Guide to Martial Arts

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Martial arts not only keep you fit, they also combine self-defence with a kind of spiritual practice. Martial arts are well known for having a calming influence and helping you achieve mental clarity so it’s a perfect pastime to help you ‘unwind’ from the stresses of the day and recharge your batteries. See Top Tips below for more info about getting involved.


Martial arts is a broad term that actually covers a huge variety of different sports and activities, each of which require heightened levels of self-control and self-discipline.

Most people when they think of martial arts think of one of the long list of close-contact combat-based examples, such as karate, kung-fu, judo, taekwondo, ju-jitsu and Thai Boxing. Then there are martial arts that seem more like dance, such as capoeira, or even something more akin to a kind of moving mediation, like tai chi. And kendo is the one with long bamboo sticks. Despite the differences they all require an abundance of dedication, concentration, timing and flexibility.

Taking up a martial art is a great way to improve health and promote self-worth and is as important for the mind as the body.

Why Start?

Martial arts are the perfect hobby for body and mind. Excelling at any martial art requires great fitness and great levels of concentration and awareness. But you don’t need to excel to have a lot of fun, get in shape and make some new friends.

Who is it for?

There is such a wide spectrum of martial arts that there is something for everyone. From kids who’ve just learned to walk to people who thought their physical exercise days were behind them. Martial arts can benefit anyone willing to give them a try.

Are there any prerequisites?

You need to be mobile enough to move, but you don’t need to be super-fit. Some martial arts focus on very small movements that don’t necessarily require great levels of fitness. Tai Chi for example could be described as being more spiritual than physical.

What are the benefits?

Aside from general fitness and the promotion of a healthier lifestyle, practising martial arts is a great way to build confidence and to become calmer and find inner-peace. It’s also good for weight loss and better cardiovascular health.

How much will it cost?

Like most things of this nature, prices will vary depending on how many people you are willing to share a class with. Local group classes can start out as little as £5 per session, or if you can afford a personal martial arts trainer, you could easily be looking at £50-£75 an hour.

Can I take it to another level?

For sure. Martial arts — as the name suggests — are an art form, and as such you can spend a lifetime getting better and better. (You commonly hear that it takes 40 years to master one.) Many martial arts also have the belt system, which means you can take it to another level one belt at a time: White, Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Purple, Brown, Red and Black. If you want to take it even further, then competing in martial arts competitions is something that you can set your sights on.

What Equipment do I need?

You’ll need basic gym equipment to get started. There might be other accessories depending on the martial art you choose, but the first thing is to find a club and get to know other people who practise.

Where can I take part?

Check the directories below for clubs in your area. If you can afford the time (and the cost), you might want to opt for a martial arts retreat. Check the internet for details.

Top Tips

The martial arts section at has over 175,000 members, so there are bound to be some events near to where you are:

Here’s an online directory of all the martial arts clubs in the UK:

A website devoted to getting into martial arts:

Facts & Stats

There are in excess of 50 million practitioners in karate alone worldwide. They can’t all be wrong, can they?

The first physical evidence of martial arts being depicted can be found on murals painted on a tomb at Egypt’s Beni Hasan site. The murals date back to 20th century, B.C.

Karate is derived from two words – kara (empty) and te (hand). Self-defence with no weapons

Did you know…

The word “martial” in the context of “arts” is actually derived from the Latin for “of Mars”, as in Mars the Roman god of War.



Meet the woman for whom taking part in martial arts is a door to a state of pure bliss:

How to get started
Links to related information

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