Can someone recommend me a good handless martial art for violinists?

June 14, 2011 at 04:09 PM ·

Dear members, eventually, I would like to find a suitable sport for me.  I have tried many in my life but am not very well hand/eye coordinated... 

In addition, I would like something that trains the body and brain and gives me the occasion to socialize/do sports with other people.  I have always stayed away of team sports (soccer, volley, handball, baseball, badminton etc) because I look so clumbsy and it's just not where I belong!   : )   But I have always envy those sport teams where people gather and have fun learning and playing together. 

I have a good "natural" cardio and have strong muscular legs. I'm quite tall. Though my upper body is very weak in comparison and I don't want any hand contact because of my violin playing.  I once broke my tiny bow pinkie doing sports and it would be the end of the world if it would have been on my left hand!   I still want violin to be my primairy and most serious hobby...

I do have a Akido school and also s Russian systema school near where I live (I know nothing about either but I suspect systema to be very violent!  Am I wrong?)  However I would not mind to travel.

Does someone knows a good martial art (not Tai Chi, it's too quiet for what I want... I love energic things and don't mind competition. I love it!) with only the use of legs? (and safe for fingers, that would not be too tough on my weaker upper body)

Thank you very much if some of you have names of suitable martial arts!  I know absoluntly nothing in these!

Have a nice day : )



Replies (35)

June 14, 2011 at 04:12 PM ·

BALLROOM DANCING!!!!  no hands and its an amazing martial art - I've thrown my partner on several occasions (and caught him too)... 

Seriously, its the best excersize - does the whole body and your cardiac and strong legs are a major asset.  not only that but you can also join clubs and go out socializing to show off your skills.  Finally, it really encourages you to look after your body - i.e. keep the weight down since no one wants to look fat in a ballgown/latin outfit....



June 14, 2011 at 04:40 PM ·

There are a few martial arts which use the feet extensively: the french Savate, the brazilian Capoeira (it actually stems from a dance) and Sikaran.

But to burst your bubble, there are no martial arts which use only the feet. Sorry to say there is no such thing as foot-only fighting.

PS: Try ethnic dances, from irish to greek to romanian. The south-eastern european dances rely heavily on serious footwork so you might want to try them out.

June 14, 2011 at 04:57 PM ·

Actually, being brazilian, I can almost assert that Capoeira is based completely on footwork. And very, very difficult footwork. It uses the hands only in very specific movements, as a "help" to do more fireworks with your feet. It's like the Schoenberg concerto of street dance/martial arts. Not kidding, I've tried capoeira and heard Hilary Hahn play the concerto! LOL

June 14, 2011 at 05:09 PM ·

Murilo Peixoto, thank you for clearing out my error.

So there you have it, straight from the horse's mouth: Capoeira is the thing for you!


June 14, 2011 at 05:29 PM ·

use only legs and so you can play violin not hurting your hands?



June 14, 2011 at 08:12 PM ·

Thanks everyone!  I'll inform myself on these! 

Of course, string groups and horseback trail riding clubs (an another big passion of mine) is cool for the social part but it's not what I consider "exercise" except maybe at very high levels ; ) 

It's interesting to hear about martial arts that I didn't even know.  I kew the asian names  without knowing what they were really "Taikwando, Akido, Judo, Karate, Tai Chi etc.  But to hear about Brazilian sports, cool too!

Dancing?  It was not exactly Valse or Tango that I had in head when I met socializing lol   But it's for sure a good way to get out of your bubble and comfort zone, improve self-confidance for total dancing beginners!  Dancing is just as violin, one of these arts/hobbies that you see the others do and think omg... me!?!?   : )  But why not! 

Thanks for the ideas and advice!



June 14, 2011 at 08:12 PM ·

Al, I won't even try... 

June 14, 2011 at 08:27 PM ·

I saw a guy on TV the other day breaking bricks with his forehead and elbows...that might be interesting to try.  The last thing the mugger would see would be a forehead coming at them, *Bang*

June 14, 2011 at 08:52 PM ·

Safe for fingers? Badminton, tennis, soccer, boxing and kickboxing (with heavy gloves), bowling, bike riding (there are groups for that)... Oh, curling!  ;-)

June 14, 2011 at 10:35 PM ·

curling : )  It might be fun but as a non curling player, I get boared by it! 

Repin once said volley was "a trip to the hospital" for violinists...

June 15, 2011 at 12:04 AM ·

[EDIT I have deleted the preceding  paragraph in the light of Buri's comments following, and my response thereto]

I would recommend Irish set dancing (not the step dancing, which is "the girls with curls" business). Friends and members of my family do Irish set dancing,  and I am involved as a ceili band player. It is a world-wide activity.


