Before even calling the first school it is critical to decide what you desire out of the training. Here is a short list that encompasses the benefits most often stated by martial arts schools:
Creative expression, ect…
Some schools and/or martial arts styles will be better at some of these benefits than others. Good instructors who are focused on their students are able to balance all of the benefits of traditional martial arts, sports based martial arts, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), and self-defense systems.
In addition, different martial arts styles offer unique benefits. Here are four classifications of martial arts styles and the benefits you will typically experience from training in them.
Traditional martial arts such as: Karate, Aikido, and Judo will best exemplify traditional martial arts values such as; discipline, control, respect, honor, justice, courage, mercy, politeness, honesty, and loyalty. This is not to say that other martial arts lack these things but they may emphasize other aspects of their art more than these benefits.
Sport-based martial arts such as: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Boxing, or kickboxing emphasize the benefits of competition, cooperation, and team spirit. The advantage of sports-based martial arts is that the techniques must be used against a resisting opponent who is also trying to use those same techniques against you. This helps the martial artist become extremely competent at the techniques that his or her art teaches and translates very well in to a real world self-defense situation. Many, but not all, sport-based martial arts have some emphasis on traditional martial arts values in addition to the element of competition.
MMA based systems emphasize individual toughness, a winning spirit, and the technical skills used to dominate a single opponent in cage fighting. Like the sport-based martial arts, one advantage of MMA is practicing with a resisting opponent. One of the disadvantages is that very little emphasis is placed on the traditional martial arts values such as honor, politeness, control, etc.
Tactical self-defense systems like close quarter combat, Krav Maga, or defensive tactics classes are usually situational training and have highly effective self-defense techniques. It is appropriate for law enforcement, military, and responsible civilians who need to know how to defend themselves in the worst situations when there are truly no rules and no referees. A common negative aspect of this type of system is a lack of sparring or utilizing your learned techniques against a competitive and unwilling opponent.
Great instructors are able to balance the benefits of traditional martial arts, sports-based martial arts, MMA, and CQB self-defense systems.