Martial arts are incredibly fun, and people respect you if you practice them. They are a perfect way to stay healthy both for adults and children. So, what are some hidden benefits of martial arts that are not as well known?
Here are 13 of the hidden benefits of practicing martial arts:
- Self-defense skills
- Better agility and faster reflexes
- Improves flexibility
- Builds muscle mass
- Weight loss
- Cardiovascular health
- Relieves stress
- Boosts mental health
- Builds social skills
- Teaches respect
- Builds self-discipline
- Improves coordination
- Encourages spirituality
Read on to learn more about the vast benefits that martial arts have in store for you. You could improve your or your child’s life by learning a new combat system.
1. Self-Defense Skills
First and foremost, martial arts will teach you that avoiding conflict at all costs is the best way to protect yourself.
You won’t come off as cowardly if you back off a fight to save yourself or a loved one from injury. Instead of embracing your hot-headedness, you’ll come across as a disciplined, calm person.
But if you have a criminal pointing a gun at you and he’s determined to shoot, getting physical may be your last resort.
Don’t let anyone tell you that martial arts won’t teach you how to do this. I saw my uncle disarm an “attacker” in his Taekwondo practice classes.
You can see this yourself in action in this video by Today’s Taekwondo:
You should learn a few self-defense skills and use them with your martial arts training to maximize effectiveness.
I’d recommend that you ask your martial arts instructor to teach you the effective self-defense skills for real life situations.
Practice them at least once a week, and, should the need arise, you’ll have the required muscle memory to protect yourself effortlessly. I sincerely hope it won’t come to that, though.
Again, martial arts take a philosophical approach to combat and are generally very peaceful. That’s why they have the term “arts” in the name!
If you want to become a real fighter, boxing and wrestling can be more effective as they simulate real world fighting situations.
2. Better Agility and Faster Reflexes
Combat in martial arts is fast paced. You need lightning-fast reflexes to evade and dodge. Practicing martial arts improves your agility, explosive strength, and reflexes significantly.
Tai chi teaches you how to track your opponent by following the smallest details. Improving your reflexes can have some serious advantages in your day-to-day life, too!
For example, you could save yourself or someone’s life from an oncoming car. And if you’re a driver, hitting the brake on time could save you from a car crash.
Or it could be something less dramatic, like catching a piece of glassware mid-air when doing the dishes.
According to Merrithew, being more agile could prevent injury during exercise by improving your control and balance.
3. Improves Flexibility
Virtually all martial arts instructors will teach you a few useful stretching exercises. Here are a few benefits of stretching and having improved flexibility:
- Better range of motion: Most martial art techniques require a wide range of motion to execute.
- Improves performance: Dynamic stretching can greatly enhance the strength of your punches and kicks.
- Boosts circulation: Stretching improves the blood flow to your organs and muscles.
- Relaxing: Stretching before your martial arts training will put you in the correct mindset. It’ll also reduce your stress levels after the practice.
- Corrects your posture: We sit all day long at work and home. Stretching and martial arts, in general, teach you how to fix your posture caused by muscle imbalances.
But maybe the most important benefit of flexibility is the ability to scratch your own back!
If you are worried about starting martial arts because of a lack of flexibility, don’t worry. Everyone’s body movements look stiff and awkward in the beginning.
That’s why you’re practicing martial arts. You want to be more flexible and athletic, and that’s what it’s all about.
Don’t worry about the way you look in the beginning. It’ll take some time before you learn advanced techniques. The most important thing is not to give up.
4. Builds Muscle Mass
Popular martial arts like Karate, Taekwondo, and Muay Thai provide you with a full-body workout.
Virtually all muscles in your body are working when you punch, kick, rotate, etc. Your arms and legs will get much stronger and faster but also a bit larger too.
Your core muscles will get a fantastic workout, as will your hip flexors, especially when you do high kicks.
Strong hip flexors are important to achieve a correct posture and prevent back pain and injuries. I’m telling you this from experience: Weak flexors from sitting all day long affect your quality of life.
If you have chronic back pain, it’s most likely the result of a weak psoas muscle.
But if you’re already a regular gym-goer, you won’t see much, if any, additional muscle mass.
You’ll only get some muscle if you’re a beginner and eat enough protein. Which is still far better than nothing!
He holds the record for most punches (nine of them) in one second. I’m sure that nine blazing-fast hits hurt way more than one punch from a buff gym guy anyway.
