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You’ve seen the films and you’ve heard the song (‘...everybody was kung-fu fighting –huh-!’). Martial arts have taken the world by storm, so jump on the bandwagon and experience the full body workout and health benefits that moving like Bruce Lee could bring you.
Martial arts is an all-encompassing term for any set of structured fighting and defence techniques, although it is now most commonly associated with Asian combat styles. Training methods will vary depending on the discipline, but will typically include learning set routines composed of techniques known as forms or kata.
Testing has also become an important part of the martial arts discipline and is used as a way of monitoring progress and achievement. By picking up different techniques and mastering them, you can work your way through recognised skill sets, known as ‘grades’, which represent your level of expertise. Completion of each graded testing is accompanied by the attainment of different coloured belts. Your current skill level is therefore represented by the belt you used to tie your robes; the lowest level (beginner) is represented by a white belt in many martial arts, whereas more experienced martial artists possess black and brown belts. Tests normally require you to complete one or more katas, answer some questions or complete some simple physical exercises, and may also include sparring.
Sparring is the demonstration of the combat techniques in action, against an opponent. It is divided into light, medium and full-contact sparring, which refers to the level of force which can be used. In light-contact, the punches are pulled before meeting the other person. In medium-contact, punches are not entirely pulled but are not exerted at full force, and in full-contact matches, the aim is to knock out your opponent or force them to submit. It’s worth checking out how it works at your chosen venue, as some classes include mandatory sparring while others leave it as an optional extra.
Some teachers also place more of an emphasis on the holistic capabilities of martial arts. Training could boost your self-esteem, confidence, self-control and become an important way of releasing the stresses and strains of daily life. Nothing beats that old trick of picturing someone’s face as you hit something...
Martial arts can be practiced by men, women and children of all ages and you’re sure to find a class to suit you. Women may find the self-defence aspect particularly beneficial, but everyone should feel an improvement in general physical fitness by regularly attending martial arts classes and you can also expect to feel a boost in strength, stamina, flexibility and coordination. Just a few of the most well-known styles you can choose from are:
Apparently there are more than 50 million people practicing karate worldwide, so it has to be good for something...