Popular martial arts
Save yourself a pasting in any situation.
In 14th Century Japan, it was considered demeaning for soldiers to draw their weapons when taking on stick-wielding peasants. Far cooler, so they believed, to sort them out with a couple of casual-looking body throws. Judo, as it came to be developed, literally means 'the way of yielding'. In other words, you don't have to be physically bigger than your opponent in order to floor them. The two basic techniques involved are 'throwing' and then 'securing' your opponent until they surrender, which often draws upon the subtle art of 'choking' them.
More info: The British Judo Association
Anyone who's ever seen a Bruce Lee movie will know how devastating karate can be. Most students pick up the basic punch/kick/block moves fairly quickly, but if you want to make it to black belt level, you'll have to fight your way through the ranks first. Karate may look extremely physical, and indeed it is, but ultimately it's self-discipline that guarantees you deliver the blows.
More info: The English Karate Organisation
One of the most recent martial arts devised, drawing on elements of karate, boxing, judo, jujitsu, and aimed at tooling you up with the kind of urban techniques that could floor an assailant in seconds. We'll be blunt, there's little finesse to Krav Maga, with moves including the Choke Hold, Head Lock, Groin Slap and Spinning Ball Buster. It's basically all about disabling your opponent, and relieving them of weapons that range from clubs to knives and guns. So whether you're held up at the cash point, or involved in a spot of road rage, you can guarantee you'll be the one who walks away victorious. Nasty.
More info: The International Krav Maga Federation
Championed, of course, by the cartoon, Hong Kong Phooey, Kung Fu is closely associated with Karate and Tai Chi Chuan. This deeply skilful martial art draws heavily on Tao philosophy, while many of the movements involved are derived from the fighting styles of animals such as - the dragon, snake and, chillingly, the frog. There are many different styles of Kung Fu available, Wing Chun being one of the most popular as it combines both a 'hard' and 'soft' style.
You may have mastered Street Fighter on the PlayStation, but this fast kicking martial art isn't for couch potatoes. It's about speed, control and agility, but above all it's about hurting your opponent hard. As well as attacking with your feet, there's a whole range of punches to draw upon, as well as some defensive moves. TaekwonDo is also great for keeping fit, staying supple, and, understandably, boosting your self-confidence.
More info: The British TaekwonDo Council
Tai Chi Chuan
Possibly the most graceful of all martial arts, Tai Chi Chuan is based on the principle that a slight but smart application of force can counter a much greater threat. It's all about waiting for your opponent to make the first move, so you can suss out their weak points and react decisively to cancel out the attack. The techniques involved don't rely on braun, but brains and balance. So physical size really doesn't matter when it comes to mastering Tai Chi Chuan, and age is no barrier either.
More info: Tai Chi Chuan international website
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