There are lots of reasons to take up a physical hobby, including the fact that the exercise will improve your mood, reduce stress, and help you sleep better. An exercise class where you can meet new people and learn some useful skills is an even better choice than simply working out, however, as you’ll also get a boost to your social life and be using your time to develop abilities that can help you in other areas of your life!
A popular choice is learning a martial art, and there are plenty of different styles to choose from, including traditional styles from places like Japan and China, more modern styles like MMA and Krav Maga, and even styles where you can have fun learning how to fight with weapons, such as in fencing, kendo or kali. You can also learn practical self-defense, which is usually a shorter course of lessons where you will learn how to apply things from different martial arts in a way that can help you protect yourself if you get into a threatening situation.
Whether you want to learn and master a traditional art, have fun doing a competitive sport, or just feel safer when you are out and about – if you choose the right type of martial arts program, you will get plenty out of it. Here are some of the things to consider if you are thinking about getting started:
What is the Barrier to Entry in Terms of Fitness?
You may imagine that to do martial arts of any kind you have to already be strong, flexible and have great endurance. In actual fact, hardly anyone starts out that way when they train, and in some styles, it isn’t even a goal of the training to push yourself to become super fit or super strong – just to learn how to use your body in the right way. Improvements to your body will come as you practice, and what those improvements are will depend on what you train and how you train it.
If you do something low intensity like tai chi, you will find there is virtually no initial fitness requirement, and while you won’t burn a lot of calories in the training, you will improve core strength, balance, and agility. If you do something like Thai boxing, you’ll find that the classes can be quite intense in terms of cardio and strength training, and you will burn fat and gain muscle as you progress. More traditional things like karate, judo and various styles of kung fu will fall somewhere in the middle, where there will be some parts of your training that will focus on helping you get stronger and fitter, and others that will focus on the accuracy of your techniques, your balance, and your flexibility, like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Learn how to get started in BJJ.
This means that while you shouldn’t be put off doing the thing you like the idea of learning most, if you are worried that you aren’t yet fit enough to handle something as intense as a kickboxing workout, you may be best off starting with something more technical and moderate in terms of intensity. If your current fitness level is very low, then you can also consider doing things like tai chi to get used to learning techniques before building up to more demanding classes. You can also consider your goals for why you’re learning in the first place. For example, if you’re wanting to learn to protect yourself, consider the best martial Art for Self Defense.
What Do I Need To Get Started?
Most martial arts classes are held in gyms or leisure centers and a quick online search can usually show you what is available in your area. You can usually go to one or two classes for free to see if you like them and want to commit to becoming a member. What you will need to buy if you do decide to go ahead and join one of the classes you have tried out will depend on the sport.
Self-defense classes usually don’t require you to have anything other than normal sports clothing and some sneakers, but if you try a traditional style like karate or aikido you will usually need to wear a gi or other type of uniform. If you train in a boxing style, you will also need to buy some gear of your own, including boxing gloves, boxing hand wraps, shin guards (if it is a kickboxing style), a speed bag, a speed bag platform, and a mouth guard. Grappling and ground fighting styles like wrestling and Brazilian jujitsu will normally require tight fitting clothing suitable for the sport, and also wrestling shoes (Shoe Guide have a good guide to these), though different clubs and gyms have different requirements in terms of uniform. If you take up something involving weapons like kendo, you will need some special equipment for this, but most clubs have some spare that beginners can use until they know they are invested enough in the sport to shell out for their own.
Will I Get Hurt?
All martial arts classes are held with a duty to ensure that the training is safe for everyone involved, however, as with any contact sports, there is a risk of injury which gets higher the more combat or simulated combat is involved in the training. In no sports, however, are people expected to do things like sparring in the first few lessons. You will generally spend most of your early classes hitting pads or bags rather than real people. If you do a style that is not about striking (i.e. punches, kicks, knees, and elbows) such as a wrestling style, you will find you start out slowly, performing techniques with training partners at a slow, safe speed where nobody gets injured. In striking styles, you may, after some time, have to get used to lightly sparring, but you will never be expected to fight people at full strength – even at professional levels this is reserved for in the ring, and fighters don’t train with that level of risk very often.
There is a lot to gain in terms of your confidence and fitness by learning a fighting style, so why not look at the martial arts schools in your area today!