Starting your martial arts path can be one of the best decisions in your life, but it also can be the hardest. As a beginner, you surely have many questions and doubts. In this article, I will share my experience on choosing the martial art that will suit your goals, finding a good martial arts school, and on preparing for your first martial arts training session.

Consider Your Goals

People start training in martial arts for a whole variety of reasons. In order to choose a martial art that meets your expectations, take the time to define your primary goal.

To Learn Self-defense

Krav Maga—the best martial art for self-defense

If you are primarily interested in learning self-defense, you should try out Krav Maga. It is a system, developed for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which is now used by armed forces all around the world. During your Krav Maga training, you will learn all kinds of punches, kicks, and throws, along with real-life scenarios like disarming an attacker.

While Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is not designed for self-defense, it’s also a good choice since you will learn at least three kinds of disciplines such as traditional boxing, kickboxing or its eastern version, Muay Thai, and some grappling discipline like wrestling/judo/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). It means that you will develop a diverse skill set and will be effective in different situations.


Grappling arts – all action happens on the ground

Image credit: Peter Hays via Flickr

By contrast, grappling arts alone will not help you much in terms of self-defense since in these martial arts the action happens on the ground, which is not a viable strategy in real life. From the grappling arts, self-defense consultants often recommend judo as the most practical for real life self-defense.

To Lose Some Weight

If you’d like to lose some weight, consider MMA, Muay Thai, or kickboxing. All of them include both cardiovascular and strength training—the best combination for losing weight! Another good option for weight loss is Kung Fu. During your Kung Fu training, you will never stop jumping, flipping, or kicking, so you will certainly burn lots of calories.

To Discover Your True Self

Tai Chi—one of ‘the most mindful’ martial arts that requires repetitive practice of forms

Image credit: Llee Wu via Flickr


For many people, practicing martial arts is the best way to relax and find internal balance. Tai Chi, Karate, or Kung Fu are traditionally regarded as ‘the most mindful’ martial arts. These martial arts focus on repetitive practice of forms, meditation, self-discovery, and self-exploration. On the other hand, you might find that more dynamic martial arts, like MMA, Muay Thai, or boxing, are your perfect mind-body exercise.

For Competition – To Compete and Win

Competing in tournaments is definitely an exciting aspect of your martial arts experience. Of all martial arts, only judo and BJJ are recognized as Olympic sports, which ensures that there are many competitions for you to compete against.

To Go Beyond Your Limits

If you’d like to master some of those spectacular tricks from your favorite martial arts movie, check out Taekwondo, Kung Fu, or Capoeira. These martial arts are definitely not easy to master, but the effort is totally worth it!

Capoeira—the martial art with impressive acrobatic tricks

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Now you should hopefully have an idea of what martial art(s) most interest you that you’d like to try out, the next step is to choose a good martial arts school.

Choose a School

Choosing a school depends on many factors such as location, atmosphere, price, and some other factors including your personal preferences. Here are some universal tips that will help you to choose:

  • Don’t evaluate your instructors only by titles. An instructor may be a world champion, but it will not benefit you, if she cannot explain a basic technique that even your grandmother would understand. A good instructor is someone who can teach you well.
  • Consider trainer-to-student ratio; ideally make sure that there is always one trainer available per 3-4 students.
  • Try out as many options as possible. Many schools offer free-trial periods, which gives you the opportunity to see if it is an environment you enjoy as well as to learn more about your needs and preferences.
  • Don’t sign up for a long-term contract at the very first school you try out. Again, you may want to compare several schools before you make your final decision.
  • Consider compromises. For example, if there is no good BJJ school in your town, why not sign up for judo school instead? In the meantime, you could look for BJJ practitioners in your city and ask them if they are interested in training together.
  • Don’t be afraid to change your school or even the martial art discipline that you practice. A background in different martial arts and experience training in different schools will benefit you as a martial artist.

Preparing for Your First Training Session

Uniform. For a majority of martial arts, excluding boxing-related arts, wrestling, and MMA, you will need a special uniform, gi. It’s not necessary to buy it for your first training session as you will surely need to consult your instructor first. For boxing-related arts and MMA, you will need several t-shirts as you may sweat a lot. The best choice is sport specific t-shirts that are designed to move sweat away (moisture wicking).

Gear. Always consult your instructor on what gear to buy since the requirements vary for different martial art disciplines and different schools.

An example of protection gears which are required in kickboxing

Physical Preparation

The best way to prepare your body for your first training session is to do some physical activity that will boost your stamina. Running, swimming, or any other similar exercise will do fine. Have a well-balanced meal 90 to 120 minutes prior to turning up.

Remember, that your first days of martial arts training are going to be hard, but it will pay off. We all enjoy doing things that we are good at, so the better you get, the more you’ll enjoy it! I wish you the best of luck in starting your martial arts journey!

Thinking of getting started in martial arts or already started it? How did you choose your martial art? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!

Author’s bio

Maryna is a Marketing Specialist for BookMartialArts, the biggest online martial arts travel company. She can spend hours discussing the difference between Tibetan White Crane and Fujian White Crane Kung Fu styles, and she does believe that you don’t truly know someone until you fight them!

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