What is Martial Arts Good For?

martial artsYou can find martial arts schools everywhere. Different academies with different disciplines seem to crop up over night, and as much fun as it may look, you may find yourself wondering what, exactly, is so wonderful about martial arts.

It seems like a lot of showy moves, and that one guy at your office who brags about being a black belt can’t even defend himself from the photocopier. So why are the martial arts so popular? What are they actually good for?


Health

Physical Health

Like any form of exercise, the martial arts offer a chance to not only lose weight, but also improve cardiovascular health. It’s important to move for at least thirty minutes most days of the week, and between the time you spend at class, and the time you practice at home, it’s easy to hit this goal. These regular workouts develop muscle tone, which helps you lose even more weight. It’s the perfect circle of fitness.

In order to perform most martial arts forms, you need a degree of flexibility. If you aren’t particularly flexible to begin with, don’t worry. Classes usually begin and end with stretching, and the moves themselves often incorporate dynamic stretches. Martial arts help with more than just strength and flexibility, however.

Unlike yoga and other pose-oriented exercises, the martial arts demand movement. Better reflexes come from hours of one on one training, time with a free swinging bag, and sparring. Your body learns to keep up with, and even surpass the speed of your mind.

Mental Health

martial artsMartial arts train not only your body, but your mind. The physical activity alone helps combat serious illnesses like depression and anxiety, but the focus and discipline of the martial arts can help anyone improve their cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that martial arts create particular results that regular exercise doesn’t necessarily measure up to.

Besides treating diagnosable mental illnesses, martial arts also treat many symptoms of various mental and emotional disorders. The martial arts can help individuals me more assertive, self confident, and independent. Conversely, traditional martial arts can actually help individuals with aggression problems. This is likely due to the martial arts’ balanced focus on both physical exertion and mental presence. Just as you cannot leave the muscles and stamina you develop for martial arts at the gym, you can’t just forget the mental training, either.


Self Defense

Nearly everyone goes into their first martial arts class with visions of becoming the next Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee. It’s important to remember, however, that your favorite Kung Fu flicks are only movies. A lot of the flashy tricks and moves film heroes use can actually jeopardize you in a real life fight.

For instance, while you may learn high kicks as a way to gain flexibility, you should rarely use them in a fight. Why not, you ask? The answer is simple. When you lift your foot within your opponent’s reach, they can simply grab your leg and yank you off balance. Still, martial arts can be used for self defense, and many disciplines began as combat training, but you must choose the right discipline.

Not all martial arts disciplines are designed for street fighting or combat outside of a tournament. Some new styles, based on actual military techniques, are revising many established traditions of martial arts. For example, many newer disciplines emphasize sparring over kata memorization.

Martial arts like Tae Kwon Do will not help you in an actual fight. Your training may help you respond to attacks more quickly, and you may be able to reflexively block one or two punches. However, this discipline simply isn’t designed to protect you against a mugger or other assailant. On the other hand, disciplines such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mixed martial arts are far more adaptable to street fighting. They lend themselves well to self defense, especially if you find a school that emphasizes the practical side of your training.


Socializing

martial artsStrange as it may sound, martial arts classes can be a great way to meet people. While people are bound to be less chatty in the gym than they would be at book club, common interests provide a great foundation to develop a new friendship on.

Remember, the wonderful world of martial arts goes well beyond your regular classes. In order to get the most out of your chosen discipline, you need to train with weights, bags, and even sparring partners. Finding someone who will serve as a training buddy helps you advance as a martial arts student while also developing new connections.

After a certain point, you may use your new connections as travel buddies. Many of the best martial arts schools are overseas. Most of these schools accept temporary, international students. Many are built with international students in mind, and some even offer travel packages with food and lodging.

Traveling with a partner is always safer than going alone, and this is another instance where your friendship and your training complement each other. The same principle is true of martial arts competitions and championships. Whether you are going to watch or participate, you will always learn more when you have someone to discuss the event with.


Final Thoughts

If you aren’t sure whether or not martial arts are the right fit for you, you don’t need to wonder anymore. The only question you need to ask is: which discipline will help you achieve your goals? There is no fitness level required to begin classes, and no matter what benefit you most want from your training, there’s a discipline to suit your needs.

The more active a martial art is, the more health benefits you will derive from it. This is why it’s so important to ask about what techniques and practices a gym or academy utilizes before signing up. The same thought needs to go into choosing a teacher for self defense or mental health. If you look long and hard, you can even find classes and teachers for physically challenged individuals. Martial arts is for everyone, and it’s good for everything from socializing to self defense.

 

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