How & Why You Should Incorporate Martial Arts into Your Fitness Regime

Following the same work out regime week in week out can get pretty monotonous, even for the most dedicated of fitness enthusiasts. While consistency is undoubtedly a key component in maintaining and improving your level of fitness, it can also be a challenge to stay motivated when you’re repeating the same exercises over, and over again.

Fortunately, martial arts provide a fantastic workout and an interesting way to change up your fitness routine. What’s more, you’ll learn how to defend yourself, find a new hobby and make some friends along the way, not a bad way to mix up your work out if you ask me.
So, today we’re going to be taking a look at some popular martial arts, the benefits they have to offer and how you can get started.

What are Martial Arts?

But first, what exactly are martial arts?

The term martial art is used to describe different types of combat systems, which tend to originate in East Asia, such as Karate or Judo. That being said, a discipline does not strictly need to be created in Asia to be classified as a martial art. An example of this could be BJJ, which although originates from traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, was founded in Brazil.

Martial arts can be broken down into three distinct categories; striking, grappling and armed. Striking and grappling disciplines tend to be the most popular, mostly due to the fact that they are the most useful in terms of self-defense in this day and age.

Popular Martial Arts

Let’s now take a look at some of the most popular martial arts and what they consist of.


The first martial art we’re going to be discussing is BJJ, which stands for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. BJJ is a grappling-based martial art that takes place primarily on the ground, with the aim being to submit your opponent via a variety of techniques such as chokes and joint locks.

There are two types of BJJ, Gi, and No Gi. A Gi is a uniform that’s worn when participating in BJJ, which consists of a jacket (known as a kimono), pants and a belt. No-Gi BJJ is often practiced wearing tight clothing such a rash guard and compression shorts.

BJJ is one of the most physically intensive martial arts in the world, as high levels of cardiovascular endurance are needed in order to maintain energy throughout a bout. What’s more, both muscular strength and endurance are required in order to execute certain techniques and prevent your opponent from submitting you.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing, is a striking based martial art that involves a diverse range of techniques such as kicks, punches, elbow and knee strikes. There is also a small element of grappling in Muay Thai in the form of the clinch.

Muay Thai practitioners tend to be in fantastic shape in order to compete for 3-5 grueling rounds. With that in mind, stamina is an incredibly important aspect in Muay Thai, as bouts tend to be fast-paced, with combinations of strikes being thrown in quick succession.


MMA has only been around since the early 1990s, however, has quickly become one of the most popular and highly watched martial arts in the world. Standing for Mixed Martial Arts, MMA involves taking aspects from different disciplines and combining them into one martial art, governed by its own set of rules.

Due to the fact that MMA involves techniques and elements from a variety of different martial arts, an MMA practitioner must be well rounded both physically, and in their skill set. As such, MMA fighters are some of the most elite athletes in the world, mostly thanks to the rigorous work out that MMA training provides.

Benefits of Martial Arts

We’re now going to take a look at some of the main physical benefits that martial arts training can provide.

Well Rounded Work Out

A typical martial arts class will follow a structure consisting of a warm-up period, followed by practicing/ learning certain techniques, sparring and a cool down period. Martial arts classes tend to last anywhere between 1 to 3 hours long, which is a fairly decent chunk of time to be working out.

The different elements that make up a martial arts class make them incredibly well rounded, allowing you to work on different areas of your fitness, all within a single session. Unlike going to the gym, where you may focus on one or two areas of your body at a time, a martial arts class will allow you to develop multiple areas of your fitness, without having to really think about what you’re doing.

Plus, at the same time, you’ll be learning the invaluable skill of knowing how to defend yourself, a skill in which the vast majority of people do not take the time to acquire.

Improved Stamina

Unless you’ve trained a martial art, you won’t realize how physically draining it is fighting another person. Most people don’t start a martial art in order to get in shape, however, this is an incredibly common byproduct of studying a martial art, purely due to their intense physical nature.

Even a 2-3-minute sparring session is likely to leave you out of breath, as you’re using every fiber and muscle of your body to prevent your opponent from defeating you, whilst at the same time, trying to defeat them. Then factor in that the sparring period of a class usually runs for around 20-minutes, and you’ve got yourself one intense workout.

Develop Muscular Endurance

Admittedly, cranking out 3-4 sets of 14 reps per exercise every day in the gym is a great way to tone up and develop your muscular endurance, however, it’s also fairly tedious. You can achieve a similar result from regularly attending a martial arts class, which can even be done alongside your regular gym sessions.

I find grappling based martial arts such as BJJ and Judo to be the most effective for muscular endurance, as they depend heavily on controlling both you and your opponents’ bodyweight for extended periods of time.

Plus, a martial arts class will most likely involve different bodyweight exercises during the warm-up period, which can often include press ups, sit ups, squats and squat thrusts.

Increase Strength & Power

A martial artist’s strength and power are debatably equally as important as their muscular endurance. Quick, explosive movements are often utilized in order to defeat an opponent.

Depending on the martial art, power is needed in order to either strike your opponent or take them down to the ground. Repetition of these techniques in class will develop your overall strength, without having to bust out the big weights.

Keep Your Work Outs Interesting

No martial arts class is the same, each time you attend a class you’ll learn something new and notice both your skill and fitness levels improving. This constant learning and self-development is a brilliant way to make working out fun and interesting, allowing you to easily maintain motivation.

How do I Start a Martial Art?

A common concern of starting a martial art is that you will need to have the right equipment, or you’re not sure you’re going to like it. While these are valid concerns, most martial arts gyms offer a free trial lesson, meaning you can give it a go before financially committing. What’s more, it really doesn’t matter if you’ve got a gi, or gloves or whatever you’re going to need. Most clubs will have spare equipment for you to use, and if not, it really won’t matter for your first few classes.

When determining which martial art you want to start, consider the three types of disciplines I mentioned earlier; striking, grappling and armed. From here, you can then decide which martial art is right for you.

Final Thoughts

All in all, martial arts offer a unique and effective way to work out, whilst at the same time learning how to effectively defend yourself. There are very few things in life as rewarding as seeing your perseverance rewarded with improved technical ability and massively enhanced levels of fitness.