Being a teenager is tough, with unfamiliar changes to your body and emotions and all of the insecurities that come with them. Anything that can make growing up easier and more fun is certainly welcome. If you have a teen in the house, you can support their journey into adulthood by enrolling them in martial arts classes. Here are the ways martial arts can benefit teenagers:

Provide a group experience

Making friends and finding a sense of belonging are two goals most teenagers have. Martial arts classes provide an environment to develop the social skills necessary to meet these goals. Sessions are group-oriented, so your teens will have to work alongside others every time they’re at the studio.

Additionally, everyone taking classes has a shared passion for what they’re learning, a desire to improve and experiences they can all relate to. This creates a sense of belonging – your teens are part of a tight-knit group of martial artists.

Introduce mentors

Depending on the school, your teens will take classes with people both the same age and older, presenting an opportunity to find role models. The instructor can, of course, act as a mentor, teaching your teens lessons both on the mats and off of them. Other students can be role models, too, especially those who are older than your teen. Advanced students know what it’s like to struggle with a form or move and can offer advice. They also understand feeling frustrated when the instructor won’t teach them a new move. Advanced students act as sounding boards to your kids, providing encouragement and guidance.

Man showing teen how to perform a punch in martial arts.Your teen’s instructor and fellow students can be role models.

Give them a healthy outlet

School, issues with friends, fights with parents: Being a teen can be emotionally messy. Martial arts, however, provide a healthy outlet that lets teens vent their frustrations and maintain control. Exercise in general releases endorphins that improve your mood, but beyond that, martial arts can help your teens feel like they have more say in their lives. They can throw and block punches, perform sequences and spar with others – all impressive physical feats. But martial arts isn’t just about throwing all of your frustration into a powerful punch; your teens will be expected to exercise control both in how they move and the force in their blows. The emotional-regulation skills they pick up at the studio can seamlessly translate to their daily lives.

Boost self-confidence

Teenage years have a strange way of making confident kids into insecure ones. They’re trying to figure out who they are and their place in the world. And while martial arts can’t answer those questions for them, they can help your teens feel like capable and independent people. The longer your teens study their martial art, the more they’ll be able to do. Plus, knowing they can defend themselves and keep their cool in stressful situations will give them confidence in the face of everyday obstacles like tests.

 

Martial arts of all kinds have obvious physical benefits – the practice is a workout, after all. However, getting in shape, building strength and increasing heart health aren’t the only outcomes of studying a martial art. Many also experience mental and emotional well-being results. In fact, martial arts were developed, in part, to support meditative practices.

Kung fu and meditation

Martial arts likely existed in China as far back as 2600 B.C., according to Black Belt Magazine. During this time, it was used practically in battle rather than as the art form so popular today. Kung fu as we now know it owes its development to the Shaolin Temple. As the widely accepted story goes, an Indian Buddhist Monk named Da Mo (or Bodhidharma) traveled to China at the request of his master. Originally, he was not allowed into the temple so he meditated by a nearby mountain instead. Legend has it Da Mo remained there for nine years, his intense gaze eventually carving his image into the rock. The monks at the temple were impressed, and let him in. However, once Da Mo began living in the Shaolin Temple, he realized his disciples were too physically weak to meditate – they just fell asleep. To combat this, they practiced kung fu.

By honing their bodies, the monks could also master their minds and focus without succumbing to weakness. As such, the monks strived to be both physically and mentally strong. They also used kung fu in self-defense, especially when traveling. Eventually, the martial art spread.

Person meditating on doc with hands on knees.Da Mo found meditation easier when he also had a strong body.

A strong mind

Of course, other martial arts developed around the world in different ways, and not all are tied to a Buddhist history or meditation. However, the nature of martial arts requires students to be mindful when practicing. They must assess the way they’re moving, concentrating on coordination and muscle control. This requires thought. Additionally, martial arts studios all have their own formalities that encourage discipline and focus.

While training requires mindfulness, performance asks the opposite: for students to trust their instincts and let their bodies do the work. After years of careful practice, martial artists can clear their minds of distraction and go through forms without thinking about them. Similarly, tournaments and matches require reaction supported by training. To achieve good reactions, martial artists can’t let over-thinking get in the way.

