Martial Arts Fitness


martial arts kick

Martial Arts training is one of several physical activities that absolutely requires a professional instructor to ensure that the individual learns the proper form, techniques, movements, and balance of the art that they are practicing.

Many individuals choose martial arts for the same reasons as boxing - it can be used as a form of self defense and as a valuable outlet for pent-up emotion, stress and anxiety.

However, unlike boxing, martial arts is relatively inexpensive to begin, and most exercises require only the individual and an open space. There are many types of martial arts, and a person wishing to begin training should choose the one that best suits their physical and mental requirements. However, currently the most popular form of martial arts worldwide is Tae Kwon Do.

Tae Kwon Do emphasizes graceful and powerful movements and a continuous drive to improve the artistic presentation of each technique. In addition, Tae Kwon Do develops posture, graceful movement, balance, excellent coordination, flexibility, attention to detail and self-confidence. This being said, Tae Kwan Do is also an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise.

With Olympic Tae Kwon Do, short periods of intense activity are framed by continuous periods of increased heart rate followed by a brief period of rest. Typical Tae Kwan Doe sparring matches are comprised of rounds that last two minutes. During this time period of sparring, the heart rate can climb to the individual's maximum target heart rate. As such activity is necessary during any Olympic martial arts event, it is important that a competitor have a great deal of endurance and strength before entering the competition.

As a competitive sport, martial arts are often chosen over other sports such as baseball or football because they are "all-inclusive activities." In many competitive sports, only the best athletes are participating in each competitive event. However, in martial arts, every member of the team will compete and contribute to the overall success of the team in every tournament.

Getting Started


Martial arts schools are fairly common and feature classes tailored to every age group. As a beginner, the aspiring martial artist should plan on attending a class at least twice a week.

These classes normally last about an hour, depending on which type of martial art is being studied. As a student progresses, they may want to increase the class time to three or four sessions a week.

Attending class is usually the preferred method of training for many reasons, including the social implications and the opportunity to learn from others as well as the instructor.

However, after attending a few classes, it is important to apply the learned techniques on an individual basis. Most people that practice martial arts as their only means of cardiovascular exercise attend class once or twice a week.

In addition, most students will also practice for an additional 30 to 60-minutes per day, 2 to 4 days per week on their own. This approach to martial arts tailors the exercise routine to even the most hectic schedule.

The grace and concentration that martial arts requires can be applied to any other activity. For this reason, many people find the martial arts valuable as a cross-training activity as well as a standalone cardiovascular exercise routine.

Sample Martial Arts Training Program


One of the most important aspects of martial arts is flexibility. Below is a flexibility plan used by many martial artists.

Keep these rules in mind as you follow the flexibility plan:

    kids kicking
  • Warm up thoroughly prior to starting.

  • When stretching, push to the point just before discomfort.

  • The muscle will feel tight at first, but this should diminish as the stretch is held.

  • Do not hold your breath. Instead, let the air out of your lungs as you move into the stretch.

  • Each stretch should be held for 25-35 seconds.

  • Should the tightness not go away or if the stretch becomes too painful, stop.

  • Shake your limbs out between each stretch.

  • Perform the stretch 3-4 times before proceeding to the next stretch in the program.

Flexibility for the Upper Body

1st Stretch – Chest and Shoulder: This stretching pose can be performed while either standing or kneeling. Clasp your hands behind your back and allow your arms to straighten. Raise your hands as high as possible, lean forward from your waist and maintain the position.

2nd Stretch – Arms Crossing Chest: Place your right arm so that it is directly crossing your chest. Thereafter, place your left hand on your right elbow and gently draw your right arm towards your chest and maintain the position. Repeat this stretch with your left arm.

3rd Stretch – Stretching the Triceps: Place your right hand above your head and behind your back with your right elbow in the air. Place your left hand on your right elbow and slowly draw your right elbow toward your head and maintain this position. Repeat this stretch with your left arm.

Flexibility for the Lower Body

1st Stretch – Stretching the Glutes: Sit on the floor with both legs fully extended along the floor. Bend your right leg so that your knee is pointing towards the ceiling. Place your right foot so that it is on the outside of your left knee. Place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and twist your torso to the right while at the same time using your left elbow to push your right knee to the left. Place your right hand on the floor behind you for stability and maintain this position. Repeat this stretch with your left leg.

2nd Stretch – Stretching the Adductor: Stand with your feet as widely apart as you comfortably can. While keeping both feet facing forward, and your body as upright as possible, place your right hand on your right knee and slowly bend your right knee until you feel the muscles on the inside of your left leg stretch. Place your left hand on your right foot and maintain this position. Repeat this stretch with your left leg.

