Not all martial arts types today teach self-defense skills as such but instead only get around to teaching choreography. Whether it is due to time, chosen emphasis, large student populations or other reasons, if you want to learn self-defense, it is wise to pick carefully.
It may come as a surprise to some people that the number of martial arts types number in the hundreds.
One can separate the styles in to those from each country. Japan has the big categories of judo and karate. Okinawa has its ‘Te.’ Korea has its Tae Kwon Do and Yudo. China has too many to name. However, China has, itself, collectively called them all Wu Shu. Alternatively, the west calls all Chinese martial arts “kung-fu.” Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia are other countries with intricate martial arts types.
In past centuries there were no big metropolises. Each small town and village in China, for example, had its own martial arts system. The arts were for self-protection only, much as guns are considered for that purpose today. This is the reason behind the sheer number of martial art styles.
In the twentieth and the twenty-first century, martial arts types have evolved and changed considerably. To expect a martial art taught today to be the same as that taught centuries ago is to expect the impossible. The number of styles that focus only on self-defense is considerably less than in the past.
In today’s world, martial arts have become more sport-like. Tae Kwon Do is accepted in the Olympic games. Mixed martial art is a brutal sport where there are rules and a winner is declared. Karate is taught as a sport in most karate schools and entry into tournaments is encouraged.
A lot of martial arts types have just sets of movements. Not much in the way of fighting skills is taught. What is taught is how to play a game. For many, the game is fun. Trophies are passed out and everybody got a workout or at least a suspenseful day.
Wing Tsun, on the other hand, is taught as a skill for self-defense. Timing, using an attacker’s force, angles, leverage, and momentum are just a few of the principles associated with fighting and self-defense that are taught. Movement choreography is less important to the Leung Ting WingTsun® system.
Retained are many of the health-building practices of the ancient martial arts. It came to the inventors that human beings need more than fighting to occupy their minds and that it was and is today, very important to keep oneself in good physical condition and to help mitigate the less than high quality foods we seem to like and the stress of the 21st century.
Regardless of what martial art type you practice, it pays to get the most out of your chosen system.
-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg