While taking up any new activity can provide enjoyment, some, like martial arts, can improve your life in many more ways. I wanted to know more about all of the improvements martial arts could bring to your life and decided to bring them together to be looked at holistically.
Training martial arts can improve your life in many ways the most obvious of which are improving physical health and self-defense skills. Other significant benefits include improving your mental health, social skills, and self-discipline alongside providing stress relief.
Read on to learn more about the specific ways training martial arts can have a positive impact on your life alongside some adjustments that can maximize these impacts.
How Can Martial Arts Improve Your Life?
Martial arts provide an opportunity to build skills and habits that can improve your life in many ways. Self-improvement through martial arts can vary from physical health benefits to building self-discipline and other soft skills that are important to succeed in life like social skills.
While learning martial arts can be hard, it can improve your life greatly. This can especially be true if you’re feeling a bit directionless or stuck in life since starting a journey of self-improvement to deal with those feelings is easier if you have a venue in which to improve. Martial arts is particularly helpful in this regard because it can improve its students in a wide variety of ways ranging from physical to mental development and everything in between.
This might be a difficult task at first, especially if you’re a beginner. But seeing your skills and general fitness improve can definitely boost the drive for improvement and change since these are very visible or noticeable changes, and making progress really helps drive the self-improvement process that is so critical to improving life quality forward.
Seeing improvements in your martial arts skills can give a sense of fulfillment and purpose, which has benefits that can then translate into other areas of life. This may drive motivation to seek improvements in other areas of your life, such as work, relationships, or family.
All of this will encourage a focus on overall personal growth. By default, you are not going to immediately become a better person just by practicing martial arts a few times a week. Some benefits, like improvements to health markers and overall fitness and martial arts technique growth, will almost always happen, but it is up to the individual to take the opportunity and start their self-improvement journey.
Martial arts may just provide you with a fresh outlook on life and make you rethink certain aspects of your life that you can improve upon.
One of the most overlooked soft skills that people tend to ignore while going through life is fully developing their ability to keep a high level of self-discipline. People want to rely on motivation, but ultimately developing discipline and good habits is far more impactful than something as fleeting as feelings of motivation.
Martial arts provide students a chance to be disciplined in learning and executing the art. That ability to be disciplined can then carry over into all aspects of life. If you can show up to martial arts practice and work hard, you can do the same thing in other areas of your life.
When approaching martial arts training thoughtfully, you can actively build your levels of discipline. For more about how to do this check my post about how to use martial arts to develop self-discipline.
Remember, improving your life is a gradual process and simply practicing martial arts is not enough on its own to improve life quality. Martial arts can play a key part in maintaining your sense of well-being, but if you want to maximize the positive impacts of martial arts on your life you will need to be deliberate and take skills learned and expand their impact.
How Do Martial Arts Affect Your Life?
Martial arts can have a positive influence on many aspects of your life. Some of the most prominent benefits include:
- Physical health
- Mental health
- Social skills
Let’s take a look at each of these aspects individually to see what kind of improvements you may expect.
Participating in martial arts is a very active endeavor and really can help students out in terms of positive physical gains in terms of overall fitness and aerobic capacity. Any martial art practice will give people an opportunity to exercise and become fit.
Obviously, traditional forms of exercise like walking, jogging, or going to the gym are quite beneficial and have only a limited barrier to entry to start these forms of exercise. Despite what you might think you do not need to be fit to start martial arts in most disciplines, and they can be a good alternative to those more traditional forms of exercise.
Most people have trouble enjoying walking, jogging, and gym-going the same way they can enjoy a hobby activity, and for many people, training in martial arts qualifies as a hobby and is seen as more interesting and useful than traditional exercise by many martial artists.
That doesn’t mean that choosing to integrate calisthenics or lifting into your martial arts fitness routine isn’t valuable, so if you have room to train these for strength and fitness, it is a good idea to do so to complement martial arts training.
Check out my article on calisthenics or lifting to learn more about the pros and cons of each method and how to make the right personal choice for supplemental strength training.
