(ThyBlackMan.com) Since the 1960s, martial arts have been popular in the U.S. Each decade saw a period when martial arts—especially Eastern ones—had a place in media. While there has been health and fitness reasons to pursue them, in the last decade there has been an emphasis on either pursuing martial arts in their entirety, implementing elements into workout routines, or creating entirely new workouts based on them.
Here are ten martial arts that will do wonders for your fitness.
1. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
When the Gracie martial arts dynasty brought Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ to the U.S. stage in the early 1990s, it gave us a glimpse into the future of combat sports. While the UFC would be both the foundation and the future itself, mixed martial arts has thrived in the U.S. One style that professional fighters utilize as their base or specific techniques from is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
In competition, BJJ is at the top. There’s at least two BJJ gyms in every major city or every gym offers classes on it. As far as fitness goes, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is great for flexibility, strength, and stamina. This is because BJJ is grappling martial art (like wrestling but with a heavy focus on submission holds and position control).
While in striking martial arts you can train alone at times, a lot of grappling martial arts training centers around sparring with partners. This give you an element of resistance which important when working out.
2. Muay Thai
If Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the best grappling art for fitness, then Muay Thai takes the crown for striking arts. Like BJJ, Muay Thai has wide use in MMA for stand up and clinching work. When it comes to fitness, Muay Thai or Thai boxing is similar to western boxing. It’s really good for cardio since it has exercises that can be done solo. As a matter of fact, Muay Thai—as well as kick boxing and western boxing—has seen some of its techniques mixed in with aerobic exercises because of the major cardio benefits.
Like with BJJ or actually any martial art, Muay Thai’s benefits shine in sparring exercises. Here, you will put what you’ve developed in training to a practice test and you will might even see progress in some areas and where you’ll need work in others.
Muay Thai is pretty accessible. As I’ve found, most gyms that offer BJJ in a major city offer Muay Thai as well.
Whether its collegiate or catch wrestling, this grappling science is readily accessible in the U.S. It’s one of a few combat sports offered in schools throughout the nation and you find a few gyms or clubs that offer training in your area. Wrestling’s strong points are similar to BJJ: stamina, flexibility, and strength. Its greatest benefits are in sparring with others. The training for being competition fit can be intense in wrestling.
4. Krav Maga
This martial art comes to us from the Israeli special forces and gives you both striking and grappling elements. Since its roots are in street fighting and its use is primarily self defense, training in Krav Maga is guaranteed to be intense. That isn’t to say you can’t use it for fitness reasons. Because it focuses on striking and grappling in a variety of situations, it will give you a mix of benefits—basically all of them. Training in Krav Maga has been growing stateside so you’ll definitely be able to find somewhere offering classes.
Along with wrestling, boxing is one of the oldest sports in the western world. The sweet science has been mixed into aerobic exercise routines in the same way as Muay Thai and kick boxing. While you can get strengthen out of boxing, stamina is the biggest benefit here. Honestly, you can go wrong with this striking style plus it’s accessible. The accessibility of the martial art is important: can you find somewhere that offers it? With boxing, you will be able to find somewhere to train even outside of major cities.
A grappling art, judo came out of jiu jitsu with the intense submission locks being reduced or removed entirely. The focus of judo is on throwing and sweeping making it great for balance and strength. When you mix in the sparring element of judo, you’re getting a workout that’s good for your cardio as well. A dedicated judo club can be found and many clubs and gyms that offer other martial arts offer judo as well. So, you won’t have to really search for a place to practice judo.
If you want to build to strength, improve your stamina, work on your flexibility and want something everyone and their grandma knows about, karate’s your ticket. There’s nothing like saying “I’m training in Krav Maga” and someone responds “Oh, that’s like karate, isn’t it?” Yeah. Even with the boom for BJJ and Muay Thai, you can still find somewhere to train in karate. Easily. Take in mind that since there are different branches and styles of karate, there are different degrees of intensity.
This is something of a catch-all term for a family of Filipino martial arts. Like Krav Maga, you have several different elements to consider. Eskrima is actually the part that involves weapon fighting and the training there can give you a good work and improve focus. After all, you’re handling weapons and you can’t just wing it or totally zone out. The weapon training aside, Eskrima also factors in hand-to-hand fighting and disarming tactics which are in line with other martial arts featured here. As far as finding a club or place to train, they’re definitely out there.
Hailing from Brazil with variants in the Caribbean, Capoeria is a martial art that really lends itself to fitness. Historically, the style was disguised as folk dance when it actually had a combat use. It’s great for improving stamina and flexibility and you can find studios that offer training in it pretty easily since—like Muay Thai, kick boxing, and boxing—it has been implemented into aerobics and can even alone as its own aerobic exercise.
10. Tai Chi
The most known of the China’s internal martial arts, Tai Chi is a good exercise for focus but can be great for stamina. It’s also a good style for relaxation. Mind you, this is about the beginners’ movements you’ll do. Getting more into Tai Chi, you build stamina, flexibility, and through focus, your agility. Tai Chi is very accessible as you find groups easily. As a matter of fact, some groups even offer open practice in parks or local recreation centers. One thing I dig about Tai Chi is that it is open to people of varying physical conditions. You don’t necessarily need to be athletic to show progress off the bat and you’ll develop it with time via Tai Chi.
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.