I could use some martial…

I could use some martial arts advice.

'Cause here's the thing. The Oak Park park district turns out to have all kinds of super-fabulous and affordable sports options. Which is great. I'm tentatively planning on both Beginning Tennis (because Kevin already plays, and it would be so awesome if I could play with him, and we could all play as a family in a few years), and on Derby Lite (a low-key exercise version of roller derby, which would be cool because Derby is just cool, you know? Also, it'll make me feel like I'm ten years old and back at the rink for someone's birthday party. I used to be able to roller skate backwards...).

So that's all good, but I just missed the May sessions. So neither of those starts until the week of 6/7. There's also some complications with travel plans in June and July -- do you think it'd be worse to miss a week of Tennis or a week of Derby? But my vague idea is that I'll try one in June, and the other in July.

Which means that in May, I'd like to just add some drop-in classes, in addition to playing on the Wii Fit Plus and riding my bicycle around Oak Park. I'd like to be significantly more fit by the end of the summer, hopefully so that going forward, I can stay semi-athletic and be able to keep up with my very energetic children. Also so I can take a stab at losing the last twenty pounds of baby weight, because frankly, as much as I support the fat-acceptance ideals, and I do, those twenty pounds are bugging the heck out of me. It's irritating. I am aware of the inconsistency there, but better to be honest, I think.

So I can drop into yoga classes and pilates classes, no problem. But I remember that I really enjoyed the summer I did karate in college. And I'm thinking I might want to try some martial arts classes. And I really know nothing about martial arts. How do I decide which ones to try? Do I just try them all? Are there any that are particular easy on the out-of-shape to start with? If I have to start with a hundred sit-ups and push-ups, I can tell you that that will likely be my last class in that particular martial art!

Are there ones that you do and love? I have no particular philosophy of martial arts.

Help, please?

8 thoughts on “I could use some martial…”

  1. I’ve done kenpo/kempo since I was a tween and love the hell out of it, but finding a dojo can be hard depending on where you live. Aikido is very similar and seems to have a pretty relaxed philosophy, from what I’ve seen.

    I think you’ll find a lot of the dojos’ bread and butter consists of children and out-of-shape people trying to limber up, so I wouldn’t worry too much about not being able to handle it. They do need to make rent, after all.

  2. Julia Kholodenko

    For something quck and fun, I recommend kick-boxing. If you really want to study martial arts long-term I recommend starting w/ tai chi or chi gung. There are some good videos out there. I especially like the ones by David Dorian Ross. After you’ve done something like tai chi for at least half a year of consistent practice, you will be able to do anything like tae kwon do, tang soo do, aikido with better form and with much less risk of injury to your lower spine. Personally, if I had more time to devote to martial arts, at this point I would do Bag Hua, but that’s harder to find a teacher, especially a good teacher. In Bag Hua you train to fight 8 opponents at once, so it is all about balance and agility and less about power.
    Good luck.

  3. I agree with Julie (above) about t’ai chi and chi gung; I’ve also heard very good things about Ba Gua. If you are looking to get aerobic, t’ai chi is too slow, but does seem to have an extraordinary effect on balance and overall core strength. I have really enjoyed it and, as a student of aikido, found it improved my aikido *amazingly.*

    I have to say aikido is my favorite aerobic exercise (besides sex, which it ocassionally resembles); it has the added benefit of making one far more knowledgeable and confident in potentially dangerous situations.

    The other thing I’ve done to lose weight this year is read a book called “The Jungle Effect” and start eating according to its author’s advice–between changing the way I eat (more traditional foods, slower eating, and so forth) and exercising I’ve lost a heck of a lot of weight in an almost disturbingly short time. Plus I feel way better. I’m not a fan of fad diet books, and was looking for a deep and *enjoyable* lifestyle change, and Dr Miller’s book really helped–besides giving me an excuse for buying even more of our food at the Farmer’s Market and cooking even more.

    Long comment–hope it helps, dear!

  4. I also recommend Aikido for you. It’s great for a beginner because it teaches you how to fall down properly and how to relax in a combat situation. And it teaches you a bunch of fun parlor tricks that you can show your kids. IIRC, there are a bunch of great Aikido places in your area. Don’t be afraid to try out different groups until you find a teacher and students that you like. Good luck!

  5. Mary Anne, I only know about Aikido, which I absolutely love. My sensei has a great essay on how to choose a dojo, which has advice I think you could apply to pretty much any martial art you choose to practice:


    If you choose Aikido, I will warn you that after your first practice you will be more sore than you’ve ever been, though!

  6. One note about Aikido: it may be very very different in different regions and/or organizations/styles.

    Out here in the South Bay, for example, Aikido in my experience tends to be about as close as you can get to a pacifist martial art. (I took it as a kid, and then again post-college; I liked it until I hurt my shoulder.) There are stories about the founder of Aikido crying when he accidentally hurt an opponent. Last time I went to a dojo (many years ago), the sensei told us (I’m paraphrasing) that if you see trouble up ahead of you in the street, it’s good Aikido to cross to the other side of the street.

    But in some parts of the East Coast, I’m told, Aikido is considered one of the most vicious martial arts; you use it if you want to do stuff like break your opponents’ legs.

    And then again I gather that even around here, there’s a YMCA Aikido class that emphasizes the fitness/exercise aspects rather than the spiritual or martial aspects.

    I gather that those attitudes stem from distinct organizations/schools, but I’ve never been very clear on which school corresponds to which style.

    Anyway, point being, if you’re interested in trying Aikido, you may want to start by checking up on what sort of Aikido is being offered at local dojos.

  7. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Wow, lots of votes for aikido. There’s an aikido place a few blocks away, which seems like they have a drop-in class on Friday; I’ll call to confirm, and if so, maybe I’ll try it then.

    Might try tai chi too. I like the idea of something mellow, that I can do in the park (or the backyard, if I am too wimpy for the park). 🙂

    Thanks, everyone!

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