One of the coolest things you can do living and teaching English in Asia is to train a martial art like kung fu, hapkido, tae kwon do, judo, karate, aikido, etc. I've lived in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan and did some training in most of these places.
I started training kung fu while teaching in Taiwan
That is a picture of my Wing Chun class in Tainan. My teacher is the one sitting. I practiced Wing Chun for a number of months while in Tainan. Wing Chun was invented by a woman and then made popular by Yip Man and Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee initially practiced Wing Chun before developing his own form.
Was it dangerous to practice?
Not really. There wasn't any sparring involved. There was a lot of punching and striking canvas bean bags, wooden dummies and other tools so my knuckles got a little beat up.
Training martial arts in Korea
Korea's famous martial arts are Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido.
While in Busan, Korea I also learned a bit of BJJ - for like a month. I got totally beat up. Then at the end of 2013 (December) I started it again and have been hooked pretty much since. Although I did miss close to 2 years since then cause I got hurt a few times and then the corona virus.
This is a Brazilian martial art that has gotten popular in recent years due partly to MMA battles. I took classes in Daeyon-dong.
Training in China
China is known for it's Kung Fu. Kung Fu includes many different styles some soft and some hard. Tai Chi, Bagua, Wing Chun, and Wushu are all forms of Kung Fu.
Martial arts in Japan
Japan is known for karate, aikido, kendo, archery and judo. I got a cultural visa to live and train judo in Japan.
Archery is probably the safest Japanese martial art to practice, followed by aikido.
Here's a video of me doing a judo competition in Fukuoka, Japan.
Learn more about teaching in Japan.
What are the benefits of learning a martial art while teaching in Asia?
First you'll get to learn a new skill or develop an existing one.
Second it's exercise which you need to stay healthy - mentally and physically.
Third it provides a social outlet which you also need for optimum health.
Teaching abroad can be totally lonely so learning a martial art is a great way to find a social circle. Maybe you will meet other foreigners in those classes or maybe not. But even then it's still a way to possible learn or practice you language or interact with other humans.
How do you find places to train?
You can try using Google Maps and search out places but keep in mind you probably want to try searching in the countries language too.
Or for example just try:
- bjj shanghai
- judo osaka
- kung fu taichung
- hapkido busan
- tae kwon do taipei
- aikido beijing
Keep in mind that the world is shrinking too and you can find places to train Muay Thai in Japan.
Are martial arts always dangerous?
Some are more dangerous than others. I've had my fair share of injuries frequently training BJJ and lesser so judo (both grappling arts), but I trained judo less so that could be a factor yet there are more rules in judo compared to BJJ.
Ironically these can be both referred to as the "gentle way". And anybody who has trained both might find that hard to imagine, yet they are arts based on leverage and position vs. power. Seemingly small differences in position and technique can make big differences in execution.
In the above video you can see in the first fight that while the first person I fought against was stronger, more aggressive and used a lot of strength I won by technique doing a throw called osoto gari. BJJ and judo are like that. The idea is that technique can overcome power and strength.
They aren't striking arts like karate, tae kwon do, or muay thai so they are "gentle" in that aspect.
But it can depend on your school, teacher, dojo and training partners.
Yet there are always risks to any sport contact or not.
And some people are more prone to injury.
Some people get unlucky and some arts are more dangerous than others.
To get good at any martial art you have to train - a lot.
Softer martial arts...
There are certain forms or styles that are safer too like tai chi, archery or various forms of kung fu.
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