Playing sports as a kid gave me some of the fondest memories growing up. The thrill of competition, the camaraderie among teammates, and reward of self-improvement are more often found in sports than not. I’ve done it all. I was thrown into the pool at five years old. I grew up playing basketball. Neighborhood softball and football games were tradition. I ran, I jumped, and I caught. Still though, I have yet to find an endeavor as physically and mentally rewarding as martial arts.
I’ve been in a gi since I got out of diapers. I started off in karate, then jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai, and finally wrestled in high school. Practicing martial arts has not only made me better at kicking and punching. The endurance, the mental discipline, the balance and flexibility, and the strength I’ve gained from martial arts have tremendous carryover to my performance in other sports.Endurance is important when practicing martial arts. In practice, in competition, and in self-defense situations, having the endurance to execute techniques is vital to safety. Martial arts emphasizes endurance with cross-training and technique drills.
Before and after martial arts practice, classes will typically jog around for 10-15 minutes to increase heart rate and warm up the muscles. Sometimes the time spent jogging will be longer. Other times the intensity of the jog will be higher.
Endurance is also improved through technique drills. Hitting pads and shadowboxing for prolonged periods increases heart rate and over time, improves overall endurance. This endurance translates well to sports with lots of running and prolonged periods of play such as soccer, basketball, and tennis.
Martial arts teaches mental discipline. In most schools, students are discouraged from picking fights, abusing drugs, and bullying others. Students are rather taught to be humble, to live a healthy lifestyle, and to work hard. My school had its own honor system, with rules that emphasized the values of good character and good work ethic.
The values and discipline learned through martial arts follow students to school, work, and other sports. Martial arts training requires focus inside and outside of the dojo. Being attentive and obeying instructors is crucial to martial arts learning. Success only follows consistent hard work and focus towards one’s craft.
The discipline gained from martial arts makes an athlete more coachable and disciplined in other sports. Athletes will be able to pick up techniques more quickly and have greater focus on the court or field.
Many of the techniques in martial arts require great balance and flexibility. Both of these skills are emphasized in schools with drills, and static and dynamic stretching. Static and dynamic stretching is a key part of every warm-up.
Some techniques require more balance and flexibility than others. Front kicks, for example, require balance to plant one foot on the ground while kicking with the other. Front kicks also require great flexibility to bring the kicking foot to appropriate height. The consistent repetition of techniques like this will improve flexibility and balance over time.
The balance and flexibility gained from martial arts can be almost universally beneficial to performance in other sports. In fact, I can’t think of a single sport where increased balance and flexibility wouldn’t be helpful. Balance and flexibility is even crucial in dynamic sports like football, wrestling, and basketball.
Another benefit of martial arts training is strength. No, doing karate or jiu-jitsu won’t make anyone look like a bodybuilder, but the functional strength necessary to perform techniques will be useful in other sports.
In martial arts, core strength is the base of every technique. The power generated for every kick, punch, and throw goes through the core. The core is also responsible for keeping proper posture and breathing. Many classes will emphasize core strength by doing core workouts such as planks and crunches.
While the core is the primary focus of martial arts strength training, the rest of the muscles are not neglected. Drilling techniques makes the body more efficient at channeling its own strength. For example, an inexperienced martial artist may only throw punches using their arms. But a more experienced artist understands how to use the entire body to punch.
Core strength is important for any sport, especially ones requiring a repeated exertion of force. Martial arts core training will help anyone’s performance in kicking a ball, throwing a ball, etc. Martial arts will also improve an athlete’s efficiency in using their own strength. Being more efficient will conserve energy and increase output in any sport.
Martial arts is one of the most challenging and rewarding sports there is. Training requires a serious amount of focus and athleticism that will not only make a better martial artist, but a better overall athlete. The passive skills such as endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance cross over to almost every sport. The mental discipline will help out in sports, school, and everything in between.