Fit for martial arts?

WORTH A TRY

Fit for martial arts?

Most individuals in the pursuit of fitness and wellbeing are unclear about whether to follow a functional fitness programme, play a sport, or practise martial arts. I would say, do all three! But where is the time, right?

Before we get to that, let’s begin by defining ‘physical fitness’. Simply put, it’s the ability of the body to perform physical tasks/work and recover to a normal state of rest (homeostasis) in the shortest time possible. And an individual can develop two kinds of physical fitness: First, general fitness, which makes activities of daily living, like walking, climbing the stairs, running etc easy. Such individuals hardly ever fall ill.

The second kind is special physical fitness, which helps you perform a certain skill naturally and effortlessly. They are of two kinds — you can pick a sport or pursue a martial art. If martial art is what you seek, then read on! If not, there’s still no harm in reading…

Art for fitness’ sake

There are a range of martial arts programmes you can choose from. They can be classified into three categories — fighting arts, fighting sport and fighting craft.

In fighting arts, the disciplines are traditional and some of the practices have been around for hundreds of years! A traditional martial arts programme usually has a ‘belt programme’, which serves as way to measure your learning and progress. These programmes require utmost discipline and will also require you to practise some of the techniques on your own to ensure you make the most of the scheduled sessions. A ‘belt programme’ usually last up to four-five years and even more in some cases. In an 'arts' programme, the possibilities are endless, so you are hooked for life. If that’s your calling, try one of these fighting arts:

Kyokushin Karate — This is one of the most widely practiced martial art. Though it helps, you are generally not required to possess a high level of fitness to begin with. There is a lot of emphasis on general conditioning, which will augment one’s fitness regardless of ability.

Kalaripayattu — If you want to improve explosiveness and agility, this is one of the best practices to pursue. This practice also uses a variety of weapons and training in Ayurvedic practices.

Ninjutsu — The most enigmatic of all martial arts, Ninjutsu calls for a lot of skills training, including weaponry, parkour (free-running) and gymnastics. A good level of general fitness would help one grasp the techniques faster.

Kungfu — A holistic practice stemming from different fighting styles in China, Chinese Gongfu or Kungfu is on par with Kalaripayattu as it also teaches some traditional medicine.

Be a sport

Fighting sports are basically arts that have become a cult and evolved into competitive sports. Some of them are traditional, while the others are derived from other martial art forms.

Taekwondo — Though a traditional martial art (one of the oldest), it has also become an Olympic sport! It is versatile and places emphasis on all fighting techniques — blocks, kicks, punches, open-handed strikes, takedowns, throw downs and joint locks. The programme itself has an integrated general fitness programme in it to meet the requirements of the sport.

Boxing — One of the most widely viewed sports across the world, the training regime of a boxer is as brutal as they come. Though it involves only punches, outrageous fitness is expected of a boxer to last close to 60 minutes in a ring. Like Taekwondo, boxing also has ‘in-built’ general fitness.

Muay Thai – A combat sport of Thailand, it uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. This physical and mental discipline, which includes combat on shins, is known as “the art of eight limbs” because it is characterised by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins, being associated with a good physical preparation that makes a full-contact fighter very efficient. Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the twentieth century, when practitioners defeated notable practitioners of other martial arts.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu — A martial art, combat sport, and self-defence system, BJJ focuses on grappling and ground fighting. Formed from Kodokan Judo ground fighting, BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using proper technique, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the opponent. BJJ training can be used for sport grappling tournaments and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition or self-defence. In 1882, its parent art of judo was separated from older systems of Japanese Jujutsu by an important difference that was passed on to Brazilian

jiu-jitsu: it is not solely a martial art, it is also a sport; a method for promoting physical fitness and building character in young people; and a way of life.

Matter of craft

Fighting crafts are modern and derived fighting techniques, which are relevant to what an individual might encounter in the real world. It is assumed that you already possess a high level of fitness to derive the maximum from the programme.

Think Krav Maga, a self-defence system developed for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) that consists of a wide combination of techniques sourced from aikido, judo, boxing and wrestling, along with realistic fight training. Known for its focus on real-world situations and its extremely efficient and brutal counter-attacks, it was derived from street-fighting skills developed by Hungarian-Israeli martial artist Imi Lichtenfeld, who made use of his training as a boxer and wrestler as a means of defending the Jewish quarter against fascist groups in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia in the mid-to-late 1930s.

In the late 1940s, following his migration to Israel, he began to provide lessons on combat training to what was to become the IDF, who went on to develop the system that became known as Krav Maga. It has since been refined for civilian, police and military applications. Krav Maga has a philosophy emphasising threat neutralisation, simultaneous defensive and offensive manoeuvres, and aggression.

All the ‘arts’ mentioned above have their own benefits. It is imperative you recognise that general health and fitness ability will help you get the maximum out of a martial arts training programme. It doesn’t matter if you are a non-athlete, a working professional, a mother of two, a lawyer, or a doctor. Martial arts is for you, too.

 Kick-ass picks

Choose Kungfu or Kalaripayattu if you are in it for the long haul.

Pick Karate if you are a little apprehensive about fighting. It will kick you into shape real quick.

No time for a general fitness programme? Pick one of the ‘fighting sport’ programmes like Taekwondo or boxing.

 If you are quite fit, but keep getting mugged and need to learn some real-world techniques, try some Krav Maga.

If you want to be mysterious and intriguing, pick Ninjutsu.


(The author is co-founder, The Hood, Bengaluru)

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