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September 10, 2012

Best place in Asia to study martial arts?

Taekwondo quarter final match in Singapore Youth Olympic Games

Taekwondo match. Photo: Singapore Youth Olympic Games / Flickr

Have you ever wanted to study martial arts? One of the great things about travel is that you don’t have to settle for a “McDojo” in your local shopping mall.  You can take a journey to the best place in the world to study your fighting style.   There was an article in CNNGO titled, Asia’s martial arts capital is . . . Singapore?

When I lived in Taiwan, I met a group of guys who all studied with the same baguazhang master, Luo Dexiu. The students told me that for Chinese martial arts, it was actually better to go to Taiwan and Hong Kong, rather than China. In some cases, masters would settle in the United States and Europe because those were the bigger markets.  I would be curious to hear from our readers if this migration has happened with other martial arts experts?

One thing I noticed is that you often don’t study with the master himself.  A senior student will lead the lessons.  Meanwhile, the master will walk around the students as they perform drills; he’ll make inspections and corrections.

When I worked in China, I rarely met Chinese practitioners of martial arts.  Most students were foreigners who had traveled in to study.  This might be because I lived in Shanghai. Big-city types tend not to study kung fu as much as people in the countryside, a longtime expat explained. I did meet one Chinese guy who studied xingyiquan because his father was a master.  I asked him what fighting style was fast to learn and effective in real street fights.  His prompt answer: “American boxing!”  Although he said that in sparring matches against fighters with different styles, he thought that Thai kickboxers were the toughest to beat.

One of my British friends was a serious student of praying mantis kung fu. He had a similar comment, saying that in his sparring matches, Thai kickboxers were the best-conditioned.  On a different tack, he played down the choice of style and stressed the importance of regular training. He said something like he’d bet on a serious boxer over a lazy kung fu student any day.

Have you studied martial arts?  In which countries and schools did you train in?  Please share your experiences in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (3) 
Category: Asia


3 Responses to “Best place in Asia to study martial arts?”

  1. John Phung Says:

    I’ve studied Muay Thai in Thailand. I’ve trained at Jitti Gym, Fairtex in Bangplee and another one that I can’t remember.

    Classes are run by former fighters/champions. It wasn’t really a class where an instructor teaches the group some technique and you practice it…they more or less threw you in there with a pad holder and teach you as you go along.

    Training was done outdoors and alongside other expat/tourists/fighters. Pretty damn hot, but you get used to it. There are other gyms that are indoors, but this takes away from immersing yourself in Muay Thai IMO.

    I’ve done classes and personal training. Personally I prefer personal training because the instructor focuses all of his attention on me. It was pretty cheap too, about 1000THB (about 30 dollars).

  2. GypsyGirl Says:

    Regular training is important–I agree with your friend on that. A decade ago I was training simultaneously in three styles, seven days a week, for about four years; Budo Taijutsu, Tang Soo Do, and mixed mounted martial arts (horse archery, and sword) Though I don’t directly train in the first two any longer; it’s important to remember that any Martial Art is more a way of life and how to conduct oneself, than techniques for fighting or sparing. The schools I trained with were in the United States, but all had affiliation overseas as well.

  3. LC Says:

    Nice article, though if you’d dug a little deeper in China, you could have found plenty of people practicing martial arts. Unfortunately the current trend does seem to be that it’s dying out. However, when you consider that traditionally a master may take only one or two students, the current masters are much more open about teaching to a wider audience. I’ve been learning kung fu in China for just over three years and have met perhaps more than 100 teachers throughout the country. Some have schools, while others teach out of their communities. One master once told me that martial arts have 70% – 80% in common with the differences we all perceive to be so very important in the final 20 %. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but I think it really makes the point that it’s the dedication to training and regular training that makes the difference. Indeed the serious boxer over the lazy kung fu student.

    I’m learning Wing Chun, Tai Chi, Acrobatics and some Qigong there, although there is also Jeet Kune Do, a different style of tai chi to the one I’m learning (I’m learning Fu family tai chi. There is also Chen style tai chi) Shaolin Kung Fu and Sanda (Chinese kickboxing – which is similar in many ways to Muay Thai, with less of an emphasis on grappling and perhaps more emphasis on take downs and take down defense).

    In my experience it’s the best Wing Chun I’ve done in China (been to two schools before) as there is a real focus on qi and power generation through internal systems that was lacking a bit in the other places I’ve been. There are actually two Wing Chun masters. One is a Ip Man lineage teacher. The other, my master teaches the Yuen Kay San (Sum Nung) style (for anyone who cares, haha) so it’s a strange system for anyone who has done the internationally more prevalent Ip Man system. I can’t speak for the Shaolin Kung Fu (I haven’t done it here) although the master is a good acrobatics teacher, which we do most afternoons and the qigong is nice with daily sessions to start and end the day. I also don’t know about the Jeet Kune Do as I haven’t been training in it.

    I’ll be here for another couple of years so if anyone has questions, you can pop it in the comments box as well and I’m happy answer.

    As a place to learn

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