3rd Stretch – Stretching the Hamstrings: Sit on the floor with both legs fully extended along the floor. Bend your right leg so that your right knee is pointing outward and the sole of your right foot is touching the inside of your left thigh. Place your right hand on your right knee and slowly bend forward while keeping your back straight, and grasp the toes of your left foot with your left hand. Proceed to pull your upper body towards your left knee and maintain this position. Repeat this stretch with your right leg.

4th Stretch – Stretching the Quadriceps: Stand on your right leg and bend your left leg behind you with the sole of your left foot facing the ceiling, and at the same time grab your left ankle with your left hand. Pull your left foot into the back of your upper left leg while keeping your body as upright as possible and maintain this position. Repeat this stretch standing on your left leg.

5th Stretch – Stretching the Calf Muscle: Begin by standing upright with your feet together. Step forward approximately 24 inches with your right foot. Keeping both feet flat on the ground and your left leg straight, bend your right knee until you feel the stretch in your left calf and maintain this position. Pushing up against a wall will increase the effectiveness of this stretch. Repeat this stretch by stepping forward with your left leg (stretching your right calf).

Typical Injuries Associated with Martial Arts


kick to head

There are many types of martial arts and each form has its own risks and types of injuries. An estimated 128,400 children aged 17 years and under were treated in United States emergency rooms for martial arts-related injuries from 1990 to 2003.

Breaking the statistics down even further, the average number of injuries per year is estimated to be 9,300 injuries annually. Those most commonly injured were males, an average of 12 years of age, who practiced karate.

The most common cause of injury was from being kicked (25.6%), followed by falling (20.6%) and kicking (18%). The majority of injuries occurred to the lower leg, foot, and ankle (30.1%) and hand and wrist (24.5%) areas of the body.

The most common injuries were sprains/strains (29.3%), contusions/abrasions (27.8%) and fractures (24.6%). As is evident, injuries are quite prominent within martial arts and individuals should expect to encounter an injury of some sort over time.

It is important to wear the proper clothing when practicing martial arts so that as many injuries as possible can be avoided. If your clothes are either too tight or loose, injuries may occur. If the type of martial arts you're practicing requires certain equipment for your protection, be sure to wear it as doing so can be very useful in preventing injuries.

There are muscles that the martial arts utilize that are often not used in other types of sports. By adding strength to the muscles in the inner thigh, outer hip and groin, you can help to prevent injuries.

If an injury occurs, discontinue any strenuous physical activity and seek medical attention. Never try to self-diagnose an injury without the assistance of a medical professional. A physician will be able to determine when you may resume activity in the martial arts and provide tips and advice regarding the prevention of future injuries.

Nutritional Tips for the Martial Artist


Martial artist Billy Hofacker offers the following tips for eating to be a better athlete:

Choose a day every week and plan your meals for the whole week on that day. The day you choose is up to you. By doing this and keeping it flexible, you will be able to create your own dietary guide to nutrition for martial arts. In addition, this approach will allow you to create a dietary guide that is diverse, flexible, and meets your nutritional requirements and schedule.

By eating small meals throughout the day, you resist the temptation to binge and consume only a couple of large meals. By eating small nutritious meals throughout the day you will keep your appetite in check as well. In addition to keeping appetite and eating patterns under control, eating smaller meals more frequently can stabilize blood sugar and energy levels and assist in forcing the body to remain in a state that burns fat.

The bulk of a martial artist's diet should consist of proteins from lean sources, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. These nutrients will come mainly from grains, nuts, chicken, fish, dairy products that are low in fat, veggies, fruits, and lean cuts of meat.

Martial arts training and a healthy lifestyle are dependent on consuming a variety of different foods that contain all of the individual nutrients that your body requires. Your first priority should be consuming a wide variety of healthy whole foods that are well-balanced across the various food groups.

By doing so, you will eliminate any nutritional deficiencies within your dietary regime. Although you should eliminate the consumption of any unhealthy foods, allowing yourself the freedom to eat whatever you would like at one meal per week can be very beneficial in curbing nagging cravings and impulses without ruining your entire dietary plan.

martial arts class kick

It is also important to discuss fluids and hydration when considering an overall guide to nutrition for the martial artist. It is important to your health and overall performance to replenish the fluids lost during activity. When an athlete is properly hydrated, their urine will be lightly colored, in large volume, and with low odor.

Assuming that an athlete is not taking vitamin supplements, they will have dark urine with a strong smell if they are not well hydrated. It should go without saying that all athletes should regularly replenish lost fluids with water during their exercise routine, as well as before and after any physical activity.