June 15, 2011 at 01:17 AM ·


with all due respect to your experience I do have to politely disagree completley with you about judo.  The potential for hand injury is very high,  possibly highe rthan many other arts. One of the most common injuries, as with any grappling art , is catching the thumb (or other fingers) in the gi and simply ripping them eveyr which way but loose.  Judoka here typically have a welath of taped fingers at one time or another.  the other way hands are damaged is during a bad fall when being trown.

`Pretty much the only martial art where one really can almost guarantee no hand injury is tai chi chuan although I have injured mine pracitcing this as I pusued it to a high level as a fighting art asopposed to simply a self healing kata (which is only a small part of it).  I think Karate is relatively safe too.  One doesn`t have to strike a makiwara to develop knobbly knuickles.  Midori took karate to quite a high level.  

oin general the more throwing and grappling involved the more likely one is to injure ones hands.



June 15, 2011 at 01:43 AM ·

Thanks for that useful input, Buri.  My judo experience was half a century ago and it would appear that the sport has changed a lot since then.  I must therefore withdraw my comment as being irrelevant (or even misleading) in the light of the judo of today.

June 15, 2011 at 03:58 AM ·


judo has a veyr interesting aspect which is often quoted in Alexander technique and is directly relevant to violinists.  A judoka typically leads and grips with the little finge rsid eof the hand rather than the more obvious thumb lead. The reason for this is well undertsoofd in the sport.  The bone structure of the arm is such that the little finger is actually stable and wlel anchored while the apparently stronger thumb is much more prone to injure due to its more free floating status within the overall arm structure.   For the same reason when one flings up the violin one should use the little finger side of the hand as the stationary axis (being more stabole) around which the thumb side oif the hand revolves. A lot of players fail to realize this and it is a major caus eof tendonitis.



June 15, 2011 at 05:07 AM · Well I always recommend yoga, but it's maybe not the most social sport!

June 15, 2011 at 02:34 PM ·

Thank you everyone!

Judo... yes I would be afraid for my fingers then...

Also, in Judo, I would 100% sure be the one always gripped by fingers and put on the ground... : )

Remember, I told I had a very weak/delicate upper body.  That + my feather weigh would not make me a very good judo fighter!    

I would have to invent... martial arts with legs only for musicians!  Normal Karate kicks and stuff without permission of using hands...

June 15, 2011 at 02:37 PM ·

Thanks you for the yoga idea too!  Menuhin recommanded that also! 

June 15, 2011 at 04:32 PM ·

Anne-Marie, a passing thought – if you watch Irish step dancing and observe the arms and hands always being held immovable against the body, and all the action coming from the legs and feet, including spectacular head-high kicks, then what about devising a martial art based on this (complete with the appropriate musical panoply of jigs and reels, of course).

Well, that's me about to be thrown out of the Irish music forum that I'm a long-standing member of ... 

June 15, 2011 at 04:46 PM ·

 I would recommend tap-dancing while playing the castanets. Its a great workout to strengthen your  hands and keeping your strong legs in shape. Maybe you can start a new fashion.

Seriously, rather work on your weak points and build-up your upper body in a gymnasium.

June 15, 2011 at 11:15 PM ·

I would not suggest boxing, or other gloved sport; it is still very possible to break hands or fingers.

I would also like to reinforce that judo is a risk; I still remember one meet I was at as a teen when one of the contentants was not familiar with the american rules, and applied an arm bar... dislocated the other contestant's shoulder. It was returned to the correct position, but the poor guy wasn't up to violin playing for a while, I assure you.

June 16, 2011 at 12:29 AM · I am a black belt in Karate, but haven't practiced the art in almost 3 years. One of the reasons I quit was the fear of permanently injuring my hands, elbows or shoulders. I did take precautions but still, I developed a pinched nerve one time in my shoulder that caused pain and numbness in my arm... and it took a couple months of physical therapy to relieve the problem. I also pulled a muscle in my forearm once that restricted movement in my wrist. Ultimately, though, the biggest reason I quit Karate was that it was taking too much time away from practicing music. Before I stopped going to my martial arts school, I tried their Judo classes a couple of times. In my experience, Judo is much harder on the joints than Karate. Every time I grabbed my opponent to execute a throw, I could feel a twisting in my knee joints and my wrists that was worrisome. It was also hard being on the receiving end of the throw. Even though I'd been trained in the proper way to fall, it still jarred my entire body. Trying to escape being pinned to the ground was abusive to my joints, as well. I did not like Judo very much. I wouldn't mind doing some Tai Chi, if I could find someone in my area that teaches it. That art only APPEARS gentle. I was lucky enough to try Tai Chi once, and found it to be an incredibly demanding workout.

