Tell the truth now – have you ever watched Enter the Dragon or The Karate Kid and then tried (and failed) to imitate those slick fighting moves? Whether we’ve done it to fend off bullies, impress the other sex, improve body image and self-confidence or even as a form of self defence, we have all tried our hand at martial arts at least once.
In the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Lauren Burns won the first-for-Australia gold medal for Taekwondo, triggering a wave of classes and new obsessions. While it might seem intimidating to a beginner, learning martial arts is not impossible no matter how old you are. It is an activity that is accessible to people of all ages and can be learned by anyone with the desire and the discipline.
Before we begin, we’ll take a quick look at the different types of martial arts so you can decide which form is right for you. Let’s get kicking, but be careful with those nunchucks!
Which sports are included under martial arts?
Martial arts have become synonymous with the combat techniques of East Asia, but the original meaning referred to fighting systems in Europe in the 1550s. The term literally means “arts of Mars” after the Roman god of war.
In the original form, martial arts are an organized system and tradition of combat anywhere in the world. The reasons for martial arts in different parts of the world include:
- Self defence
- Enforcement of military rules and general laws
- Competitive sports and other competitions
- Physical, spiritual and mental development
- As a form of pure entertainment
- To gain self-confidence and inculcate self-discipline
What are its most popular forms?
The number of martial arts practiced around the world are as innumerable as the cultures and traditions in which they have their genesis. The most dominant martial arts are:
Karate: Originating from Okinawa in Japan, it teaches hand-based combat for self defence.
Judo: This form also came from Japan, and uses grappling as the central theme.
Taekwondo: Started in Korea, this form of combat shares some similarities with karate but emphasizes the use of feet and kicks.
Muay Thai: A Thai-based form of martial arts that largely makes use of shins, elbows, fists and knees.
Aikido: Another Japan-based form of combat, this is a peaceful form of fighting with a focus on defeating the opponent without causing them any harm.
Jiu-Jitsu: A Brazilian style of fighting, this form teaches how to fight larger opponents by bringing them to the ground.
You can start at the beginner level for all forms of combat and work your way up through the ladder till you feel confident about entering competitions. All forms can be practiced up to a professional level while judo, karate, and taekwondo are part of the Olympics.
What are the benefits of martial arts?
Martial arts are a great form of exercise and offer several physical benefits. However, unlike other forms of exercise, they also stand to offer numerous mental and other benefits:
Some of the physical benefits are:
– Cardiovascular fitness
– Improved muscle memory
Some of the mental benefits are:
– Increased confidence
– Relieving stress and alleviating tension
– Goal-setting and accomplishing
– Respect and discipline
– Positive attitude
– Ability to outsmart opponents
– Increased focus and concentration
In addition to the above benefits, most forms of martial arts lead to spiritual development as you learn about the culture and traditions from which they originate. They offer confidence-building and self defence strategies that are suitable to the age of the participant.
Am I too old to start learning now?
There are no age limits or restrictions of any kind when it comes to martial arts. You are not required to meet any predetermined criterion of fitness, skill or flexibility. You are joining these classes to learn those skills to begin with. Anyone, old or young can learn different kinds of combat techniques.
The best way to begin with martial arts is to join a class. One of the best things about any format you choose is that it is an independent sport where you do not have to rely on anyone else, but you will need an instructor to help you understand the moves and the logic behind the exercises.
After this, the impetus is on you. If you have are disciplined and focused, you will gain a lot from the training apart from just enjoying the exercises.
All that you need for your first session of martial arts is:
- Comfortable clothes
- A water bottle
- An attitude of learning and the ability to have fun
And remember, the most important factor is that you have fun and stay motivated so that you can start karate-chopping those wooden blocks in no time!