Martial arts have been around for thousands of years as one of the main ways to exercise and defend yourself at the same time. Today, we have hundreds of martial arts and styles globally, but they all have some things in common.
Without further ado, here’s a list of fifteen physical, mental, and social benefits you can have from training martial arts.
1. Weight Loss & Muscle Gain
I’ll put these two things under the same benefit as they go hand-in-hand with each other. Training any martial art will give you a complete body transformation if you’re persistent.
Most martial arts are high-intensity workouts, meaning you burn a lot of calories quickly. Burning calories means rapid weight loss and loss of excess fatty tissue.
As you train, you’ll notice a steady muscle gain as well, no just from training the martial art technique itself, but physical workouts such as strength exercises, too. If you’re looking to get in shape quickly but healthily, there’s no better way than starting martial arts training.
2. Cardiovascular Health
Every form of high-intensity (HIIT) workout improves cardiovascular health. As the effort level increases in HIIT workouts, the more oxygen your muscles need to perform. That’s why your blood vessels expand, and circulation improves, leading to much better cardiovascular health.
Martial arts are no different, especially striking martial arts like kickboxing. A 2018 research found that only 16 weeks of martial arts training drastically reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
That’s why some doctors suggest martial arts training as a form of treatment for such diseases and problems. Special forms of the arts, such as cardio kickboxing, focus solely on the HIIT training without sparring or full-contact that many wish to avoid.
Martial arts require a certain dose of flexibility. Some will need more and some less, but your flexibility will surely improve no matter what martial art you choose. The training requires a lot of stretching to avoid injuries, and the martial art movements themselves will help you become more flexible, too.
It’s important to work on flexibility as you dive into more challenging techniques, such as high kicks, spinning strikes, or ground submissions. Not only will it help you win fights, but it will dramatically reduce the risk of injury in training, sparring, or competing.
You will be able to attack more quickly and effectively while being flexible enough to dodge incoming strikes or takedown attempts.
It might not be the case with everybody, but I found the improvement in balance to be the biggest benefit I’ve got from martial arts. Before I started training judo, I could barely stand on one foot without tipping to the side.
Just a few months into my training, I had no trouble controlling my body and balancing even in challenging situations. Consciously or not, training any martial art will improve your balance and body control. As you train, you learn how to use your body in a whole different way, improving your overall balance, coordination, and stability.
5. Agility & Reflexes
Martial arts will increase your agility, quickness, and mobility very fast. Probably before you even develop basic technique skills. In the beginning, I felt sloppy trying to perform certain techniques and exercises. It was too fast for me to follow, or I was just too inert to do it.
Training helps you develop fast-twitch fiber in your muscles, responsible for explosiveness and quick outbursts of energy, such as strikes, evasions, lateral movement, etc. As your body becomes more capable of maneuvering at higher speeds, your reflexes will follow.
You’ll start reacting a lot faster in any situation, not just in training. The reflexes evolve as you get used to remaining focused in stressful situations, such as hand-to-hand combat, sparring, etc.
Mental Benefits of Martial Arts
6. Stress Relief
I think this benefit is clear to everybody that ever tried or saw any martial arts. Training combat sports can help you reduce your stress levels by a large margin. Instead of keeping it inside, you get to let out the negative energy in the gym, punching a bag, doing physical exercise, or simply getting your mind at peace and stop thinking about everything.
According to a 2019 study, martial arts can be credited for reduced anxiety, self-control, decreased stress levels, and physical relaxation. Also, martial arts like Karate or Tai Chi emphasize peacefulness and meditation, which can also be great stress relief methods.
7. Confidence and Self-Esteem Boost
If you’re feeling unconfident or have a lack of self-esteem, practicing martial arts can change that in a heartbeat. Training a martial art will provide you with a new skill set to defend yourself in threatening situations.
It will also help you improve your posture and overall appearance, as you will lose weight while gaining muscles. It’s a real confidence-booster as it helps you feel good about yourself and your body.
8. Increase in Focus
Martial arts can be fantastic for persons with ADHD (attention-deficit disorder). However, even with people without it, they will help immensely to increase the ability to focus. You’ll learn how to keep your head in the game without drifting away and how to perform with focus even in the most stressful situations.
The reason why you’ll develop focus from martial arts is the training methods they all use. You need to focus on singular, repetitive tasks until you perfect them and then combine them in one fluid motion while also keeping your opponent’s every move in mind.
9. Memory Improvement
Martial arts will also help you improve your memory a lot. As the neural synapses and pathways grow stronger with each repetition of a certain exercise, you’ll need to use your memory to combine the elements into a fluid motion effectively. It will help you improve your overall memory as well.
One more aspect you’ll notice an improvement in is muscle memory. As you repeat certain moves and techniques, you’ll be able to repeat them with much more ease and speed and a lot less thinking.
10. Peace and Calmness of Mind
A lot of outside spectators see martial arts as violent or aggressive. However, the truth is that most martial arts require the exact opposite: calmness, focus, peace, and forgiveness.
Take karate, for example. The goal is to achieve complete peace of mind, which is why meditation and spirituality are highlighted in training. You want to hinder the opponent as quickly as possible without aggression. If you can avoid conflict, you should.
Learning how to remain calm and peaceful in the most stressful situations can help you avoid many conflicts. It can even save you in life-threatening situations where you can’t let your aggression or panic cloud your judgment, such as robberies, street fights, etc.
Social Benefits of Martial Arts
11. Building Character
Many people have difficulty expressing themselves in front of or to other people. Sometimes it stems from insecurity or low self-esteem, while sometimes, it’s a result of lack of socialization due to fear of mockery, bullying, etc.
In any case, training in martial arts can help you build character quickly. You’ll get more confident about yourself, which will lead you to express your opinion more easily. Having a stronger character or personality can help you be more social and outgoing around other people.
12. Improving Social Skills
If you’re an introvert by nature, trying martial arts training isn’t a bad idea. You don’t have to talk too much at the beginning, there’s a lot of individual exercises, and you slowly but surely work with other practitioners, helping each other progress while getting to know each other.
A great thing about martial arts training is that you know that you’re among like-minded people that you have at least something in common, as you’re both members of the same martial arts gym.
It can help you learn how to work and communicate with other people, improving your social skills in a safe environment.
13. Socializing and Meeting New People
If you moved to a new city, or you’re just not the type that likes to hang out at bars or clubs, meeting new people can be a bit tricky. But, if you start martial arts training, you’ll know you’ll meet new people that share some similar interests with you, and martial arts can be your conversation starter.
You will first socialize with other practitioners in training, especially in exercises that require two persons, such as pad work, sparring, etc. Socializing in training often leads to friendships outside the gym, so that’s a big benefit in favor of martial arts.
14. Learning Self-Defense
I was thinking about whether I should put self-defense under physical or social benefits, but I believe it’s more of a social rather than a physical skill. If you get attacked on the street or somewhere else by a robber or a similar threat, you’ll have a much higher chance of defending yourself effectively without taking damage if you know martial arts.
If you feel safe in your skin and know you can take care of yourself if need be, it will be a big boost to your self-esteem, but it will also allow you to be more relaxed when other people surround you.
15. Awareness Boost
Last but not least, martial arts can help you develop your awareness. By awareness, I mean your mental presence when you’re in social situations. You’ll have a lot better grip on what’s going on, what to do, and what to say.
When you train martial arts, you learn to be aware of your surroundings at all times. It will ultimately translate to other aspects of your life, including social gatherings, family life, etc.