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Is a Martial Arts School a Better Choice for the Fitness Minded than a Commercial Gym?

Updated on August 13, 2016

Martial arts schools have a lot to offer over the huge commercial gyms


Are you interested in getting in shape and looking as best you can be? If so you might be weighing your options to sign on with one of the big commercial gyms in your local area. Signing on with a gym is not a bad idea but if you were to take a little time out and evaluate what it is you are really looking for then you might find yourself preferable to signing up with a martial arts school. Frequently, a martial arts school will be much more akin to what you are seeking as opposed to what is offered at a big, commercial gym.

Differences Do Exist

Making comparisons between a martial arts school and a commercial gym can sometimes be a little difficult to do because the goals of the two are completely diverse. A martial arts school is designed to instruct people in a specific fighting sport whereas a gym is designed to promote following a bodybuilding type program.

In order to determine which would be the better approach for you to follow, you need to determine your goals prior to enrolling. For those that are not completely familiar with what their specific goals might be, it may be best to look at the various differences between martial arts schools vs. a commercial gym membership.

The Common Experience of Working Out at a Commercial Gym

While working out in a gym can give you that pumped up, massive look, it is pretty much a solo endeavor. Unless you are paying for a personal trainer, you will be walking into the gym and lifting weights on your own. You might make a few friends at the gym and find someone nice enough to spot you, but bodybuilding is mostly a solo endeavor. Even those that train as professional bodybuilders will note they are more in competition with those people they train with as opposed to developing a sense of comradery. Hitting the gym is not a team endeavor and if you like to turn your workout sessions into a social event, you probably won’t find the environment of a gym all that appealing. Often, it is fairly boring.

While martial arts does entail developing one’s personal fitness and health, the truth is martial arts has a much more communal environment. Many martial arts schools are part of governing organizations so when you sign up with a school, you are signing on with a team. That alone can prove to be a very positive aspect to training at a martial arts school.

Martial Arts Schools Offer Instruction

One other thing needs to be pointed out here, if you are not working out under the supervision of a personal trainer, you will be pretty much on your own in a gym. You sign up for a membership and gain access to the facilities. You won’t gain access to proper instruction on how to actually use the equipment or any insights into what is needed for you to get the most out of your training sessions. You might have to surf the internet or invest in a number of good books to gain a basic understanding of what it required to workout on gym equipment.

Here is some news: you won’t be able to effectively instruct yourself. Access to a qualified instructor is a must if you want to experience improvements from your training. This includes not only the combative nature of the arts but also the health and fitness benefits. In order to lose weight and get in shape via martial arts, you have to perform the techniques the correct way. A qualified instructor can ensure this is achieved. At a commercial gym, you may be on your own.

To help facilitate the learning process, a structured program is devised in a martial arts school. You do not just “show up” as would be the case with signing on with a gym membership. There may be classes such as aerobics and cycling but these classes do not maintain the targeted focus of developing a specific level of skill as would be the case in a martial arts school. This definitely helps you stay motivated which brings us to the next point.


Avoiding Boredom

You just might end up being bored with a gym membership. Actually, it would not just be you that end up being bored it would a;so be the vast majority of people that sign up for a gym membership. You might be surprised to discover that the average person’s gym membership is about six months. After that six month period, people end up dropping out and finding something new to do. Again, the listless boredom of heading to the gym and lifting weights just does not appeal to them very often.

No one would ever suggest that the average martial arts school retains all its new members for many years. However, the average “stick to it” nature of new members to a solid martial arts school will be much greater than is common with a gym. Again, this is because martial arts is more fun, invigorating, and is often guided by a traditional philosophy that appeals to the students of the school.


Martial arts will always be a great deal more motivating to remain with. It simply has much more to offer people which is why they will stick with it. Goals are devised and you will have to meet those goals and this means working towards attaining those goals. This is done in a group environment where one is training to attain skill in a self-defense art. Each lesson builds upon the prior one and this contributes to the expanding motivation gained from attending class regularly.