It may sound like a contradiction, but martial arts can help you both be aware of how your body is moving and be free of anxious thoughts. For many, the idea manifests like this: When they’re in class, students focus all of their thoughts and energies into perfecting stances and moves and so are unable to worry about the things going on outside of the studio. This can help reduce stress and improve mood.

How much you want to attend to your mental well-being in martial arts training is up to you. Some instructors make it a priority while others leave it up to their students. Either way, focusing more on movement and breathing can help you leave class a little bit calmer than when you arrived.

 

There is a lot that goes into starting a martial arts routine. Whether you’re just beginning to get into the craft, moving to a new city and trying to find the perfect space, or a seasoned martial artist looking to  learn some new skills, you’ll have to do a little research on different studios in the area. Here are some things to consider when looking for a new dojo:

Check the prices
When it comes to prices, there are martial arts studios at all tiers. A higher price doesn’t always mean that the education is better than a cheaper one – it may be indicative of the neighborhood or city that the studio is located in. Don’t be tempted to spend outside of your means for a quality martial arts class. Do some research and find out which amenities each studio you’re looking at offers. It is also a good idea to check to see if there are any trial classes you can take  before signing up for a full-on membership. You want to make sure you like the instructors and the way your classes are taught before you commit to a bulk of classes.

Some schools will  have you pay a monthly fee and allow you to visit the studio as many times as you want. Others will have you pay per class, or pay for a certain number of classes ahead of time. Determine what kind of structure would work best for you and your schedule. If your child is interested in taking classes as well, it may be beneficial to have the option to bring someone along for your classes. There are many different structures available to people pursing a martial arts education, so don’t settle for one that isn’t most convenient for you.

Learn what their focus is
People take martial arts classes for a variety of reasons. Two of the most popular motivators for students are self-defense and fitness. Some martial arts studios place more of an emphasis on one of these aspects than the other. Before deciding which studio you’re going to attend, determine what your main focus will be when you begin taking classes. If a studio in question offers a trial class, you can see what it emphasizes most. If not, you can ask someone working at the studio if its focus aligns with yours before making a commitment. Some studios will also be more traditional than others, so if you like to learn in a more lax environment, you may not get a lot of out of a school that adheres to traditional formalities of martial arts.

Meet the instructor
Whether you respond positively to the instructor’s way of teaching can really determine what you’ll get out of the class itself. If it’s important to you that you have an instructor who’s had many years of experience under his or her belt, make sure you ask about it. Or if you’d rather have a laid-back class as opposed to a very disciplined one, meeting the instructor and chatting with him or her about experience is a great way to find out if this person’s class would be a good fit for you. Don’t be worried if you find that this class isn’t for you – the instructor would rather have you know ahead of time than be unenthusiastic in class when you realize it’s not for you. There are plenty more dojos and martial arts studios in the sea!

A great way to get some insight into the martial arts practice and industry is to get to know other people who take part. Most martial artists get to know others through their own studio, though, which can make it difficult to meet people who practice different forms of. Luckily, there is also a huge online community of martial artists who blog about their experiences and expertise. Here are a few martial arts bloggers you should start following:

Jackie Bradbury
Bradbury is a seasoned martial arts professional with a focus in fighting with stick weapons – hence her blog name, "The Stick Chick!" This blog offers a humorous take on martial-arts culture, and though she offers up plenty of advice for other people who have had a lot of experience in the arts, she also has many tips for new martial artists and people who are just learning how to use sticks. You can even follow her journey as she trains in new styles of Filipino martial arts and contribute to informational discussions in her comment section.

Jesse Enkamp
Enkamp is a huge name in the martial arts community, who's not only known for his writing and video blogs, but he's also the founder of Seishin International, a martial arts lifestyle brand. If there's any topic you're curious about pertaining to martial arts, Enkamp has covered it in his blog. Though Enkamp is American, he moved to Okinawa, Japan, after high school for college in an effort to study Japanese culture and the the history of karate. On his website, he says that his mission is to "unite the karate world by bridging the gap between the old and new, without stylistic limitations, political agenda or dojo dogma."

