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Martial Arts: The Basics
When entered into properly under good tutelage and supervision, the physical control and mental discipline components of martial arts can give a tremendous boost to your self-esteem, physical fitness, mental agility and can be a useful tool in character building. Our aim is not to produce a martial arts course, but to show you what the main styles are.

Despite the different types of martial arts and styles available, most of them share certain common techniques/methods and so they can be organised into broad categories that facilitate understanding. The primary way of classifying martial arts is by the basic physical technique they use, striking or grappling.

The striking technique, technically referred to as percussive, uses blows with the hands, elbows, knees, feet, and head. Martial arts such as Tae kwon do, karate and kung fu fall under this category. Grappling arts, primarily employ locking, throwing, and wrestling techniques. These arts seek to resolve aggressive action by gaining control over an opponent without necessarily striking them. Well known grappling arts include Aikido, Judo and Jujitsu.

Martial arts can also be sub-categorised into those that prohibit weapons and those that require them. For example Judo requires competitors to use only their bodies, whereas with certain styles of kung fu weapons training is an essential pre-requisite of basic training. Firearms are not used in martial arts.

Most Martial arts follow an underlying traditional or non-traditional methodology, according to the way they are taught. The different philosophies emphasise self-improvement and self-defence respectively. Traditionalists tend to focus on three concepts, spiritual development, discipline, and aesthetic form. Non-traditionalists instruct their students on combat, discipline, and spiritual development. Both schools offer advantages to students, encouraging the cultivation of self-confidence, motivation and courage that can then be successfully applied in everyday life.

Popular Martial Arts
As they developed over time, many martial arts were influenced by eastern philosophy and culture. Importance was attached to individual enlightenment and self-realisation through the development of both mind and body. The correct martial art training can produce balanced, responsible, confident individuals who aim to improve themselves, not to intimidate or bully others whilst contributing to the betterment of society at large.

The world’s best known and most popular martial arts are Kung fu, Tae kwon do and Karate. In these and most other martial arts, participants wear coloured belts to indicate rank and advancement. A white belt indicates a beginner. By passing increasingly difficult tests of knowledge and competency, students move through a series of coloured belts to reach the top level of black belt. Even the black belt level has various degrees of achievement. The levels of black belt or Dan (meaning "degree" in Japanese) move from first degree, indicating a beginning black belt, to fifth degree, usually signifying a junior master. The degrees from six through to ten are honorary ranks that select individuals earn through the time they have spent practising the martial art.

Karate means ‘empty hand’ in Japanese and is an unarmed method of self-defence in which a individual punches, strikes, kicks, or blocks. Karate originated from the island of Okinawa, in the 1600s and was directly influenced by earlier methods of Chinese kung fu. Funakoshi Gichin, an Okinawan schoolteacher brought this martial art to Japan in 1922, and became known as the father of modern karate. Funakoshi added a strong philosophical element to karate, creating a separate martial art called karate-do that pays particular attention to the state of mind of the student. An example being that no matter what their level of skill, karate students must not brag, demean or insult other students.

The traditional karate uniform, the karate-gi, consists of loose white trousers and a jacket fastened by the coloured rank belt. Requirements for progress include proficiency in two areas, the basic movements called the kata (the defined sequence of moves), and freestyle sparring. Each major style of karate consists of at least 10 distinct kata with each movement within the kata having a specific purpose.

Kung fu
It is believed that Kung fu originated from China some 2000 years ago. Kung fu is Chinese for ‘skill’ or ‘ability," and its students learn punches, strikes, kicks, and throws. Whereas karate uses closed-fist manoeuvres, kung fu mainly uses open-handed techniques with the employment of weapons such as swords and staffs.

Kung fu students have to learn a large number of complex techniques in addition to sparring, to advance in rank. Kung fu is divided in to two main divisions, northern Chinese and southern Chinese. Each of these is further divided by the types of manoeuvres used, methods of practice, and philosophy. The northern styles tend to use movements that tend to emphasise the lower body. The goal being, to use the opponent’s strength and movement to one’s own advantage by moving with the attack and setting the opponent off balance. The southern styles display a clear preference for power and strength. The student is taught to be assertive and confronts the opponent directly.