Of course, martial arts are not the only way to exercise and shed pounds, but it’s much easier for many people to stick to a martial arts practice than to a gym regimen. In fact, many health professionals see martial arts as a good solution to the epidemic of obesity that we have been facing for quite some time. Just take a look at this article by Thomas Woodward, MD.
Some additional correlated health benefits of training martial arts include:
- Lower body fat percentage
- Improved aerobic capacity
- Improved balance
- Improved strength
- Improved flexibility
Another important physical health factor that is often discussed is falling skills and fall prevention, which is a useful life-long skill that can be directly learned in martial arts. These skills are especially important as people age, as injuries and deaths from falling are unfortunately common for the elderly.
This can happen through simply having better balancing skills, which is present in many martial arts, with a common example being Tai Chi balancing exercises. Also working on how to fall more gracefully and better absorb impacts is incredibly useful. These falling skills are best trained in arts like Judo and to a lesser extent Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
There’s also some scientific evidence that martial arts can be a good intervention for improving mental health. This means that it can be used as part of your routine to maintain your mental health or as a supplement to therapy if you go to therapy.
Improvements in mental health occur in most forms of exercise, and attending martial arts classes is no exception. Aside from the normal stress-relieving benefits associated with regularly exercising, martial arts provide a situation in which students can socialize with other active, like-minded people and get a sense of community and all the associated mental health benefits with it.
Exercise also prompts your body to release endorphins, which cause a positive sensation in the body and make you feel happier overall. This is why you might sometimes feel euphoric after a nice jog, which is often referred to as a runner’s high. This feeling isn’t limited only to running: you can also experience the same thing after martial arts exercises.
Apart from that, many martial arts will make you practice deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness, which can help you refocus your thoughts, relieve stress, and provide all the benefits of traditional meditation. Regularly practicing the deep breathing and meditation present in many martial arts classes can have a profound effect on your sense of well-being.
As we’ve already noted, martial arts give you a great opportunity to become more disciplined. Following rules, respecting authority, and especially working towards and achieving long-term goals are actions that can be greatly beneficial in building discipline.
Having manners and showing and receiving respect from others is great for building discipline and creating a feeling of belonging and well-being. Many martial arts are also physically and mentally strenuous and teach students to deal with temporary discomfort to achieve something meaningful long-term, which is integral to being a disciplined person.
If you’re practicing martial arts, you’re probably not doing it alone. In order to learn well, you’ll have to join a school or at least find some like-minded people to train with.
If you join a school, you’ll be surrounded by new like-minded people, and you’ll be forced to adapt and learn how to communicate and socialize within that training environment. These soft social skills are generally important in life, and while you’re practicing your martial art, you’ll get to practice your social skills.
Communicating with people that share similar goals is often easier for people with social anxiety or who are introverted and struggle to develop friendships with people with which they share common interests. Having a group of people tied together by a similar goal satisfies a basic human need to be a part of a social structure that many people lack in modern times.
Depending on the martial art you might even choose to travel to tournaments and matches with your teammates to deepen bonds with them and create a social network with people from other schools and in the region overall.
There is no doubt that being well-practiced in social skills is critical to smoothing the path to having a well-balanced and fulfilling life. Getting out there and training in martial arts is an opportunity to make lifelong friends and address social needs while building up social skills.
Many people will join a martial arts school to learn self-defense skills. Sometimes this is their main reason to start practicing a martial art.
Whatever your motivation might be, you’re going to learn some practical self-defense skills in almost every martial art. Even if you don’t have a great need to learn self-defense, you’re going to become fighting principles that could help in a pinch.
If your primary goal for training martial arts is self-defense, lean towards training MMA, Muay Thai or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. For an average person, it is easiest to start and maintain a training schedule with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
If self-defense is a driving factor in your martial arts training I would recommend picking up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, check out my post What Should I Expect in My First BJJ Class? if you want to know this martial art.
Confidence is going to come naturally as a product of all the other things we have mentioned here. As you see yourself improve, look, and feel better, you’re automatically going to have more confidence.
Let’s take a closer look at how that works.
How Do Martial Arts Improve Confidence?