Graham Barlow
Barlow's blog "Tai Chi Notebook" is meant to inform his followers about tai chi, but also all of the other forms of martial arts he practices, including tai chi chuan, Brazilian jiujitsu, xing yi and choy lee fut. This blog is a great resource for people who are new to the tai chi world, as he breaks down a variety of styles and even lets followers know about other resources they should check out if they're looking to delve deeper. Barlow has been doing martial arts since 1993 as a hobby, and even though he still has a full-time job in addition to his martial arts practice, he finds the time to keep up with the "Tai Chi Notebook."

Joelle White
Many people are hesitant to start blogging about a topic unless they consider themselves experts in the field. While the longer you practice, the more you know and the more you can write about, it can be tough for a beginner to relate – especially in something as complicated as martial arts. This is why White started "A Beginner's Journey." She took 27 years off from the dojo, and this blog allows you to follow her journey getting back into the groove!

When it comes to the martial arts industry and film, many people focus on the notable male experts of the craft. However, women make up a large number of professional martial artists, and have proven to be just as competent in a fight as men – if not more so! Here are some notable female martial artists that all fans should know:

Keiko Fukuda
Fukuda died in 2013 at the age of 99, but the impact she made on the practice of judo is something that will never be forgotten. Not only was she the highest ranked woman in the history of judo, but she even learned the craft from the inventor. Martial arts ran in Fukuda's family. According to the New York Times, her grandfather, who died in 1880, was a samurai and jiu​-jitsu master who taught the creator of judo, Kano Jigoro. Though he died in 1938, Jigoro told his students to travel the world and teach judo – Fukuda promised she would and kept her word. In fact, she took this promise so seriously that when she found out that she had to give up judo in order to take part in her arranged marriage, she bailed on the marriage instead of judo! She went on to develop a gentler form of judo, known as ju-no-kata and reached the highest level of judo possible – 10th dan black belt. This is even higher than the inventor reached.

Mayu Hamada
​Hamada is only 22 years old and has represented Japan in the Olympic games in 2012 and 2016. This taekowndo practitioner was the youngest who ever participated in this area of the games. In addition, she's competed in the World Championships twice, achieving a silver and gold medal. She also received a silver medal in the Asian Games in 2014 and a bronze in the 2012 Asian Championships. Rocket News reported that her original goals upon graduating junior high was to become licensed to be a speedboat driver so she could pursue boat racing, but her father talked her into keeping up with taekwondo instead. If she ends up becoming a speedboat racer in the future, she'll probably be unstoppable there too!

Gina Carano
In addition to being an accomplished actress, with roles in action blockbusters such as "Fast & Furious 6" and "Deadpool," she's also a mixed martial arts fighter. According to her official website's biography, she got her start in Muay Thai and later jumped into the cage where she took on female fighters like the legendary Ronda Rousey. She's also the first recipient of the "Chick Norris Award," an award for the best female action star From ActionFest, an annual film festival that focuses on action movies. Though she is on hiatus right now focusing on films, she has the ability to boast that she's only lost one fight in her career!

 

Martial arts movies have a huge following in the cinema world. There are many timeless, classic films that resonate with audiences, partially due to the fact that these movies cast a lot of actual martial artists as actors. With technology today, a lot of fight scenes in modern action films are enhanced at worst, and use a stunt double at best. However, there are many genuine martial artists in Hollywood – past and present – keeping the art alive in film. Here are some martial artists in Hollywood that every fan of the craft should know:

Cheng Pei-Pei: Known as the “Queen of Swords,” Pei-Pei was a huge martial arts star in China in the 1960s and early ’70s, known for roles in movies like “Come Drink With Me” and “Golden Swallow.” Though she dabbled in roles in film and on TV in the ’80s and ’90s, her popularity got a resurgence when she played Jade Fox in the megahit “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2000 – a role that landed her the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, according to IMDB.

Tony Jaa: Jaa was born Panom Worawit in Thailand in 1976. According to IMDB, he attended the Physical Education College in Khon Kaen and studied Muay Thai, Muay Boran, wushu, judo and taekwondo. He got his start as a stunt actor before taking on starring roles of his own. Jaa is most known for his roles in the Thai “Ong-Bak” franchise, which also soared in Western popularity after it’s Thai release in 2003. Since, he’s taken on roles in American cinema as well, playing Kiet in “Furious 7,” the seventh installment of “The Fast and the Furious” franchise, and will be playing Talon in “xXx: Return of Xander Cage” in 2017.

