Everyone knows that doing martial arts is a good way to learn self-defense, but most don’t consider that it is also an excellent way to lose weight! When you add martial arts (MA) practice into your workout routine, not only will you be able to drop more pounds, you’ll be learning a beneficial new skill.

Mastering this skill requires the use of the whole body. In order to be an effective martial artist, it takes a lot more than just memorizing a few attack and defense moves. Take a punch for example- there’s a lot that goes into a single good punch! You’ll need to maintain a solid footing, good balance, and a steady core. You have to be quick but also powerful and you’ll have to be intentional about your breathwork. All of that just for one move and practicing martial arts involves hours of punches, jabs, blocks, and dodging. A skilled practice routine will include all of the following:

  • Cardiovascular Conditioning – work raising and lowering your heart rate, including using proper breathing and increasing endurance so you can fight longer and outlast your opponent
  • Agility – being able to move and change directions quickly to get out of the way of an incoming attack or to attack better yourself
  • Strength Building – using your own body weight is one of the best ways to weight train and you’d be surprised how much of it you do in MA!
  • Flexibility – This goes hand and hand with agility for being able to move where you want to be even if space is limited or you have a good way to reach
  • As a result, honing your new skill will naturally increase your stamina and burn a lot of calories.

Additionally, because this activity puts heavy emphasis on mindfulness there are even more benefits. The combination of body and mind work can reduce stress. Stress has profound impact on the body and has been shown to inhibit weight loss. Exercise by itself can reduce stress but the mental aspect of martial arts can be very empowering and soothing. Some forms even have a spiritual component and if that’s you’re thing, it is another way to relax your heart and mind. Overall, this mental component makes MA even more effective for lowering stress levels than other kinds of exercise.

Speaking of the mindfulness involved in this practice, there’s also the self-discipline aspect. While you’re moving your body, learning to defend yourself, and relaxing your mind, you’re also working on your self-discipline. This is a big part of MA training and culture. The great thing about that is that practicing self discipline in MA will eventually trickle over into other areas of your life. You may find that in addition to keeping to a dedicated workout routine you also start finding it easier to make other healthy choices. This might include food choices, getting enough sleep, and other things that also contribute to weight loss. Talk about a win-win activity choice!

So where should you start? It is important to note that when it comes to weight loss, not all martial arts types are created equal. There are pros and cons to every style but the main thing to consider when forming a weight loss exercise regiment is that some styles are high impact and are effective and burning a lot of calories in a small amount of time, while others are lower impact and may require a larger time commitment to see physical results. Some styles that generally involve higher intensity of training include: Muay Thai, MMA, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jtsu, Hapkido, Krav Maga, Kickboxing, and Taekwondo. Lower impact arts include Tai Chi, Karate, and Kung Fu – just to name a few! This doesn’t mean that a lower impact martial art isn’t worth adding to your exercise routine, though! Choosing something too high impact may be discouraging for a beginner or hard to keep up with. The important thing is picking something you can stick to, that works with your lifestyle and checks all of the boxes that are most important to you when you think about what you want to get out of your practice. After all, getting moving at all and staying consistent is the most important thing.

The best news is that practicing martial arts is fun! Whether you choose the spiritual art of Aikido or the high-intensity workout of Kickboxing, there is something that is the perfect fit for everyone. And there’s no rule saying you have to stick to one form. It is actually a good idea to vary your routine. This will help you keep interest while also tricking your body into staying at a high metabolic rate due to it not being able to settle into a predictable exercise rhythm. There is no size, weight, or age requirement either- making it a good option for anybody at any fitness level. In fact, studies show that women often do too much cardio and not enough weight training to effectively lose weight so this may be the perfect balance many women are missing! Men tend to be really interested in the defense aspect and find themselves actually really enjoying the anti-stress and mindfulness aspects. Even children can take part, starting young. People with children could easily make it a group activity that promotes wellness and safety for the whole family.

There are lots of ways to get started with martial arts once you decide it is something you want to do (and how could you not now that you know how beneficial and fun it can be?!) Look for local studios and gyms that can inform you on what type might be best for you and how often to incorporate it into your routine. There are also books, YouTube videos, and fitness subscriptions you can utilize to help you pick up starting skills before heading to the studio. Just make sure that you do get the help of an expert at some point because this isn’t just exercise – it is an art! And to master good art you need the guidance of someone who can critique your technique so you can keep on improving. You’ll be kicking butt and taking names before you know it, all while rocking a killer body and being a calmer, fitter, more disciplined you!