5. Weight Loss
Martial arts can burn up to 900 calories in just one hour. Of course, this is if you give your maximum effort throughout the entire training session.
But even if you reach half of that, 450 calories in one session are still a lot. Along with a moderate calorie deficit, you could lose a pound of body fat every week without losing any muscle. Just make sure you’re eating enough protein.
Since martial arts are a full-body workout, you’ll burn more calories than you would by training only one part of your body.
Moreover, the increase in muscle mass will improve your metabolism. In a nutshell, it means you’ll burn more calories even during rest.
6. Cardiovascular Health
Martial arts are a fantastic way to improve your heart health because they are essentially aerobic exercise.
There are several health benefits that you can get from regular aerobic exercise. Here are a few of them:
- Regulates blood pressure
- Improves cholesterol
- Reduces the risk of heart diseases
- Increases lung capacity
- Slows down heart rate when resting
- Improves overall endurance
You should do some form of regular, sustainable cardiovascular exercise at least two or three hours a week to maximize health benefits. Martial arts are a great example of that.
7. Relieves Stress
What better way to end a tough day at work than by punching and kicking something? I love kicking a Taekwondo bag because it’s such a great form of stress relief.
You can get the Tuowei Kids Punching Bag from Amazon.com to teach your kid how to relieve stress safely and harmlessly. The punching bag is durable PVC and has a base that you can fill with water for stability. You could use it to practice martial arts too, in addition to the classes.
This study shows that exercise reduces stress and improves your immune system, along with several other health benefits.
Life is too short to be stressed out, and stressing out can make it even shorter.
Stress is one of the main factors that affect how happy your life is and how healthy you are. The more you can reduce it, the better.
The way martial arts reduce stress is twofold. First, it’s an effective exercise that allows you to punch a bag angrily to release endorphins.
Second, you’ll become calmer in stressful situations, which can improve your performance and reduce the negative, physical symptoms of stress.
8. Boosts Mental Health
Like sports, martial arts have an immense impact on your confidence levels. Children and teens especially struggle with confidence, meaning they can benefit even more from this.
A study on exercise and mental health has shown that the two are strongly correlated. I already explained how martial arts are a great way to introduce aerobic exercise into your life.
However, martial arts may have some additional mental health benefits. They teach you about self-discipline, improve spirituality through meditation, and help you bring your emotions under control.
When you practice martial arts regularly, you engage in fulfilling and mindful activities with your peers and instructors. You’ll feel a stronger sense of purpose and won’t waste your precious time on negative habits and thought patterns.
I can strongly relate to this because regular exercise had saved me from sinking deeper into depression when times were tough.
The only prerequisite for martial arts to improve your mental health is that you show up regularly. It’s especially important on days when you feel like not getting out of bed at all.
I guarantee that you’ll feel better after a good session with friends and instructors.
9. Builds Social Skills
Virtually all martial arts require you to engage with instructors and peers. Your instructor will teach you how to practice with another practitioner.
This might be awkward at first, especially if you’re a shy introvert like me, but it gets better. I promise!
In no time at all, you’ll learn the names of other practitioners, and you might make friends with some of them.
Martial arts “force” you to talk to other people, which is a good type of exposure therapy for shy individuals and children. It helps you develop social skills, intelligence, and awareness, which can have numerous benefits in the long run.
For example, you might learn how to read emotions on someone’s face through minor visual cues. This can improve your relationship with your friends, relatives, and significant other.
10. Teaches Respect
Wikipedia describes martial arts as “codified systems and traditions of combat.” Also, they usually come from the Far East, a place where mutual respect and dignity are focal points.
Naturally, you’ll pick up a bit of this from your instructors.
If your child struggles with authority, perhaps a strict but patient instructor would be of great benefit.
But it holds for adults as well. Being open to foreign cultures promotes open-mindedness and tolerance.
The more you learn about a particular martial art, the more respect you will have for it and the country of origin.
If you meet someone with a belt color darker than yours, you’ll quickly realize that most of these individuals still hold you in high regard. You’ll surely respect that person as well.
11. Builds Self-Discipline
Almost all martial arts have some form of a ranking system. The colored belts in karate are the most famous example.
Eventually, everyone wants to have a black belt tied around their waist, but you can’t get there overnight. It takes a lot of time, effort, and patience.
It’s good that you have a sense of progress with the belt system. You won’t have the white belt forever.