Bruce Lee: A list of notable martial artists wouldn’t be complete without including Bruce Lee! This pop-culture icon starred in iconic films like “Fists of Fury,” “Enter the Dragon” and “The Chinese Connection,” and played Kato on the TV show, “The Green Hornet.” He trained in kung fu and wing chun, and even developed his own style of martial arts, known as Jun Fan Gung Fu. He achieved star status in Asia long before he did in America, despite being born in California, and didn’t become a household name until “Enter the Dragon” was released in the U.S. – posthumously. According to Biography.com, Lee paved the way for depictions of Asian Americans in Hollywood films.

Small businesses simply can’t afford to have a team of employees who are struggling to be productive. If company owners have given their staff members the necessary training and provided their workforce with the most innovative technology and they are still not seeing results, it may be time to take a more outside the box approach to stimulating workers. Focusing on the well-being of employees can be one of the best decisions small-business owners have ever made.

Recent research conducted by Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company revealed only one-quarter of respondents who are employed at companies with a strong culture of health report that stress is negatively affecting their work performance. Roughly half of staff members at businesses that don’t put a focus on worker health would say the same. Creating wellness programs and being more flexible to accommodate a healthier lifestyle for staff members could be worthwhile at small businesses. When employees are exercising more, it can often lead to a more energetic team that is increasingly enthusiastic about their work.

“Many employees recognize the advantages of a healthy lifestyle, but may not have the time or motivation to take action,” said Joann Hall Swenson, health engagement leader at Aon Hewitt. “Our survey shows that organizations that foster a strong culture of health, through leading by example and encouraging healthy activities, will cultivate a workforce that demonstrates better health behaviors and is more actively engaged.”

Build strong bonds with employees
Sixty-two percent of employees who work at businesses with a strong culture of health said they exercise at least three times per week, while 77 percent participate in wellness programs. Small-business owners who show their workforce that they truly care about their well-being can begin to assemble a loyal team. In fact, 66 percent of workers at such companies said they are generally happy. However, only 32 percent of staff members at firms that don’t put an emphasis on employee health are satisfied with their lives. Don’t be the employer that causes its workforce to be resentful because their team cannot achieve a strong work-life balance.

“By taking advantage of employer health programs and resources, employees not only feel they gain more control over their own health, but also create a stronger relationship with their organization,” said Christine Baskin, senior vice president at The Futures Company.

Partner with local martial arts schools
Small-businesses owners who want to create a wellness program, but don’t know where to start, may want to see what local martial arts schools have to offer for their business. Schools may be willing to partner with a business and provide their employees with discounted prices on membership and classes. This can prove to be a mutually advantageous relationship for both parties. Below are some of the health benefits created by martial arts training:

 

When people think about martial arts, the styles that come to mind tend to be karate, kung fu or even mixed martial arts because those are some of the most popular varieties in the Western world. While these varieties of martial arts tend to focus on fighting and defending yourself, there’s a style that focuses on relaxation and inner calm: tai chi. Here’s what everyone considering learning martial arts should know about this activity:

What is tai chi?
Have you ever seen a group of people in a park doing slow, graceful movements in unison? Chances are, you witnessed a tai chi practice. According to MedicineNet, the art of tai chi dates back as far as 2,500 years to ancient China. In addition to being rooted in Chinese medicine, these movements also had aspects of self-defense in mind when they were established. These seemingly slow and peaceful bodily movements used internal energy to fend off an attacker. There are three parts to tai chi:

Due to the mental benefits of tai chi, it’s been referred to as “meditation in motion.”There are three main styles of tai chi, according to the Tai Chi for Health Institute. These styles are Yang, Wu and Sun. Other varieties may take different aspects from all of these for an entirely new experience.

Benefits of tai chi
There are both mental and physical benefits to the practice of tai chi. It puts minimal stress on your muscles and joints, so it’s a good choice for older people, individuals recovering from injuries, or people with joint issues. If it’s been a long time since someone has exercised, taking a tai chi class is a great way to get back into the habit of fitness with a limited chance of getting injured. Many people are unsure about how beneficial an exercise that looks so simple could be, but the Mayo Clinic has laid out all of the benefits:

Harvard Medical School also pointed out that even though tai chi has a set range of motions, it can still be adapted for anyone, even if you’re in a wheelchair or recovering from surgery in your leg, shoulder or anywhere else.

