Different types of Martial Arts

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As you think, so shall you become -Bruce Lee

Each morning, there will be someone waking up and deciding that today is the day they take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle through fitness and nutrition. They have made a conscious choice within that they are done feeling tired, fat, lazy, weak or undesirable. Any number of reasons may have brought them to this choice, but it is a call for a positive change in their lives that they answered. They are about to overcome the hardest opponent one must face; their former self. Now, where do they begin their journey? If that person were to come to you asking for advice on the best place to start, what would you suggest? Plunging headfirst into a gym? Talking to a nutritionalist? To stop eating so much?

As mundane as this question may seem, it is actually quite difficult to properly prescribe someone a formula for achieving their newfound goals; especially if this person has been previously uneducated in physical fitness. We are all biased as to which routine is the best, but what works for some does not work for all. So, is there an option that can teach them the fundamentals while lighting the fuse to keep their resolve strong? I know there is.

We all need a foundation to build upon and a place to start. Whether you are looking to improve strength, lose weight, gain endurance, become more athletic, or feel confident, I believe there is a fantastic option available: Martial Arts.

What better way to begin gaining strength, training endurance, aquiring agility and balance, and losing weight then through a program that teaches you how to defend yourself and others? While Hollywood has done a good job of glorifying certain aspects of specific styles such as Karate and Kung Fu, most people do not realize the amount of diversity there is when comparing what options are out there. Below I have compiled a list of examples of Martial Arts from around the world that can assist anyone in building the strong fundamentals that will assist them with becoming fit. When mixed with conventional workout methods, martial arts make for the perfect compliment to any training regimen.

1 - Capoeira

Capoeira, also called the Dance of War, combines powerful kicking and acrobatics in an incredible agile and fluid style. Created in Brazil by African Slaves, Capoeira spread fast as a tool for those that escaped to defend themselves in the hostile countryside, alone, against multiple opponents. It has since become popular around the world and was introduced to the United States in the 1970's. While mastering Copoeira is a lifetime of work, in just a short time your body would change as you gain Agility, Fluidity, Power, Flexibility and Strength, all without ever setting foot on a treadmill.

2 - Modern Arnis or Eskrima

The Philippines' national Martial Art and Sport, modern arnis is a weapons based program where the Arnisadores (participants) engage in stick to stick combat using one or two Rattan Sticks or Bastons.The local Filipino slaves, having their steel weapons taken much earlier by the Spaniards in the late 1400's, were forced to use any strong wooden weapons they could find. This fast paced game of strategy has a very deep connection to the history of the Filipino people, some accounts even suggest it as the method Lapulapu dispatched Ferdinand Megellan on the shores of Mactan. As Megellan and his men disembarked their ship and waded through the surf, the natives surrounded them and began to charge down the hill. The Chieftan Lapulapu reportedly rushed Magellen and, even through his heavy steel armor, was able to land a deadly blow to the head, thus ending the great explorer's life.

The main objective in Arnis is to "defang the snake" or disarm your opponent of his weapons. This requires not only precise execution to pull off, but the strength and agility to recover if you are the target. A great choice for someone looking to improve endurance.

3 - Krav Maga

Beginning in Slovakia but popularized in Israel, this strictly self-defense driven art is as intense as you can get. Originating from a type of Chinese Kempo, the Israeli Special Forces are the main practitioners of this fast growing sport. The mantra is simple: keep yourself safe while incapacitating the opponent by any means necessary. The attacks are powerful and quick. You attack your opponent with your head, feet, fists, knees, nails, teeth and anything else available. A brutal sport, but not without control. It is a great practice for anyone ultimately wanting to learn amazing self defense while developing incredible power and speed.

4 - Muay Thai

The Art of Eight Limbs, combines kickboxing with knee, elbow and fist strikes to create a "venomous" fast and furious form of competitive fighting. Popularized only recently by mixed martial arts (mma) in the United States, Muay Thai is an ancient practice the people of Thailand hold dear to their culture. The physiques of fighters trained in this art often times resemble that of a natural bodybuilder. The daily training routine is rough, with a huge emphasis placed on kicking and conditioning. The power an experienced nak muay can generate with a single blow has become legendary in the fighting world. For anyone looking to learn a system dealing with punches and kicks, while crafting a strong lean body in the process, should seriously consider training Muay Thai. With the recent popularity, there are gyms opening up all over the U.S.A.

