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martial arts expert advise needed

Here's  the question. I'd like to switch from fencing saber to martial arts for a yer or two. Need to re-learn how to roll, fall, throw a punch.
Don't have time to do both sports, unfortunately. Been 46 years old, I'd like not to get injured excessively. Judo is something that I've done for 3 years then I was a teenager. Any other suggestions?


  • Opinions are like, well, not going to go there!
    My wife and I started Aikido training in our 40s, and it was a real challenge, but we could do it, and only had minor injuries during our 10 years of workouts.
    IMHO, both Judo and Aikido would be good, but Aikido better, since there are no competitions. 
    One thing that ALWAYS impresses me, is that all sorts of ages, sexes and body types practice Aikido, and pretty much everyone is smiling a lot on the mat. Once your joints get stretched out a bit, there is little chance of injury.
    The "top guy" in the USA has a dojo in NYC SOHO  -
    This place in Brooklyn looks pretty good:
    Aikido also has some "weapons" training with Jo, Bokken and Tanto which should be fun for you.

    Don, Donno, or "Hey you" all work for me, But never "Mr Johnson"
  • If for only a year or two, I would focus on finding a modern MMA club to train in. The first year or two in any traditional martial arts school is pretty basic stuff. You will be rolling and striking on day one at a modern MMA club. 

    Be sure the instructors are willing to provide credentials (including basic first aid/CPR training), the club is clean, operate under a "no contract" arrangement, and do not have any kind of "blood-in/blood-out" bullshit. 

    If you are considering a more permanent paradigm change from weapons training, a more traditional karate club may be your thing. In the Okinawan style (Matsubayashi) I received Nidan in, we started playing with various weapons at brown belt level. Expect five or more years to make Shodan in typical Okinawan clubs.

    Probably best to avoid the various Korean styles - the level of athleticism to progress can be pretty significant. They are fun: fun to do, fun to watch but as we get older those jumping spin kicks just become less of an option.

    The Okinawan styles focus on short and middle range techniques, including lots of fun arm bars, joint locks, throws, takedowns etc. Striking is secondary (and almost always taught from a close quarters perspective), kicking is tertiary. Some styles emphasize weight training as essential, others focus dynamic tension - but generally speaking, fitness through strength training is a requirement for promotion. 

    Japanese styles will have a much higher emphasis on striking/kicking using deep stances. I received Shodan in Shotokan karate, but lots of habits from the Okinawan style followed me. If you have been doing traditional European style fencing, the Japanese stances will be pretty easy to adapt to. Most of the Japanese styles have little to no emphasis on in-fighting - especially the rolling you will find in Jujitsu, however, so if learning/re-learning those is important you can expect to cross train in other styles. From a fitness perspective, we did a few push-ups but focused on cardio - Shotokan is an effective HIIT workout. 

    Nobody punches harder than classic boxers, and the Cus A'mato style is extremely effective - think Mike Tyson in his prime and how he used to work the ring. Watch his feet, how he used rotation etc. Obviously, kicking/takedown grappling is not allowed but the standup grappling boxers employ is highly effective at tiring out your opponent and causing damage to forearms, shoulders, neck, and head. You may find it to be great complement to the fencing, and they really focus on modern strength training/endurance training. 

    Back to the basics - no contracts. Do not sign contracts with any martial arts club. Preferably a "pay per lesson", or no more than a monthly fee. Cleanliness - you do not want to roll around on a floor that is not regularly washed and sanitized. Blood, mucus, and other body fluids are often deposited on those mats. If you are asked to train under a 16 year old black belt, leave. Nothing against 16 year old black belts, but adults should train with adults. Make sure kids are not allowed in changing rooms with adults, and no mixed gender changing rooms. Ask to see grading certificates, and other training documents - like the mentioned CPR/first aid. Fighting in general runs a high risk of damage to soft tissues - if you currently experience issues in any way, your instructors need to be made aware of it, and should respect it in how they approach your training. If they do not understand basic anatomy and how fighting can exacerbate pre-existing conditions, leave. HUGE red flag. 

    Most importantly, understand there is no magic, no real secrets beyond hard work. If you want to partake in a spiritual journey as part of your transition - great, traditional martial arts is a great vehicle for that. I still enjoy the mental aspects of the traditional martial arts. If you are indifferent to that, be advised that it can consume a significant amount of dojo time in some schools. Drop by unannounced just before classes start, audit, make notes, and you will find the right club.

    Also, watch a movie called "Foot Fist Way" for a look inside a modern martial arts school. Hilarious - but sadly accurate in many ways. Ultimately, it is about you and your journey through life. Don't feel compelled to stay with a school or style. When it stops being fun, walk away. It has taken me years to get out of that mindset - it should be fun. For most of us, anyways. For the younger guys looking to earn a living beating the shit out of each other - well, that is entirely different and most of us do not have that "switch". 
    I have a signature.
  • Thanks guys! Awesome advise.
  • I really enjoyed TKD when I was in it. I've been debating on going back as of late. Curious what you decide.
  • edited October 2019
    Shortly before we stopped going, our sobonim began teaching separate Gracie Jiu Jitsu classes and quickly began incorporating parts of it into our Taekwondo program.  He said it was less taxing on the joints and highly encouraged us higher-mile students to join the Jiu Jitsu classes.   

    One thing JR said that really rings true with us.  Your instructor becomes more than an instructor, and even if something about the instructor makes you uncomfortable, leaving for another instructor makes you feel like a traitor.  If you don't feel comfortable with the instructor, leave.  We felt terrible about leaving our first instructor but it was the the right move that we should have made much earlier.                        
  • re: Gracie 
    Our Aikido sensei told us that Aikido works well if you are standing, and there is room to maneuver - if you find yourself entangled on the ground, you need Judo or especially Gracie.  
    Don, Donno, or "Hey you" all work for me, But never "Mr Johnson"
  • I have black belts in 3 forms of Aikido, hold 2nd degree black in TKD, and have trained jujitsu, kickboxing, Iadio, and jeet kune do. Of those, my favorite, and imo the most very is Aikido. While jujitsu owns the ground, a well trained aikodi  can effectively "rent" some ground. The trick is finding a school that is willing to do it and not follow the trend of silly movie theatrics. The good part is that the art is much easier on the body allowing practice much longer than most any other style. The founder of our style still practices in his late 70s.
  • The way I see it, I've watched the Karate Kid several times. Every time Daniel seems to kick that other kids ass. So what ever Mr Miyagi is it. It kinda goes with speaker building anyways. We all sand on, sand off...wax on, wax off (wipe on, wipe off for some of us) Next time that table saw wants to throw some kick back, you'll be prepared.
  • I boxed and wrestled for years, as well. Wrestling came to an end with high school graduation, boxing after I decided to focus on karate. I also went once a month for two years to a Chuan Fa (Kung Fu) as a guest. The kung Fu guys spent 80% of their time doing calisthenics - great cardio, but they were all pretty lightweight. It was fun letting them try take downs and joint locks on me. 

    Now I'm a fat middle aged Al Bundy type. Cest la vie.
    I have a signature.
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