Starting tai chi
The great thing about tai chi is the fact that you can do it on your own or in a class. You’ll have a better chance of reaping the benefits of the activity if you begin an ongoing routine than just taking a class once in a while, or ceasing the activity after your classes have come to an end. One way to learn is to take a class that teaches you the basics of tai chi and then practice at home. You can also take different classes that focus on the different styles to find which one is best for you.

 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a common condition exemplified by impulsiveness, hyperactivity and inattention, according to the Child Development Institute. Because many children diagnosed with ADHD have a short attention span and struggle with socializing and emotional control, a lot of parents don’t know what sorts of extracurricular activities will be enjoyable for their child without adding extra stress. Martial arts is known to be an activity that children with ADHD can not only enjoy, but use to help ease the symptoms of this disorder. Here are a few reasons you should consider enrolling your child with ADHD in a martial arts class:

It’s an individual sport
ADDitude Magazine spoke with the athletic director at Summit Camp for Youth with Attention Deficit Disorders, Robert Giabardo. He said that team contact sports are one of the worst activities you could enroll a child with ADHD in.

“They have a hard time grasping the ‘play system,'” he said. “In order to participate in a game such as football, the player must always be focused not only on his or her role in the game, but must also be aware of the actions and physical placement of other players at all times.”

Rather than enrolling your child in a sport that requires such divided attention, consider a sport like martial arts. The instructor will be able to offer your child individual attention and tailor lessons to his or her needs and help when he or she needs it. Kids can also work independently and work on their own forms.

But it’s still social
While you can sign your child up for individual martial arts lessons, most children take classes with other kids. However, this doesn’t mean  they’re competing with each other. Martial arts instructors know that kids learn differently and some kids require more assistance than others. The instruction and effort – the most important parts of learning a craft like martial arts – are completely individual, allowing your child to solely focus on that during the lesson. However, kids still get to enjoy the camaraderie of a team sport in a martial arts class because they’re spending so much time with the other children in the class. This is great for kids who struggle with socializing and making friends in school.

It’s ritualistic
ADDitude​ Magazine also spoke with Patricia Quinn, a developmental pediatrician who specializes in ADHD at the Pediatric Development Center. She said that that practically all of her patients give martial arts a chance because they offer so many benefits for a child who struggles with paying attention. One of these aspects is the fact that the practice tends to be ritualistic and choreographed.

“Rituals are good for ADHD kids because they make behavior automatic,” she said. “For most of us, daily actions such as remembering to take your medicine are automatic. But without rituals such as ‘every time I brush my teeth I take my medicine,’ people with ADHD don’t remember.”

Martial arts also require you to control your body and follow the motions. This skill doesn’t come ingrained in children with ADHD, so the practice of martial arts can help them incorporate this control into everyday activities.

It allows them to release energy
Many children with ADHD struggle to sit still in a classroom or any other environment that requires them to sit. A lot of kids release this energy by fidgeting or standing up and walking around. It’s important for children with ADHD to have some outlet for this energy. According to Impact ADHD, not only do martial arts help stimulate the brain, assisting with focus, but they also allow children to move and release the energy that they’ve been building up all day in the classroom.

 

The great thing about the martial-arts industry is the fact that you’re never too old or inexperienced to delve into a new practice. There’s a variety of reasons why people begin taking martial arts. Some people simply want to learn a new skill, while others want to get in shape. Of course, a large part of why many people decide to take a martial arts class is to learn self-defense. Martial arts certainly aren’t “one size fits all,” though. Depending on what you want to accomplish with your martial-arts education, some forms are better than others.

If you want to lose weight
There is no denying that the best way to lose weight is to adjust your diet and get moving. While all martial-arts classes clearly get you off of the couch and into the studio, some varieties burn more calories than others. If your main focus regarding martial arts is to lose weight, you’ll want to choose a variety that’s heavy in cardio. Kung fu is a great option. This style is incredibly diverse, incorporating plenty of different fighting styles and using your entire body. According to Health Ambition, you rarely spend any time standing still when participating in kung fu because there is so much movement, such as jumping, kicking and flipping, involved.

