Training in the martial arts
The warrior training of the Jedi are based upon cultures, martial arts, and practices that have been in documented and continuous use for almost 2,500 years in one form or another. There are three different training groups of martial arts that the Jedi Knight can train in: striking combat training, grappling combat training, and weaponry combat training. Obviously, training with a sword would tie in to the training with a lightsaber, but the other forms are important as well. This can be seen in various examples throughout the movies, such as the kicks and punches that were exchanged between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. There is also the duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin at the end of Revenge of the Sith, along with many other examples. A well placed strike or kick can give you the opening you need while in a lightsaber duel. Yet another reason for the additional training would be to prepare for the moment when your lightsaber is either lost, broken, or destroyed. To rely on one type of training exclusively is a tremendous crutch that can give way at the worst possible time.
Here are some examples of the different martial arts styles:
- Grappling: Ninjutsu, Aikido, Hapkido, Judo, Wrestling, Shaolin Chin Na
- Striking: Boxing, Taekwondo, Karate, Wing Chun, Muay Thai, Krav Maga
- Weaponry: Kendo, Kenjutsu, Fending, Jukendo, Eskrima, Bojutsu
You can train as your ability, finances, and schedule allows. If you can only do one type of training at a time, I would begin with either grappling or striking training to get you initiated into the martial arts. You will also soon see that many weapon techniques are an outreach of your current empty-handed techniques. You can continue as you wish, but if you were going to training three times a week, when you reached the black-belt in that style I would recommend reducing your training in that discipline to one time per week, and on the other two days of training you would pick up a new style in a different genre. How you proceed is up to you, but be certain to not limit yourself.
Which martial art is the best?
That is an easy question to answer. The best martial art is the one that fits your physical capabilities, piques your interest, and excites your passion. As long as you train, there can be no wrong. Some will certainly argue that their type of training or school is better than yours, but the argument is moot. Their training or school may be right for them, but not right for you. If you have any physical limitations, you should choose your training styles wisely. The training you choose could either help or exacerbate your current condition
How to choose the right school for you
Choosing a martial arts school is a very important decision, one not to be taken lightly. You want to be certain you get good training at a reasonable price, and that your needs are being taken care of. There are many schools which are referred to as McDojos, or schools that are more interested in taking your money than teaching you the style you are interested in. But here are some basic guidelines to follow:
- Research the styles you are interested in, and then go observe the class and see how well it matches up. For example, Taekwondo is an unarmed martial art, literally “The Way of the Foot and Fist”. If the school offers weapons training as part of a Taekwondo curriculum, chances are they are using it to expand upon a weak training curriculum. Most schools use a white uniform as it represents the purity of the art. If your school uses colored uniforms to denote different levels of participation within the school, be sure to scrutinize the motive.
- Check into your instructor. In most cases, your instructor should hold a fourth degree black belt, give or take a few degrees depending upon the style of martial arts. You also need to check their certification against the governing body of the martial art style you are training in. There have been people who have framed a Japanese dry cleaning price list and tried to pass it off as their certification, so be aware and beware.
- Is the school affordable? That is to be decided by you, but there can be a very wide price difference between schools in the same art. When you go to the school, ask how much it will cost. If they can’t answer you directly you should look elsewhere. Some schools offer different tiers, such as a basic training level, a black belt club, a leadership club, etc. If they use different colored uniforms to denote these different levels, ego often leads a person to spend extra money to be in these different tiers. Also be certain to ask about training contracts. Some schools may only teach to a certain belt color before requiring you to sign a long-term contract, which means they are trying to lock you in after you realize later on you won’t be happy at that school. In my limited experience it appears the best schools require no contract, as they believe you will want to continue and stay at that school without any outside incentives or pressures.
- Watch the students. Are they having fun? Do the students look disciplined? Physically fit? Are the students respectful to the teacher, AND is the teacher respectful to the students? It used to be that a master was very selective in who they would choose for training, and they would gain as much from teaching as their student would from learning. If you don’t sense that when you observe a teacher and their class, you will want to look elsewhere.
There are other signs as well, and some schools that exhibit the above tendencies can still be good schools. Don’t let your ego get involved, disregard any flashy advertising, and trust your gut instinct. Try a few classes at the school and see how you feel about it. But if you get the feeling this school might not be right for you, chances are it most definitely is not right for you.
Incorporating your martial arts training into your Jedi training
If you, for example, start taking kendo classes you will quickly realize that the training you receive will look nothing like the movies. While this is true, kendo will teach you many great things about the sword, which you can later utilize in your lightsaber training. Trying to learn any martial art from a book, website, podcast, or video is very difficult, if not impossible. Sometimes you may not have a choice in the matter, and any training is better than no training at all. But if you have access to a reputable school in the style you want to use, there is no excuse for not taking classes through them. You need to learn the basics from someone who can watch you, scrutinize your moves, and offer an interactive critique. Once you have the basics down, you can then begin incorporating training from non-traditional sources.
The Modern Jedi Knight needs to be prepared for anything. So in addition to the martial arts training you are taking, you should be certain you have all your bases covered. Do you break a sweat at training, do you breathe hard at times? If not, you should do some cardio interval training. Do you have the strength to accomplish everything? If not, you should begin a weight training regimen. Do you have fluid motion and flexibility? If not, you might want to consider yoga or Taiji (Tai Chi). You don’t need to be able to run ultra-marathons and bench press 500 pounds, but you should be reasonably athletic in all areas. If you forego training in a certain area and have a weakness, it will be found and exploited.