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What are the main benefits of martial arts (especially for mums)?

There are many benefits to taking up martial arts, so let’s pick them off one by one:

To learn to protect yourself & your family

Let’s start with an easy one… Probably THE most common reason to learn a martial art is to learn the skills to protect yourself. Every martial art you could possibly learn will teach you this. Every Instructor will have an opinion on which is the best for protection. It doesn’t really matter which one you learn - any martial artist has an instant advantage over any would-be attacker. They will all teach you how to defend yourself and they all have all the other benefits mentioned in this blog. Their effectiveness is more to do with how hard you try in class than the type of martial art.

To get fit(ter)

Martial arts are a great all over body workout. It’s a great cardio workout – you will burn lots of calories every time you train. It will also improve your speed, as you are taught, slowly, to be faster & faster in training. You will also get stronger and will see improvements in your endurance and explosive power. There are very few types of training that are so complete - plus you are learning a useful skill (see above).

You don’t have to be in shape to start martial arts training. No one starts out being able to do 540 degree roundhouse kicks or flying sidekicks. Without exception, almost everyone that begins their martial arts training is out of shape. Training is a gradual process that incrementally helps you get fitter and lose weight as you progress. In just a few weeks, you will see noticeable differences and feel much better than you did previously.

What if I have a pre-existing condition such as asthma, diabetes, etc? Don’t worry. Many people that have pre-existing conditions practice martial arts, often as a way of helping with or managing their condition. In fact, many martial arts practitioners with pre-existing conditions that train frequently see tremendous benefits to their health. Some even are no longer affected by their conditions due to continually training in martial arts. Numerous health experts say that staying active can either improve or even treat pre-existing conditions. Even if you need alterations made for you to train, martial arts will definitely improve your overall health.

To manage your weight

The martial arts are an excellent option to help you lose weight and get you in the best shape of your life.

The world is facing a health crisis, with the physical and mental health of the population being at an all time low. This is true not just of adults, but also of our children. Exercise levels are at an all time low and obesity numbers are soaring. People need to get active again and lose weight. Interestingly, this will also make you less susceptible to the major effects of viruses, so the fitter you are, the less likely you are to suffer the next time something nasty does the rounds.

The reason martial arts is great for weight loss is because it is a high pace workout and combines cardiovascular, strength, functional and flexibility training all in one. Doing workouts at a gym, you’ll have to do these separately, but with martial arts they’re all in one workout. In a one hour martial arts class, you can work on and improve every aspect of your physical health.

This type of training helps you burn the most calories. According to the Mayo Clinic, a 1hr martial arts class at a moderate pace can burn 752 calories for an 11.5 stone/72kg person. For someone overweight or obese, they could lose almost double this in one hour. So to put in perspective an overweight person training 3 times per week can lose almost 3000 calories practicing martial arts. That equates to 1lb/0.5kg of fat loss in just one week of training and therefore with a proper diet and consistently going to class, you could easily lose 5lb/2kg+ or more in a single month.

It gives you routine & discipline

The martial arts provide many benefits to those that practice them, but there are two in particular for those in the process of losing weight: they give you a routine and they teach you discipline.The big reason why people gained weight during Lockdown was because their routine was interrupted. Some had nothing to do, but sit home, watch box sets and eat. Others were so busy home-schooling, running a household & doing their jobs in new and interesting ways, that exercise fell down the list of priorities. Being in Lockdown also means that exercise opportunities were somewhat restricted! After Lockdown, many of these new norms & routines remained, which is why martial is the perfect answer for this solution. Training keeps you on a set schedule and keeps you active. This routine of practicing martial arts keeps you from being sedentary, which directly leads to being overweight.

When you practice a martial art you learn to develop self discipline. The main reason why people become overweight is they lack the self discipline to not eat in excess or to continue with a healthy lifestyle. Learning a martial art helps you develop discipline within yourself to never let yourself get into an unhealthy state again. You’ll strive to be the best you can be physically and mentally.

It supports great mental health

We all need to remind ourselves not just to look after the things we can see & feel, but also the things we cannot. People often focus on the physical benefits of martial arts (what they can see or feel) - eg: Increased cardio-capacity, being more toned & having bigger muscle mass or improved weight management.This, of course, is all on top of the self-defence skills that you will learn & the great sense of community & friendship you get at Family Martial Arts Centres.

There are, of course, other less-tangible benefits of martial arts training. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is also not one that should be ignored.

Self-Confidence - Think confidence is just for kids? Think again. Studies find a strong correlation between adults with self-confidence and career advancement, success in relationships and productivity. Martial arts programmes help, because as you make progress through the belts, you become more confident in your ability to defend yourself. And this confidence comes through in the workplace as well as the street. Our martial arts programme also helps you build confidence by encouraging you to succeed. This is one of the great benefits of martial arts at any age. When you’re self-assured, you approach more challenges with a can-do attitude, and as we all know, confidence goes a long way in breeding success. Confident kids do better at school and will often find themselves getting into less mischief.

We also get a lot of people who come to us not to learn to be a ninja, but to try to improve confidence - improved confidence improves self-esteem which in turn can lead to improved mental health. It seems to be ‘a truth universally acknowledged’ that modern lives leave many people struggling with feelings of anger or anxiety - for these people, the martial arts can be a channel to redirect their energies. I speak from personal experience in saying that a couple of hours hitting a pad and focussing in on what I was being taught often helped me to cast off the black dog of a rubbish day at work and have some quality ‘me’ time.

It can be a place of calm & refuge - Modern lives are busy and feel even more so with people working & living in the home environment. It may strike people outside of the martial arts world as odd, but martial arts can actually help people to lead calmer lives. For example, in order to be good at martial arts, you must pay very close attention with to what your Instructor tells you and to what you are doing. This helps to foster concentration skills in people, especially the young, and can be especially helpful for people who struggle with attention or focusing (eg: ADHD type disorders). Also, because of the sometimes complex nature of martial arts training, it can help people perform better in tasks that divide their attention (Think ‘Block, Punch & Kick’!). Learning martial arts helps people learn to avoid fights as it can give people the skills to manage their adrenaline and control their fight or flight responses, something which can be an issue when people struggle to control their emotions.

I know I hold my training time ‘sacred’ (woe betide anyone that disrupts or disturbs it) - this is because it is a place where I can put all my worries of the day aside & focus on something just for me. It clears my head & allows me to ‘reset’. It’s a bit like a ‘safe space’ for me.

It can lift your mood - It’s well-known that people who suffer from depression can benefit from physical exercise and there’s no better physical exercise than the martial arts; exercise can release feel-good chemicals in the brain that lift mood. Other mood-boosting benefits of the martial arts are similar to those that come from completing a task or mastering a hobby.

Helps you to be in control - Public health professionals often speak of the importance of the need for human beings to be able to have good control over various factors in their life and to be able to have high levels of self-determination - these factors can have a huge impact on mental wellbeing. What the martial arts can do is help people to feel empowered - learning martial arts can help people process their trauma and redirect feelings of powerlessness (it was a huge help when both of my parents passed away suddenly); learning a martial art can help someone who was previously victimised feel more in control; and martial arts also teach people to establish and defend healthy boundaries in their personal life (worry about what matters - what doesn’t matter shouldn’t worry you).

So lots of benefits, but it's not an exhaustive list. What other benefits can you think of?

Kyo Sa Nim Mr Brett Nelson

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