Do You Need to Be Fit to Start Combat Sports?

Combat sports are a growing hobby due to the prevalence of MMA in the media through the UFC and Bellator promotions. These combat sports athletes are at peak fitness, but can somebody who wants to get into combat sports start without getting into shape first?

You can start combat sports even if you are out of shape or overweight. Most schools are welcoming of new students even if they are not particularly fit. Combat sports are physically demanding activities so this type of training will bring your fitness level up quickly.

Now that we know that getting into shape is not required to start combat sports, let’s take a look at some of the other factors that might come into play when you are considering getting started.

Do You Need to Be Fit for Combat Sports?

Being fit for combat sports is vital since most of them include exhausting live sparring. Combat sports like Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and Boxing all include sparring, which will require decent fitness to perform well.

I put together the table below to illustrate what fitness requirements look like across a range of martial arts and combat disciplines at a typical school.

Martial Art / Combat Sport DisciplineFitness Difficulty for BeginnersFitness Usefulness for Overall Performance
KarateMinimalModerate
TaekwondoMinimalModerate
Kung FuMinimalModerate
JudoHighHigh
Brazilian Jiu-JitsuModerateModerate
MMAHighHigh
WrestlingHighHigh
Muay ThaiModerateHigh
KickboxingModerateHigh
BoxingMinimalHigh
Click the links for more details. This table compares fitness requirements for martial arts and combat disciplines qualitatively. It is based on personal experiences, experiences of my martial artist friends, and research.

As you can see from the table above, fitness requirements generally tend to go up when you want to progress well in most martial arts and combat disciplines.

Keep in mind that while fitness difficulty might be high, getting started does not require high basic fitness. This table is built to give you an idea of how hard the beginning stages of learning and peak performance might look in terms of physical exertion.

Do You Need to Be Strong for Combat Sports?

Being strong is vital for combat sports. Building explosive basic strength and a strong core adds power and quality of motion to your techniques. In a live sparring situation, the stronger and more explosive athlete will have a distinct advantage.

I put together the table below to illustrate what strength requirements look like across a range of martial arts and combat disciplines.

Martial Art / Combat Sport DisciplineStrength Needs for BeginnersStrength Usefulness for Overall Performance
KarateMinimalMinimal
TaekwondoMinimalMinimal
Kung FuMinimalMinimal
JudoModerateHigh
Brazilian Jiu-JitsuModerateModerate
MMAModerateHigh
WrestlingModerateHigh
Muay ThaiMinimalModerate
KickboxingMinimalModerate
BoxingMinimalModerate
This table compares strength requirements for martial arts and combat disciplines qualitatively. It is based on personal experiences, experiences of my martial artist friends, and research.

Taking a quick look at the table, it is obvious that having strength is useful for performance. Most combat disciplines require a moderate level of strength to get started, but getting to peak performance almost always requires dedicated strength building.

This is especially true when you are doing martial arts that include sparring in classes.

Take a look here to see an example of a workout that you could use to build that explosive strength when performed with controlled speed and power.

Do You Need to Be Flexible for Combat Sports?

Having at least moderate flexibility is helpful for combat sports. Good mobility and flexibility lead to a wider range of techniques with better power output through a bigger range of motion. High flexibility and mobility are also vital for performance in many combat sports disciplines.

Flexibility is not a prerequisite to beginning combat sports, but in order to reach peak performance, flexibility and mobility are a must.

I put together the table below to illustrate what flexibility requirements look like across a range of martial arts and combat disciplines.

Martial Art / Combat Sport DisciplineFlexibility Needs for BeginnersFlexibility Usefulness for Overall Performance
KarateMinimalModerate
TaekwondoModerateHigh
Kung FuMinimalModerate
JudoModerateModerate
Brazilian Jiu-JitsuMinimalModerate
MMAModerateHigh
WrestlingModerateHigh
Muay ThaiModerateHigh
KickboxingModerateHigh
BoxingMinimalModerate
This table compares flexibility requirements for martial arts and combat disciplines qualitatively. It is based on personal experiences, experiences of my martial artist friends, and research.

Most combat sports benefit from flexibility and mobility because they need the additional power output and control through a range of motion. Combat sports with a lot of level changes or kicking will require more mobility than others.

This article does a great job outlining some high-value stretches and mobility training that could help build flexibility and mobility.

How Hard are Combat Sports to Learn?

Most combat sports fundamentals are easy to learn and approachable for beginners. Quality schools will have specific classes for building fundamentals. Combat sports require a lot of physicality and dedication to reach mastery.

I put together the table below to illustrate the difficulty to learn a range of martial arts and combat disciplines for an average person.

Martial Art / Combat Sport DisciplineDifficulty of Learning FundamentalsDifficulty to Reach Mastery
KarateMinimalModerate
TaekwondoMinimalModerate
Kung FuMinimalModerate
JudoModerateHigh
Brazilian Jiu-JitsuModerateHigh
MMAModerateHigh
WrestlingModerateHigh
Muay ThaiModerateHigh
KickboxingMinimalHigh
BoxingMinimalModerate
This table compares the difficulty to learn various martial arts and combat disciplines qualitatively. It is based on personal experiences, experiences of my martial artist friends, and research.

Fundamentals are easier to learn across the board and anybody who wants to get started in any of these martial arts will usually be able to do so with some effort. Mastery of the different martial arts and combat disciplines varies greatly depending on factors like physical demands, the complexity of the sport, and whether or not live sparring occurs.

What to Expect in Your First Combat Sports Lesson

Combat sports training sessions look very different depending on the combat sport in question. In general, since combat sports are physically demanding and rely a lot on fundamentals you will go through a warm-up, conditioning, drills for fundamental skills, technical learning, then sparring.

What to Wear to Your First Combat Sports Lesson

Speak to the school in order to get an idea of what clothing and equipment to bring to your first class. Typically you will only be expected to bring yourself and wear gym clothes. If you have workout clothing that does not have pockets that is better since then nothing can get caught in pockets.

Final Thoughts

While combat sports are physically demanding, getting started in them is approachable even for out-of-shape athletes. These disciplines are a little harder to get into initially than traditional martial arts but arguably the payoff is far greater.

Taking an introductory lesson or checking out combat sports schools in your area is definitely worth your time if you are interested in learning real combat skills.

If you are looking for similar information about martial arts check out Do You Need to Be Fit to Start Martial Arts.

Andre

Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I have always been fascinated with martial arts and train them as often as I can. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and train judo and wrestling as secondary martial arts. I help to coach a kid's grappling program that blends all three martial arts. I hope that you find the value that you are looking for in the articles on this website.

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