Can martial arts be a good choice for your fitness goals? Yes!!! Regardless of what those goals are. Most martial arts contain exceptional stretching routines, and naturally involve tons of cardio through sparring/technique repetition, etc. They often involve some level of strength training. Even Aikido, which doesn’t rely on strength, increases your physical strength through practice—at least in the early levels when the techniques are performed relatively slowly.
In fact, many athletes find that beginning martial arts works muscles they are unaccustomed to working, so even if they’ve been lifting weights and running for years, they find themselves exceptionally sore the first several weeks after beginning martial arts training. Martial arts can get you fit fast. If you’re goals are fitness, consider studying martial arts, and you can increase your fitness levels as you learn how to defend yourself.
Before commencing your martial arts study, or in the early stages, check out my resources, Essential Tips for Beginning Martial Artists, and its sequel, Essential Tips for Beginning Martial Artists 2. For solo training, in addition to shadow boxing and using the heavy bag, nothing gets your heart pumping and works all your muscles while increasing flexability at the same time, as kung fu forms practice. Check out my Secrets of Kung Fu Mastery for more on kung fu and forms practice. I’ll have more posts on fitness training in the future, so stay tuned.
The title of this post is not misspelled. I wasn’t referring to “hit” (as in striking) training, but rather HIIT. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has become the rage, and for a good reason. Ever since the famous study on HIIT by Izumi Tabata, the so-called Tabata Method, athletes have discovered the benefits of such intense workouts done often in record short periods of time–but incredibly high intensity. Tabata’s method, for example, took only 4 minutes…but it’s grueling. If you perform it correctly–and you really have to be in peak shape in order to do this, you feel sick afterwards. This is not for lazy people who want to get in shape fast with little effort. There are some excellent workouts following this and similar methods. One book I recommend is The Tabata Workout Handbook. But there are many others. Some of those found for free on the internet are excellent. I still like the good old standard sprinting at maximum capacity for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of complete rest, repeated 7 more times (for 4 minutes)….absolutely grueling!
In this post, however, I’m not referring to Tabata’s specific method, but rather HIIT in general–that is, high intensity interval training. This is the rage. Well, Kung Fu (and many other forms of traditional martial arts) have such HIIT training traditionally in their curriculum. I’m referring specifically to forms training.
At least in bei pai, the northern styles of kung fu like those I’m familiar with (e.g., traditional forms of Tong Long [praying mantis] or in long fist kung fu), the forms are grueling, with long low stances, combinations of strikes, sweeps, high kicks, changing stances throughout, etc. I typically spend an hour a day 5 days a week just working on my kung fu forms (empty hand and weapons). Performing the forms at a rapid rate (sometimes there are short pauses in the forms, so respecting the rhythm of the forms) with short breaks in between (easiest when performing weapons, because you need a few seconds to grab the next weapon) naturally functions as a form of HIIT.
So those of you who practice forms like this, are doing a form of HIIT. That’s why you are so winded after long bouts of forms training. It’s excellent cardio. Keep it up! You’re heart will thank you for it.