Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done. Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.
The goal of Face Dragons is to help you solve the problems of your life. That means making your life easier, more meaningful, and happier, whether it means getting more done, changing your lifestyle, or focusing on key habits. The benefits of martial arts make it one of those keys to facing your dragons and creating the life you really want.
Often viewed as a hobby for children and macho men, martial arts are the best form of education and training. Becoming proficient in any martial art will help solve the problems of your life and make you the person you want to be.
Think of the kung fu master, the karate sensei, or the wise samerai. They represent more than a fighter. They are wise, healthy, and make good decisions; they’re calm in an emergency and are the person everyone wants around. We could all do with being a little more like the master in your favorite kung fu movie.
So, what is it about martial arts training that turns people into better versions of themselves? There are three fundamental benefits of martial arts.
- Training the body
- Training the mind
- Training the soul
Make learning martial arts one of your goals for 2024.
Martial Arts is What the Body Needs
Put a martial artist in any other discipline, and he won’t look out of place. He won’t be the weakest guy at the gym or look inflexible in a yoga class. He won’t place last in a race or make a fool of himself when hitting a ball.
If you don’t want to be good in one area and mediocre in the rest, martial arts is the answer.
I’ve got nothing against running, yoga, or weight lifting; I do them all. But martial arts has something none of them can achieve – everything.
Few people achieve the cardio and low beats per minute of a long-distance runner, and the power generated by a sprinter or a powerlifter is insane. But ask them to go outside their comfort zone, and the weakness of their favorite sport/hobby becomes clear.
Ask a long-distance runner how much he can squat or deadlift, and you won’t get an answer, just a blank stare. Ask a powerlifter if he can do the splits, and you’ll see the same look.
I get it. Table tennis players don’t need to bench 225, so why would they ever bother hitting the bench? And powerlifters don’t need to run marathons or hold their legs over their head.
So, practice only what you need if you plan to be a professional in any sport or discipline. But you’ll always be missing out on something.
Everyone else can gain the benefits of training everything simply by practicing martial arts.
✓ Hand-Eye Coordination
Martial Arts Teach Explosive Power
When getting in the ring and facing an opponent, being a little stronger or more powerful goes a long way. Sure, many instructors will tell you that it’s all about technique, and although technique is important, it’s not the most essential factor.
There’s a reason that all fighting sports have weight classes – the power a 120-pound man generates will never compare to someone over 300 pounds.
So, to be successful inside the ring, you must become stronger and more powerful. Any good martial arts class will incorporate some form of power training.
A Faster You
You always hear people talk about how fast Bruce Lee was. It’s where his power and his ability to hit you came from. If you throw slow punches, they won’t land. The opponent will just move out of the way. You learn this fast in sparring.
So, every martial artist tries to develop faster punches, kicks, and the ability to move between positions faster.
Being faster has always been an advantage. In evolutionary terms, it was the faster humans that survived. They were less likely to be eaten and more likely to be successful in hunting. Even today, the ability to sprint could save you from being mugged or worse.
But speed training does more for you than just help you run fast.
You’ll drive better, jump further, and have improved mental and neuromuscular performance. You’ll be better at everything you do in life.
Flexibility Isn’t Only a Metaphor
Have you ever tried kicking someone taller than you in the face?
If you haven’t, you won’t be surprised to find out how hard it is, so every class starts with stretching. But stretching isn’t only for taekwondo experts who want to throw high kicks; being more flexible has many benefits.
- Reduced pain and inflammation
- Improved posture
- Reduced risk of injury
It’s so important that recent studies are now calling for flexibility to become a standard component of physical fitness.
Coordination: Can You Do This?
Think you could kick an apple off of someone’s head? How about following along as the teacher shows you a new form or kata? Could you figure out how to get that joint lock or stranglehold from the bottom?
Every aspect of martial arts trains coordination.
On day one, you’ll hear things like, “No, the other foot forward,” and after a few years, you may hear, “Keep your hands up,” “Pivot 180 on your standing foot,” or “Post your left elbow.”
Improved coordination means you’re less likely to drop your expensive tablet or smartphone, you’ll learn things faster, and you won’t look a fool when dragged onto the dance floor (no promises!)