If you want to build muscle
In many cases, building muscle and martial arts work hand in hand. Breaking Muscle claims that strength training outside of the martial arts studio is a great way to improve your foundational strength, which will make it tougher for your attacker to take you down. However, there are styles of martial arts that help you build muscle as well. For example, judo incorporates weight training into the practice, sometimes even including weights. Part of the reason that strength training is so crucial in this Japanese style of martial arts is because there are a lot of moves that involve literally picking your opponents off of the ground and flipping or throwing them. Judo Info suggests a variety of different weight exercises to incorporate into your judo training, including deadlifts, dips, rope climbs, squats and bench presses.

If you want to learn self-defense
All martial arts have value when it comes to defending yourself. However, some are more effective on the street against an untrained opponent than others. It’s widely known that one of the best ways to protect yourself against attackers is to know Krav Maga. How They Play refers to this fighting style, which uses aspects of karate, boxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiujitsu as a form of militarized mixed martial arts. This makes sense because it’s taught to members of the Israeli military. In addition to instructing you about how to fight and defend yourself, Krav Maga also teaches you to disarm your opponent of his or her weapon, making it one of the most effective martial arts on the street.

If you want a stress reliever
In many cases, simply participating in any sort of martial art can be all it takes to relieve stress. Letting some of your energy out through exercise is a time-honored method of stress relief. There are also styles of martial arts that specifically target stress, like tai chi. According to the Mayo Clinic, this low-impact exercise can not only help you manage stress, but also improve mood, lower blood pressure, improve joint pain and positively affect your quality of sleep.

 

There are many reasons that people enroll in martial arts classes. Some people are looking to get in shape, while others are want to participate in a stress-relieving activity on the weekends. One of the most popular reasons, however, is that people are looking to learn how to defend themselves. While most martial arts have some aspect of self-defense to them, some varieties are better for this purpose than others. Here are a few of the best martial-arts classes to look into if you want to step up your self-defense game:

Krav Maga
There are a lot of myths floating around about Krav Maga. While some of these myths may be exaggeration, it is true that this style of martial art is a large part of the official training of the Israeli military. According to How They Play, this style of fighting originally took inspiration from boxing, karate and wrestling, but modern teachings of it have worked in Muay Thai and Brazilian jiujitsu. While many styles of martial arts focus heavily on either defense or attacks, Krav Maga is one of the rare ones that uses the technique “bursting.” Rather than blocking your opponent and responding, bursting is the process of blocking and attacking at the same time. This will catch any attacker on the street off-guard – unless he or she is also trained in Krav Maga! Since this is taught in the military, there is also a lot of attention paid to disarming your opponent, and maybe even using his or her weapon to stay safe. This will come in handy if you’re approached on the street by a person with a gun or knife, because you not only neutralize the threat, but put him or her into a vulnerable position. This training also places an emphasis on your attacker’s most vulnerable points – the eyes, face, throat, neck, fingers and groin.

Jiu​jitsu
If you begin practicing jiujitsu and realize that it seems similar to Krav Maga, that’s because Krav Maga is actually rooted in jujitsu teachings. Judo and aikido are rooted in this style of martial arts as well. Jiu​jitsu was developed by Japanese samurais so they could defend themselves even if they were disarmed. While it focuses on defense and attack, the most notable difference between jiu​jitsu and other styles of martial arts is the fact that it uses the opponent’s energy and momentum against him or her. Jiuj​itsu instructors also spend a lot of time teaching you how to place your attackers in joint locks, which can immobilize them. Brazilian jiu​jitsu is similar, but not exactly the same. This style was actually developed for people who aren’t strong enough to pull off a lot of the strength-based moves in traditional jiu​jitsu. Many of Brazilian jiu​jistu’s fight moves take place on the ground, incorporating chokes and joint locks.

Aikido
Aikido is a Japanese martial art that’s incredibly effective on the street, but also takes a lot of training. It’s a very complicated art that’s derivative of jiu​-jitsu practices. In addition to jiu​-jistu’s joint locks, aikido focuses heavily on your movements, mimicking how your body may move in a sword fight. It’s a graceful martial art that uses little striking, but instead teaches you to use your opponent’s strength against him or her. Unlike Krav Maga, since aikido is such a graceful martial art and it’s self defense purposes certainly come in handy, you’ll also learn a lot about balance and control while studying it.

