If your regular workout routine feels like it’s in a bit of a rut, taking on a new type of class — or a new sport — can be a great way to break things up. Not only will you surprise your muscles and your mind by asking them to try on something new, but you may also surprise yourself with what you are capable of.
Martial arts can be a great test of this. It can seem entirely intimidating if you’re new: a new language, a new way of moving, ceremony and customs that might feel unfamiliar… It can be a bit overwhelming when held up against your own fitness tradition, which might mean a treadmill and an occasional dumbbell press.
If you’re feeling a little resistant to trying out a martial art, let us deconstruct some of the common misconceptions about these practices. These misconceptions might be getting in your way of finding something really rewarding: break them down — maybe with a powerful, focused kick! — and you may find a new avenue to pursue physical and mental wellbeing on the other side.
Myth #1: You need to be in impeccable shape to do martial arts.
While martial arts require a certain level of strength and stamina, this can be developed over time. Because you’re learning new skills and new ways of moving, even the least experienced novice can start at the beginning and build on a foundation of basic movements and technique. Continued practice will allow you to hone these skills and will lead to improved endurance and strength — physical and mental — but these are not prerequisites to starting.
Myth #2: The whole point is fighting.
It might surprise you to learn that violence is not the basis of martial arts; truly, martial arts teaches practitioners how to avoid danger and how to de-escalate conflict without the need for violence, and to never instigate the fight. Martial arts that focus on self-defense are intended to help you subdue an opponent for your safety but not to actually injure them.
Myth #3: You will probably get hurt.
There is an element of risk in any athletic pursuit. As a beginner, you are encouraged to work at your comfort level and to wear protective equipment to allow you to learn the skills while staying safe. If you aren’t ready to spar, you won’t have to, and if you are ready to spar, the focus is on keeping it safe, controlled and technically sound. Listen to your body and pull back when you’re fatigued, as with any sport, this is when your judgment fails and you’re more likely to be injured.
Myth #4: Competition is mandatory.
Nope. You can train and reap all the physical and mental benefits without having to compete on your studio’s behalf. You can choose to spar if you want the added challenge, but practicing for you — not to score a victory — is also an option.