I live in a rural area where there are few martial arts school available. I found a Taekwondo school about a half hour away but I have studied karate and kung fu for most of my martial arts career and I am uncomfortable with the idea of switching to Taekwondo. Can you offer me some advice on how to get over my hang ups with studying Taekwondo?
I know how it is to live in places where you have little choice as to what martial to study since only one style is available. I trained in many karate styles over my years in the Navy because they were the only martial arts available where I was stationed. Some had techniques and philosophies that I agreed with, some did not. Either way, while I trained at the schools, I did things as they did them and learned from it.
Switching styles is similar to moving into a new house. At the new house you bump into things, moving around the house seems awkward, and sometimes you wish you were back in the old house. However, after a while you get settled in and the new house turns out to be just as good, if not better, than the old house.
In your situation, whether Taekwondo is better or worse than another martial art doesn’t really matter since Taekwondo is your only choice. Even if you do not particularly care for Taekwondo, something is better than nothing.
When training during class and in patterns, proper performance of Taekwondo techniques is usually strictly enforced. The way Taekwondo is practiced depends on the association, school, and individual instructor. Some instructors teach strictly Taekwondo while others teach a base in Taekwondo with variations depending on what works for the individual student.
While sparring, you may use any type of block, punch, or kick you choose as long as it is within the rules. However, this sometimes makes it more difficult for you to excel in Taekwondo. For example, I fight with open hands and use many open hand blocks. However, when I punch, my hand instantly changes into a tight fist. I have training this way for years so I am able to stay loose and relaxed while moving but I can instantly tighten everything for a powerful attack. This causes problems since when I perform patterns I am constantly criticized for relaxing my fists during a transition and then tightening them for the technique.
Sometimes a karate background may be advantageous. Taekwondo uses hand attacks but you may find that TKD fighters are surprised by your quick, powerful karate hand attacks.
We get students all the time who have studied karate in the past. Some want to learn Taekwondo so they work hard to suppress their karate habits, some have a difficult time giving up their karate habits, and some say they want to learn Taekwondo but they refuse to give up their karate habits; these are the ones who usually drop out of class. When I joined my current school and association, I had been in Taekwondo for over 25 years and was set in my ways. I had to change the way I did a lot of things to conform to the new school. Some of the changes were easy, some were difficult, some took a long time, some came without my really being aware of it, and some came even with me fighting the change. I am now fully indoctrinated into the program but I still have my previous experience to rely upon. Instructors who have been in the program since birth do everything the same and do not see any reason to change. I am always tossing in new things and forcing students and instructors to question the status quo and to think on their own.
Give Taekwondo a shot; if it does not work out you can always leave and look for something else. Anything you learn is useful.