This alone is a strong motivator that helps you stay focused and reach your next goal, one step at a time.
Again, children benefit from this belt system even more because it teaches them that hard work pays off. They also learn that there are no shortcuts in life, and it teaches them to stay patient and work toward their goals.
It also teaches your child to have more self-control. Unfortunately, kids often bully one another. Also, teenagers love to rebel against their teachers and parents. Enrolling in a martial arts course may reduce or outright prevent that kind of behavior.
For starters, I recommend that you set smaller goals and practice the most basic skills first. You need a strong foundation of the basics to learn advanced skills. So, focus on the essentials and proper stance before you do anything else.
There’ll always be time to practice your roundhouse and high kicks. Martial arts will teach you that the road to mastery requires a ton of effort.
12. Improves Coordination
A big point of martial arts is that they significantly improve your hand-eye, foot-eye, and spatial coordination.
Your instructor will teach you how to hit your target precisely. However, most of it boils down to practice and muscle memory.
Some people have much better coordination from birth. When I was a kid, I had the worst coordination of all my friends in class. However, regular practice over the years has paid off.
If people told you that you’re clumsy throughout your life, forget all of it. Coordination is all about muscle memory and practice.
Don’t get discouraged if you miss the striking pad, even if it’s an arm’s length away from you. After a few months of practice, you’ll be hitting those kick pads like a pro.
You can buy the Juvale Taekwondo Kick Pads from Amazon.com to practice in your free time. These vibrant red kick pads are durable, and you can use them for any form of martial arts, such as Taekwondo, Muay Thai, and Karate. Also, they have wrist straps that stop them from slipping.
If you are an athlete and are looking for more ways to improve your coordination, martial arts is the answer. While you can improve your coordination by doing one action over and over, it’s much better to switch it up.
So, if you want to be a better baseball player, martial arts could help you achieve that goal. The eye coordination required in both sports carries over well.
13. Encourages Spirituality
Monks that live in temples in the Far East have long been associated with martial arts.
According to a paper on the asceticism of monks and warriors, a hermitage was a common practice for many warriors to help them use their energy more effectively.
These ancient warriors would meditate for most of the day and solely focus on their fighting skills. You must have seen a movie or two that depicts this. Of course, the general population had much respect for such warriors, and their appearance induced fear in their enemy.
Such practice has become less common in modern times, but a small number of ancient monasteries remain scattered across China, Japan, and India.
If martial arts helped those people overcome their worldly struggles, there’s no reason why they couldn’t help you too.
It seems contradictory that learning how to fight teaches you peace, but it’s true. Martial arts practitioners are generally very calm and always look for peaceful ways to solve a conflict.
Bahai Teachings goes into great detail in explaining how martial arts and spirituality are intertwined.
So, start your martial arts training to become the next Zen monk in your family. You’ll feel a strong sense of purpose, and no situation will stress you out. It just takes a few years to get there.
- Wikipedia: Roundhouse kick
- Defend Yourself: The difference between martial arts & self-defense
- Wikipedia: Tai chi
- Wikipedia: Shadowboxing
- Merrithew: 5 Benefits of Agility Training
- Healthline: Stretching: 9 Benefits, Plus Safety Tips and How to Start
- Healthline: The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching and How to Get Started
- Genesis Fitness: Why your hip flexors are so important
- Very Well Health: Psoas Muscle and Your Low Back Health
- Britannica: Bruce Lee
- Rapidleaks: 7 World Records Held by Bruce Lee, the Martial Arts Guinness
- Captain Calculator: Calories Burned from Martial Arts
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Preserving Healthy Muscle During Weight Loss
- Men’s Health: Should I do a split or a full-body workout?
- Cleveland Clinic: Aerobic Exercise
- Springer Link: The health benefits of physical activity in children and adolescents: implications for chronic disease prevention
- Springer Link: Exercise and Mental Health
- WebMD: Mental Benefits of Martial Arts
- Wikipedia: Martial arts
- Ema Dojo: Origin of Karate Belts
- Research Gate: Asceticism and the Pursuit of Death by Warriors and Monks
- Bahai Teachings: Martial Arts and Spirituality: Can They Be Combined?
Hi there! I'm Kaden, Founder & Main Writer here at SmartMMA. I've been training boxing, MMA, BJJ and other martial arts since 2004. I love every aspect of it as well as helping others learn more about training martial arts effectively.