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What is Martial Arts Fitness?

By Troy Holmes
Updated Feb 19, 2024
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Martial arts are a group of fighting practices based on traditional combat styles designed to train the mind, body, and spirit. Martial arts fitness is the practice of training the body and mind in the way of a specific martial art. Each martial art has detailed approaches for how a student should train to become an expert in that specific style.

Within martial arts there are hard styles and soft styles. These styles determine how a student will train and react to a combat situation. In general hard styles are considered striking styles because the practitioner typically hits a target in an offensive posture. In contract, soft styles are typically defensive in nature and are meant to control the assailant with submission techniques. Martial arts fitness is the dedication and training of a specific art, either hard or soft style.

Mental training is a critical element within all martial arts fitness programs. The student of martial arts understands how to relax during stressful circumstances. This training includes breathing and mediation techniques that enable a student to focus on remaining calm in all situations. This calm demeanor is essential for managing the stress of everyday life as well as combat situations.

Breaking objects is an example of mental training for the martial artist. Breaking an object requires mental focus and physical training of the hands and feet. Within hard style martial arts fitness programs, students are trained to break bricks and boards. This training provides a method for a practitioner to demonstrate his ability to overcome normal physical constraints.

Martial arts fitness programs include significant physical conditioning. A typical martial artist will practice approximately ten hours per week. The physical training includes both strength and cardio fitness exercises. These exercises include upper- and lower-body training with a primary focus on core strength. Core strength is used as a method of balance for the martial artist. This strength is obtained through stretching, stances, jumping, and abdominal workouts.

The key to becoming a proficient martial artist is time in practice and repetition of techniques. A typical martial artist program will include hundreds or thousands of repetitions for a specific technique. This repetition process teaches the body to react to situations as a reflex action. The reflex training of martial arts creates speed and skills necessary for most combat situations.

Speed training is an excellent example of physical, mental, and repetition training. With speed training the martial artist will create a striking combination of five or six movements. This technique will be repeated through training exercises until the student can accomplish the moves in less than one second. As the student continues to improve his speed on a combination the technique becomes a reflex action, which allows for him to use the technique with extreme speed and force.

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Discussion Comments

By Fa5t3r — On Oct 10, 2014

@croydon - It does depend very strongly on what kind of class you go to though. Some classes are actually more like clubs, where a lot of the members are already very advanced and they aren't that well set up for beginners. Some classes have been put together specifically to cater for beginners.

And some forms of martial arts simply don't push that hard. Tai chi, for example, is considered a martial art, but most tai chi classes aren't going to be so difficult that you are sore for weeks afterwards.

Of course, you will probably not be able to defeat attackers with one hand after a week either, but that's not really the point of tai chi.

By croydon — On Oct 09, 2014

@Ana1234 - Even people who feel that they are pretty fit are going to have trouble adjusting though. You've just got to be prepared to stick it out.

I went to a ju-jitsu class a few years ago with a friend and they had us do so many abs exercises that I was sore there for weeks afterwards. I wish I had been able to go back though, because you know if they are pushing you hard that you are going to improve rapidly. I like the fact that martial arts fitness training is all about substance and not just looks. Almost everything they will have you do is for a direct, practical purpose related to increasing your ability to defend yourself.

By Ana1234 — On Oct 09, 2014

You have to be extremely fit to do martial arts. The few times I have gone to a class, even for beginners, they ran us ragged with different cardiovascular exercise (including just sprinting around the room for 15 minutes) so if you think that martial arts fitness involves just getting into different postures and isn't going to be physically tough, then think again.

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