Generally, martial arts practitioners showed a greater aerobic capacity, balance, flexibility, muscle endurance, strength, and less body fat, found a study. In other words, martial arts are not only ideal for maintaining self-discipline, but they are also excellent for health and fitness. So, what are the best martial arts for fitness?
The best martial arts for core strength are:
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
- Muay Thai
They are all excellent for overall fitness, building muscle, and stamina. In addition, wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts (AKA MMA) are great for all-around physical and mental fitness.
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Table of Contents
How Martial Arts Will Help You Get Fit?
Martial arts combine everyday functional moves and help you build:
- Strength training
- Cardiovascular conditioning
- Spatial Awareness
If you mix all the factors above, you will develop a strong core, lose weight and attain an excellent physical shape and stamina.
Additional benefits include safety and heightened alert.
Some older people are prone to injuries, including fractures when they fall. And, martial arts could help individuals who have osteoporosis, showed a 2010 research. In the study, researchers concluded that falling during martial arts practice may train practitioners to fall safely.
Martial arts practitioners develop a heightened alert network, according to a 2018 study in Frontiers in Psychology.
Which Martial Art Is Best For Core Strength?
Without a doubt, here are the best martial arts for fitness. These martial arts will boost your confidence, promote better coordination and provide you with a full-body workout.
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
- Krav Maga
- Muay Thai (AKA Thai boxing)
- Wing Chun (aka Kung Fu)
- Mixed Martial Arts (AKA MMA)
Next, let’s discuss the best martial arts for fitness in detail.
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The 16 Best Martial Arts For Fitness
1- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a fun sport that makes you think, analyze, and strategize and motivates you to stay in shape. It will strengthen your core, arm, and leg muscles and will increase your flexibility.
With such an unwavering focus on ground grappling and fighting, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) pushes you to win the fight using your agility and flexibility more than your physical strength.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the only martial art I have practiced that has completely drained me of energy to the point where I can’t even lift myself off the ground. Rolling at 100% for 20 minutes is the most tiring thing you will ever do, leaving you both physically and mentally exhausted.
Brazilian jujitsu is the best overall workout, mainly fitness. You will build muscle and cardio.
In addition, BJJ would require a serious time commitment and much practice to attain any level of proficiency. And, you will learn a lot about yourself and your determination.
Learn the basics of throwing a punch, how to avoid being taken down and how to get up if you hit the ground.
Cross fit and running are an excellent addition to BJJ. It is also a practical martial art for self-defense. Be careful, though.
Judo generally uses a combination of joint locks, throws, and grappling, meaning that you will develop endurance and tone your body.
And judo is a practical martial art because it uses the opponent’s strength against him. And, anyone can learn it.
In addition, a small study of 90 adolescents participating showed that judo participants had significantly higher well-being and life satisfaction.
Judo is also an excellent way to burn fat and lose weight. The table shows the number of calories burned during 30 minutes of practicing judo. You will notice that the more you weigh, the more calories you will burn.
Calories Burned in 30-minute of Practicing Judo
|Judo||125-pound (57 Kg) person||155-pound (70.31 Kg) person||185-pound (83.91 Kg) person|
|Calories Burned in 30-minute of Practicing Judo||300||360||420|
3- Krav Maga
Krav Maga is a martial art that first started as a military self-defense system with the Israel Defense Forces.
Krav Maga works your entire body leading to a high-intensity workout session. And, performing Krav Maga requires both strength and speed to neutralize the enemy.
Krav Maga is the most well-rounded method of combat and one of the best methods to get ripped.
Krav maga is estimated to burn between 500 to 800 calories per hour.
Taekwondo is a popular Korean martial art focusing on kicking. And, taekwondo’s training is very engaging because it will strengthen your lower body, build strength, tone your legs, increase your agility and flexibility.
Aerobic and cardio workouts are a large part of the extra training seen in taekwondo. You might be required to start running to develop your cardio.
Taekwondo athletes exhibit high peak anaerobic power, flexibility (particularly in the legs and hips), good core endurance, and high dynamic upper- and lower-body strength, found in a 2014 study published in Sports Medicine.
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Not necessarily a martial art, but boxing is excellent for general fitness. Boxing’s workouts can be pretty extreme, with continuous punching increasing your stamina.
To get the full fitness benefits of boxing, you have to dedicate yourself to handle the intense workout routines.
There are several ways you can train for boxing. One of the primary ways is by using a punching bag, which you can do at home or in the gym.
With the punching bags, you can develop your technique or opt for interval training. In addition, boxing training will help work to build core strength and muscle tone.
6- Muay Thai (AKA Thai boxing)
Thai boxing is a style of martial arts originating from Thailand. It is similar to American kickboxing, but it requires you to use your knees and elbows.
Muay Thai uses several combat techniques, from elbow and knee strikes to kicks and clinching.
Muay Thai is also one of the best martial arts for fitness because it is great for cardio.
With cardio kickboxing, you can expect to burn an average of 350 to 450 calories per hour, found a study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Other additional benefits include increased strength and flexibility and improved coordination, and sharper reflexes.
Capoeira is a form of martial arts with a long cultural history. It originated from Brazil and was initially performed by African slaves.
In other words, capoeira is a fast-paced and hybrid combination of Afro-Brazilian martial art and dance that can help you tone up your body and improve your fitness.
Capoeira is also an absolute complete body workout and core strength with an intense movement-based that discipline can bring that emphasizes speed, agility, and strength, leading to better performance and greater stamina.
While capoeira is friendly, it still teaches you flexibility, balance, and agility.
Also, capoeira is awesome. It is the whole package, including dancing, fighting, music and instruments, singing, learning a new language. You will make new friends.
