by Elyse Wild
Women all around the world have practiced martial arts for 4,000 years and for good reason; this divine, age-old form of exercise has been proven to increase stamina, strength and spiritual well-being. Martial arts challenge you to use the best of what you have—your body and mind—to push yourself further than you ever have before. They also require grace and poise, both innate qualities in women. Hundreds of variations have developed over the years, and there is a style for everyone. Whether you want to try your hand(s) at kung fu, tai chi, krav maga or kickboxing, here are five reasons you should incorporate martial arts into your fitness routine.
1. Increased Strength
You will build strength quickly. Martial arts involve full-body workouts that build your muscle through calisthenics and body-weight exercises like squats, push-ups, crab-walks, crunches and leg lifts. As you continue to practice, repetitive actions like punching, kicking, evading and chopping will also increase your muscle tone.
2. Perfect Posture
Most martial arts start from the ground up, meaning your stance is the foundation of everything that comes after. You can’t throw a punch, twirl a tornado kick or even take a step forward if your legs and feet are not just so. This attention to detail will not only help you build core strength but will develop your awareness of your posture and poise.
3. Lightning Reflexes
As you progress in your practice, your brain will learn to anticipate what’s to come. Research shows that individuals who participate in a martial art demonstrate faster reaction times in all areas of their lives than those who don’t, and who wouldn’t want cat-like reflexes?
4. Get to Know Yourself
You will learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible. In martial arts, your body is your gym, and the more you practice, the more in tune you become to your strengths, limitations, the intricacies of your muscles and the connections throughout your body. You will learn to become deeply familiar with your weaknesses and nurture them into valuable assets. This enlightenment opens up a tranquil world of peace and possibility you will carry with you outside of the dojo.
5. Power and Grace
As you build your strength and skills, you will learn about the two-way relationship between power and grace: power is nothing without grace, and grace has stunning potential when backed by power. Finding the balance between these two is an invaluable, lifelong journey and martial arts allow you to put contemplation into practice as you tap into these natural qualities you may not even know you have.
“Your story may not have such a happy beginning, but that doesn’t make you who you are. It is the rest of your story – who you choose to be.”
– Michelle Yeoh, Former ballet student, stunt woman, martial artist, award winning actress