Most of us have some point of reference of martial arts whether it’s Gong Fu (Kung Fu), Muay Thai, Karate, Judo or others, but how effective are they as a workout? And is it something that you could benefit from by incorporating it into your training routine?
Martial arts is a generic term used to describe traditional combat practises, which have been practiced historically for military purposes, self-defence and even spiritual development. These days, different forms of martial arts have become extremely popular as a recreational sport for physical fitness, as well as for competitions and cultural preservation.
The benefits of martial arts span far beyond the most obvious improvements to your physical fitness
For example, while Mauy Thai greatly improves your cardivascular fitness, strength building and fat burning, the benefits can run far deeper. Traditional martial arts incorporates an element of meditation or breath control, and studies have shown an improvement in anger management, improved sleep and decrease in symptoms of depression1
. Martial arts can also be therapeutic for children with ADHA (Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder) helping to promote concentration and reduce impulsivity2-3
So why consider martial arts as part of your training regime?
Training sessions, particularly sparring, can be extremely intense with short bursts of all out fist strikes, kicks and foot work. This form of interval training is great at getting your heart rate up, helping you to get into that metabolic fat burning zone. Cognitively, you are always switched on and processing, playing each sequence of strikes or defensive moves like a game of chess, improving your ability to strategise under pressure.
While training, your whole body will get a workout
Aside from practising technique, strength conditioning plays a huge part in martial arts training with high volumes of upper, lower and vital core exercises. Most martial art forms utilise the hips and core muscle groups to generate power. This power in rotating your hips helps you to execute powerful kicks, punches and even ducks and sharp maneuvers. It’s all in the hips as they say and a huge amount in key core muscle groups too, so be prepared for lots of plank variations, medicine ball rotational throws, abdominal and back work to go alongside the rest of the training format.
I started my serious journey into martial arts training in my 20s. First starting with Capoeira, then branching out to Gong Fu and Muay Thai. For me, I love the balance it gives me. Throughout my years of training, it has been essential to compliment the intense, dynamic training with the meditative and restorative side through techniques such as with Tai Qi.
Everything needs balance
I really do believe in training for physical fitness but also personal growth and self-mastery. The lessons you learn from martial arts can be used use in every aspect for your life, from work, and family, to study and relationships. It's also be a great way to add a little more focus and variety to your existing training routine.
- Fuller JR. Martial arts and psychological health. Br J Med Psychol. 1988;61(4):317-328
- Thomas W.Woodward. Review of the Effects of Martial Arts Practice on Health. Wisconsin Medical Journal 2009;108:1
- Harris MJ. Tai-Kwan-Do in relation to ADD. J Paediatr Child Health. 1998;34:484
Photo credit: Suzi Karim www.suzikarim.com