I am by no means a martial arts master, but I have been practicing in forms of wrestling, brazilian jiu jitsu and muay thai for over 10 years and I’ve loved every year of it. As a martial arts enthusiast I’ve come to realize that it is the tool by which I have crafted my pathway towards lifelong fitness. Although most disciplines in martial arts were built primarily on the tenets of self-defense, I believe there are several other benefits that should be highlighted to encourage others to use it also as a tool for lifelong wellness. Below are 10 of these additional benefits of martial arts:
1) Builds a Foundation of Proper Form
Execution of many moves and positions in martial arts requires attention to form and technique. This emphasis on proper form is essential to building a foundation of true fitness. By paying attention to detail and proper form, you can more easily pick up and practice good exercise technique.
2) Build Exercise Knowledge
Taking part in martial arts classes introduces you into an almost unlimited array of body weight exercises. From standard push ups and body squats to bunny hops, triangle leg lifts, and bridges I am never at a loss for new exercises. Each martial arts encompasses different exercises but part taking will ensure that you have access to numerous new exercises you can add to your inventory.
3) Motivates Functional Training
When I was in college all I did was weight lift. After a couple years I got bored of that and i was not motivated to work out in the gym. Once I picked up martial arts again I had a new goal to focus my weight lifting – to train for functional movements I would be employing in practice or competition. Squats to power my legs for double leg take downs, bent over rows to strengthen my posture in Brazilian Jiu Jitu guard and more. If you’re having a hard time motivating yourself to work out, try martial arts to help you focus your training for functional movement.
4) Builds Discipline and Self-Control
This one may be a little obvious, but I wanted to highlight how much martial arts helps build self-discipline. It helps build discipline not just in terms of your fitness and conditioning, but also mentally and emotionally. A couple years back I found myself frequently stressed out. Once I started picking up martial arts again I realized it was one of the healthiest avenues for release. I was no longer walking around with a chip on my shoulder and I was generally happier. I would encourage martial arts as one of the best ways to build self-discipline both in your mind and body.
5) Encourages Healthy Eating
Alongside self-discipline, martial arts also encourages healthy eating. If you know you will be training with partners or for a competition, you will think more about eating healthy to perform better. This sense of accountability to your training partners and competition will motivate you to eat healthier so that you can maintain better energy through class and practice.
6) Builds Camaraderie
Many people have become accustomed to making fitness an isolated activity. I agree, sometimes it’s great to just block out the world, get your headphones on and get in your solo exercise zone. However, it doesn’t always have to be like that. Joining a martial arts school in class puts you around like minded people – those that want to learn self-defense and exercise. You will more likely strike up conversations with people in class and make new friends from all walks of life. Just taking kickboxing classes I’ve befriended young high schoolers, graduate students, lawyers, policemen and even bankers on wall street. Martial arts is a great way to build fitness but its also a way to build community and even build lifelong friendships.
7) Growing Sport
Several have documented that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is the fastest growing sport in the world. Many argue it is because this sport is not exclusive. For example, it doesn’t matter how tall you are, how heavy you are or even if you have disabilities (check out Anthony Robles). Martial arts welcome people from all walks of life and the field will only continue to grow. I encourage you to try out a few classes of different disciplines to better understand how and why this art form and field of exercise can be a great guide towards lifelong wellness.
Photo of Royce Gracie via MartialArtsNomad.com