June 16, 2011 at 11:38 AM ·


re Tai chi -you said it!!

At our club in England we would often get third and fourth dan karateka along fr something diffenret and more relaxing.  More often than not they were exhaused afted twenty minutes or so. It is soo deceptive.  The highest level teachers I studied with didn`t do the kata more than once a day which only took about ten minutes.  that was an incredible workout.  of course they did a lot of pushing hands as well.



June 18, 2011 at 07:21 AM ·


I think you should take a look at Wing Chun. I have never practiced this martial arts but I have heard of it. I have done other martial arts such as Taekwondo and Shaolin Kungfu. I do not know if it is offered in your area but I think it would be the perfect fit for you. The reasons why I believe it would be a perfect fit are:

1) Wing Chun was created by a woman designed for women( Not trying create gender bias; I am a guy afterall)

2) It was created specifically for people who were not "Enter things that you would view as strengths, i.e.:big, tall, muscular, strong, etc".

3) From what I have heard and read, there are very few "Katas"/forms for this martial arts, which makes it pretty simplistic compared to other martial arts.

4) Oh and Bruce Lee practiced it as well when he was younger.

With Regards,





June 18, 2011 at 06:25 PM ·

Anne-Marie, if your strength is far greater in your lower body, it would be good for you to do something that would (safely) increase your upper body strength.  Yoga might be just the right fit.  With a good teacher the risk of injury is low and the benefits great.

Buri, I'm intrigued by what you said about raising an instrument.  I've been fighting a stubborn case of tendinitis in my left elbow, and swinging my viola up and down aggravates it like crazy. 


June 18, 2011 at 07:13 PM ·


Wing Chun.MMMM...Not an expert but I did a three day training seminar in the basicsmany moons ago.  It is simple and effective but very far removed form the idea of a handless art.  Indeed we practiced relentless arm exercises which involved a great deal of hard physical contact ,  especially tot he forearms.  Probaby somewhat detrimental to playing.  Especially with this kind of art,  if you get a practice partner who wants to `make it real-  you can get very severly bruised.

Hence the name Bruised Lee I suppose,



June 19, 2011 at 02:22 AM ·


I took Wing Tsun (Leung Ting's version of Wing Chun, there are at least 3 main schools I'm aware of,) for about a year and it does involve a lot of contact with the arms and hands. In fact the whole technique is based on engaging and maintaining contact with the opponent through the forearms and hands (for deflecting most attacks above the knees and for creating an opening for a strike.) I did get some bruising on forearms and shins, but apart from knuckles being chafed by ill-fitting gloves while practicing at the heavy bag I never injured my hands. Wing Chun uses exclusively a straight punch (with vertical fist) which strikes with the lower 3 knuckles keeping the point of impact in line with the ulna for greater stability through the wrist (also the ulna attaches to the humerus with a hinge joint; the radius attaches with a pivot joint.) So if there is a 'safe' way for a violinist to punch this would be the safest. Most other martial arts strike with the top two knuckles so there is greater potential for injury even with taping and gloves. There's also greater risk with the twisting motion in the punches of most martial arts (also with the other punches like hooks and uppercuts.) 

As was implied, Wing Chun is not about power and strength, so the punches are not meant to knock out, but rather to hit vital spots and debilitate while you get the *bleep* away from danger. All the chi-sao (the so called 'sticking hands' technique) which trains reflexes and sensing the opponent can be hard on the arms and tendons but strengthen them in the long run. If you get advanced enough, practicing with the wooden dummy and the jabbing skills may get pretty hard on the hands and fingers.

The emphasis is on self-defense rather than combat. We were taught street defense skills along with the classical technique and there is potential for injury here. I'm not certain, but the other schools might not teach the street fighting aspect. 


Hi Anne-Marie,

You might want to look into Eskrima (also called Arnis or Kali,) a Filipino weapons based martial art. You start with two arm-length sticks and learn empty-hand skills, what they call Mano Mano, only in the advanced stages. Or how about Fencing? If you're right handed, handling the weapon might give you some insight into bowing technique :) Hope you find what you're looking for.





June 19, 2011 at 03:54 AM ·

Might I suggest 9MM or .38 Special? They do make use of the hands, however the contact point is usually downrange, so the fingers are not impinged.

June 19, 2011 at 04:36 AM ·

Ice hockey.

I played 25 years and only broke one thumbnail. Your gloves are very stoutly armored. Safer than tennis or biking :-) And yes, it is a martial art. Just ask Dave Shultz.

