Health Kick: 5 Types of Martial Arts to Help You Get In Shape

Martial arts dates back to modern human civilization and has roots in multiple countries. Fast forward to 2019, and 3.6 million people practice martial arts in the USA to learn new skills and reap the health benefits.

Every form of martial arts has their own characteristics and it can feel overwhelming discovering which types of martial arts fit your needs. Read on to find the best martial art for you.

What are the Martial Arts?

Martial arts began as an ancient combat technique and the term refers to the training it entails. Whether it’s through punches, kicks or throws the aim is to defeat an opponent and defend yourself from threats.

Five martial arts styles include stand-up or striking, low impact, grappling, weapon-based and MMA (a hybrid). Martial arts improve your agility, reflexes, strength, balance, and endurance.

Although martial arts is physical, there are also mental and spiritual components. This includes mental resilience, concentration and a way to manage emotions and negative thinking. There is a long list of martial arts from around the world but this article will focus on five.

1. Kung Fu

Kung Fu is more than a Chinese form of martial art. It’s also a term to describe a refined skill as a result of hard work. Kung Fu has two schools: those who focus on close-range punches and others that do acrobatics with kick and leg work.

Both use hard techniques of kicks and blocks alongside soft techniques where you use an aggressor’s strength against them. Kung Fu is philosophical and has roots to Buddhist and Taoist principles. Some schools put great emphasis on their heritage and focus on relaxation and visualization techniques.

Kung Fu is a form of protection from attackers and strikes are used to deter opponents. Students also use kicks and open or closed hand strikes to defend themselves.

Benefits: Kung Fu improves your body alignment thereby helping your posture. Not only does it ease the pain but it helps stimulate Qi energy flow within a person which is key for Kung Fu students. This art relaxes your body and mind whilst improving your coordination and balance. Other health benefits include joint mobility, muscle and ligament strength, and stamina.

2. Karate

Known as the art of the “empty hand”, karate was born in Japan when weapons were banned from invading armies. This art lays great emphasis on self-defense. Karate involves striking techniques (e.g. punches, kicks, and elbow strikes) alongside open-handed techniques such as the karate chop.

Karate also influences everyday life as students learn how to value respect and discipline in everything they do. 

Benefits: You learn how to block strikes and retaliate with pinpoint strikes which increases your mental sharpness and fitness. This is also one of the best martial arts for self defense. Other health benefits include flexibility and muscle tone.

3. Taekwondo

This South Korean art is not only is the oldest (dating back 2,000 years) but is also the most practiced martial art in the world. As opposed to karate’s “empty hand”, taekwondo translates to “the way of the foot and fist” which sums up this art’s techniques.

Taekwondo is a stand-up art that mostly focuses on kicking techniques. This is because legs can strike more forcefully and have an added reach advantage.

But this art also teaches a system of blocks, kicks, punches, and open-hand strikes. Mix this with take-downs, throws and joint locks, and you’ve got a stimulating session.

Students learn sequences of techniques called poomsae, a mixture of defense-and-attack movements. You’re also taught to spar and the techniques behind splitting boards with forceful strikes. Beyond the physical aspects, taekwondo also teaches personal strength through respect and discipline.

Benefits: You strengthen muscles and increase your stamina thanks to the punching, grappling and kicking. The sequences also improve your agility and reflexes. Other health benefits include reduced stress, greater discipline, and improved muscle tone. 

4. Jiu-Jitsu

Jiu-jitsu, or the “gentle art”, is a Japanese martial art created to defeat armed or armored opponents. Students retaliate with pins, joint locks, and throws and use the attacker’s energy against them instead of a direct attack.

Grappling is a key feature of jiu-jitsu. This involves close contact with your opponent as you take them to the ground to fight. To defend themselves from an opponent, students use their fighter’s momentum for joint locks. Here, you force the attacker’s joint (e.g. elbow) back to restrain them.

Jiu-Jitsu also incorporates pinning, throws and takedowns to overthrow their opponent.

Benefits: Sessions include stretching, breathing work and cardiovascular training. You also do a band resistance workout which improves your strength and endurance.

As jiu-jitsu involves students sweeping and tripping their opponents, students learn to train and fall without injury. Other health benefits include better flexibility, reduced stress, and lower blood pressure. 

5. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) 

MMA is a full-contact sport that incorporates a variety of martial art techniques. In its prime, students used elements of sumo and karate but it now focuses on standup fighting (clinches and punches), throwing or takedowns and ground fighting (submissions).

The theory states that a student must decide which phase is most effective and use it on his opponent. Practitioners are taught to take advantage of an opponent’s weakness and strive to gain a balanced skill set. Ultimately, you win a fight either by submission (one fighter ‘taps out’), knock-out, or stoppage by the referee.

If you do suffer from a head injury from a knock-out, you should hire a concussion attorney.

Benefits: A one-hour class focuses on calisthenics, cardiovascular workouts and strength training. As practitioners lift opponents, there is an emphasis on weightlifting to build muscle mass. Overall, MMA helps with toning and weight loss and is a great way to burn calories.

Now You Know the Types of Martial Arts, Which One Is for You?

Whether it’s self-defense or a weight loss venture, there are many types of martial arts to experiment with. Learning the discipline of martial arts welcomes disciplines into your daily life and improves both your physical and mental health. It’s a win-win.