We all want to be fitter and healthier, and learning martial arts can be an excellent way to do this. Martial arts are fun, teach you a skill, and help you increase your endurance and strength at the same time. But which martial arts are the best for improving your fitness?
Here are the 10 best martial arts for fitness:
- Muay Thai
- Japanese Jiu-Jitsu
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
- Mixed Martial Arts
Read on to find out what each martial arts discipline is about and how it will improve your fitness.
Boxing is one of the most demanding sports on the planet, both physically and mentally.
Boxing is a martial art that focuses on hand strikes or punches. Learning boxing will teach you the following skills:
- How to properly punch: Boxing is the best art to hone your punching. You’ll learn various strikes, such as the jab, cross, hook, and uppercut. You’ll also learn how to throw them with your body weight, as well as how to breathe when throwing.
- Footwork: A massive part of boxing, and martial arts in general, is footwork. Boxing will teach you how to position your feet to maximize your range, tighten your defense and maintain balance.
- Defense: Boxing has become one of the best martial arts for learning defensive strikes. Defenses you’ll learn include slips, arrays, rolls, and blocks, designed to allow you to deal damage without being hurt.
- Coordination: If there’s one thing you’ll need while boxing, it’s good coordination. Learning this martial art will teach you to get your hands, feet, and mind working as one, giving you a better chance of success in the ring.
This martial art is also going to improve your fitness drastically.
Here are some of the ways:
- Cardiovascular endurance: Boxing requires unbelievable cardio. When you join a gym, you’ll work in three-minute rounds, with one-minute rests. You could be doing anything in these three rounds, such as pad work, sparring, or jumping rope. Consistently training will majorly increase your cardio, as your body will become more used to the strain that boxing places you under.
- Strength: Boxing requires you to have some power in your strikes. To achieve this, you’ll need great strength. Thus, as a boxer, you’ll undergo strength and conditioning drills. This includes exercises like weight training and circuits. While they’ll be tough, you’ll increase in strength drastically as a result.
- Abdominal strength: When sparring, boxers take a lot of body shots. As a result, they’ll need a solid core. Virtually every boxing class will end with an abs session. This will get you shredded very quickly as well as giving you excellent core strength!
Kickboxing incorporates the hand strikes of boxing and the kicks of other martial arts, like Taekwondo and Muay Thai.
Learning kickboxing will teach you the following skillset:
Great Punches and Kicks
As the name suggests, kickboxing focuses on kicks and boxing. As a result, you’ll learn significant hand strikes and devastating kicks. The combination of hands and feet gives you an incredibly versatile toolset to score points against your opponent.
Management of Distance
The art of kickboxing will open your eyes to a new level of distance management against your opponent. The addition of kicks to your arsenal will teach you how to get yourself ‘into the pocket’ much more efficiently and safely. It’s a vital skill for any martial arts practitioner.
Weight Placement and Balance
As a kickboxer, you’ll always need to be aware of your balance and weight placement. For example, if you place all of your weight on your lead foot and then receive a kick to that leg, you’re going to find yourself in a tough spot. Kickboxing will teach you how to maintain your balance better when you’re stuck and what to do with your weight.
Kickboxing has several benefits to your fitness, both mentally and physically. Here are some examples:
Confidence and Mental Strength
If there’s one thing you’ll improve on after practicing kickboxing, it’ll be your confidence and mental fortitude. Kickboxing is a demanding sport, and you’ll need plenty of resilience to keep on going when the session gets tough.
You’ll also significantly develop your confidence. Not only will you feel more comfortable in a self-defense situation, but you’ll also find that you are capable of completing something difficult that others simply cannot.
Like boxing, kickboxing requires you to have a big gas tank. Drills will help you develop this, and after a few weeks, you’ll notice the changes in your cardio. Running, cycling, and activities outside the gym will be easier. And the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
When kickboxing, you need to be aware of so many different dangers. Hooks, jabs, body kicks, spinning head kicks- all of which can put you to sleep. As such, you’ll develop keen reaction times, which will help you to avoid big shots and allow you to counter effectively.
3. Muay Thai
One of the most brutal and physically demanding sports to exist, the ‘art of eight limbs’ will undoubtedly increase your fitness.
Here are some of the skills you’ll learn:
- Elbow and knee strike. Muay Thai is one of the few martial arts to incorporate knees and elbows into its striking arsenal. These strikes can be devastating, and you will learn several ways to throw them, from spinning elbows to knees in the clinch.
