The Important Benefits of Taking a Martial Arts Class

While we hate to admit it, the world isn’t always as friendly of a place as we wish it was. And while we may pride ourselves on the strength and badass-ness we get from going to class, it can be beneficial to try a workout that not only strengthens your muscles, but also your self-defense skills.

Martial arts may have been around for centuries, but because it’s benefits are so useful even today, it’s now becoming an essential part of one’s exercise routine. Whether you’re aiming for a black belt or just want to brush up on your self-defense skills, martial arts is a class everyone should try. Here’s everything you need to know:

What is martial arts?

Throughout its history, people have had their own preconceived ideas on what martial arts is. While some think of it as self-defense, others simply base their understanding off the The Karate Kid. Truthfully, martial arts can be considered to be all of these things. Back in ancient times, martial arts was defined as any act that occurred in battle.

While this practice occurred all over the world and between many different civilizations, it has become popularly known to be practiced within Asian culture. Martial arts actually consists of various different practices, including karate, krav maga, tae kwan do, jiu jitsu and many more. In general, martial arts’ main philosophy is the task of learning self-defense while also building one’s character, both mentally and physically. It is an extremely versatile, deep practice that does an incredible amount for one’s body, mind and spirit.

Who does martial arts work for?

Martial arts is a practice that everyone can benefit from. While your fitness level may affect how quickly you progress through a class, everyone starts with the foundations of the arts. To some classes, that may mean learning how to mindfully walk across a room or how to breathe correctly. The beginning of class often sets practitioners up with skills they will build upon as they advance. Before diving into your first class, however, we recommend learning a bit more about the type of martial arts you want to learn: Is it a more restorative tai chi, or are you looking to break boards in karate?

There are many different styles to choose from, so start with what interests you the most and then feel free to play around. No matter what kind of martial arts you choose, be prepared to have a serious workout. While every class is supposed to be enjoyable (of course), martial arts is a practice that is designed to make you a stronger, more disciplined person and that requires paying attention and showing your respect.

Physical benefits of martial arts

Martial arts was developed so one can defend oneself against his or her enemies, so you can expect this workout to not be so easy. But the hard work you’ll put in each and every class is worth it. Martial arts is a full-body workout—you’ll be putting in some cardio while also building strength and stamina. Since this workout requires you to be quick on your feet, you’ll see yourself gaining better muscle reflexes and faster reaction times. Requiring you to move (and think) fast, martial arts increases heart rate and builds strong cardiovascular health, essential for fighting off disease and increasing your metabolism.

Mental benefits of martial arts

If you’re looking to drastically improve your mental health and create a lifestyle change, martial arts is an extremely beneficial exercise to try. Martial arts instructors will challenge you to learn your weaknesses and combat them, increasing your focus and strengthening your determination. This amount of focus pours into other areas of your life outside of class, such as improving concentration and strategizing skills. Perhaps the most important benefit of martial arts is that it’s a serious confidence-booster.

Martial arts, rooted in self-defense, challenges its practitioners to face their fears head on. Despite a series of obstacles or opponents that stands in one’s way, martial arts teaches you that you can use both your mind and body to defeat whatever tries to take you down. And, of course, how amazing you are when you succeed!

Martial arts is becoming an increasingly popular exercise for adults, and even though you chose dance over karate as a kid, there’s no reason you can’t reap the incredible benefits of this practice starting now. A ClassPass membership gives you access to lots of fitness classes, including the many different practices of martial arts, so find one near you and book your first class today!

Stephanie Limiti is a born and raised New Yorker living out her dreams of palm trees and sunshine in Los Angeles. When she's not zenned out in yoga class, she's reading biographies and volunteering at dog rescue shelter. Follow her on Instagram.