T’ai chi ch’uan which is Chinese for ‘great ultimate fist’, also known as t’ai chi, is the most popular style of kung fu. Millions of people are known to practice it in China and in other countries of the world as a daily form exercise. It is distinguished by slow, continuous, circular motions.

Tae kwon do
Tae kwon do means ‘the way of hands and feet’ in Korean and was founded by a Korean general Choi Hong Hi in 1955. It is the national sport of Korea and is popular throughout the world. This martial art is reportedly based on ancient Korean and modern Japanese forms of combat. Tae kwon do includes spectacular spinning and jumping kicks.

Since 1972, tae kwon do has been organised as a competitive sport under the World Tae Kwon Do Federation and was introduced as an official Olympic sport at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

Jujitsu is Japanese for the ‘art of gentleness’. It is a fighting style utilises a mixture of chokes, holds, throws, joint-locks and kicks. Jujitsu techniques are said to be associated with the Japanese Samurai. Students are initially taught jujitsu techniques one at a time, however the principle of jujitsu is to combine motions and flow from one move to another to control the adversary.

Developed in the early 1900’s Aikido involves throwing, joint manipulation and special weapons training. Aikido does not focus on striking your opponent, instead its emphasis is on using their energy to gain control. Aikido places great importance on the motion and dynamics of movement and the control of one's mind. Aikido has many different styles, many of which concentrate on spiritual development as opposed to the physical side.

Self Defence
By Mohammed Khalid
Taekwondo Black Belt 3rd Dan (WTF)

Ever wondered how you would react if you were accosted in the street? We have come to the conclusion that often, when faced with attack, the victim is advised to try and take control of the situation rather than giving in to it.

Be aware and try to avoid potentially dangerous situations. If you feel an attack is about to take place, don’t wait for it to develop, act immediately.

Draw attention to yourself, if you are on a train for example, pull the communication cord before it’s too late. If you can, try not to cave in
passively to your assailant, this is the firm and modern message.

Turning the confrontation to your advantage is not only beneficial to the victim, but can also be easier than you think - if you follow a few simple rules. Better still, learning how to avoid those situations, or how to diffuse them before they get out of hand is the best way of dealing with aggression.

Often, one of the worries facing a victim after an attack is that they didn’t do enough to help themselves. When the body feels the sensation of panic, its natural reaction is to freeze. If you try and stay aware and give yourself confidence through taking some form of self defence course, you will stand a better chance of remaining calm.

What you should do

Avoid using poorly lit streets when walking or parking the car at night.
Walk confidently with head up and purposeful stride.
Carry a personal security device such as the personal attack alarm.
Knock on someone’s door if you think you are being followed. Ask if they could telephone the police, a relative or a taxi to collect you. Never go into a strange house, you could be inviting more trouble.

Make sure that you are aware of the give away signs of a prospective attacker. Things to look out for are:

Invasion of personal space or a close and persistent following.
Unusually close interest in you.
The same car passing you more than once or pulling over and parking further up the road.

Invest time in a self-defence training programme. If it’s martial arts based, you will probably find it a rewarding form of exercise and a good pastime.

What not to do

Confront a prospective assailant unless you have definite cause to believe you are about to be attacked.
Give an attacker cause to believe you are willing for him to approach you by letting him start a conversation or make eye contact etc.
  Be afraid to draw attention to yourself if you think you are in danger. Try instead to make a lot of noise (e.g. shout or even sing loudly) or walk in the middle of the road.
Boast publicly of any self-defence or martial arts training you may have had - it might encourage someone to challenge you.

What to do if you come under attack
Here are some basic tips on reacting to actual confrontation:

The worst thing you can do is panic. If you feel someone is about to engage in contact with you, feel free to take the initiative. Turn to face them and get ready for a confrontation. If you practice a martial art, go into a basic stance, it will help to prepare you both physically and mentally for conflict, if it becomes necessary.

Stay calm and try to utilise what time you have to gauge your attacker’s state of mind. If they seem over-nervous or timid, a confident verbal challenge may deter them. Try and keep time on your side. Your assailant will be afraid of discovery, the longer you spread out the confrontation the more chance there is of this happening.

