“I am thinking of taking up a martial art, I live near Cleveland and I have all kinds of options close by including Brazilian grappling, kung fu, tae kwon do etc. I am interested in actually being able to defend myself rather than just fitness. Any suggestions?”
I would say finding a good instructor is more important than finding the “best style” of martial art. It would be preferable to train under a sharp boxing coach rather than a Krav Maga instructor who is a clown. I have addressed some of my thoughts on martial arts before.
Personal defense begins long before any physical violence occurs. The Japanese have a concept called zanshin: “dominating awareness.” Using our capability coupled with situational awareness, we can dominate our immediate surroundings with our presence. Ideally we have created too many variables for a potential attacker to deal with. Our comportment, vigilance, and confidence sends him in search of an easier target. This starts by using that organ between your ears. See some of my earlier posts on that subject here and here.
I myself prefer weapons based forms of training. Seems to me things you can do with a weapon you can do with your hands too. I am a member of a traditional Japanese battlefield koryu. We train with various battlefield weapons like spear, sword, etc. This is a good basis for the rest of my training including firearms, believe it or not.
|A little live blade action with odachi.|
When I have the time, I like to spend a few days at the Spartan Training Center in Sedona, AZ. Their training focus is weapons based, ranging from rifles all they way to empty hands. One of their principle based training systems is called Battlehand:
Working with basket hilt swords is not only great PT but is a good tie in with firearms training.
|A doorway drill with two bad guys.|
On the subject of firearms, let me just leave you with a quote from the late Jeff Cooper: “The pistol – learn it well and wear it always.”
Again, a good firearms instructor is paramount as simply carrying a weapon doesn’t make you safe. It is a common misconception that a firearm somehow works like a talisman magically protecting the bearer from harm.
“Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.” – Jeff Cooper.
In the end we need to engage our minds before we engage our fists. Shop around before joining any particular dojo, club, or self defense school. Make sure they are providing the product you want. Owning a black belt never saved anyone from a good beating.