An Amateur’s Look Into Martial Arts
There are few things on this planet I want more than to live in the fictional world created in Bleach. And I’ve found a way to do that: martial arts. I have been researching what martial arts would suit me, and I won’t pretend to be an expert, but in my hour of research there are certain things I’ve learned.
First and foremost, the one art I know I want to take part in: Kendo. The way of the sword. The Soul Reapers all fight with zanpakuto, and I want so badly to be a Soul Reaper. I am in love with the notion of being a sword-fighter, wield a zanpakuto like a true Japanese warrior. It’s my dream. And what better way to learn to be a Soul Reaper than to first learn how to use a sword. Now I’m not stupid, I know Kendo is more than that. It is an art form. It is not merely a way to fight, it is an entire way of thinking. The etiquette surrounding Kendo is so much more sophisticated than many other martial arts. More formal. This is part of why I love it. I’ve never had a single session, but the premise is massively appealing to me. It’s not based in raw power, straight attacking your opponent with a blade. It’s about focused, controlled, art.
So, I’ve decided I want to do Kendo. But I’d like to be able to pair it with a non-weapons based martial art. Something that I could utilise in a real-life. Something I could get fit with and use as both a health kick and a bit of fun. Through my research I also decided I wanted to do something founded in Japan, to compliment the Kendo. That rules out Wing Chun. A striking Chinese art made famous by Bruce Lee – or so my bestie told me. The good thing about this is the striking part. Allow me to expand.
There are a couple different focuses in martial arts, and the two main ones are striking and grappling. Grappling is more to do with chokes and knee-locks, or so says Wikipedia. Some Japanese arts based in grappling are Jujitsu, Aikido and Judo. now these re in order of least to most in their focus on grappling. Jujitsu is a close combat martial art, 50/50 striking and grappling. I have heard this is a good one for shorter people as it focuses on getting up close and personal with your opponent. Next comes Aikido. This is one I considered as it is more ideal for my height, but I don’t like the grappling side of it, plus there is a particular aspect I’m not a fan of. Aikido uses the opponents attacks and force against them. It focuses on redirection to deflect attacks, and is not designed to hurt your opponent. In fact it’s quite the opposite. It is a martial art that works with softness. To be honest, I’d quite like to be able to hurt my foe. It’s just a little fantasy of mine, I just want to hit someone. Yes, I said it.
But moving on.
Judo is the art mostly focused on grappling. It is full contact and the intention is to throw down and pin your opponent. At least, again, according to Wikipedia. This is the least suitable to me, as it is all close combat, chokes and all the kinds of stuff I don’t want to do. I imagine Sumo is fairly similar to this, even though Sumo was never intended for battle.
During my research I did come across another weapons based martial art, founded in Japan, that looked very cool. It is the equivalent of Bleach’s Quincey: the way of the bow. This is called Kyodo. Like Kendo it focuses on a weapon, except instead of a sword, or shinai, it is to teach the art of the bow and arrow. Someone looking to get into a martial art, but likes weaponry rather than hand-to-hand, this is for you. Also, anyone with an interest in Archery might enjoy this Japanese art.
However as I already have my heart set on becoming a Soul Reaper, Kendo it is. And I don’t want to divide my attention between two weaponry arts. Instead, I look now towards other Japanese arts that have a focus on striking. I already ruled out Aikido because of the whole, can’t hurt people thing, plus the occasional focus on grappling, so naturally this leads to one art that suits my every requirement: purely striking; founded in Japan; formal, but not too formal; suitable for my height; works with my leg strength and builds my lack of arm strength; keeps me fit but is fun. Yes, you probably guessed it. Drum roll please …..
I used to do Karate. Well, I did it for 6 weeks about 8 years ago. I still remember some of it though, even if I still haven’t mastered the “wishy-washy” as me and my sister called it. I never got the uniform, and never tried for a belt, but it was fun and I took it for granted. It will play to my strength,that being that my legs are a bunch stronger than my arms, and will maybe give me some measurable upper body and arm strength. And a bonus is that Karate is one of the most popular martial arts, so it should be quite easy to find a school. But this is also a downside, as it might be hard to determine the quality of the school. There may be many that are not genuine, or are cult-based, or have certain issues with contracts. For this I recommend always asking about a free lesson. I discovered on my travels across the interweb that most, if not all, of the martial arts schools should offer a free session, and it is recommended you go to one. If the school doesn’t offer one, move on. It’s a good way to assess the quality of the teaching and the standards of the students, and of what the teachers ask of you.
I want to get fit, have fun, and be the human equivalent of a Soul Reaper. Kendo will teach me the way of the sword, and Karate will teach me how to defend myself without a weapon. It is self defense, attack, and pure delight wrapped in one. I can be Toshiro with my sword, and Soi Fon of the Stealth Force’s Punishment Squad with my physical body. I can protect myself and have a fucking riot doing it. So I will be looking over the next year for Kendo and Karate classes, whilst keeping up with my uni work and my new job at the online magazine The Unknowledgeable. That’s right, you read that. I recently got given a position as a writer for a magazine. I’m yet to submit my first article, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m also looking at joining the Plymouth University Baking Society. So I can beat people up, write an article on it, then go bake cakes and sell them on the street. All this while trying to find paid employment. The next year will be interesting.