Try and engage in some form of conversation to diffuse the situation - never patronise or threaten, it will only encourage them. Never beg to be left alone or unhurt, many attackers get their kicks from the feeling of power that this gives them over the victim.

If an assailant wants your wallet or purse, give it to them, but produce it in a calm, slow moving way, you can even throw it onto the floor. This will give you more time to memorise all the details about the person, increasing the chances of subsequent arrest, and it also gives you time to run.

A mugger will always go for your wallet rather than you. Try and stay calm enough to apply any self-defence or martial arts skills you may have learned to restrain an attacker or defend yourself. Look for an opening to react, but be prepared to get hurt if you fight back - it’s painful but sometimes preferable to the possible consequences of giving in.

Legal Factors
Always remember that the law is very strict in matters of physical assault. You are only allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ for self-defence purposes. If you seriously hurt someone, even though it may be during a genuine attack, you might find it’s you that ends up in court on a criminal charge.

Defence Tips


Jab out with your fingers aiming for one or both eyes remembering not to pull the hand back before striking. The eyes are very delicate this means it needs very little force to be able to cause temporary blindness. To use this technique, accuracy is vital, therefore practice this by hanging a thick piece of card from a ceiling with holes cut out for the eyes. Then jab your finger(s) through the holes whilst the card is stationary or swinging.THROAT
The two main target areas are the Adams apple or the throat hollow. Striking either of the targets with a finger jab, second knuckles or the side of the hand will cause pain and difficulty in breathing. Pressure applied to the throat hollow by one or two fingers will cause discomfort and pain. Again accuracy is important.


Using the heel of the hand to strike the attackers chin from below. Pushing the head back and follow through. If you miss the chin you will probably hit the nose, which is the next best thing.


Using your forehead to butt the attacker is simple and effective. A butt to the nose will cause the attacker both pain and blurred vision, which will allow you time to get away. Try to avoid moving your head back as it may give away your intention. If grabbed from behind, snap your head back aiming to hit the attacker in the face. Do this twice in quick succession if necessary.


Aim for the knee, shin or groin. If going for the groin, kick by moving your weight onto the other leg and bending it a little. Kick with a snapping motion as to make your leg return back quickly (don’t move your leg back before attacking, it let’s the attacker know your intention). If practising, don’t kick into the air with any power or snap, you could damage your knee. Instead, practice hitting a target.


Cupping the hands, hit your attacker over the ears with a clapping motion, this could cause the attackers eardrums to burst. Or, if you have only one hand free, grab the bottom part of the attackers ear and pull HARD.


A good method to break an attackers grip is to strike the back of the attackers hand. Hit it hard and fast a few times with the second knuckle of your middle finger. If done properly instant pain is caused.

Learn the Art of Relaxing

Why is it so important?
You will notice after practising this technique on a regular basis, that you will be in control of your body and mind when you need it the most.

Most fighters whether it be in Boxing, Thai Boxing or Grappling etc., will be taught at an early stage of their training just how important it is to relax.

Remember, if your body is relaxed, it will move easier and faster than when it is tense. You will also find it easier to assess and deal with any given situation.

Relaxation Technique
Lower the lights and then lie or sit comfortably. Whilst taking deep breaths in through your nose and out from your mouth, try to clear your mind. Imagine you are looking into ‘space’ with no stars - just total darkness.

Once you feel the sensation of your mind becoming clear, concentrate on the top part of your head and tell it to relax. Working your way down from your head to your toes. Remember to tell each part of the body to relax as you move from one part to the next.

Concentrate on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, upper back, stomach, arms, forearms, hands, thighs, calves and finally the feet, before reaching the toes. It will take time to achieve this but by being persistent you will feel the benefits. When you have achieved some degree of relaxation, try to use this technique in a different environment, for example, when at work or out shopping.

Disclaimer: Before entering any physical fitness programme, please make sure that you can manage the activity in a safe manner. People with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes II or any physical injuries need to consult their doctor.

The Muslim Health Network advises its readers that any instructions in this section are exclusively for health improvement and fitness. Readers must always use their common sense when confronted with a difficult situation.
The best form of martial arts is to walk away from any situation of potential violence or threat of violence. The Muslim Health Network expressly disclaims any and all liability arising from or relating to the use, misuse and/or other act of any party in regard to the instructions given in this section.