Martial arts can improve confidence by addressing anxiety, which is a big reason people can lack self-confidence. This anxiety can come from social anxiety or being concerned about safety and self-defense. Martial arts does a good job of providing students with an opportunity to improve both.
As you start seeing your martial arts skills and your physical and mental well-being increase, you’re going to have a greater sense of satisfaction and confidence by default. This can often be due to simply feeling better before you are fitter and more mentally capable, but can also stem from having a greater sense of safety due to your newfound self-defense skills, which can boost confidence.
Martial arts also provide a critical environment in which to build social skills and build social circles, both of which are vital for many people to feel confident and self-assured of their place in the world. Being socially savvy and having social needs met are quite important to have a good sense of well-being.
Many scientific studies have reported increased confidence and self-esteem among martial arts practitioners, as well as lower anxiety, more humility, and self-acceptance.
Be mindful of your newfound confidence and be careful not to turn confidence into arrogance, which is a slippery slope if you’ve lacked self-confidence in the past. Treat others with respect and you will get the respect you deserve and bolster your overall confidence.
Do Martial Arts Help With Anger Management?
Martial arts can help with anger management. Channeling frustration into exercise can be helpful since exercise produces endorphins, which will help you feel calmer and improve your mental state. Martial arts also frequently include mindfulness training which helps to clear negative emotions.
Exercise, in general, is good for blowing off steam. It allows you to use negative energy on something healthy and productive. Instead of letting yourself stew in your anger, you can progress your fitness and reach goals while starting a chemical shift in your body that will help to calm you and improve your mental health.
One method of anger management is to focus the energy that the anger provides you with onto something productive, which is going to turn it into a positive force. Simply focusing your mind on something else can go a long way to alleviating anger and frustration.
Martial arts also have a tendency to directly work on mindfulness and meditation as a part of warming up or cooling down before or after class. Many people resist the idea of meditation and mindfulness but it is a very effective strategy for overall wellness in addition to helping release anger, frustration, and resentment.
Keep in mind that going to martial arts class actively angry in behavior towards others is disrespectful and shouldn’t be done. Never take out your anger on your teammates or instructor since your emotional state is your problem, and not theirs. Let your training environment help you instead of bringing your training environment down to your emotional level.
It’s also important to note that martial arts are not a replacement for therapy. If you have serious issues with anger management, you should seek a therapist as well. However, quality martial arts training is a great way to channel your energy into something positive, which can very much affect your emotional well-being and allow you to process anger in a healthier way.
Do Martial Arts Make You Fearless?
Martial arts don’t make you fearless. However, by boosting your confidence and improving your self-defense skills, they do make you much better adapted to deal with fear in many situations, especially situations in which you may have to defend yourself or someone else.
Being a martial artist will not turn you into a fearless, indestructible fighting machine. You’re going to acquire some useful skills for self-defense scenarios and you’re going to have more ability to operate in spite of stress and fear, but you’ll still feel it at some level, which is normal. Overcoming fear and stress and still being able to think and act is a real accomplishment.
Good martial artists understand their limitations and can know how to react better than similar but untrained people in stressful situations. People with training in combat sports-oriented martial arts will be able to deal with fighting situations better than average and have a lot better ability to act while under stress that is related to fighting.
Most traditional martial arts also have restraint and the avoidance of violence as main tenets. Most martial arts disciplines are pragmatic enough to drill into your head that the best way to win a conflict is to avoid engaging in it in the first place.
A martial artist who focuses on staying calm and in control in a stressful situation is way more likely to be able to successfully de-escalate a tense self-defense-type situation that is almost always unnecessary. Being able to stay relatively relaxed and in control will help martial artists to become less fearful because they can stay calm and act in the best way possible.
Training martial arts have a lot of potential positives that can really upgrade your life. All of these factors ranging from mental health to social and physical health should make practicing martial arts something that is attractive to most people who have any interest in the hobby whatsoever.
Sometimes martial arts training might be difficult to integrate into your life at various stages, and that is okay, just get back to training as soon as it is feasible and you can go right back to reaping all the rewards that training martial arts have to offer.
For more check out Is Martial Arts Bad for Your Body? (It Depends)