- Power kicks: This martial art is not about tapping your opponent- it’s about breaking them. Thus, you will learn some of the most brutal kicks you can throw, as well as how to defend them. You’ll be able quite literally to break limbs.
- Proper clinching technique: A clinch is when you lock up with your opponent and throw strikes from a concise range. You’ll learn the famous Muay Thai clinch from this martial art, which is one of the deadliest weapons in a stand-up arsenal.
Besides learning some devastating techniques, Muay Thai will also provide you with some profound physical benefits.
Here are a few examples:
- Resilience and conditioning: If you decide to learn Muay Thai, get ready for soreness and swelling. The conditioning drills and sparring will open you to a world of training that you will have never experienced before. While it will hurt, the strength and conditioning will give you a newfound tolerance for damage and an ability to carry on when injured.
- Hip mobility: Many of the strikes from this martial art come from the hip, which means you’ll be working it out a lot. Ultimately, this will result in increased hip mobility, helping your general movement and your flexibility. You’ll even be at reduced risk of hip problems in the future!
- Fat loss and muscle gain: Muay Thai will work every muscle group for as long as you train. This, along with intense cardio, will cause you to lose fat while gaining muscle. This will ultimately lead to a shredded figure, comprised of muscle mass and not body fat.
4. Japanese Jiu-Jitsu
Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, one of the oldest fighting arts in existence, consists of strikes, throws, grappling, rolls, and katas.
Here are some of the skills you’ll learn from Japanese Jiu-Jitsu:
- Throws and takedowns: Japanese Jiu-Jitsu was initially designed to take down the heavy and armored samurai. This meant finding ways to take them down with minimal strength. Jiu-jitsu teaches you to take your opponent down by using their momentum against them. This is usually in the form of hip throws or takedowns.
- Grappling and groundwork: Jiu-jitsu is not just a standing sport- you’ll also learn how to fight on the ground. The primary aim is to wear your opponent out by pressuring their chest with your weight. You’ll also be taught many submissions and transitions to gain control on the ground.
- Striking: Japanese Jiu-Jitsu offers a variety of strikes, ranging from kicks, punches, elbows, and knees. This diversified range will add many tools to your arsenal, allowing you to attack in any situation.
So, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu will offer you a great skill set, but will it help your fitness?
First, let’s look at some of the benefits:
- Cardiovascular endurance: With so much to learn, prepare for long and difficult sessions of Jiu-Jitsu. Grappling rounds can last five minutes, and pad work sessions often last until your arms are heavy and feel like dropping off. All of this will mean an increase in your endurance.
- Balance: A significant aspect of Jiu-Jitsu is getting your balance right, whether to throw your opponent or avoid a takedown or slip a strike. Constant practice will increase your ability to stay balanced even during adversity, which is an excellent fitness benefit.
- Courage and discipline: Japanese Jiu-Jitsu is a traditional martial art, which means it focuses on morals as much as action. As such, you will learn to control your adversities, both physical and mental. You’ll also learn discipline through firm instruction and the study of various techniques.
5. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
This martial art focuses its teaching on the floor through grappling, trips, takedowns, and submissions.
Here are some of the skills you can expect to learn:
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will teach you how to ‘tap’ your opponent. You’ll learn a variety of chokes, locks, and holds designed to hinder your opponent. These techniques require a lot of skill and practice, but they’re incredibly satisfying when you pull one off!
- Trips and takedowns: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu matches start on the feet, which means you’ll have to learn to take your opponent down. You’ll be taught various techniques for this, such as the ‘inside leg trip.’ Through these, you’ll also learn the importance of balance and timing.
- Transitions: It’s vital to stay active when you’re fighting on the ground, or your opponent will walk right over you. As such, undertaking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will involve learning several ways to move around your opponent into more favorable positions. This is easier said than done when your opponent is trying to do the same thing!
So, the techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will arm you for professional fighting or self-defense. It’s also amazing for your fitness. But how will your fitness be improved?
Here are some examples:
- Mental strength and fighting IQ: When you’re practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there will be times where your opponent is beating you with ease, and you can’t pull off your game plan. When this happens, the situation becomes an opportunity for your mind to increase its fitness. You’ll learn how to problem solve and stay calm under pressure, which are lessons transmissible to the real world.
