Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fighting Fit - Martial Arts and Weight loss

Fighting Fit - Martial Arts and Weight loss

If your goal is to improve your fitness or lose weight but you need to do something more exciting than jogging on a treadmill to keep you motivated, perhaps you should consider doing a martial art like boxing, kickboxing, karate, or judo.
In this article we list the top 10 reasons to consider doing a martial art for fitness and weight loss to help you decide if doing one is right for you.
1. Doing martial arts for weight loss
It's no coincidence that gyms, personal trainers and producers of exercise videos and DVD's are now heavily incorporating training techniques and exercises from a wide variety of martial arts in their workouts.
Boxercise, Tae Bo, Cardio-Kickboxing, Kung Fu Aerobics, and personal trainers using punching bags, focus mitts and kicking pads in their sessions are just a couple of examples of how martial arts training is being used in cardio workouts for fitness and weight loss.
2. Doing martial arts for fitness
Most martial arts incorporate exercises and drills that improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance, help build muscle strength and improve muscle flexibility so they are perfect for anyone wanting to improve their overall fitness.

Cardiovascular fitness improvements require us to regularly elevate our heart rate for extended periods and most martial arts training can help us do that.
Martial arts training helps provide this training by requiring us to perform exercises like push-ups and squats using our own body weight for resistance.
Improved flexibility is a natural byproduct of martial arts training because most, if not all styles of martial art incorporate stretching exercises in their workouts.
3. Doing martial arts and self-defense
Unless they've had many years of martial arts training themselves, most personal trainers and gym instructors will not be able to offer advice about your punching and kicking technique, they are only really qualified to hold the focus mitts or kick-pad for you while you punch or kick them.
Remember, while probably great at what they do, these trainers are more like aerobics instructors than specifically qualified martial arts instructors.
4. Doing martial arts and self-confidence
In addition to providing us with the ability to defend ourselves, one of the greatest personal benefits that martial art training provides is a high degree of self-confidence.
5. Doing martial arts to improve body balance and coordination
As well as helping us to become fitter and stronger, martial art training typically involves the mastery of a range of techniques that requires us to be well-balanced and have superior body coordination.
6. Doing martial arts for variety
Martial art training provides great variety in two ways.
Firstly, martial arts training sessions themselves have great variety built into them by including warm-ups and cool-downs, stretching exercises, strength building exercises, cardio exercises and exercises designed to improve and teach us a wide variety of techniques.
7. Doing martial arts teaches discipline and provides motivation
Everybody knows that studying a martial art requires and teaches discipline.
Because it is also goal orientated, training in one of the many martial arts also provides a great deal of motivation.
8. Doing martial arts for spirituality
Martial art training has been practiced by millions of people over many centuries because among other things, it has a great ability to spiritually uplift us.
9. Doing martial arts training is relatively inexpensive
Compared to joining some gyms and hiring some personal trainers, training at a martial arts school or dojo is relatively inexpensive.
Many martial arts schools charge a very modest monthly fee for training and the beauty of this is you can train when and as often as it suits you.
10. Doing martial arts has a social aspect
Many people who start doing martial arts training for weight loss, improved fitness or self-defense end up enjoying it most for its social aspects.
As well as training and learning with others with similar goals, many martial arts trainees help encourage and motivate each other and end up becoming very good friends.
Many martial arts instructors too have very friendly dispositions and foster a fun and friendly environment in which to train which endears them to their students who typically also become close friends.
If your goal is to improve your fitness or lose weight but you need to do something more exciting than jogging on a treadmill to keep you motivated, perhaps you should consider doing a martial art like boxing, kickboxing, karate, or judo.
In this article we listed the top 10 reasons to consider doing a martial art for fitness and weight loss to help you decide if doing one is right for you.
