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What are the Different Types of Martial Arts Fitness?

By Troy Holmes
Updated May 17, 2024
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Martial arts have been used for centuries as an activity to promote physical fitness and spiritual awareness. Most styles of martial arts originated from the eastern cultures. These styles are broken into the hard and soft styles of the fighting arts. Martial arts fitness programs include karate, kung fu, muay thai boxing, judo, akido, and many other modern mixed martial arts styles.

Soft-style martial arts fitness programs are focused on locks and throwing techniques. These are considered defensive programs. Hapkido and Akido are two ancient styles of martial arts that are designed to be used to react to an attack with a defensive counter attack. Practitioners train by redirecting the force of the attack on the adversary rather than opposing it head-on. Both of these styles practice throws, locks, and submission techniques that are designed to immobilize an opponent.

The fitness workout for a trowing-style martial art is primarily focused on balance, reflexes, core strength, and overall leverage techniques. The core area of the body is used for throwing would-be attackers. By having superior core strength and balance, the martial artist can easily move into positions of advantage for throwing and locking techniques.

Judo is another example of a throwing-style martial art, which originated in Japan. Judo martial arts fitness programs are widely used in many other throwing-style programs today. This style was introduced in the Olympic games as a sport during the 1964 games in Tokyo, Japan.

Striking-style martial arts include karate, muay thai boxing, tae kwon do, and kung fu. These styles focus on both defensive and offensive moves designed to attack the adversary with head-to-head breaking techniques. Hard-style martial arts are designed to produce power, speed, and endurance. A typical martial arts fitness program for these styles includes a combination of punches, kicking, stretching, and endurance fighting.

The culture of martial arts fitness also includes significant focus on spiritual awareness. Chi is the study of the internal power of the human body. All humans require energy, or chi, to work effectively. Oriental martial arts devote significant training focused on the internal energy.

Chi training is relaxation training, designed to promote energy. There are many different styles of martial arts that incorporate some element of chi. A chi training exercise will typically require 15 minutes of concentration and deep relaxation exercise. This type of training enables a martial artist to focus power into any area of the body.

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Discussion Comments

By bythewell — On Apr 07, 2014

@KoiwiGal - If someone is trying to improve their cardiovascular fitness or pick up a few moves for self defense, then Tai Chi isn't the right way to go. It can be extremely good for self defense, eventually, but it takes a long time to build up the reflexes needed for that. It's also good for fitness, but again, it's a long term prospect.

Other forms of martial arts can help you to see results more quickly if that's what you're after.

By KoiwiGal — On Apr 07, 2014

@umbra21 - Well, it probably depends on the class. If you were working with advanced students that was just poor teaching. But there are plenty of beginner classes out there where they don't expect you to be completely fit and able to do every move from the start.

You might also want to try a different kind of martial art. Tai Chi is fairly gentle and easy for people of all levels of fitness to get into.

By umbra21 — On Apr 06, 2014

A word of advice. Unless you are relatively fit, I wouldn't just show up at a martial arts class without watching it first. One of my friends convinced me to attend a Jujitsu class once when my fitness was very low and it absolutely crushed me.

I had a sore stomach for days afterwards from all the core training and I still wasn't able to do most of the things they asked of me. It was extremely humiliating as well. I'm not the kind of person to be spurred on by that sort of experience, so I never went back. I think if I had been fitter, it would not have been nearly such a disaster.

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