by Nigel Hilton

Learning a martial art is an appealing, yet unconventional, way to learn a new sport, or to get fit. The common mistake to make is that it’s all about learning how to fight. Self-defense is undoubtedly one of the key benefits of learning a martial art, whether it’s karate, judo, jiu jitsu, or something else entirely. However, many practitioners will praise the many different things it can teach and the way it can improve your life for the better. Here, we’re going to look at some of the most profound and some of the most unexpected benefits of learning a martial art.

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The health benefits

First, it’s worth looking at the physical benefits. Almost every kind of exercise and sport has some health benefits, but martial arts can offer near comprehensive improvements when it comes to your health. First of all, they can decrease your risk of heart disease significantly. However, unlike many aerobic exercises, martial arts also focus a lot on improving your coordination and expanding your range of movement in your body, which can be key to improving mobility in later life. What’s more, there are even cognitive improvements in learning martial arts, including memory and focus. Martial arts are a comprehensive workout that improves stamina, muscle tone, balance, strength, and flexibility all at the same time.

Attention to detail

Many of the cognitive improvements undoubtedly come from the learning and memorization that come from martial arts. Muscle memory plays a key role in perfecting the foundations of any technique, but even little steps like how to tie a karate belt encourage you to pay greater attention to detail. As the name suggests, martial arts aren’t just a sport, they are an art. Learning every detail about a technique, or the correct etiquette before and after a match, all teach the student to be meticulous. This can help you maintain that same level of attention to detail in the world outside, helping you become more mindful of your actions and quicker to learn new things, as well.

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Greater confidence

Exercise and sports, in general, are great confidence boosters. Not only do you look and feel better as the physical improvements start to manifest but having a sense of control and agency over your own health and physical competence can do a lot to improve that sense of self-confidence. Martial arts have even more to offer when it comes to gaining that confidence. Although they are not taught and learned for violence’s sake, there is no denying that learning self-defense is one of their key appeals. Learning self-defense can help you feel safer, to walk without fear, and be able to gain control in a situation where you’re under attack. We don’t want to believe that compromising situations will happen to us but knowing that we can take care of ourselves if they do happen can instill a great sense of security.

Peace of mind

Learning a martial art isn’t all about learning how to beat someone up as quickly as possible. Students have to get down the fundamentals and remain in control of their body’s movements no matter what. The physical exertion of learning a martial art is a great stress buster in and of itself, but martial arts are a great way to learn to relax, as well. Many disciplines such as karate and judo teach you how to ease the tension in your mind in order to relax your body so that you are better able to carry out the techniques being taught. There’s a spiritual side to martial arts, as well, that can help you become a more patient, peaceful person, even if you’re a more physically capable one.

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Morals and values

In many martial arts, that spiritual and mental side is a huge part of the journey. Some styles place moral and value lessons at the heart of the martial art. For instance, in Shaolin, the moral code teaches 12 ethics, 10 forbidden acts and 10 obligations. Even if not all martial arts are quite as rules heavy, they teach the values of dedication, perseverance, and discipline. They also teach the value of respect, including respect for one’s teachers, one’s classmates, and one’s opponents. Though the physical arts are seemingly violent in nature, they have a lot to teach in other aspects of your life as well.

Learning a martial art, whether as a hobby or to compete, isn’t easy. It’s a long, challenging process as any expert will tell you. However, the way it can transform your life is undoubtedly worth the effort.