4 Martial Arts that Put the Fight Back in Fitness

Martial arts offer serious lessons in mental discipline, stress relief and focus, all wrapped into a full-body workout

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The martial arts can kick-start your commitment to a fitness routine that’s more than just a workout

One of the most difficult things about embarking on a fitness plan can be choosing a program you find enjoyable enough to stick with.

Hitting the weights and the cardio machines at the gym is effective, but it often doesn’t offer the interest and variety many people need to stay motivated to work out over the long term. Not everyone is interested in training to run a 10K or in forming a strong mind-body connection by folding oneself in half and om-ing in a studio full of people.

Enter the martial arts.

There are many styles to choose from—all of which offer a full body workout and the additional benefits of serious lessons in mental discipline, stress relief, and focus—so there’s sure to be something to suit just about any personality. Most community centres and gyms also offer classes that are geared toward women, and some even offer free self-defense classes for women.

Whether you’d eventually like to compete, or are just interested in keeping fit, here are a few martial arts to try.

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The “sweet science” may be the combat sport many of us are most familiar with, but you might be surprised just how powerful the interval training that gets competitive boxers into fighting shape can be.

Bouts are fought in rounds, so training often follows the same formula, combining 3- to 5-minute rounds of cardio, weight training, and punching bag work.

Check out Contenders or Griffins Boxing and Fitness.

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Kung Fu

The Chinese phrase “gung fu” actually refers to any skill or art acquired through study and practice, but we’ve come to use it to refer largely to skill in the martial arts.

This art promotes flexibility of both body and mind and takes a number of different approaches to combat. Deliberate movements and focus are emphasized, which is a great way to release stress and practice concentration.

Wuji Systems offers classes in a number of styles and Rolling Hands has a list of schools in BC’s Lower Mainland.

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Muay Thai

Thailand’s national sport, this stand-up combat competition involves making eight points of contact with one’s opponent: kicks, punches, elbow and knee throws.

If you’re not interested in actually hitting people, however, Muay Thai is also an intense cardio workout that teaches speed and flexibility.

Check out Versus Training Center or Champions in North Vancouver.

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

“Jiu Jitsu” actually translates to “gentle technique or art” and the workout this form gives you is definitely more about technique than brute force.

BJJ, which takes place mostly on the mat in the form of grappling, is all about allowing you to take on opponents regardless of their size. As a form, it emphasizes mental aspects of the game and the idea that experience in competition goes much further than just strength.

BJJ is gaining popularity and there are a number of gyms and centres in Vancouver offering classes. Gracie Barra Vancouver, for example, offers wide variety of classes and prides itself on its inclusive atmosphere.