Martial Arts Fitness Training

Rachel Blumenfeld
Tai Chi

If you want a workout that improves your cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility and balance, consider trying martial arts fitness training. You can choose from any number of styles of martial arts; some focusing on slower, more methodical movements, while others call for quick and explosive punches, kicks and jumps. Choose your martial arts fitness training program based on your personal preferences and fitness goals.

Tai Chi and Ai Chi

Tai Chi, based on land, and Ai Chi, based in the water, takes you through a progression of slow, flowing postures to improve balance, flexibility and muscular strength. In addition to the obvious physical benefits, Tai Chi and Ai Chi also help relieve stress and lower blood pressure, improving overall well-being.

If you're looking for a martial arts alternative to yoga for flexibility and mind-body awareness, you might want to try one of these options. A 150-pound person will burn about 168 calories per hour of Tai Chi.

Capoeira

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian form of fight-dancing that has developed a fitness following in recent years. Originally founded by African slaves in Brazil, Capoeira incorporates music with martial arts and dance for a beautiful and extremely difficult fitness program. You will increase your strength, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and body composition when practicing Capoeira because of the intense jumps, twists, handstands and kicks involved in the practice.

If you're a high-energy individual who values the social aspect of a fitness routine, check to see if there's a Capoeira program available in your city. Capoeira is estimated to burn about 500 calories per hour for a 150-pound person.

Kickboxing

Kickboxing's introduction to the world of mainstream fitness came largely on the heels of Billy Blank's Tae Bo program in the 90s. The success of Tae Bo led to cardio kickboxing classes in gyms and fitness centers across the country. Cardio kickboxing classes set kicks, punches and other fitness moves, like squats and lunges, to high-energy music.

Because kickboxing is beneficial to cardiovascular and muscular health, many people trying the sport experience significant changes in fitness level, including a decrease in body fat percentage. Glamour's calorie calculator suggests that a 150-pound person burns an estimated 714 calories per hour of kickboxing.

Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed martial arts (MMA) training has become quite popular in recent years. This form of martial arts incorporates a wide array of martial arts and non-martial arts techniques including hand-striking, grappling, kicking and punching. While not widely available as a fitness program, some gyms are starting to offer MMA group exercise classes focused on intense heavy-bag training, push-ups, sit-ups and other high-intensity exercises.

Mixed Martial Arts burns about 680 calories per hour in a 150-pound person.

Karate

A very popular form of martial arts, Karate incorporates character development, proper form and sparring into a single exercise routine. It is highly dynamic, so the practice also increases your cardiovascular stamina.

If you want to improve your overall fitness while also working on personal discipline and focus, try enrolling in a Karate class to see if you enjoy the sport. Karate burns about 700 calories per hour in a 155-pound person.

Jiu Jitsu

Even though "jiu" means gentleness or flexibility, Jiu Jitsu is not about being gentle. Instead, what "jiu" refers to is using an opponent's strength to your own advantage, instead of using strength to resist an attack. By using this method, the goal is to be able to overcome a bigger, stronger opponent, and the practice uses many locks, chokes, throws, and strikes.

Jiu Jitsu teaches you to have increased body awareness, which leads to increased strength and mobility. A 150-pound person will burn about 687 calories in an hour of Jiu Jitsu.

Judo

Judo evolved from Jiu Jitsu, and its name translates to mean "the gentle way." In Judo, one not only resists the strength of the opponent, but attempts to take advantage of it. Judo focuses on teaching attack and defense methods as well as on the practitioner's total well-being.

As with Jiu Jitsu, you will learn to use your body more efficiently with different throws, holds, and locks, leading to greater overall fitness, and you will also increase your balance and coordination. Judo burns about 700 calories per hour for someone who weighs 155 pounds.

Aikido

Aikido is another martial art that evolved from Jiu Jitsu, and like it, it uses dynamic throws and locks in an attempt to turn the opponent's strength against him. Aikido develops expansive power by having to perform coordinated full-body movements.

As with all Jiu Jitsu-derived arts, all movements originate in the center of your body so you develop increased core strength and learn to use your limbs as an extension of your core. You can burn about 650 calories per hour of Aikido if you weigh 145 pounds.

Krav Maga

Increasingly popular in the martial arts and fitness arenas, Israeli-developed Krav Maga teaches self-defense and tactical combat skills. The art is practiced in intervals of high intensity combat followed by periods of rest, which means it is inherently a highly effective high-intensity interval exercise that will increase your cardiovascular health, tone your muscles, and enhance your coordination.

The high intensity of the sport means you burn an estimated 20 to 30 percent more calories doing this than if you were doing regular intensity aerobic exercise. A 155-pound person will burn about 700 calories per hour in a Krav Maga class.

Kung Fu

Kung Fu is a strength-oriented martial art that is practiced with lots of low stances that exhaust your legs, and powerful blocks against your opponent. It is a fast-paced martial art, ensuring that you get a cardiovascular workout. And, as with all of the martial arts, through Kung Fu's various stances, throws, and strikes, you will develop better coordination, balance, and focus.

According to MyFitnessPal, a 150-pound person can expect to burn about 687 calories per hour in Kung Fu.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai, or "Thai Boxing" as it is commonly known, is the oldest form of kickboxing. While it's the national sport of Thailand, it is becoming increasingly popular in America as well since it is the foundation of all kickboxing. Heavy on fast-paced strikes from all parts of the body, Muay Thai has huge benefits for your cardiovascular system, while at the same time it strengthens your leg and core muscles. All of the kicks and rotations in the sport will increase your flexibility as well.

A lot of Muay Thai gyms claim the exercise burns over 800 calories per hour, but the amount is probably closer to regular kickboxing and most of the other martial arts' 700 calories per hour for a 150-pound person.

Taekwondo

This Korean sparring sport may appear very similar to Karate, but it is not just a sport; it is a way of life. Taekwondo is the most widely-practiced martial art in the world, and it focuses on completing each block, punch, kick, and sweep with power and grace. Taekwondo benefits your posture as well as your coordination while mentally training you to pay extensive attention to detail.

According to the American Taekwondo Association, you can burn about 700 calories per hour doing Taekwondo if you weigh 155 pounds.

Choosing a Program

Because martial arts ranges so greatly from highly-intense exercise to soothing mind-body movements, it may take a little while to decide which form suits your needs the most. Consider your lifestyle and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What areas of personal fitness do I most want to develop?
  • How intense do I want my workout to be?
  • Do I want my workout to incorporate music?
  • Do I want a structured martial arts training program, or do I want something more casual?

Based on your answers to these questions, try the martial arts form that most closely meets your needs.

Finding a Program

It's becoming easier to find martial arts programs in mainstream gyms and fitness centers, but specialized classes like Capoeira, Ai Chi or MMA may still be more difficult to find. Look for boxing gyms like UFC Gym for options, or call your local Karate training facility. Many Karate facilities offer multiple forms of martial arts training within their facility.

Martial Arts Fitness Training