For me, personally, I like to take the physical discipline and the mindset aspects of the practice together.
Did you know that you can get a total body workout when you train properly in martial arts? This type of training utilises and strengthens every muscle group in the body and not only that, it encourages flexibility, stamina and balance as well.
The need for hand-eye coordination will give you fantastic reflexes all the while knowing how to engage your core.
As physically challenging as martial arts can be, this type of training, similar to interval training, is fantastic for improving cardiovascular health and burning through calories.
Exercise is a well known factor in improving one’s mental health, and the benefits of martial arts also extends to that aspect too. With martial arts, improvement of your ability can be seen more easily than other forms of physical training, therefore can have a great confidence boosting effect. The hormones released during such intense training from adrenaline to dopamine to endorphins can also have a stress releasing affect (the act of punching and the kicking helps too…).
Being a fast-paced and intense practice, it is a big part of martial arts training that you develop focus and a clear mindset.
By pushing ourselves physically, it allows us to push our own mental limits and blocks, which can result in achieving further physically as well.
My personal journey into this type of training began in my early 20’s when I decided to learn Tae Kwon Do as a skill. Although I loved it, it’s also fair to say that my mind wasn’t switched on to all the benefits of moving my body in this way.
Fast forward to my late 30’s when I began teaching group fitness classes with a strong emphasis on cardio kickboxing, muay thai and boxing – I was literally in endorphin heaven! I loved every minute of working out this way, especially with the music. I was addicted.
Almost 3 years ago, I decided to train with a professional fighter. Someone with ‘real’ experience, who could help me fix up my technique. I found that even when teaching the cardio-gym versions of these disciplines, I was hoping to get the right technique and skill – all to improve efficiency, skill and to look good of course! I never wanted to be one of ‘those’ trainers whose clients couldn’t box ‘properly’ or didn’t know enough technical stuff herself!
So, thus began my real journey….
Although I wanted to do all the disciplines at once, I knew that I was better off focusing on one skill set at a time. I chose boxing (plus a dabble here and there into kickboxing – I couldn’t resist!).
Since taking up boxing ‘for real’, I’ve learnt that it’s more about your mind more than anything else. Sure, you need to have a level of skill and fitness, but the biggest point of difference in someone who can dominate the ring, is that they have ability to leave all their mental junk out of the ring and clear their mind.
For example, when your opponent is punching you in the face and you feel you’ve got nothing left and you’re only in your second round, you HAVE to push those mental demons aside. The ones telling you you’re tired, you’re not good enough, you didn’t train enough, you shouldn’t have had those cheeky glasses of wine a few days before. You know the ones. They creep up at you from every angle, louder and clearer than ever as you hold your ground in the ring, facing victory or defeat — and how you leave the ring – with bruises to your body or your ego or both?
Boxing has allowed me to learn more about myself in a shorter amount of time than I would have just doing standard self development reading and courses. I face my demons every training session. Every time I step foot in the gym, I need to brush that monkey off my back and step in confident, knowing that all my preparation is worth it. That it means something. And that above all else, I’m there to have fun. To test my own personal boundaries. To win my own personal fight against me. To rise up to the challenge I’ve set myself and to conquer it.
With that also came a lesson in trust. To learn to trusting the process, my trainer, and my body.
My trainer has been there before. They see me from a different angle – one which I can’t see myself from. Especially when Im in the ring, they are my ‘outside’ eyes and ears. My focus is on my opponent and my trainers voice when I’m in the ring.
Martial arts is not just another way to train your body, it’s a way to create trust and rapport between your body and mind. Through that trust we are able to strengthen ourselves physically and mentally, engage our physical and mental core with focus and clarity. No matter what drew you into this type of training, those are the things you can trust you will gain through martial arts.