Martial arts have been around since antiquity and have more styles and variations than we can count. Yet despite all these differences, the development of these martial art forms all reflect the same desire: to achieve great things and to improve our bodies and minds. Martial arts can provide us with many health benefits- both physically and mentally. You learn many different ways to encourage a healthier lifestyle, whilst feeling more confident and getting fitter faster.
Each martial art is different, with each training style varying according to its key principles. The overarching theme of this blog is to explore what the many advantages of martial arts are- encouraging you to focus on bettering yourself and having a stronger appreciation for the world around you.
If you are considering taking up a martial art but don’t know if it’s right for you, we’ve put together a little list of why taking up MA is a no-brainer- let's take a look.
Before you are taught the fundamentals, there is a big focus on conditioning your body and treating it well. This can be difficult to keep up when you first start and can put people off as this training can be exhausting. You will quickly find that these training exercises get easier with time, and you can clearly feel the progress you’ve made.
The sense of accomplishment when you begin to master a move that you previously struggled with is a wonderful feeling. This can boost your confidence and keep you motivated, but is also a fantastic way of instilling a sense of discipline that you can use in your life. Building up mental fortitude is a very valuable skill, so getting fit and training your mind at the same time is a great combination.
Morals and values
There is a false belief that taking up a martial art means you are looking for a fight, or can lead to increased aggression, yet this is far from the truth. Many classes give you the tools to defend yourself in a difficult situation, but they also focus heavily on the importance of self-restraint in these difficult moments. More often than not you are also taught to defend and deflect the attacks of others so that you are not left entirely defenseless, but only ever as a last resort.
Research suggests that being made aware of your own strength and learning how to implement it in a group environment can also reduce aggression and aid in emotional intelligence, making us more aware of our surroundings and impact on others. If anything, the confidence you get comes alongside an increased sense of mindfulness for those around you.
Exercise has been shown to greatly improve mental health, as it can help take our minds off our busy lives and focus on bettering ourselves. When we work out we receive a natural energy boost that can keep us motivated and can lessen the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Tai Chi and Qi training (an important aspect of traditional Chinese martial arts) in particular aim to stimulate and channel the harmonious energies present in our bodies- balance and mental calm is fundamental to get the best results here.
Because much of the working out that you will do pushes you out of your comfort zone, it can teach us a lot about ourselves and how we are capable of a lot more than we think. This can bleed into our general lifestyle, making us lean into healthier decisions and feeling all the better for it. If you’re interested you can read a more general look at the ways exercise can benefit our everyday lives here.
Martial arts will often rely on drills to warm you up before beginning a session, and body conditioning is very important to avoid injury. Because of this, martial arts are a great way to improve cardiovascular health because of this constant need for improved stamina.
Many martial arts will require you to be consistently moving and applying force in controlled ways, which takes a surprising amount of energy to maintain. Working through drills as a group can also make us feel more motivated to keep up the pace, meaning you will get far more out of the cardio exercises. In many martial arts, when sparring you will often shift your weight and keep yourself mobile to move out of range of an opponent, which is tiring in itself without the addition of punches and kicks. Being able to hold your own for long periods is an important part of any martial art, so a focus on stamina is a must.
Balance and flexibility
Because many of the moves that you learn in martial arts require the use of your whole body, and some focus heavily on balance and twisting. You will quickly learn how to effectively distribute your weight to keep yourself stable as you move. Being able to kick and dodge requires a lot of control and flexibility, so this is another area that requires constant work. You quickly learn to read the actions of those around you and move yourself to retaliate, which takes a lot of practice and speed to pull off. Your reaction times will improve overall, and not just as you work out. Once you get into the habit of shifting your weight it becomes second nature and can be a great benefit to you in and outside of training.
Many of the drills involved with martial arts are similar, if not the same as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) which is considered by many to be the best way to burn fat fast. HIIT training aims to focus on particular areas of your body in short and intense bursts, with short rests between each set. The idea is that your body works at its highest possible levels in smaller intervals, so you reach your limits much faster. Sparring with an opponent follows these same principles- you work your hardest for a short period of time and put your everything into the moment. This is a brilliant option for those of us looking to lose weight or just generally tone up fast.
Martial arts use a variety of different drills to make sure you are toning up all areas of your body, so you will be ready to support yourself in any situation and have effective all-around training. Punching and kicking require quite a bit of strength to keep up, and some martial arts focus on redistributing the weight of others to move them off balance, so you will quickly find that your core and your limbs will strengthen. Even holding the pads for someone else takes a considerable amount of strength to push against, and will tone you up fast. Higher muscle mass also boosts your metabolism, so you will naturally burn more calories the higher your muscle mass is.