Martial Arts

Parents encourage children to learn one of the martial arts so as to develop discipline and self control, so that they learn self-defense, and as a way of keeping fit. When we talk about martial arts, we are referring to one of several styles of training which were historically methods of fighting and originated in Asia.

They include Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Judo, Hapkido, and Kung Fu. Some of the martial arts use striking motions, some are more like wrestling, and certain ones incorporate weapons. Another type of martial art, Tai Chi, involves slow but flowing movements. Finally, MMA or Mixed Martial Arts is no particular method but all of them combined.

Where Do You See Martial Arts in Action?

Hollywood loves an action star, so you will see MMA and other martial arts put to use on the big screen but also on TV. Many action heroes like Jason Statham and Jackie Chan incorporate kicking and chopping motions plus weaponry into their fighting scenes.

It’s not uncommon on a sunny, warm day at the park to see a crowd of people moving slowly and gracefully through the fluid motions of Tai Chi. This is considered an “older person’s” martial art, but that’s not a fair assessment of Tai Chi. It is difficult and thoughtful, requires concentration, and is a legitimate form of exercise for any age. The fact that it doesn’t involve impact makes it desirable for individuals with arthritis or who are recovering from injury.

Instructors at studios worldwide teach students of all ages how to master one art or the other (or MMA), starting them out with the simplest moves and pushing them to achieve colored belts systematically. Parents and grandparents (sometimes spouses or children) look on while students demonstrate the motions they were taught and then engage in sparring in order to obtain a new belt color or in tournaments with their clubs.

Patterns of movements appear graceful but useless; more like dancing than a martial art. Each pattern, however, serves a real purpose. When put into action, you can see that the parts of each action correspond with an aggressive or defensive move or weapons training. Watching students perform their routines is still beautiful, though, especially when their motions are closely in sync.

Benefits of Martial Arts

Participants of all ages enjoy martial arts for many reasons. If you dislike team sports but appreciate an individual challenge, karate or something similar is ideal. Compete with yourself to achieve a higher level of ability, confidence, and stamina. Eventually you will be asked to face off with an opponent but not in the early days as you learn simple moves.

Many students with ADHD, violence issues, or who are generally overactive discover a new sense of self-control and self-discipline when they engage in martial arts. Teachers are strict and with good reason: the moves they are teaching their students could be used to defend against but also to hurt other people. They insist upon respect for the traditions of their sport, for their opponents, and for instructors.

Parents sometimes turn to their children’s karate or judo teacher in search of reinforcement for disciplinary measures knowing that “being benched” by the instructor for disobedience towards parents is a terrible punishment for the enthusiastic child to face.

Children and adults with low self-esteem learn to have confidence. They appear less like victims when they walk down the street alone and don’t attract notice from muggers or rapists. Although one should never become cocky as a result of what he has learned, exuding confidence sends a powerful message to would-be attackers.

If a person is attacked but knows a martial art which involves sparring, he knows how to protect himself. His first behavior should always be to avoid a fight by running away or frightening the other person with an aggressive but harmless gesture. When that is ineffective, students and experts have the skill to fend off an attack and walk away with few or no injuries.

Martial arts usually incorporate a blend of stretching, cardio, and strength moves which work the whole body. In order to complete a level, students usually have to demonstrate a certain fitness level. Today’s children and their parents need to lose weight and get fit: learning to fight like an action hero could be just the motivation they need.

These sports also work the brain. Everyone has to memorize various series of patterns or moves to pass to another level and these can be quite lengthy. There are numerous skills to learn as well including those involving weapons, adding another level of complexity to the art.

If you are looking for an active way to work your brain in order to fend off the symptoms of aging like loss of memory or coordination, karate or tai chi could be the answer. Either one beats Sudoku. Students join even physically taxing styles of martial arts in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond.

Individual but Team

Although touted as an individual sport, teams grow close as they learn these sports together. There are people from all walks of life, every age, and of many shapes working out together and preparing to enter competitions as a unit.

Although they don’t rely on one another to win medals at the tournament, they help each other become better at their sport by training together and encouraging one another. Participants often feel as though when they win a medal they do it for the prestige and morale of the whole team.

Martial Arts
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Todd Stohrdahl

Todd Stohrdahl keeps a close eye on fitness topics and will never turn down an opportunity to play competitive sports. He’s a fierce competitor and brings his “hustle and muscle” mentality to our editorial team.