5 - Jujutsu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The "Gentle Art", Ju translates into "supple or yielding". This art takes an opponents leverage and momentum and redirects the energy against them. Jujutsu encompasses trapping, throwing, joint locks, striking, disengaging and submissions (via choke, arm or leg hyperextension). Many times practitioners train in the use of potentially fatal moves, though the risks are minimized while learning.

Another artform that has become quite popular due to the MMA is Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. Primarly a ground fighting skill, BJJ is an incredible way to develop a strong core and fast twitch muscle tissue. The fatigue of having an opponents weight on top of you will cause quick development of the skills needed to protect yourself in an inferior position. Though there are variations to the Japanese and Brazilian arts, both are similar enough for someone interested in strength gain, agility, flexibility and high intensity endurance to check either out. And don't let the term "Gentle Art" fool you, it is as hard a workout as you could ever hope to find in a gym.

"Running the Rocks" 2002
"Running the Rocks" 2002

In Closing

I completely understand what it is like to become overwhelmed with the amount of information out there when seeking a fitness program that fits your goals. It's not hard, in fact type the word "workout" into google's search field and 212 million websites will be waiting. The truth is, there may never be just one routine out there for you. The ever evolving world of fitness continues its path to finding new and improved methods of fighting fat and gaining lean muscle because people are, in fact, not satisfied with their routines.

I began running Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado about 11 summers ago. Before the morning heat, a small handful of 10-15 runners would gather at the steps of the concert venue to stretch and prepare themselves for the suicidal task of "Running the Rocks". Made up of Firefighters, Swat team members, College Atheletes, and a few crazy local Fitness nuts, the groups would use the venue as our own personal playground. As we sprinted, hopped, and lunged up the bleachers, the tourists visiting the monument at the top would often stop to film us coming at them from the bottom. To them, watching these elite run up and down in the name of fitness was unfathonable when just moments ago they themselves breathlessly ascended to the top, stopping every ten feet for oxygen. The high elevation and steep incline made for a regiment reserved for only the strongest participants. Fast forward 11 years...

It's Sunday morning, 7am. My wife and I park our car in the lower lot, as the top two have already filled. I hear the faint echo of footsteps tapping the pavement in unison in the direction of the amphitheater. We reach the entrance to the venue where 100 people are standing, though they are not waiting for a concert to begin. No, they are holding a downward facing dog yoga position and are being led through breathing excercises by one man commanding the middle. They are here with a local gym, and make up one of seven huge groups "Running the Rocks" this morning. As I walk up to place my water cooler in it's former spot, I find a smaller pack of 50 people doing jumping jacks there already. I turn my gaze to the bleachers about to plot the course I will sprint, only to find there is no room. The Amphitheater nearly appears packed to capacity with individuals doing new workout routines that look bizarre even to me. Where as once these weekend warriors were confined to cardio machines and free weights in a gym, the state of fitness has completely evolved to include nearly any sort of cardio/compound movement one may think of. The tourists of the past have become the fitness nuts of the present.

What has changed?

The conventional methods of isolation exercises and "gerbil ball" cardio machines are dying. We live in an era where new programs such as Crossfit and P90x are gaining popularity among the masses. The fact is hard, heavy workouts done to near exhaustion, with an emphasis on form before load, build the stronger, leaner, meaner you. They take the basic primal human functions of: Lifting, Throwing, Pushing, Pulling, Jumping, Climbing, Running, combine them and add resistance while done at a fast cadence. This "new" philosophy of fitness is in fact ancient.

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This is why people are turning to Martial Arts for fitness

They are seeking complete body workouts that will push them to their limits. You may find that the immersion into another culture you attain while studying a foreign art is as rewarding as the physical advancement. I highly recommend doing yourself a favor and at least once in your life, take the time to find a Martial Art that suits your style. You may not know what you did without it.

Do you practice any of these Martial Arts?

  • Capoeira
  • Modern Arnis
  • Krav Maga
  • Muay Thai
  • JiuJitsu (Japanese or Brazilian)
  • Karate
  • Other
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