My career in the martial arts started in 1964 with irony. I studied a martial art normally categorized as "soft" judo, but found that in application there was a lot of "hard". Later I added the "hard" art of karate and the "soft" art of aiki-ju-jutsu to my repertoire. Other major themes (long vs. short range, straight vs. circular movement, internal vs. external energy, traditional vs. modern practices, etc.) seemed also to be in conflict and yet existed within one martial artist, one method of instruction, one school, one style, or one art--this was a paradox. Karate and Aiki each present us with a philosophical "paradox" when applying them in self-defense. If pushed to the limit Karate resists while Aiki accepts and redirects. Similarly, there are challenges within the martial arts community which must be met one way or another: with resistance or with acceptance. Many martial artists are unnecessarily critical of each other, perhaps showing a lack of confidence in their own art, or, more precisely, in themselves. You can see this in the letter section of any martial arts magazine in any given month. Some who may appear uncritical politically, perpetrate a watered-down version of a martial art, inflate their credentials, make false claims about their history, abilities, etc. If one takes the more tolerant Aiki approach, one sees the quality and benefits of martial arts study gradually being eroded and the meaning of a black belt becoming ludicrous. What a paradox!
Great masters of the martial arts, notably Funakoshi (karate), Kano (Judo) and Ueshiba (Aikido) intended the study of their art to be a method of improving the individual so as to eventually influence society. I think the masters of the previous era might accept a small variation to their theme of peace and harmony through the martial arts: the martial arts provide one method by which paradox can be studied and eventually resolved. In my opinion, it is the method of resolving paradox which is the key to personal mastery, and a philosophical change in society.
The martial arts are a relatively insignificant sub-culture in a world of political extremists, religious paradigms, and self-improvement methods. As a whole, one cannot say that the very study of any martial art makes one a better person or improves society directly or indirectly. Martial arts are not a direct means to a given end. Rather, martial arts offer one method for personal challenge and self-discovery through which time mastery can be attained. Major philosophical changes have come from the influence of methods and experiences of much less significance than the martial arts. But for practicing martial artists, traditional budo may just be the most appropriate method of life-mastery and then of social renaissance.
Resolving paradox, even in seemingly insignificant matters, is itself no insignificant matter. I do not propose that in a little column about training toward martial arts mastery, I can offer the answer to this most difficult of questions or even more minor situations which are emblematic of these questions. Rather I intend to show that the traditional martial arts, properly studied, lead those who wish to achieve higher goals than learning how to punch, kick, throw and lock, to the confrontation with paradox. In the martial arts such frustrating questions do not occur to the everyday practitioner. If they occur at all, it is to the experienced and dedicated martial artist who has more years in his/her art than most students have in their entire educational career. "What Is" in the martial arts is, for the most part, short term students studying a catalogue of physical movements in order to feel better about themselves. How does one resolve the paradox of What Is vs. What Should Be in the martial arts? What are the most important things to look for when comparing martial arts schools?
A commitment to martial arts is an investment in time and money, so knowing exactly what to look for in a school, and knowing what questions to ask, will give you the clarity and confidence to make a smart choice.
A bad choice in a martial arts school can be an expensive lesson, so use this guide to educate yourself.
There is a huge variety of martial arts schools out there. Martial arts schools aren't regulated to insure quality of instruction or business practice. There is no official governing body and no universal grading standard in martial arts. Instructors
Class Dynamic
Student Results
Before you start looking into martial arts schools, determine your true goals for martial arts practice. The majority of people who start martial arts rarely make it past a few months of consistent practice. Physical Fitness as the main goal, with martial arts aptitude as a secondary benefit.
Purely Combative Focus, with fitness and personal growth as added benefits
Once you've identified your goals for martial arts practice and understand why they are your goals, you're ready to search for a school.
An instructor plays the key role in how you will achieve your goals.
Finding a good instructor is more important than choosing a style, and is probably the biggest factor in your decision to join a school. It's nice to have impressive amenities and expensive equipment, but ultimately a martial arts school is only as good as it's instructors.
A good instructor possesses leadership and communication skills.
A great instructor will also display sincere empathy, showing a genuine interest in helping you achieve your goals, bringing out your individual strengths.
Look for other attributes that increase an instructor's ability to add value to your training:
Involvement in a credible martial arts organization
A lifetime training in martial arts isn't enough to reach human potential!
A high level instructor portrays noble characteristics of a role model and leader.
Also, find out if the school's head instructor is actively teaching. Some schools have classes primarily taught by an assistant or senior students, while the head instructor only makes an occasional appearance.
