Whether it's learning to defend yourself and your loved ones, or enjoying a fascinating way to stay in shape, martial arts training is an amazing past time to pursue. Unfortunately, a lot of people are put off by myths which - though they may be true in certain gyms are not necessarily the norm...
1. You have to wait for years to be any good.
Though you often hear this myth perpetuated even at popular martial arts schools, the truth is that with personal attention and a quality system of instruction, the vast majority of people will be able to reach a good standard of performance within 6 months if they are training around twice a week. By good standard of performance, I mean that they will be fairly confident in their ability to defend themselves from most common self defense situations, and that they will be able to hold their own in light sparring if they choose to enjoy this area of the martial arts.
Unfortunately, this myth is most often used as an excuse for teaching fancy techniques that have a low chance of success. As a general rule, most effective martial arts techniques can be learnt and applied at a foundational level within a 60min session.
2. You have to train full-on to be any good.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the myth that to improve our skills we have to train as hard as we can every time. While progressive resistance is certainly an important part of any martial arts training, the reality is that training with one hundred percent resistance every time is just going to lead to injury, and slow progress and learning.
One of the most important skills a martial arts instructor can have is to set the appropriate level of resistance for each individual client so as to maximize their growth and confidence. The occasional person may benefit from one hundred percent for a short period of time (generally when they have requested it as a confidence boost), but for most of the time, the level of resistance needs to vary with the individual and their needs on that day.
3. I'm too old to start training.
While it is certainly true that some schools and gyms cater to the sort of youthful machismo that wants to go full-on every time, a good instructor or coach should be able to tailor their instruction to the individual in front of them. Some of the best clients I have seen are those who started martial arts later in life and suddenly discovered how much they enjoyed training and learning about the martial arts.
In fact, these clients often learnt far faster, as they had the maturity to see the deeper aspects of the martial arts that really lead to success. If a martial art is really effective due to its techniques, tactics, strategy and mindset, it should be able to be learnt at any time of life.
4. I need to be fit before I start training.
This is a bit of a chicken and egg problem: fitness is certainly part of being able to perform at a good level in martial arts, but then martial arts itself will make you fitter. The truth is a good instructor should be able to vary the level of intensity to the individual so that they are able to get the workout that is right for them.
Where this becomes difficult is in a large class setting and it probably from here the myth originates. This is a shame, as martial arts is one of the best ways to get fit for people with limited time and who struggle to stay motivated at the gym.
5. All martial arts are essentially the same.
All martial arts are the same in the same way that all sports called football are the same – yes, they all involve two teams of people and a ball, but after that they bear little similarity to one another. Likewise, while most martial arts have the goal of building self defense skills and confidence, the areas they focus upon and the way they go about it varies greatly.
The reason this matters is that you need to find the system, and more importantly the coach or instructor, who is best going to help you achieve your goals. Rather than just see which martial arts school is nearest to you, it's always a good idea to see what is around and have a chat with the instructors to see how they can meet your individual needs and goals. A good instructor should be able to give you a clear picture of how they approach training people and their main points of focus when helping you in your martial arts journey.