Martial arts, once thought of as the domain of the aggressive and violent actually is a good workout in itself. In ancient China, Shaolin monks were pacifist and practice martial arts as a form of strengthening of the body rather than for use against bullies (though it helps in standing up to oppressors). Martial arts are also thought to build physical strength and character through hardship, instilling virtues like humility and self control.
Contrary to popular belief, the better a fighter a person becomes, the calmer and more self-controlled he/she is. Because swinging blindly into a fight would only get you knocked out from a well timed punch. Most fighters naturally learn that self control and techniques as well as relentless strengthening of the body quells their anger, and naturally makes them better fighters and people.
The physical benefits are also astounding.
Cardiovascular – One of the most important exercise benefits is cardiovascular health. A weak cardiovascular system usually results in shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, in worst cases a heart attack. One of the best ways for cardiovascular health is doing prolonged and (slightly) strenuous activity. Not most people love jogging as it might be too solitary and slow paced. While group sports require alot of coordination as well as meeting the timing of all participants before it can happen (joining a class helps). Martial arts training is solitary and includes the benefits of being more interesting than jogging and less dependent on the timing of others like group exercises and games. Plus, its always fun to kick or punch at something. 30-40 minutes of light/medium activity like shadow boxing or heavy bag boxing does wonders for the cardiovascular system.
Increased muscle tone – Martial arts combines cardiovascular activity (moving around ) with anaerobic activity (punching hard and fast). The anaerobic effects of martial arts are very suitable for women who do not want to gain excess muscle mass because of the relative intensity and requirement for full body movement (compound exercises). So usually a muscle like the arms or leg would not be dominantly trained like it would be for weight bearing exercises. And the requirement for agility and speed would also ensure that a good martial arts program wouldn’t see you packing on muscles like a body-builder. For men, the workout can be also made more challenging by using heavy punching bags and complemented with weight training for increased muscle bulk and punching power, and can improve muscle tone as well as be a terrific core workout as well.
Weight Loss – One pound of fat equals to approximately 3,500 calories. To lose one pound of fat a week, we must eliminate 500 calories from our diet. An hour of moderate martial arts training would burn equal or more than 500 calories a session. And 7 days of training would easily blaze through a pound of fat. Together with the learning component and the thrill factor, keeping interested and committed to martial arts is easy and would aid you greatly in weight loss.
Improved reflexes and hand eye coordination – Fast reflexes are required for martial arts training. There is no doubt about it and research also shown that martial arts not only improve your reflexes for martial arts related activities, it helps in daily activities in your life as well that require reflexes and co-ordination and might even save your life when you drive a car.
Improved moods – There is nothing so satisfying that the dull thud of a punching bag with a well executed punch and the deep breathing and body slick with sweat kind of feeling when you participate in martial arts training. Researchers have also found out that a regular exercise routine is one of the best ways to improve your mood. Punching and kicking at life’s problems is not only a good way to relieve stress and frustration, but will make you happier. The endorphins released by physical activity from martial arts training or intense physical activity can be active in your body for as long as four hours. Its better than coffee !