While assistant instructors may be totally capable of teaching, watch out for schools that "sell" you on the instructor but have someone else teaching.
The context of a martial arts school is made up of the training methods and environment. What kind of setting is the school providing?
The collective mood or energy of the instructors and students
The class dynamic - structure and flow
The training methodologies
The quality of service
One of the best ways to evaluate a school is to watch or participate in a class.
Many schools offer free consultations or introductory private lessons.
If a school allows you to watch, or better yet, participate in a class without obligation it speaks highly of their confidence and transparency.
The class dynamic is the best demonstration of the instructor's martial arts aptitude and ability to teach. It reveals how the students interact with each other and the instructor. Consider the size of the classes and how that may effect your training. How much supportive individual attention do the students receive?
Many beginners prefer large classes. Again, instructors are the backbone of a martial arts school. The instructor consciously, or unconsciously, dictates the energy of the entire class.
Does the instructor facilitate class with control and safety? (Notice if the students are enjoying themselves or seem uncomfortable and hesitant).
Do the students seem inspired?
A martial arts school provides the setting of a controlled environment where you'll train to overcome future or potential challenges. In order to maximize results, good schools teach in a context that anticipates and matches the actual environment of those future and potential challenges.
If you're seeking a combative style for self-defense, look for schools that safely facilitate reality based, high-stress scenario exercises.
If you're training to fight in a ring or cage, look for a school that teaches you how to maneuver in the confines of a ring/cage under the same guidelines of the competition.
If you're goal is to perform in tournaments, look for a school that can facilitate your training in a loud, distracting environment with large mirrors and an audience.
If your goal is to have fun getting in shape, look for classes that use good training equipment, have high energy, exciting exercises and a social atmosphere
Notice if they have a lot of unnecessary "filler time".
It's also a good idea to inquire about the school's ranking system. Most traditional schools use some modification of a belt system, but what's required to earn each belt can vary drastically from school to school.
Many schools test for promotions after a set number of classes. This gives the perception of building capable intermediate and advanced students, which can be an important aspect of a school's perceived value. Remember that there's no official governing body in martial arts, so belt levels may not be valid outside of that school or organization.
The students are the products of the school's training system and methodologies. If the advanced students don't model your martial arts goals go find another school!
When observing the students, pay attention to the ratio of beginner to advanced students. It's a good sign if there are a lot of intermediate and advanced students. That means the school is able to retain their students, and usually equates to student satisfaction.
What's considered a small student base? Depending on the size of the facility and how long they've been in business, classes that have less than 10 students is a pretty strong sign that there's something lacking in the school.
Remember that a martial arts school can be evaluated in two parts, content and context. The curriculum and style of a school make up the content.
Whether they call themselves a martial arts school, studio, academy, gym, or dojo, they are still businesses. Don't allow marketing tactics to distract you from determining if the school can actually support your training goals.
Whatever a school claims to provide in your martial arts training, their students, classes and curriculum will give you a good indication of the school's quality and true emphasis.
The martial arts curriculum, (content), is made up of the techniques and material you will be learning at a school.
The focus of your training must be supported by the curriculum and training methods.
Begin by identifying the school's emphasis. Take into consideration that when there is more focus on one aspect of martial arts, other areas are compromised to some degree.
You've most likely found a school with an artistic or traditional focus that may participate in tournaments. Schools that build towards competition usually emphasize physical conditioning to reach peak performance.
Although physical fitness may not be the primary goal in many styles, fitness is generally a by-product of training. You get in shape by default in martial arts practice.
The majority of schools have a curriculum designed to provide a general overall perspective on fitness, sport competition and self-defense. For most people who are just beginning martial arts, a school's curriculum and interpretation of martial concepts should be comprehensive enough to support you through many years of practice. If this is the case, start to look into other components of the school like their class dynamic.
For those who have martial arts experience, or seeking a specific area of focus, determine if the school's curriculum actually supports the emphasis you're looking for.
For example, let's say your primary reason for martial arts training is purely for self-defense on the streets. You visit a school that claims to be proficient in teaching self-defense. Yet, they teach fixed stances and forms and only implement weapons training in advanced levels.
Any school that claims to teach true self-defense while neglecting weapons training and ground fighting is just plain negligent.
