The martial arts that I practice somewhat consistently over the years include

  • karate
  • tae kwon do
  • taichi
  • kendo
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ)
  • yoga

Personally, I find only yoga and BJJ newbie friendly. The other arts all have very steep initial learning curves. For example, although I have practiced karate for over 10 years and got brown belt from Shotokan in 2010, I still consider my basics wrong.

Most martial arts require rapid engagement and relaxation of specific muscle groups. This type of fine control does not come in a few days, or months, or even years. Rushing oneself usually ends up with bad postures, unnecessary muscle tensions, and eventually injuries.

In China, there is a saying that as one’s martial art training deepens, his spiritual practice should deepen accordingly. Otherwise the ego takes over and it damages both the martial art practitioner and also people around him. It is also common that the top martial artists develops interesting philosophical ideas. The most famous one nowadays may be Bruce Lee

The ancient Japanese sword master Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645AD) wrote a nice book on swordsmanship: the book of five rings. The five chapters are earth, water, fire, wind, and emptiness, with obvious influence from Buddhism. Some of the chapters are related to techniques, some are purely philosophical.

There are many stories of ancient Chinese and Japanese masters on the interplay of skills and mind, expressing more or less the same idea, such as ‘one mind’, ‘no mind’, ‘oneness of the art and the mind’. My guess is that ego prevents one to reach the best performance, be it throwing an opponent over the shoulder, making sushi, writing a paper, or delivering a software.

In terms of fun, I find BJJ and kendo the best. They are both extremely realistic in the training and practical in real situations.