Why I practice martial arts

I’ve been a martial artist for fourteen years. Despite wanting to try out Karate while at Uni, I’ve stuck with Taekwondo. With each year that passes, I feel myself getting better and better at the martial art, better able to generate the power that I’d need if it ever came to defending myself in the streets.

But fourteen years – that’s a long time to do anything for. What is it about Taekwondo that’s kept my attention for so long?

Martial arts for physical fitness

Martial arts will make you fit, there is no doubt about that. My instructor, specifically, is renowned for his draining, hard-hitting workouts. A mix of cardio and HIIT through fighting techniques, my instructor’s lessons always require – and further develop – high levels of fitness.

Using such a wide variety of movements while training, such as ab blitzes, circuits and line work, makes martial arts a great way to keep excess weight off and ensures that each of my muscles will ache every single day after training. It’s no wonder that, every night that I get home from training, I collapse into bed, exhausted, and have my best night’s sleep of the week.

Getting physically fit is, however, only one of the benefits of practicing martial arts. Learning how to defend yourself is a key skill that I believe everybody should have, no matter your beliefs towards fighting. From understanding proper form and body posture to transferring self defence into muscle memory, martial arts won’t just keep you fit; it’ll also keep you safe.

Martial arts for mental fitness

Whenever I enter the dojang, the training room, I bow towards the corner. This is where the flag of South Korea (from where Taekwondo originated) should hang. There are two reasons for this routine.

Firstly, bowing shows respect to the instructor. You are clearly showing that you have entered their dojang and will abide by their rules, pushing yourself as hard as you can according to their instructions. Secondly, bowing represents a mental break from the woes and stresses of work or school. Practitioners are encouraged to leave their anxiety at the door, to lose their identities as anything other than martial artists. I am no longer Mr. Hamilton, Teacher of History; I am Josh, a second-degree black belt. Practicing martial arts lets you shirk away from negativity, which I feel that the gym doesn’t provide for in the same vein.

Martial arts for emotional wellbeing

Martial arts is also a great way to balance your emotional wellbeing. On days where I feel as if I’m in a slump – due to work, perhaps – I might not feel up to the gym, despite still wanting to exercise. I don’t use personal trainers, so determination to lift weights is down to my own motivation and determination.

Sometimes, that’s not enough. And if I fall off the gym bandwagon, I might not even feel up to meal planning, throwing my eating habits off, too.

Taekwondo is different. My instructor is enthusiastic and ensures that we work hard. This winning combination means that there’s never any shirking in class. We have very little time to think to ourselves and, even if I do continue feeling down, his presence is enough to keep me going, and I really appreciate that.

That’s the case for me, at least. Everybody is different when it comes to emotional wellbeing, but I’d highly recommend giving any martial art a go. See if it does anything for you emotionally and mentally, and you might notice yourself getting really fit along the way.

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