Yes, You Can Get in Shape at a Martial Arts School

With a martial arts school, you will certainly gain instruction in the proper way to not only perform martial arts but also in a variety of cardio and bodyweight exercises designed to help you get in shape. It is never a good idea to workout without supervision and a martial arts school will definitely provide you with the necessary supervision required to get the most out of your training days.

The type of workout you will get at a martial arts school will definitely help you develop lean muscle tone. In particular, it will help you develop functional muscle which is not always the case with traditional workouts in a weightlifting gym. Functional muscle not only can improve how you look, it can deliver many excellent improvements in your health. Bodybuilding might not be the efficient method for enhancing physical strength.

The basics of bodybuilding entail building up a lot of bulky muscle and then developing definition through burning calories and performing isolation exercises. This can have an impact on your physique but in terms of looks but it lacks in developing the functional strength required for improve your overall quality of life.

Working out at a martial arts school can have a much more dynamic approach. Martial arts training contributed to developing strength and power in motion thanks to the way it hits the muscles of the body. You will find yourself becoming a lot stronger and fitter as a result of the training. This is where all those aforementioned improvements in the quality of your life can come into play.

Burning Calories Made Easy.....and Fun

Martial arts workouts also help you burn a lot of calories. This is why so many martial artists have such a ripped look. An hour of kickboxing might burn upwards of 700 calories. So, if you are interested in looks, you will find martial arts training can definitely deliver on the results you are seeking

The common way you burn calories in a gym would be through using cardio equipment such as treadmills. There is most definitely nothing wrong with working out on such equipment but it can be a little dull. A martial arts school is many things but dull and boring would never be a way to describe one.

Avoiding All The Crowds

Commercial gyms also have a tendency to be crowded - VERY CROWDED. If you have ever walked into a gym after 5pm or any time on Saturday or Sunday, you will notice there are an enormous amount of people in the gym. Gyms have a tendency to sell as many memberships as possible without much attention to how many people show up at what time. This contributes to the significant overcrowding that occurs at peak after work hours. In a martial arts school, overcrowded is rarely a problem because instructors will often work to maintain decent size numbers for the class. This is to ensure both learning potential and safety.


Martial Art Philosophy Never Goes Out of Style

There is also a philosophical component you will be exposed to in a martial arts school. At the core of most martial arts training is a desire to help build better people thanks to the self-esteem and character building components of the study of the martial arts. Commercial gyms are not known for being guided by any type of philosophy. Martial arts are guided in such a way and many people will find this component as the most helpful and important component of martial arts training.

Commercial gyms certainly do not provide any philosophical component such as the one found in the study of the martial arts. Martial arts has a long history of building better people and enhancing character. Those that find this appealing definitely will gravitate more to a martial arts school as opposed to a commercial gym. Sometimes, working the mind is just as important as working the body.


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    • TCaro profile image
      Author

      Tony Caro 5 years ago

      MrPhilstivus - Agree with you 100%

    • MrPhilstivus profile image

      MrPhilstivus 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I've always thought it's about the Three S's - School, Style and Science.

      School: the type of martial arts school you attend will determine to a great degree the benefits you receive from their classes. Some eschew entirely any calisthenics; others are focused almost exclusively on them. It also depends upon the owner's / instructor's philosophy of training.

      Style: the style of martial art you study will also influence your results. MMA workouts and kickboxing will provide far more cardio benefit than an aikido class. Some styles are "external" and rely upon muscle; others are "internal" and rely upon technique.

      Science: whether you are a "slow twitch" or "fast twitch" type. The muscles that you wish to develop determine to a large extent whether you should do weightlifting or martial arts - they're two totally different goals.

      Good article!

    • Insane Mundane profile image

      Insane Mundane 5 years ago from Earth

      I've did both and, as far as overall fitness and well-being, a Martial Arts School wins without a doubt. Plus, body-weight exercises, boxing, wrestling/grappling, martial arts, etc., train your muscles in many more ways than the common single-plane motions found in body building and/or weight lifting. Lets just say, a much smaller guy who has trained hard using a total, full range of motion can throw some big, muscle-bound guy all over the place, while sparring.

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