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8- Wing Chun (aka Kung Fu)
Wing Chun (aka Kung Fu) is a southern Chinese martial art style that emphasizes efficiency and eliminates unnecessary movements.
Wing Chun’s training will:
- Make you a fierce opponent
- Strengthen your muscles
- Increase flexibility
- Burn fat
- And promote relaxation.
Wing Chun practitioners need to condition both their upper and lower bodies to perform the powerful punch better and kick techniques.
Wing Chun is also excellent in burning fat and losing weight. For example, a 135-pound adult can torch between 350 and 450 calories during a 50-minute kickboxing workout.
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Wrestling involves various techniques like grappling holds, takedowns, and clinch fighting. In addition, wrestlers are expected to have great endurance to resist anything their opponent gives them and work through till the end of the competition.
Running and cycling are excellent ways to work on your cardiovascular fitness, making sure that your body is healthier and you can fight throughout a match without ever tiring out.
The calories burned while wrestling depends significantly upon your weight; the more you weigh, the more calories you burn. Check out the table below calories burned in 30-minute of wrestling depending on the body weight.
Calories Burned in 30-minute of Wrestling
|Wrestling||125-pound (57 Kg) person||155-pound (70.31 Kg) person||185-pound (83.91 Kg) person|
|Calories Burned in 30-minute of Wrestling||180||216||252|
Karate originated from Okinawa in Japan and is both a combat sport and a form of self-defense. And, there are several different styles of karate, including Goju-Ryu, Kyokushin, and Shotokan, which focus on kata, more traditional forms and movements in karate.
Karate promotes the use of the body, particularly the hands, knees, and feet, to fight an opponent or defend oneself.
Like wrestling and Judo, the calories burned while practicing karate depend significantly upon your weight, and the more you weigh, the more calories you will burn.
Therefore, karate is among the best martial arts for fitness and an excellent way to lose weight.
11- Mixed Martial Arts (AKA MMA)
Mixed martial arts (AKA MMA) is a hybrid combat sport, including boxing, judo, jujitsu, karate, Muay Thai, wrestling, and other disciplines.
MMA helps you:
- Improve your fitness through full-body Training.
- Develop discipline and self-control.
- Increase confidence.
- Learn the importance of camaraderie and friendship.
As a hybrid combat sport, MMA is among the best martial arts for fitness.
Aikido focuses on redirecting an attack away from you and using your attacker’s strength and momentum against them.
It involves grabs, strikes, pin locks, and throws to level an opponent. A primary principle of Aikido is maintaining mental calm and physical control of your own body.
However, Aikido is more meditative and will make you sweat less.
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13- Tai Chi
Tai Chi is known as the most calming martial arts, making it perfect, especially for beginners. It focuses heavily on solo work and forms.
In addition, Tai Chi develops physical and mental strength, promotes coordination, and develops your respiratory system through a more profound awareness of how you breathe through.
In addition, it increases lower body strength, agility, and overall flexibility.
Tai Chi is a very interesting contrast with taekwondo. You will learn a lot about how your body works, the intricacies of movements involved, breathing, and how to move efficiently.
In contrast to karate, judo, or wrestling, you burn fewer calories depending on your body weight with Tai Chi.
Calories Burned in 30-minute of Practicing Tai Chi
|Wrestling||125-pound (57 Kg) person||155-pound (70.31 Kg) person||185-pound (83.91 Kg) person|
|Calories Burned in 30-minute of Practicing Tai Chi||120||144||168|
14- Jeet Kune Do (AKA Way of The Intercepting Fist)
Started by Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do (JKD) is one of the best martial arts for fitness because it pulls from many different styles (most notably, boxing and wing Chun).
However, Jeet Kune Do is very different depending on who you train with since it is a relatively new martial art that is supposed to change with the times. The idea behind it is that you pull from it and other martial arts what works for you and leave what doesn’t.
Kendo is also a Japanese, sword-based martial art involving wooden bamboo swords called Bokken or Shinai.
During training, kendo practitioners wear protective armor, and most kendo students ultimately graduate to practicing Iaido, another martial art involving a metal sword.
Kendo is a great workout and great stress relief because a good kendo workout will leave you feeling better than when you began.
In addition, kendo is excellent for mental strength and will help you build more confidence.
Hapkido is a little similar to aikido, with a few notable differences. Contrary to aikido, hapkido comes from Korea and teaches offensive techniques, whereas aikido essentially focuses on defense.
In addition, hapkido teaches kicks, punches, joint locks, and throws and emphasizes circular motion and non-resisting moves to control an opponent.
Also, hapkido is called a ‘cousin’ to taekwondo; therefore, they will have similar movements. But hapkido generally puts more emphasis on self-defense and applications and less on formality and structure.
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How do You Choose The Right Martial Art?
The essential factors in choosing the best martial arts for fitness are a good instructor and a place you enjoy going to.
Here are a few tips to remember before and after choosing a martial art that suit you best.
- Look for a gym that will let you take a trial class
- Look at online reviews or talk to current students
- Look for schools located near your location
- Focus on learning basics skills to defend yourself
- Train and don’t stop until you get comfortable
- Don’t get discouraged by getting dominated (at the beginning, it will be hard)
Check out the video below for choosing the martial arts that suit you best.
Choosing one particular martial art depends entirely on your health and fitness goals and personal taste.
And, here are my top 3 recommendations for the best martial arts for fitness:
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
- Muay Thai
But keep in mind that all martial arts were created for self-defense, well-being, discipline, conditioning. I suggest you learn the martial art you enjoy practicing, surrounded by a supportive and knowledgeable instructor and environment.
I would also recommend you cross-train because you will start building complementary skills and attributes that you blend into your own method( and maybe one day create your own martial arts style as Bruce Lee did).