Looking for a way to jazz up your fitness routine? Or perhaps you are eager to find a sport that you can study and excel at? Well look no further than martial arts! Martial arts are becoming increasingly popular throughout North America because they offer an opportunity for lots of physical exercise and a number of mental health benefits. They also offer the opportunity for long-term study and competition. Here is all the information you need to know to begin a great martial arts routine.
What are Martial Arts?
Most of us are familiar with the term martial arts, whether it be from personal experience or from watching television shows or movies featuring the moves of this dazzling sport. Technically defined, martial arts are systems of combat and self-defense. Developed in various countries including China, Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines, martial arts systems have been around for centuries. Martial arts are now becoming more and more popular, especially amongst North Americans. Practiced not only as a way to learn self defense, martial arts allows followers to increase personal fitness, reduce stress, and improve mental health.
Health Benefits of Martial Arts
Martial arts aren't just about self-defense anymore, although this can still be a major benefit to practicing these sports. Instead, more and more men and women are turning to martial arts because of the vast array of health benefits associated with these fitness systems. Some of the health benefits that regular practice of a martial art can bring you include:
- increased muscle strength
- heightened stamina
- weight loss and weight maintenance
- improved flexibility
- better posture and balance
- improved agility
When combined with a healthy diet, regular practice of a martial art can even help to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. But the benefits of martial arts aren't just physical these sports also work wonders for your mental and emotional wellbeing, helping to:
- reduce stress
- improve concentration
- increase self confidence
What Is Involved in Martial Arts?
Each system of martial arts is different, however, most combine some of the following features:
- Forms: Most martial arts involve the practice of various forms, which are poses or movements performed in a routine. These routines can be practiced alone or with a partner and may involve kicking, jumping, or punching. Forms are typically non-combative.
- Sparring Most martial arts feature some type of sparring, whether it be light, moderate, or heavy contact. Sparring involves fighting with an opponent while protected with foam padding and other protective gear.
- Self Defense: The major goal of most martial arts systems is self-defense. The moves that you will learn will increase your ability to defend yourself against another person's advances, and help you to deal with physical confrontation.
Types of Martial Arts
There are dozens of different martial arts systems that you can become involved with. Here are a few of the most popular martial arts:
Karate is perhaps the most well known of all the martial arts systems. It is also the most widely-practiced martial art in North America. Originating on the island of Okinawa in Japan, karate literally means "open hand." This is because all of the movements involved in karate use the hand as the main weapon. In karate, participants focus all of their energy into one contact point in order to overcome their opponent. Most karate movements involve striking with the hands, feet, or elbows, however, the sport also involves some grappling. Karate is excellent for those who want to increase their overall fitness levels and improve their upper body strength and fitness.
Judo was derived from the martial arts system, Jujutso, and literally means the "gentle way." Judo teaches students how to use the strength and ability of their opponents in order to win the advantage in a match. It typically involves grappling, throwing, and rolling the opponent. Judo is excellent for those who are looking to improve their fitness levels without bulking up too much. It is particularly well-suited to women and people of smaller physical stature.
Taekwondo was created in Korea in the 1950s as an offshoot of karate. It emphasizes kicking techniques, so it excellent for those who want to develop increased lower body strength. Taekwondo is becoming very popular in North America and is Korea's national sport.
Kung Fu is the martial arts system that is featured in most Hollywood movies as well as many Asian films and is a film genre unto itself. Kung Fu is perhaps the most exciting of all the martial arts, featuring kicks, punches, strikes and throws. Kung Fu is perfect for those who are looking for a replacement for their aerobic activities. Because it involves leaping, somersaulting, and constant dodging of your opponent, Kung Fu offers a great cardiovascular workout.
Before You Start a Martial Art
Before you get ready to sign up for a martial arts class, here are few tips to keep in mind:
- Be sure to consult your health care provider before beginning any type of martial art. Martial arts tend to be quite high impact, and may not be the right choice for men and women with joint problems or arthritis.
- If you have never practiced a martial art before, consider taking a class from a trained professional. These instructors can show you the proper way to perform poses and sparring techniques to ensure that you don't get hurt.
- Choose a martial art that interests you. Try a few out before you commit and then select one that you find the most satisfying.
- Make it as serious as you want. Most martial arts classes proceed in levels, designated by different colored belts (black being the highest). This means that you can challenge yourself to keep getting better. Or, you can just study martial arts casually.