 

When it comes to martial arts practices in the U.S., one of the most popular and recognized varieties is karate. While everyone seems to know at least one person who has taken a karate class at some point in is or her life, there are a lot of facts about karate that most people aren’t aware of. Here are some interesting things you should know about this popular martial art:

You don’t use weapons
Though you’ve probably seen people performing what you thought was karate with nunchucks or other types of weapons in movies, karate doesn’t use weapons. In fact, according the Tiger Schulmann’s Martial Arts, the name actually comes from a combination of two Japanese words: kara and te. Kara means empty, and te means hand. Rather than focusing on how to use a weapon in practice, people who learn karate focus on katas instead. These are repetitive motions that allow you to smoothly move from one stance to another during combat. This helps build muscle memory and helps you fight more instinctively.

It can help kids with ADHD
Impact ADHD states that karate may be more beneficial for kids with ADHD than team sports for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the practice has a big focus on personal growth. In team sports, kids find themselves comparing their abilities to the others. While this can be discouraging for anyone, it can be especially detrimental to children with ADHD, Asperger Syndrome or similar challenges. During karate, or any other form of martial arts, these children not only get to release some of that energy, but they also get to focus on areas like social, emotional and intellectual development in a safe and constructive space.

Karate dates back to the 17th century
According to the History of Fighting, the art of karate can be traced back to the island of Okinawa in Japan. It’s been said that people learned the art of hand-to-hand combat because the samurai leaders placed a ban on weapons. Most of karate’s history wasn’t written down, and information was relayed from generation to generation instead. The earliest written recount of the practice was from the late 1700s. The History of Fighting stated that this writing described a man from China named Kushanku who visited the island and taught a new form of kung fu.

It will be in the summer games
As of August 2016, karate has officially been accepted as an event in the Tokyo 2020 games. According to the Olympic Organization, karate is one of five new sports that will be on the next game’s roster. The other sports include baseball and softball, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing. This will add 18 new events and 474 new athletes. Karate’s portion of the games will feature both a Kumite and Kata competition. Kumite is all about sparring with an opponent, while kata competitors will be judged based on form.

 

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Learning martial arts is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Not only do you learn self-defense, but all of that physical activity is certainly a good workout. Plenty of people begin taking martial-arts classes for the physical benefits, and continue after learning how it positively impacts other aspects of their lives. Here are some of the ways that a martial-arts class is good for your physical health:

Working on your core: Many martial-arts styles focus on strikes, which take a lot of power from your core and upper body. Karate is a popular variety that emphasizes these skills, making it a great core workout that can also tone your arms, back and shoulders. Though karate isn’t a full aerobic workout, it has its place in a fitness and martial-arts routine.

Make martial arts your cardio: When it comes to fitness, cardio is an aspect that you can’t leave out. Luckily, there are plenty of martial arts that’ll really get your heart pumping. A few of these include kickboxing, muay Thai and kung fu. These styles of martial arts focus less on power and more on the movement itself. You’ll likely find that your legs will feel strong after a few practices that consist of jumps and kicks.

Prepare yourself: Just like you wouldn’t begin running on the treadmill without stretching first, you don’t want to start your martial-arts practice without preparing your body. Not only does stretching help your joints and muscles loosen up for the upcoming practice, but making sure you relax those muscles lowers your risk of strains. If you still end up straining a muscle during your practice, take a few days off to rest and ice the injured muscle.

 

Martial arts are popular practices people of all ages participate in. Whether your child takes part in karate after school or you’ve considered enrolling in a tai chi class yourself, chances are, you know quite a few other people who enjoy participating in martial arts, too. However, there are a lot of myths surrounding these activities that people believe – no matter how ridiculous they may be! We’re here to dispel some of the most common myths about martial arts and people who practice them.

There’s nothing to learn after getting a black belt
While achieving a black belt is certainly a tough feat and an honor, it’s actually not the furthest you can go in the practice of karate, or any other martial art. Training and practicing karate doesn’t end after getting your black belt. In fact, there are multiple levels of black belts, according to Livestrong. These degrees include nine dan belts, before reaching your tenth. It’s also stated that it can take decades of training before even making it through these levels. But even then, that doesn’t mean you’ve learned all there is to know about karate. There is always more to learn, and you can enhance the skills you already have.