Never mind coordination. If you have strong legs and you are a Canadienne, you'll do fine. Go Habs :-)

June 21, 2011 at 08:16 PM ·

 My daughter did Capoeira for years-- it's a wonderful practice (not really a sport so much as a community of dancer/performer/practitioners.) I loved that Osvaldo Golijov used Capoeira dancers in La Pasión según San Marcos.

Another thing you might enjoy is aerial acrobatics (not an arm-less sport, of course, but it incorporates artistic elements with rigorous conditioning. I don't mean flying trapeze but rather stationary trapeze, silks, hoop, etc. 

June 28, 2011 at 06:09 AM ·

 Hi Anne-Marie. I know you said (not Tai Chi) but there's a world of difference to be found in just one world-wide organization of Tai Chi dedicated to health; so much so that no instructor demands any money due to this being a benevolent society who gives all excess funds raised by member's dues to the Red Cross. It's called "TAOIST TAI CHI SOCIETY". Ask for it by name! 

I practiced several martial arts, and most of them are phony money-making orgs. Many people get hurt or worse. But I found the above-mentioned Tai Chi to be as energetic as one wants it to be. It is designed to cater to all body types, all levels of fitness, all in one class.

I know the type of "tai chi" you refer to, and it's completely useless. Why? Because it isn't performed nor taught properly.

I could safely defend myself against most karate 'black belts' as those arts DO NOT cultivate internal energy like Taoist Tai Chi does.


Finally, when I had first started violin, my teacher in Ottawa arranged a lesson with HIS teacher ( then 1st violinist in the NAC orchestra. This man was amazed at the balance and dexterity I was showing so early in my learning. He quickly realized the Taoist Tai Chi was responsible, and he assured me I'd never develop any physical problems if I continued. Which I did. My stamina and energy are boundless thanks to this practice.


I see you are in Montreal. Check out the Taoist Tai Chi Society, which is a copy written name no bogus clubs can steal. 

It's the only and best.

June 28, 2011 at 07:35 AM ·


just for the fun of it I will continue with terry@s point.  Anne-Marie, if you think Tai Chai is too quiet and not about competition (in the sense of being able to fight9 you have not seen the rela Tai Chi.  What most people know is a simplified 24 movement kata done slowly for health reasons.  This is the standard used on mainland China and is what we see old people doing in arks early in the morning.  According to the style their are a lot more movements in this form.I learnt a style known as Chen Man Ching which reduces the Yang 108 fighting movements to 37.  Believe me, getting through this kata -properly- is as physically demaninding a work out as one can wish for.  It also -really- teaches how to fight in an unconscious way which is very effective.  I`ve used it in very dangerous situations in t epast and can tell you it works -for sure.=    Karate places emphasis on the aility to control a punch or kick.  Tai Chi works on the principle that one releases a wae of power though the legs and abdomen and the hands and arms are soft and flexible like a ball and chain so so they whip out with incredible speed and absolutely zero control.  Its a very heavy and penetrating punch that can cause extreme injury so there is not usually regualr sparring in Tai Chi. Instead an -extremely- enrgetic form of controlled pushing and unbalancing sparring is used.  it can be violent , painful and competitive depending on the school or the character of the individuals cocnerned.  It is not for the faint heatrted. It teache sone how to grapple and controil anyone at close ranch.  Again a veyr powerful technique that enables you to smash a much bigger opponet into a wall or through a window.  The basic form is a close range technique which includes the ability to insticntivley and effectively block kicks such as the karate mawashi Geri.  The close range weapon is a sabre and once you have mastered that you will have built some muscle. Its not so light.  The medium range weapon is the pointed sword or jin.  It has kata which are as demanding as the basic solo kata,  and free sparring which is very scary and often leads to lost eyes for some reason.  The long range technique centers arond work with a pole or spear.  That`s a tough workout to.   

What usually happens with a competent instructor is thta one spends the first few years wondering if this is any good in a fight while karate et al are clealy hammeing away at opponents.  Around about year three tings suddenly even out and one finds oneself beginning to be in command of a very pwoerful fighting system that is a match fr anyother .

For wimps?   Not on your nelly.



June 28, 2011 at 08:32 AM ·

We will have to watch-out for Anne-Marie she is going to be dangerous. 

June 28, 2011 at 10:57 AM ·

 she already is. This is just the icing on the cake.

June 28, 2011 at 01:53 PM ·

Hmm, boxing is safe for fingers? How so?
The only reason I'm hesitating taking up boxing is because it might
conflict with my violin playing.

Even if your fingers are safe, knuckles and hands and.. especially your face and stomach are not.


July 1, 2011 at 01:04 PM ·

I'd definitely recommend Tai Chi...

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