Cross-training in more than one martial art can be a great way to improve skills or to learn new ones. But at what point does it start to interfere with training in your primary martial art (if you indeed have a single art on which you have primary focus)? Since we have a number of students who cross-train or ask to learn skills from other students that are training with us who have significant experience with other arts, this is an important question to consider.
If you’re going to cross-train, pick a martial art that either reinforces skills that are already being taught in your primary style or pick one that covers an entirely different area than your primary.
For example, in my style, Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, our striking system is based on boxing/ kickboxing principles, but since it is not our sole focus, a student can benefit from taking extra training in them. This is why I have Louis Sargeant (the professional boxer with whom I do extra training) come in and teach a class once a month for my students. It’s a nice change of pace for my students and they get to experience a different teaching style, as well as have the opportunity to get extra focus on their sparring skills.
On the other hand, if you study an art like Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, you might be getting excellent focus on competition ground work, but might be interested in learning skills to improve your stand-up game for MMA. You might consider taking up Muay Thai to work on your striking, or perhaps Judo or wrestling to get more focus on throws and takedowns.
I generally discourage students from learning other styles that are very similar if they are just starting out in the martial arts world. For example, learning two different styles of Karate would be very difficult because they are so similar yet have many differences, some subtle, some major. It would just be confusing to someone who hasn’t already a strong foundation in one.
I myself am currently cross-training in two styles of modern traditional Japanese Jiu-jitsu. But since I’ve been training in Can-ryu for over 15 years, it’s much easier for me. I’m able to compartmentalize my learning in such a way that keeps me from getting confused. I can’t say I could have done this kind of cross-training with the same ease back when I was in the Kyu ranks (coloured belt ranks).
As for my students, I have no issue with them doing cross-training (many schools frown upon it), but try to keep the above in mind when choosing an art. And if you want to ask some of the resident ambassadors from other styles to show you things that are different from the techniques being taught on our mats, please do so during open training times and NOT DURING OUR CLASSES. Can-ryu class is for learning Can-ryu, unless I’ve given over the mats to a guest instructor.