There are many different martial arts types in the world, from the well-known Karate and Kung Fu styles to recently discovered English martial arts. Each one by definition improves the student’s ability to defend him or herself but often we forget that the movements involved in each style provide healthy exercise too.
Many of the martial arts types suffer from the image projected by films and television and new students take up a style with the motivation to be a spectacular fighter like their screen heroes. Okay, this at least exposes more people to the fascinating and complex world of martial arts but those who excel tend to be those who embrace the philosophy and physical discipline at the core of all the martial arts.
Most students baulk at the work required to master the forms found in most of the styles but it is this work that, for me, provides the most benefits.
Increasingly individuals are attracted to martial arts for the benefits they have on their health. The better types of martial arts hone not only your body but your mental functions too. Often the slower movements found in exercises and forms teach the student to control muscles throughout the body and, at the same time, provide a moving meditation to liberate the mind.
In this way, the student experiences benefits such as a reduction in stress (mental and physical), improved balance, better weight control, optimal muscle operation and even improved cardiovascular health.
Choosing between the martial arts types in order to find the one suitable for you can be daunting but, if you are looking for a style to improve your health, I personally believe a great place to start is with Tai Chi (T’ai Chi Ch’uan).
A study published by JAMA medicine in 2011 concluded that Tai Chi offers mild to moderate aerobic activity, good training for the extremities and strengthening of the core. Researchers also acknowledged the psychosocial benefits resulting from the stress relief the exercises create.
Writing in 1977, Tai Chi Master T.T. Liang said, “I should say T’ai Chi is the best. It can ward off disease, banish worry and tension, bring improved physical health and prolong life. It is a good hobby for your whole life, the older you are, the better. It is suitable for everyone – the weak, the sick, the aged, children, the disabled and blind.”
So Tai Chi would seem to be a great way for a wide variety of people to get involved in martial arts to improve their health. But of course there is nothing to dictate that students need to stop there: I found practising Tai Chi made me curious about the other martial arts types.
So, if you want to improve the functions of your body and mind, martial arts are a great way to do it: and it might start a life-long interest too.