Martial-arts training will help you win fights
While many forms of martial arts do teach you valuable lessons in self-defense, other varieties focus more on the physical aspects of the exercise. If you’re interested in learning martial arts solely for the purpose of self-defense, be sure to discuss the teachings with the instructor before committing to the specific class. What’s more, though martial arts can teach you some valuable self-defense skills, they aren’t always foolproof in street fights or other situations in which you may find yourself in serious danger. According to Survivoropedia, most black belts aren’t trained in specific enough areas to be able to take on dangerous opponents, especially if they’re younger and more physically fit than you are. That doesn’t mean there’s no way to win, but you shouldn’t go looking for trouble because you’ve taken a few martial-arts courses. The best way to protect yourself is to stay out of fights and dangerous situations to begin with.

You can kill someone with one punch
This myth can be owed to martial-arts movies. In so many of these films, one punch, chop or kick has left the fighter’s opponent dead in the streets, but this isn’t realistic. If it were, how would people be able to practice it in the studio? While a forceful self-defense move can certainly debilitate someone who’s putting you in danger, you don’t have to worry about killing someone with a single kick or punch. This certainly doesn’t mean you should fight people left and right because many moves can seriously injure people. Use your discretion when using your martial-arts skills outside of the studio.

It’s no secret that America loves the action film. From the car chases to the explosions, people enjoy getting lost in a storyline full of chaos. A popular subgenre of the action film is the martial-arts film. Though these have been blockbusters in Eastern countries, it wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that they’ve became popular in the West. While many of the classics are still considered underground cult hits, the popularity hasn’t waned. In fact, many popular action-movie franchises star trained martial artists to film convincing and accurate fight sequences in modern films. Here are some classic films everyone in the martial arts industry should see:

“Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires” 
Originally given the mouthful of an American title, “The Seven Brothers and Their One Sister Meet Dracula,” this 1974 Hong Kong film is a rare cross-genre martial arts film. It tells the story of Dracula’s trek to rural China where he meets a cult of Chinese vampires. In true Dracula-series form, Van Helsing, played by Peter Cushing, sets out to defeat the legendary vampire once and for all, in addition to the cult of vampires.

Though this film has a reputation for being just as ridiculous as it sounds, it’s great fun to watch fight sequences with vampires and martial artists.

“The Tournament”
This 1974 film was groundbreaking, due to the fact that instead of a male star, it featured Taiwanese actress Angela Mao. “The Tournament” is about a Muay Thai tournament between Hong Kong and Thailand. Mao’s character fights with the vigor of the men, at times taking on more than one opponent at a time!

Mao had small and starring roles in many films from 1970 until 1992, which she trained extensively for. A notable role was Bruce Lee’s sister in “Enter the Dragon.” She’s skilled in hapkido, taekwondo and wushu.

“The 36th Chamber of Shaolin”
This 1978 Shaw Brothers film is widely renowned as one of the greatest kung fu movies of all time. Starring Gordon Liu, it tells the story of a young student who participates in a rebellion against the government, and goes to the Shaolin temple to learn kung fu so he can avenge the people killed in the uprising.

Liu is a Chinese martial artist who is most well-known for his role in “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” and its sequels. He was featured in martial films frequently in the 1970s through 1990s, before taking two roles as Johnny Mo and Pai Mei  in parts one and two of Quentin Tarantino’s renowned “Kill Bill” movies. In 2008, he starred in the Bollywood film “Chandni Chowk to China.” He’s trained in kung fu.

“The Young Master”
This 1980 Hong Kong film is famous for being Jackie Chan’s first starring role. In this movie, Dragon, played by Chan, is entered in a Lion Dance competition in place of his brother, who is seemingly too injured to compete. However, it turns out that his brother faked his injury and competed with the rival school, and gets exiled. Dragon decides to set out to find his brother, where a mix of mistaken identity, mysterious old men and body casts make for one of the first martial-arts comedies.

Chan got his start as a stunt man, due to his extensive martial-arts training. According to Thrillist, he did stunts on the sets of Bruce Lee hits “Fists of Fury” and “Enter the Dragon.” A few varieties of martial arts that he has training in include Shaolin kung fu, judo and hapkido.

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