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I have practiced/trained/competed in traditional Chinese Internal Martial Arts for what must now be ~30 years. My experience is VERY different from the traditional Japanese/Korean art schools. We don't do belts. There is a lot of "Know the guy, who introduces you to the guy, who will arrange a meeting with the guy you really need to meet." Sounds like a lot of BS, but those guys, with true knowledge and skill, tend to hold the stuff close to the vet, and without the proper introductions, they won't speak to you, let alone train you. As for this Dan, that dan, they only do student teacher master, practically. As for legitimate skill, its much more of a take a swing and find out. Understand - these guys are usually, often NOT running a a business, and almost never teaching "tiny tigers" and things like that. I have studied/practice Taiji Ch'uan, Zing Yi Ch'uan, and a little Ba Ji and Ba Gua., I do Shaolin mostly for the exercise and just to remind myself what a non-internal artist would do.

I'll give you a little different perspective....

First - in terms of being prepared - fitness counts! So any exercise is good. In that respect, any style is pretty much a win.

Next - let's divide the universe up into two basic categories of people: Those with some MA training, and those without it. In all honesty, esoteric points aside, even the cheesiest Tae Kwon Do school will take you from zero to able to punch/block/kick in a few months. So, compared to a huge majority of people, you are ahead of the game. Don't worry about the style etc...just learn it the best you can.

Now....after that we start separating people up into various more important groups. There are certainly the fitness/forms schools. They compete for trophies in acrobatics. Think Tae Kwon Do where they jump up and spin around and kick you. Are they fit? Oh yes. Are they in control of their body? Absolutely. If you jump up spin around will it work. Not on Dave. Certainly not me.

Then there are the "sport fighting" people. They absolutely spar/fight. But it can run a range from dressing like the Michelen man to nearly bare knuckle MMA. Anyone who has done any amount of that is generally not to be trifled with. They can give and take a punch. However - understand that various "sports" have a greater and lesser" tolerance for truly dangerous activities. The first things I would strike given a chance are all FOUL points in those activities. Some who engage in that at a high level never learn to even defend those areas - because no one would actually strike them. Others, (MMA) while far from delicate, absolutely teach you to take a beating. And give one. However - remember, these are "entertainment" forms as well. They have rules that highly restrict actions (and consequences). But as said - a fit person who has been sparring (however many pads, and however many rules) is better off than a hit and/or highly skilled dancer. Still - two of the best sport / competition guys I have ever met....I would not want to tangle with. One, even as a sport fighter was so good he would simply kill me. The other, if I survived the first hit I could take out while he hopped back and waited for the point flag. IF I could survive the first hit! Big if....

Then there are the martial artists. These are people who have studied the art for its truest purpose; My people would say that purpose is "Enlightenment" - That's enlightenment gained through the ability end an opponents breathing as immediately as possible. They make no statements counter to this being for self-preservation (whether offensive or defensive) and that the skills and tools exist to cause great bodily harm to an opponent.

There are obviously a range of things in between. So before we get into a debate as to this style or that, which is (usually) trivial hair splitting, as mentioned. What do YOU want to learn and why? Then ask is that what is being taught. It isn't hard to distinguish those who teach Fighting "concepts" vs Sport fighting vs martial arts then....

Anybody might be a serious martial "artist" in any style or from any school. MA is like a diet: They ALL work - if you follow the diet. Some diets are better for different things. And in any, you'll lose weight and get fit. If you stick with it. From a Preparedness perspective, as much as we are all into guns for various reasons - as all will agree, tools are great, but skill is better! Any fighting skill is better than none, and more physical is better than less physical, and any skill at this will serve you well. Unless you pick a fight with Dave....

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