You should seek elsewhere if this is your focus. Modern combative styles will implement training in weapons and ground fighting right from the beginning.
Training methods also implement high stress scenario drills with multiple attackers. 6. STYLE:
Martial arts can be compared to a huge tree with many branches or styles. Every style has strengths and weaknesses as they each focus on different aspects of the arts.
The true measure of a martial art lies in the practitioner, not the style.
In martial arts there are hard styles and soft styles.
Hard Styles focus on striking techniques where the body is used as a weapon for attacking and defending - force against force. There is often more focus on internal training, training of the mind as well as developing the body's sensitivity to energy.
Blended Styles incorporate concepts from both hard and soft styles in a complimentary method, flowing and transitioning from hard to soft and vice versa.
Depending on the area of focus, each style differs in philosophy and training methods. Among styles the emphasis of training will primarily focus on one of the following areas:
Artistic Expression - Schools with an artistic focus emphasize creative physical expression - the "art" aspect of "martial arts". Artistic styles implement forms or choreographed techniques in training. Traditional schools implement both external and internal training for the development of the mind-body-spirit relationship. With this emphasis, martial arts practice serves as lessons for life skills. Competition - Competitive styles generally focus on the sports aspect of martial arts. Competitions can range by category including weight class, level of experience, geographic region and specific style. Combat - Combative styles focus on street defense or military application, including law enforcement. It's the "martial" part of "martial arts". Training includes weapons and reality based scenario exercises.
Fitness - Schools that focus on fitness use martial arts as a catalyst for holistic health. Classes usually consist of fun, energetic physical exercises based on martial arts techniques. Classes will typically implement a broad and general combination of styles and areas of focus.
Again, there's no right or wrong style. It's a matter of personal goals and preference.
Martial arts schools come in many forms. Don't judge a book by it's cover, and don't judge a martial arts school by it's facility.
Although you can't measure the quality of a school by the facility alone, it does reveal a lot about the owners mindset, aptitude, emphasis of the style and curriculum, as well as the school's level of professionalism.
You can get a good idea of the school's style and emphasis by the school's design.
Consider what the school puts money into and determine if it actually adds value to your training.
Remember, expensive equipment, and other luxuries equals higher tuition fees. 8.SERVICE:
Some schools have great sales and marketing techniques to get you to join. Choosing a school that's skilled in customer service will potentially save you from a lot of unnecessary headache. Poor customer service can ruin your martial arts experience at any level.
Choose a school that cares enough to build a relationship with you.
Know how to distinguish sales techniques from service.
The level of transparency is the greatest measure of a school's integrity. Does the school fully disclose all the costs involved in your training? Some schools have additional fees, like mandatory programs or association fees, that they don't mention until you reach a certain point in your training.
Many schools require you to sign a contract in order to take classes. Some schools offer a trial period where you can pay for a number of classes before you agree to a contract. 9. Price and Fees:
Since most people don't know how to compare value to price, martial arts schools generally don't advertise their prices - unless they're promotional.
Before you read this guide, what's one of the first thing you wanted to know about a martial arts school?
Fees are usually priced by:
Number of classes - specified amount of classes taken
Specific Programs - packaged programs such as Black Belt Clubs, Instructor Programs, Certification Programs, Seminars, etc.
You will eventually be investing in training equipment, to some extent. Consider the previous steps and the benefits before you focus on price. Most schools require annual contracts. Generally, schools don't offer any refunds on tuition.
In most cases, a school will agree to make reasonable changes to the contract if you ask them.
If you're committed to your practice and have found a school following this guide, signing a contract is usually not an issue. However, knowing potential costs and understanding school policies will help you negotiate any changes, if necessary. Training equipment - and if they have to be purchased directly from the school
Belt testing fees
It's also a good idea to ask whether the billing is managed directly by the school or if they use a billing company.Many schools use a billing company to help manage your tuition payments.
If the school out-sources their billing, you will be dealing with the billing company for the payment of your tuition fees. A high-quality school has the confidence to earn your business without requiring a contract. Pay attention to your intuition when visiting a school. How long the school has been in business? Do you like the instructor's teaching style and personality?

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