- Cardiovascular efficiency: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu involves a lot of cardio, and as such, your endurance will increase drastically. However, perhaps more importantly, your efficiency will also increase. You’ll be taught to attack in a burst, when to rest and when to capitalize on your opponent’s fatigue.
- Weight loss: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a full-body workout. Hours and hours of training a week will completely transform you. After a few weeks, you’ll notice fat loss and muscle gain, along with increased endurance. The harder you work, the more you’ll be rewarded.
6. Mixed Martial Arts
If you want to learn a little bit of everything, then Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) may be for you. It’s also a great way to learn how different martial arts work together, and which martial arts are the most effective for fighting.
Here are a few of the techniques you will learn:
- Strikes: MMA comes with many strikes, including punches, kicks, elbows, knees, and shoulder strikes. The variety of strikes will allow you to attack your opponent from virtually any distance or angle, and you’ll always be ready for a counter. But, your opponent will also have a large arsenal with which to damage you.
- Throws and takedowns: MMA is not just a standing sport, so you’ll learn great techniques to take your opponent to the floor. This gives you tremendous versatility as a fighter. If, for example, your opponent is outboxing you, you can take them down and stop their striking.
- Submissions: Submissions are an excellent way to end a fight and teach you a lot about body placement and awareness. Learning to both submit and defend submissions is vital for success in MMA.
MMA will improve your fitness drastically.
- Cardiovascular endurance: MMA is so complex, and there’s so much to learn that you’ll probably forget that you’ll be working out your endurance systems every time you train. Virtually every drill will wear you out, and this will all lead to an increase in overall fitness and endurance.
- Strength and conditioning: MMA sessions will often end with a strength and conditioning circuit. Prepare for endless push-ups, sit-ups, and squats. These exercises will help you be more durable in the ring and drastically improve your physical strength.
- Mental toughness: Knowing that you might be hurt or injured, going to the gym is not an easy thing to do. By going consistently, your mental fitness is going to improve leaps and bounds. This will translate to heightened physical performance and overall confidence in everything that you do.
Wrestling is a lot like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu because much of the action takes place on the ground. However, wrestling originated in America, and is more focused on pins and takedowns. These two martial arts work hand in hand together, but wrestling is also an amazing martial art of its own.
Let’s take a look at the techniques you’ll learn:
- Takedowns: There are dozens of takedowns to learn in wrestling, all of which would take you a lifetime to master. These takedowns are excellent at stopping aggression and taking the fight to the ground.
- Trips: Again, if you’re looking for ways to take your opponent to the ground, wrestling has the answer. You’ll learn many trips from a variety of angles and ranges designed to put your opponent in a less-than-ideal situation.
- Slams: If you’re looking to hurt or wind an opponent seriously, a slam is a great way to go. Picking up your opponent and slamming them on the ground is a seriously damaging move and one prominent in the wrestling world.
So, wrestling has a great skill set, but what about the fitness benefits?
- Strength: If you want to increase your strength, then wrestling is a great martial art for you. Constantly defending takedowns, lifting sparring partners, and going through training circuits is going to increase your strength drastically. And the stronger you get, the better your wrestling will be.
- Cardiovascular endurance: Wrestling is probably one of the most fun and enjoyable ways to increase your endurance. Sparring sessions and drills will fly by, but you’ll be putting in some serious time and effort. All of this will lead to a significant and entirely unexpected boost in endurance.
- Problem-solving and mental strength: Much like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestlers will often find themselves in unfavorable situations and positions. Thus, they will need to problem-solve and work their way out of these situations. Doing this consistently will lead to significant increases in your mental strength, which will carry through to your regular life.
Judo is an ancient Japanese martial art that focuses on throws.
Here are some of the techniques you will learn:
- Throwing: Throwing is a central part of Judo. You will learn to take your opponent’s balance and use it against them to throw them to the floor. There are a variety of throws, such as hip throws and shoulder throws.
- Grappling: Grappling techniques taught in Judo are designed to limit your opponent’s range of movement. You’ll learn three main methods: holding positions, strangling positions, and joint lock techniques.
- Vital-point striking: Judo’s striking set involves hitting your opponent where it hurts the most. These strikes are centered on placement over power and can do severe damage if placed correctly.
Judo also has a wealth of fitness benefits.
Here are but a few:
- Coordination: To properly execute a technique under pressure, a Judo practitioner must have excellent coordination. Thus, practice will increase this skill, along with reaction times and problem-solving capabilities.
