3 Reasons Martial Arts Training is the Perfect Fitness Alternative

Yes, I said perfect. And I mean it!

We all know that exercise is important, and all of the benefits it can give you. We all know that we should eat healthier and move more. In fact, we know too much.

In this information world that we live in, we are knocked all over the place by information that constantly conflicts and contradicts what we were told the day before. This diet and that diet. This new workout plan, and oh, wait, that one isn’t right for you anymore - this one is.

We don’t need any more knowledge though. We need action. Whether you are 4 or 74, martial arts training is an excellent source of exercise, personal discipline, and of course self-defense.

The simple, focused workout provided by high-quality martial arts training has many advantages over a traditional gym membership. So let’s look at three core reasons we believe martial arts training fits perfectly into the modern adult lifestyle.

1. It’s focused.

Every time you come on the mat, your instructor will be leading you through a focused class. Whether it’s a Kenpo class and you are learning to protect yourself versus realistic self-defense situations, or it’s a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, and you are learning techniques to takedown, control, and submit an opponent, the focus is on something other than exercise, and that is reason number one!

2. Exercise is fake.

We seek out exercise because we know we should keep our bodies healthy and strong. But exercise the way we know it didn’t always exist. Our ancestors didn’t go to a building to lift heavy objects up and down to make an isolated muscle on their body get bigger. They didn’t lace up their shoes (they may not have had any!) and go for a jog just to burn some calories. Heck, they were happy to have been able to eat those calories, why in the world would they waste them!?

Their lives just included more movement. They had to walk more, carry more, and just use their bodies more. But as a species, we do a really good job of inventing ways to make our lives easier. This has brought us to a time where the extent of movement for most people is limited to walking from bed to chair to car to chair to car to couch to bed and repeat.

Workout equipment is a modern invention. Martial arts training is the natural way to train - with just your body (we don’t even wear shoes!).

3. It provides the "why" to your exercise and nutrition habits.

Who do you frequently see on the cover of fitness magazines? Most often are professional athletes. This is partly because they are recognizable faces, and fans of these individuals want to be “that guy” so it sells magazines.

The thing to think about though is what is so different about these guys that helps them be in such AMAZING shape? There are tons of answers to that question, and one of the big ones is that they aren’t actually in as good of shape as they appear in the magazine (read more about that here). But athletes are in great shape!

One of the key reasons that they are in good shape is because they have a reason to be. Their athletic performance and career depend on them being in good shape, so that gives them the motivation necessary to make the decisions on a daily basis required to reach and maintain those health and fitness levels.

Martial arts can do that for the average individual. And what's even better, is it's an activity and lifestyle that you can continue for the rest of your life (if you train the right way). Many professional athletes fall way out of shape when their athletic career is over. Your martial arts journey doesn't ever have to be over.

You will be motivated to make better decisions in your daily life to enhance your martial arts ability and raise your potential.

Adults and children have an incredible amount to gain from training martial arts. Most people just haven’t realized yet how beneficial and enjoyable the training can be.

Do you know someone that doesn’t know yet? Share this with them and encourage them to take their first class. At PMA, the first step is a free private introductory lesson. Call us now at (865)481-8901 to set yours up, and you will never look back.

Have you stopped training martial arts for one reason or another? Guess what, it’s happened to almost every great martial artist, but they came back to the mat. Don’t wait another day - get back on the mat today! No excuses, just get up and go. Take the next step necessary to improve your life right now. Not later. I promise this article is done now, so literally right now take that step!

You Are Normal

Do you ever get home from work or school and not feel like going to class?

So do I.

Do you struggle to follow healthy nutrition guidelines and find yourself tempted by junk food at every waking second?

So do I.

Are you nervous about starting martial arts because you're afraid you'll make yourself look like a fool?

So was every martial artist out there, excluding maybe those who began training when they were too young to care!

Do you get nervous about sparring because you are afraid of performing poorly and getting hurt or embarrassed?

So do I.

Do you look in the mirror and think negatively about your image?

So do I.

All of these things are just part of being human. And we all have people that we think are superhuman that we put up on a pedestal but guess what - they are just like you too.

Now it is true that some people seem to have everything figured out in areas of life that you are struggling in. They are just further along in that aspect of the journey, but they were where you are at some point. And in other areas of their lives, they won't be quite as far along.

