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It’s instructive, fascinating and a wee bit off-putting. Yes, the guide is a serious presentation of the art, once you see the photos, you’ll get what we’re talking about.
Most people understand that martial arts are a good way to get in shape, but which are the best martial arts for fitness? That depends largely on what your goals are, but I believe this list includes something for everyone regardless of age and prior experience.
Martial arts aren’t just a great way to get in shape; they can also help improve your self confidence and mindfulness, and introduce you to new cultures and friends. Many martial arts schools have rich communities that stretch outside of the training center, and many lessons taught in martial arts apply to other aspects of life.
Before we continue, let me just say that if you decide to start a new training regimen, you really should consult your doctor first.
But these six are, in my opinion, the best martial arts for fitness and strength. Each of them offers a unique brand of training, some of which you may find more suitable for your goals.
Overall Capoeira provides the best workout because of its dynamic movements and diverse range of techniques. This Afro-Brazilian fighting style originated as a means for slaves to conceal combat training in dance and build physical fitness so they could escape. Capoeira combines flowing, rhythmic footwork with quick hand movements and high-impact kicks, and is usually practiced to music such as the beat of a drum.
Capoeira practitioners are called capoeiristas, and in modern times they’re known for their extraordinary athleticism, leaping spinning kicks, and other assorted acrobatics. While full contact sparring is not unheard of in Capoeira schools today, most instances of “sparring” are more of an improvised dance. The idea is not to harm or strike your opponent, but rather to demonstrate your physical prowess and create an opening where it’s obvious you could have won.
This martial art is best for people who want to be able to perform feats such as cartwheels, walkovers, handsprings, and more. You must be willing to commit to rigorous training, and it helps if you enjoy dancing to drum beats.
Taekwondo is likely the best known martial art to come out of Korea. Like Capoeira it is known for heavy kicking techniques, but there the similarities between the two fighting styles end. Taekwondo provides an amazing workout because it emphasizes extreme leg strength and dexterity, light movements on the feet, and sudden victories in competition.
Advanced practitioners of Taekwondo are famous for performing leaping spinning kicks that break through multiple boards. Most Taekwondo schools also command respect and formality from their students, following some of the ancient traditions passed down through their lineage.
This school of combat is best for people who want to develop really powerful legs, and who are willing to practice through the pain to achieve the ability to deliver thunderous kicks.
Karate can give you a great workout because it trains the body and mind to work in harmony, and employs a wide variety of physical and mental techniques to do so. Karate is perhaps the best known martial art in the world, and practitioners are well known for their toughness, powerful kicks and punches, and determination.
Advanced Karate black belts will demonstrate their prowess by breaking bricks, boards, and all manner of other construction materials with their bare hands, heads, and sometimes other parts of the body that don’t bear mentioning.
This art of peaceful resistance is best for people who want to achieve overall mental and physical well being, and who don’t mind the idea of squatting in a deep horse stance until their legs threaten to fall off.
This Filipino fighting style originated as a system that employed sticks, knives, and anything else close to hand as a weapon against armed invaders. Modern practitioners are known for their quick movements and lethal accuracy with their weapons of choice; wooden fighting sticks and knives. Usually practice knives are used in sparring, but some advanced participants will use live steel in their training.
Escrima is great for building overall fitness, particularly in your arms as a result of the stick fighting. It’s also a good way to learn just how deadly knives are at close quarters; Escrima is one of the few martial arts where a smaller, weaker opponent can easily triumph in sparring if they command their weapons well.
This martial art is best for people who like the idea of weapons training and working out in a less formal environment.
A child of Kung Fu, Wing Chun focuses on swift non-telegraphic punching techniques to overwhelm opponents quickly. The standard Wing Chun practice dummy is a wooden trunk with three arms protruding from it, and has become a staple of martial arts movies across the world.
Wing Chun practitioners are known for their grit, direct attacks, and extremely quick hand speed. This style was developed as a more effective fighting system than the older forms of Kung Fu, and later adapted by a number of different instructors who learned from the creator.
This martial art is best for people who want to get in shape but would rather focus on movements that don’t demand near superhuman levels of fitness. Wing Chun is a lot of fun, and is as good a beginner martial art as any.
Jonathan Widro is the owner and founder of Inside Pulse. Over a decade ago he burst onto the scene with a pro-WCW reporting style that earned him the nickname WCWidro. Check him out on Twitter for mostly inane non sequiturs
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