- Overall strength: Judo is a very physical sport. This means that, over time, your physical strength will see a lot of progressions. Judo is also a full-body workout, so your whole body will get stronger as a result.
- Cardiovascular endurance: Grappling and throwing require a lot of effort. This means that Judo is an excellent form of cardio, helping you to increase endurance over time. The fun that you’ll have will also make you forget about all that cardio!
Taekwondo focuses much of its teaching on kicks.
Here are some of the techniques that you will learn:
There are hundreds of kicks to learn in Taekwondo. They range from basic kicks, such as the roundhouse, all the way up to spinning head kicks. These kicks take time to master but are incredibly rewarding. Taekwondo teaches the flashiest and most diverse techniques of any art in this list, which makes it an entertaining martial art to practice.
Many Taekwondo classes teach patterns, which are sets of controlled movements. These patterns will teach you to control your striking, help you memorize combinations, and allow you to focus on technique in a safe environment. These patterns also count towards gradings, which force you to work under pressure and see what you’re made of.
Taekwondo is undoubtedly not a hand-focused art form. You will, however, learn a limited range of strikes that will allow you to mix up your striking patterns. These strikes are often softer than those of boxing or kickboxing but much quicker- the emphasis of Taekwondo is often speed.
There are also many health benefits associated with Taekwondo.
Here are just a few:
- Flexibility: The range of kicks you learn in Taekwondo will force you to move in ways you never have. Constant practice will lead to much greater flexibility, as your body will become centralized to these abnormal movements.
- Agility and speed: Taekwondo is a martial art that prides those who don’t get hit. As such, many drills will focus on training agility and reflexes. This will correlate to an increase in speed, both in terms of striking and reflexes.
- Stamina: The high-paced nature of Taekwondo will significantly increase your cardio. Endless pad work sessions, circuits, and drills will all contribute to this, and you’ll probably forget you’re working out because it’s such a fun martial art!
Karate is an ancient martial art form that offers some seriously powerful techniques.
Here are just a few:
- Hand strikes: Karate comes with dozens of hand strikes that go beyond conventional punches and elbows. For instance, the ‘two-finger spear’ or palm heel strike uses otherwise unused parts of the hand. These strikes can be devastating and are incredibly versatile in your arsenal.
- Kicks: Karate also comes with a variety of kicking techniques that go beyond the conventional. For instance, you’ll learn the crescent kick and falling roundhouse kicks, which aren’t taught in any other school of martial arts. Ultimately, if you want a diverse range of kicks, Karate is an excellent choice for you.
- Weapons training: When you reach a certain level in Karate, you are offered weapons training. This involves specializing in a weapon, such as a bo staff. This is not only an enriching experience but also a fun one!
But what can Karate offer you in terms of fitness?
Let’s take a look:
- Increase in functional strength: Practicing karate techniques will seriously improve your muscle endurance and strength because you’ll work out so many muscle groups at once. Along with circuits, Karate can be a great way to build your muscle mass.
- Improve flexibility: The diverse range of kicking and striking techniques requires a karate practitioner to be highly flexible. This is why most classes include stretching routines. Consistent attendance will drastically improve flexibility, helping to prevent hip problems and soreness in the future.
- Improve balance: When practicing Karate, you need excellent balance to execute virtually every technique properly. Thus, a karate practitioner will develop outstanding balance over time, which will help not only with Karate but also other sports.
So, ten martial arts will drastically improve your fitness in a number of ways. Each has its unique benefits, so it’s a great idea to try a few to see which match your needs the best.
It’s also imperative to note that, while martial arts are a great way to improve your fitness, they can also cause serious injury. For example, going to the wrong gym or overworking yourself could lead to muscle injuries or a sparring session with the wrong partner could get you knocked out.
Always make sure the gym is legitimate before you train, and make sure to rest, and none of this should happen.
The best thing to do is simply to go out and try martial arts for yourself! The more you enjoy it, the more you train and the fitter you’ll become. So, what are you waiting for?
- Fight City Gym UK: What Are the Physical and Mental Benefits of Muay Thai Training
- O ATHLETIK: 5 Benefits of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
- Evolve MMA: 3 Takedowns Beginners Need To Master In Wrestling
- Fitness Quest: 7 Awesome Health Benefits of Wrestling
- British Taekwondo UK: Health Benefits
- Black Belt Wiki: List of Karate Techniques (Beginner & Advanced)
- The Karate Lifestyle: What are the benefits of Karate?