If you want something unique to add to your exercise regimen, martial arts may be the very thing you are looking for. Martial arts has the benefit of exercising both your mind and body. Through martial arts training, you get a complete workout that aerobics or weight lifting just can’t match.
Martial arts have never been more popular as it is today. Recent Hollywood action blockbusters that feature acrobatic fight scenes like “The Matrix” and “Charlie’s Angels” have been hugely successful. But long before Keannu Reeves and Drew Barrymore sported their chops and kicks on the widescreen, the martial arts were already widely used in Asian movies. Chinese martial arts gave birth to a popular genre of cinema. The films of Bruce Lee were instrumental in popularizing the martial arts in feature films. Today, martial artists cum actors such as Jet Li and Jackie Chan have appeared in many Western films as direct beneficiaries of Bruce Lee’s pioneering work in movies.
While the closest that many martial arts enthusiasts can go to a dojo (a place where people practice martial arts) is playing Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter in front of a TV screen or their computer in their living room, others are keen to hit the mats and have a go at martial arts themselves. From the graceful, dance-like moves of tai chi and capoeira, to the explosive fighting styles of kung fu and karate, there is a martial art to suit just about every every individual taste, interest, or inclination. Businessmen to bus conductors, students to politicians, people of all ages and from all walks of life are discovering the physical and mental benefits of martial arts.
Rock stars have often used martial arts to spice up their live performances. No other than “The King”, Elvis Presley, a karate black belt, entertained his fans on stage with his karate kicks and antics. Madonna’s recent tour features dance routines heavily influenced by martial arts.
But more than just entertainment and exercise, the martial arts form part of an ancient philosophy or way of life. According to legend, the martial arts originated in Honan, a province in North Central China, where they were introduced by Bodhidharma, who was said to be a wandering monk who came over the mountains from India. He brought with him the fighting techniques and philosophy of his home land. As developed by the monks, martial arts are systems of codified practices and traditions of training for combat. They may be studied for various reasons including combat skills, fitness, self-defense, sport, self-cultivation, meditation, mental discipline, character development and building self-confidence, or any combination of the above.
Moreover, many doctors have realized that martial arts can replace drug therapy for patients suffering from psychological conditions such as depression. The use of meditative principles allows the participant to utilize self-evaluation and self-introspection as a means to practice martial arts. The more aggressive styles such as kendo and kick-boxing appear to help people with problems such as depression, while the softer disciplines of aikido and tai chi can help people who are anxious or under a lot of stress. The healing power of these martial arts may lie in the combination of movement, meditation, and breathing exercises.
An individual’s total well being, both psychological and physical, can be improved simultaneously through martial arts. Its psychological benefits include increased self-esteem and self-confidence as well as decreased tension, stress, anxiety and depression. While the physical aspects of exercise improve your general health, martial arts can likewise improves one’s emotional health.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to put on your “gi,” turn off the video, put down that mouse or your joystick, and head off to your local gym and think of Bruce, Jet, and Jackie who uncovered the joys of martial arts!