The Benefit of Practicing Multiple Martial Arts Styles

Author: William Chad Young

Date Published: August 19th, 2023

2nd-degree brown belt paper

At Zen Martial Arts, if you come for more than even a single week, you will find that you are learning techniques and concepts from multiple styles of martial arts, from jiu jitsu to kung fu to budo tanren. Although we come from a strong taekwondo lineage in which we learn kicks, strikes, and forms, there have always been elements which come from other styles. Over the many years that I have been practicing here, I have come to appreciate the expansive nature of our practice more and more.

The main benefit for me of learning from multiple styles has been how it has expanded my understanding of the interconnectedness of everything we practice. When I began, each area felt separate. I learned kicks one week and the wing chun set the next, and they all fell into their own boxes in my brain. What does stick strikes and blocks have to do with sparring? How can chon ji affect my grappling? Over time, however, I have begun to see how they overlap and complement each other. The body positioning I need to have strength when using a stick also provides strength in sparring. A major emphasis of chon ji is having strong stances, which is very important when someone is trying to throw you off balance in grappling.

A major shift for me occurred when I was first introduced to concepts from budo tanren. This started when classes were online during the pandemic, which helped by giving me space to think more rather than just do. In particular, the concepts of two-direction pulling as well as structure, balance, and connection have influenced everything I do here. These were all things that I did to some degree beforehand, but having this new vocabulary meant that I began to see those concepts everywhere. Two-direction pulling has changed how I kick, improved my judo, and affected my stick work. I now know to pay attention to my structure during grappling, my balance in forms, my connection in wing chun.

And as I was growing in these areas, I was also learning about center line, kuzushi, and rotation. I have started seeing these ideas everywhere as well, and now I think about how my actions affect not only myself and my opponent, but also how it impacts our structure, balance, and connection, together and separately. In this test you will see how these ideas and discussions have impacted all of us. As we demonstrate our stick versus staff set, notice the emphasis on gaining kuzushi as we disrupt our opponent’s balance and structure. See if you can spot how the angling we use in sparring shows up as we take away a stick and move into a more advantageous position.

For me, practicing multiple styles of martial arts has connected pieces that started out feeling very distinct and improved all aspects of my practice, and I hope that this reminds you to be on the lookout for how ideas from one style can influence another style in your own exploration.