You probably know of martial arts, but do you know why they are important? Or how they relate to fitness and wellness? Martial arts require an understanding of the properties of balance, stability, strength and mental discipline. When we exercise, many of us become stagnant because of repetitive routines that do not challenge the body and mind accordingly. Not long ago, I was stuck in this same fitness routine and series of workouts. Some that even went beyond the typical exercise routine, which I felt were important for my body, aimed at every muscle group and functioned in all three planes of the human movement system.
Still, I plateaued, and even after throwing in a couple days of yoga, I felt as if I was not making headway toward my goal of not only looking better, but more importantly, feeling better.
Meanwhile, I was in the middle of a semi-professional football career with the Chicago Thunder. The competition was getting more intense, especially as I was getting older and having a harder time recovering from games and fighting through injury. This is when martial arts – more specifically Hapkido – became a part of my life.
I went into it knowing it would be difficult, but something I could handle. Soon I would realize the intricacies, subtle details, and principles were much more difficult to perceive than expected. This showed me how much I truly did not understand about the human movement system.
Fast-forward to the point where I had completed a few years of training. After all the breathing techniques, throwing, punching, kicking, joint manipulation, and many many falls, my body was not only stronger, but also more flexible. I also recovered much more quickly from workouts than I had in the past.
How Does Martial Arts Help With Fitness and Wellness?
Martial Arts IS a form of training. You DO have a program and it IS about consistency. The more I practiced movements based on Hapkido forms and techniques, the better grasp I was getting on balance, stability, and controlled strength. There were many smaller groups of muscles I was not using that were leading to imbalances within the larger groups of muscles and, as a result, poor length tension relation between muscle synergies.
The difference in my human movement system was felt right away – especially in my football games. Not only did I have a greater knowledge of how to move more freely and efficiently, but I also understood how I could use other people’s force and energy to increase my own.
This truly helped from the competitive standpoint. I became one of the best receivers in Chicago Thunder franchise history and finished my career becoming a first team inductee into the Mid States Football Leagues Hall of Fame.
Martial Arts: The Real-Life Application
To be clear, I am not saying before I started practicing martial arts I was a terrible football player. What I am saying is I was able to use the movements, principles, and even philosophies of Hapkido and apply them to my life activities.
This challenged my body in new and foreign ways that the brain and muscles love. It showed me how much there is to learn about how to move efficiently and the benefits of free motion. So essentially, practicing martial arts was not only beneficial for playing an organized sport, but in everyday life situations (including dangerous ones).
Self defense is a difficult topic to discuss for anyone because it assumes the worst of a situation. The first step is to admit that bad things do happen. The next step is to prepare the best we can for different types of aggression and lastly, how to avoid them in the best way we can. This is where many students gain confidence. Feeling like you are strong enough and smart enough to deal with violent situations is empowering. To feel safe is priceless.
Most importantly, the use for martial arts is perfectly applicable to the human movement system. When practicing any martial art, you must perform movements in all three planes of motion. You can only gain proper form when you have control, balance, and stability during all planes of motion. The constant flow of forms promotes functional movement patterns, strength, and flexibility.
In a nutshell, I think everyone should experience some form of martial arts in their lifetime. I believe it to be an important part of anyone’s fitness regiment to incorporate some kind of martial art, whether it be formal or informal. Everyone can benefit from it because it trains the mind and body holistically and teaches us to feel more confident in our abilities to defend ourselves. If you’d like to learn more or try out some kickboxing, email me at email@example.com.
Post written by FFC Lincoln Park Personal Trainer Andres Roldan.