Plenty of highly successful business people are overweight.

Many famous people have unstable lives.

Tons of professional athletes and musicians struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Many people that make millions of dollars go broke.

Lots of incredibly fit people have poor relationships with their friends and family.

In many cases, high levels of success in one area of life leads to other facets being neglected. We act surprised when we see someone that seems to have "had it all" fall apart, but it's because we forget to see that they are just human beings. 

We are quick to judge and criticize others because it makes us feel better.

When we talk about how much weight someone has put on, we feel better about our fitness journey. When we gossip about someone's personal life, it comforts us.

So next time you catch yourself rationalizing why you shouldn't go to class tonight, get up within 5 seconds and go. Even if it isn't time yet! Go early and practice or update your notebook. 

When you start convincing yourself why you shouldn't start your martial arts training, fitness program, nutrition plan, etc. yet, get up within 5 seconds and start. Don't wait for Monday. Take the next small action you can take towards beginning.

When you find yourself putting someone down, thinking you are better than someone, or participating in gossip, stop right away and intentionally do something positive for that person instead.

All of these thoughts and actions are human things, but our goal should be to strive every day to be a better human. That is the "Martial Arts Way of Life." Don't let the fact that it's "normal" help you rationalize staying where you are.

The fact that you are normal is comforting. Realize you aren't alone. It feels good, doesn't it? Be kind to yourself. Now, since all of these things are normal - strive to be weird!

For more on this, check out one of my favorite pieces from Precision Nutrition -

The Black Belt Problem

If you haven’t had the chance yet, I recommend you take a minute to read my post on “The Importance of the Black Belt.” Go ahead; I’ll wait here.

The Importance of the Black Belt

Okay, now that we’ve discussed a few of the reasons that earning your Black Belt is important, I’d like to talk about “The Black Belt Problem.”

Goals can be fantastic tools for helping us achieve things in our lives. Setting a goal weight helps people stay on track with their health and fitness when tempted by delicious foods and laziness. Setting a financial goal helps people stay on track with their budget when tempted by the latest gadget or desire to go out to eat. Setting your sights on Black Belt helps people keep showing up class after class when laziness, doubt, fear, and frustration start to creep into our training. And if those things haven’t crept into your training yet, just wait. They will.

Goals can be incredibly useful. Many times the temptations and distractions listed above will take us off course when it comes to our goals, but the desire to reach that goal will help us get back on track.

But what happens when you reach your goal?

Many people that use dieting or fitness plans to reach a goal weight end up back where they started a few months later.

Many people that reach a savings goal end up back in debt and spending out of control briefly after reaching their goals.

Many people that achieve their Black Belt will not be consistently training a few years after they’ve arrived at this significant milestone.

Spending some time thinking on this is maybe one of the most important things you can do to improve your quality of life in all areas. Let’s ditch those other two examples and focus on the Black Belt example for the rest of this post, but just fill in the blank, and you may find that understanding “The Black Belt Problem” can help you understand other areas of difficulty in your life also.

Why does this happen? Well for starters, one of the things that keeps you coming back is that feeling that you get every time you receive a promotion. We don’t want to fall behind, we are eager to earn our next rank, and this keeps us motivated to get to class. When this goes away, feelings of laziness, doubt, and frustration are much harder to overcome because there is less incentive to be in class now. 

The training isn’t any different after you reach your Black Belt. You continue to learn new material, you continue to be pushed physically, and there is still massive room for improvement. My father always said that your martial arts training was analogous to building a house. The training from white to black belt is the process of gathering all of the tools and supplies that you are going to need to build the house and getting all of the preparatory work done. Once you receive your Black Belt, the house still needs to be built and then maintained and lived in!

You know a good majority of the “how” to do things and are now learning the “why” and what makes the techniques work. You now learn the little nuances and learn to teach others which deepens your knowledge of the art (more on this later). You now begin to personalize your training or as Bruce Lee stated:

Research your own experiences for the truth.
Absorb what is useful.
Reject what is useless.
Add that which is specifically your own.

Because the truth in combat is different for each individual.

I can’t even express the difference in myself, or some of the other Black Belts that I know have maintained consistent training after Black Belt between when we received our Black Belts and now. In comparison, I feel as if the amount of growth between White and Black Belt may be smaller than the amount of growth between when I received my Black Belt and now. I am learning new things every day both in training with my teachers and in teaching my students.