Stamina: When Everyone Else Quits, You Keep Going
Amateur boxing and other martial arts competitions only last 2 minutes!
You’d think that anyone could last two minutes in the ring. But you’d be wrong.
When running, for example, two minutes won’t even make you breathe heavily because the body is highly efficient at running. Running uses very little energy and only lightly taxes the muscles in the legs.
On the other hand, fighting for two minutes requires you to move nonstop, like jogging, but in random directions, at an irregular pace, which is much more taxing.
While your legs are effective jogging, your body is ducking and weaving, and your hands are throwing punches and occasionally wrestling. I’ve seen people in good shape gas out after a round on the heavy bag. After a few months of martial arts training, you gain phenomenal stamina and cardio.
Live a Balanced Life
You might think that balance isn’t a valuable part of someone’s physicality, but take it away, and you’ll understand.
Balance is like the glue that keeps all the other parts of physical training together.
With better balance
- You move better
- You can move faster
- Lift More
- And stay on your feet longer
Everyone experiences a loss of balance as they age, making them unsteady and more prone to falling. But improving your balance will bring benefits well before old age.
Every Martial Art Emphasizes Mental Discipline
At ten years old, I had competed in full-contact Taekwondo a few times, but I remember one fight more than all the others. It was a tournament, and I drew a fight against a black belt in the first round. I was a blue belt.
To an adult, a ten-year-old with a black belt means nothing, but to ten-year-old me, it meant a seismic difference in skill and experience. I didn’t know the other kid. Maybe I had trained longer than him or had more fights than him, but it didn’t matter. I knew there was no way I could win.
So I didn’t. I had decided I would lose, and I was right. After the fight, I shook hands with him and his instructor. I went to class the next day and was back in the ring a few months later.
It was a good lesson: sometimes you lose. Sometimes, you make yourself lose. Sometimes you just aren’t as good. Whatever the reason, though, you keep going and keep improving.
Sparring is like this in every martial art. When you’re new to jiu-jitsu, you spend the first six months dominated by anyone with a colored belt. But eventually, you’re not the new guy anymore. You’re one of the ones dominating the new guy.
You learn patience and mental strength fast when you have a guy on top of you who has already choked you out twice.
Mr. Miyagi made Daniel paint that fence and wash his car. Partly, it was to teach him the techniques, but it was also to see if he would quit.
In traditional Chinese martial arts, masters would make a potential student wait months before accepting them. Sometimes, this meant the student coming to his house and doing chores for free for months, never knowing if the master would ever say yes.
The uniforms, the belts, the bowing and lining up come from the military, the birthplace of all the martial arts. And they impart to the martial artist some of the discipline you find in the armed services.
It’s more than self-discipline, though. Consistently putting yourself in stressful and dangerous situations (even if they are only sparring sessions in class) has a powerful impact on your mindset.
- Reduced anxiety
- Increased confidence
- Resilience in the face of adversity
Food for the Soul
In a world where church attendance is dropping in almost every developed nation, there is a soul-shaped hole that still needs to be filled. Who is teaching the kids today to forgive their enemies? Who’s teaching them to stand up for what is right or to protect the weak?
Go to any Taekwondo dojang, karate dojo, or church basement where kickboxing or judo is going on, and you’ll see children and adults getting a top-rate moral education.
- “Only use your fighting skills to protect yourself or others.”
- “Don’t hurt your opponent.”
- “Respect your opponents, both in victory and defeat.”
- “Remember that martial arts is a tool for self-improvement, not a weapon for aggression.”
The Bushido and classic martial arts books emphasize respect, righteousness, honesty, loyalty, and benevolence. You won’t learn these things from a cardio session on a treadmill or an exercise class.
Want to Transform Yourself? Karate, Kung Fu, or BJJ Will Do It
There’s a hierarchy in the martial arts and in life.
But it wasn’t put there by the government or anyone else; it’s always been there. And you can climb up to the top if you’re willing to work for it. That’s what the martial arts really teach. It’s not about fighting. It’s about showing you that you can be a black belt in life if you’re willing to put in the work.
On the way to learning this lesson, you’ll get healthy, fit, strong, flexible, humble, confident, and able to defend yourself and your loved ones.
Some martial arts classes are better than others, but they will all get you there.