many masters state that perfection can be aimed but never achieved, therefore even after many years of training you are running after perfection while you keep adapting your knowledge and techniques to you ageing body.
  3. As are you naturally going to meet people that are better than you it will be natural to have a sense of challenge to improve day after day, session after session. In general the progression is easy to monitor and to measure therefore it is relatively easy to compare results against effort.
  4. The achievement of a certain level of proficiency, lesson after lesson will release endorphins that naturally make you feel good. At the end of each training session, with the natural tiredness you’ll have a feeling of well being that is quite addictive.
  5. Although martial arts manifest in many different ways and levels of intensity the overall training will ensure the practitioner to be a well round, balanced athlete with a decent level of fitness, stamina, strength, flexibility and coordination.
  6. Although martial arts are usually practiced in pairs and groups, some of the training can be rehearsed solo: that allows the practitioner to keep training, at least on some of the exercises, when she is on her own.
  7. Martial arts practice involves a reasonably complete workout rather than concentrating on a single part of the body. Different styles will put more emphasis on different areas of the body while practicing a balanced mix of exercises.
  8. Martial arts are a great stress relief: the aggression accumulated during work or while at school can be easily channelled and released in a controlled manner toward the practice of your techniques. It’s likely that after training the amount of aggression you had before starting is reduced or completely gone and you feel calmer and more in control.
  9. Martial arts training ensures that your whole attention will be directed toward your training, with minimal distraction. Even when your feel at an adequate level of proficiency and most moves come naturally without the need of thinking too carefully, your partner / opponent is there to punch you, to kick you or to throw you. Self preservation will naturally motivates you to put full attention in what you are doing.
  10. The sense of challenge and cooperation that can be found in many martial arts club I have experienced can foster friendship and social entertainment outside the training hall (dojo, kwon, dojang…).

What are martial arts?

What are martial arts? This is a question to which a lot of people might have an answer, even if not necessarily correct or complete:

  • a way of fighting?
  • fancy, flamboyant moves?
  • self defence?

They can be all of the above and much more: if you want to find out a bit more please keep an eye on this blog. It’s going to be a journey around styles, masters, history and philosophies behind these amazing disciplines. Enjoy.