So if learning and growth are still happening, why do so many stop training?

This is not the case for every Black Belt that falls off along the way, but for many, it could simply be because the physical sign of progress (a new belt or rank) is not present.

Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition calls this phase in his nutrition and lifestyle coaching program, “The Grind.” It’s the place we reach when maybe the number on the scale doesn’t quite move as quickly as we’d like. We are still eating the right foods, doing the right exercises, and becoming healthier individuals or maintaining a level of health previously achieved but we don’t have that physical proof of the number on the scale showing us how good we are doing.

Let’s say you reach your goal weight. Congratulations, now just keep doing what you are doing over and over again for the rest of your life. It’s not super exciting. That’s why it’s so important that you reach your goal by doing things that you are comfortable with doing forever.

So you’ve made it to Black Belt? Congratulations, now just keep training forever. While this isn’t the most exciting thing to hear, it is a magnificent thing. It is a very healthy thing.You are now working towards becoming a master at a skill that is treasured and respected. You are maintaining all of the skills that you’ve acquired along the way in case you ever need them. And you are continuing to receive the multitude of benefits that martial arts provide for the rest of your life: stress relief, focus, fun, exercise, peace of mind, humility, respect, discipline, camaraderie, I could keep this going all day.

So how do you combat “The Black Belt Problem” or “The Grind”?

I’ll give you a couple of ideas, but mostly you just need to embrace it. This is a good place to be, so enjoy it!

Find your “why.” Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why - which became a best-selling book in the business world, writes about business and great leaders inspiring action in others by focusing on the why of what they are doing. 

Most businesses and people can quickly answer the question of “what” they are doing or even “how” they are doing it. But the ones that know “why” they are doing it can speak to their audience in a way that sparks action and loyalty.

You need to know why you are training. It may have changed since you began your martial arts journey. The most common answers on our students’ applications when they start training are things like "get in shape" or "learn to defend myself." Those may be part of the reason they continue training, but by the time they make it to Black Belt the answer usually evolves into something like:

“Training martial arts helps me to know more fully who I am.” 

“Training helps me reach my potential and be the best version of myself.”

“When I’m on the mat, I'm where I belong. It makes me happy and brings joy to the other areas of my life.”

“Training martial arts helps bring clarity and perspective to my personal life and my career.”

So dig a little deeper than those surface answers and get down to the bottom of your why. Check out Simon’s TED talk if you haven’t seen it before (which has now been viewed over 30 million times).

You also cannot ignore the evidence that the martial artists with the most success when it comes to longevity and continuous training throughout their life are usually teaching martial arts in some way. For some, it has become their full-time occupation as it is for me. For others, it may be something they do a few hours per week. Some may just teach a friend or family member one day or assist in classes at their dojo. Regardless, the value added to your life by passing on this gift to others is one of the most inspiring things you may ever do. That alone can keep you on track with your journey.

It doesn’t matter so much where you find your motivation. Whether it’s from within because you know your why, or you are externally motivated by inspiring and guiding others, just keep training. Build a habit of getting up and getting on the mat no matter what life throws at you; it will always be worth it. 

If you are a Black Belt, but something has been getting in the way of your training, I encourage you just to take that step to get back on the mat. Forget about how out of shape you are or how much you have forgotten, don’t let doubt, fear, or frustration ruin one of the greatest treasures in your life. 

Remember “to fall seven times, to rise eight times; life begins now.” We have a clean slate policy and know that these things burden every martial artist. You aren’t the first and definitely won’t be the last (though I hope this post helps decrease that number), so don’t stress about it. You are the only one stopping you. You just have to decide to do it. Ready, go!

If you are on the path to Black Belt, don’t be afraid to set that goal, just remember what comes later. Don’t be in a rush to get there. Enjoy the process and all of the benefits of training. Let that be what keeps you coming back, instead of the excitement of promotions. 

Enjoy the promotions as they are a fantastic sign of your progress, just don’t let them be your sole motivation. I can’t wait for you to get your Black Belt and experience that joy, but more importantly to keep training and to live the Martial Arts Way of Life for the long haul. 

When you reach the stage that training is just part of what you do every day for no other reason than it is a part of you, it is incredible.