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Martial arts offer unique workout

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Watch Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan move across the silver screen with fluidity and fierceness, and it is easy to see why people love martial arts. Not only are martial arts easy to do, but they are also great for physical and mental health.

One secret to martial arts is repetitive movements. Similar to yoga and Pilates, martial arts use both smooth and explosive movements to gradually increase many different aspects of physical health. 

For example, repeated use of stances improves balance, repeated striking improves coordination and repeated stretches increase flexibility. Balance, coordination and flexibility are important aspects of physical health often overlooked in traditional workouts that just focus on muscle strength. 

Martial arts also make for good cardiovascular workouts. While a single punch or kick is hardly breathtaking, quick combinations can become quite exhausting. Many schools even combine traditional cardio exercises with marital arts for a unique workout. 

For example, Phoenix Rising Karate classes often incorporate “down and backs,” an exercise where students rush to the end of the mat, strike a bag and run back. The exercise is a good martial arts twist on a traditional running exercise. 

More than anything else, martial arts classes are a good way to get moving. Between the hours of operation, built-in community keeping each other accountable and weekly classes, martial arts become an easy way to integrate exercise into a weekly schedule. 

“[Marital arts] allows me, since I’m doing it at least four or five times within a week, to keep moving, especially with me having an office job from nine to five,” said Alexander Smith, an instructor at Phoenix Rising Karate. 

Along with the physical, martial arts offer a variety of mental health benefits. Confidence is an important part of mental health, and martial arts are perfect for developing confidence. Many martial artists, like Robert Bilek, head instructor at Rising Phoenix, started training specifically for the confidence that comes from self-defense. 

“To be honest, I was bullied. I was a skinny little kid, and I wanted to be able to defend myself and try to get confidence,” Bilek said. 

Both the physical exercise and mental confidence come together to make a health trend hundreds of years in the making, and it is a trend that is catching on. Smith notes how martial arts have gained popularity.

“There’s quite a bit of [martial artists] in the Midwest, or just in Indiana itself. Rather if its taekwondo or karate, there’s something around the corner,” Smith said.

 

Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.

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