Health Encyclopedia

Martial Arts: Something for Everyone

Looking for more variety in your workout? Give martial arts a try. People of all ages and abilities use the martial arts to get in shape.

Martial arts such as karate, kickboxing, and tai chi are self-defense techniques. They teach you to focus your mind while making your body stronger and more flexible. Some people practice martial arts for self-defense, while others do it for the physical and mental rewards.

The variety of martial arts makes it easy for people to find one they enjoy. To help you decide which martial art you might like to try, here's a brief description of three types:

  • Karate. This martial art uses kicking, striking, and blocking moves. It can improve your flexibility, coordination, and stamina. Karate can teach you self-defense, but many people take karate to build confidence and improve their physical fitness. With regular practice, you can become quicker, stronger, and more alert.

  • Kickboxing. This method combines the punches of boxing and the kicks of karate. You can practice either contact or noncontact kickboxing. In contact kickboxing, you wear gloves and punch and kick a bag or pad. In the noncontact form, you strike only air. Hitting a bag gives you the added benefit of resistance training. This makes it similar to weight lifting. Both types of kickboxing will give you an aerobic workout.

  • Tai chi. Compared with other martial arts, tai chi uses slower, more flowing movements. Tai chi is excellent for flexibility, and it helps you slow down and focus on your breathing. It's also a good warm-up or cool-down for other exercises.

To find a martial arts class, look for a martial arts school in your local phone book. Many health clubs and community centers also offer classes. You may find that martial arts give you just the kick you're looking for.