If you’ve been training in one martial art awhile, it might be time for a shake-up. To become more well-rounded as a martial artist, or prepare yourself for certain types of competition, cross-training is necessary.
It goes without saying that if you want to compete, you’re going to take a different approach to cross-training than someone who is wanting to get in better shape, simply acquire new skills, or be around like-minded individuals.
If you want to learn basic self-defense, improve your reflexes, and get in better shape, then striking disciplines like taekwondo and boxing would be something to consider.
If you are wanting to build a strong core and improve your critical-thinking skills, then you might want to think about taking a few jiu jitsu classes along with a striking or wrestling class.
If you want to learn how to react when a sweaty guy is trying to punch you while holding you down, then the MMA (mixed martial arts) trio of kickboxing, wrestling, and jiu jitsu would be a recommended pathway.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and maybe a little intimidated when thinking about where to begin, so below you will find a list of a few important benefits that come with cross training different styles of martial arts, as well as some of the most popular ones to date.
A Holistic Approach to Training
Participating in different martial arts will help you become more in touch with your body. You will find that there are many positive changes in your life that are going to occur once you start training across different martial arts.
An increase in physical activity requires an increase in nutrition and making sure that you get a sound night of sleep so your body will better recover. Your diet will shift more towards nutritional value rather than taste. You will come to view these changes as simple body maintenance the same way you take care of a vehicle to make it last longer.
Have you ever gotten up early for something else besides work or class, something that you look forward to but also dread at the same time? If not, then welcome to 6:00 am classes twice a week because your work schedule won’t allow you to have fun when it’s convenient for you. And you do it for that very reason–because it’s fun.
There is a reason why so many combat sport athletes have claimed that their lives were saved by walking into a gym. Some of the kindest people you will ever meet will be on the mats of a martial arts gym.
Just having the courage to step out of your comfort zone and onto the mats is already enough for the other practitioners to have respect for you, and they all have mutual respect because they know that they can all kill each other. Martial arts will teach you how to be humble and use your skills for the sport of self-defense. It is one of the few places where hippies and cops can find common ground.
One of the rarely mentioned positive side effects that come from training martial arts is an improvement in your mental health. Participating in martial arts is therapeutic and provides people with an outlet for their aggression and an escape from the craziness of the real world. It’s hard to care much about government corruption or nobody showing up to your birthday party when someone is trying to punch you in the face or choke you unconscious.
This is partly because you can feel yourself improving every time you are training. Deep down you are glad you showed up because it made you better than the person you were the day before, and any personal improvements should be acknowledged, no matter how small. Honest and positive reinforcement of those improvements by the instructor in a warm and friendly environment is almost always a recipe for keeping your mental health in check.
Training in martial arts is a phenomenal way to help you lose weight and increase your metabolism if doing so is a part of your fitness goals. Some burn way more calories than others, which will be talked about below, but all of them provide fun ways to stay active and keep an elevated heart rate.
Since training in martial arts requires constant movement, you will undoubtedly see an increase in your overall fitness levels that will have manifold health benefits.
Cross training in different martial arts will allow you to optimize your athletic potential if that is one of your goals. Each discipline focuses on various types of movements that sharpen hand-eye coordination, improve balance, and quicken reaction time. Combining them is a great way to reach your full athletic potential because different muscle groups are required for each one. Distance runners aren’t good swimmers until they start swimming even if their sitting heart rates are the same as one.
It’s a good idea to try several at the same time when you are first starting out. Your goals will likely change in a better direction than you ever thought possible once you get started.
Are you wanting to maximize your cardiovascular levels? Then boxing and Muay Thai workouts are going to be for you. While boxing and cardio kickboxing classes have drastically increased in popularity over the past decade, not everyone enjoys hitting things, which is why many others have chosen to train in grappling sports like jiu jitsu and wrestling.
People have a natural tendency to tense up while exerting energy when they should be exhaling. You’ll notice it if you pay attention to people doing normal activities such as walking up the stairs or lifting something heavy. They breathe out a little more air than normal as soon as they are finished and usually feel the urge to briefly adjust their speaking rhythm. That’s because their breathing was temporarily disrupted and their body is working to adjust itself back to normal.
Try running a hundred meters while holding your breath. You may be in good enough shape to run the distance and are quite capable of holding your breath for much longer than it takes to run it, but you will be a lot more tired when you are finished than if you were to relax and breathe in a steady rhythm.
Training martial arts will teach you how to quit that naturally counterintuitive action, which will take your stamina to the next level. It takes some time, effort, and dedication to overcome, but it will change your life and is something that you will instinctively apply to every other facet of your daily routine.
Core strength is essential for martial arts training. It doesn’t matter if you already have a six pack when you first walk into the gym or if your midsection looks like a bag of socks, you will develop your core strength in ways you never would otherwise. The core comprises muscles ranging from the glutes to the abs and lower back and will make your everyday life easier once strengthened and maintained.
One major benefit is that you will be able to more easily lift and maneuver heavy items and reduce the risk of injury while doing so. You will also further develop your hip dexterity in the process as you learn new movements necessary to succeed while training in your respective martial arts. Strong core muscles and developed hip dexterity are underappreciated aspects of martial arts and are essential in executing proper technique.
Cross-Training for Self-Defense
Most people train martial arts because it’s fun and it teaches them how to properly defend themselves when necessary. While all of these listed have their upsides and downsides, deciding on which styles are right for you depends a lot on your personal preferences and fitness goals.
Originating in Thailand, Muay Thai is often conflated with kickboxing because of how similar they are. You will often see signs advertising “Muay Thai/kickboxing” or even “Muay Thai kickboxing”. The only time this would make a difference would be if you had the intent of competing in either kickboxing or Muay Thai, but if you are wanting to learn a hybrid mix of techniques for fun, then cardio kickboxing would be strongly recommended.
It is important to understand the differences, though, especially if you plan on eventually doing any light sparring with a partner or competing in the ring. Muay Thai is colloquially known as the science of eight limbs because it teaches you how to also utilize your elbows and knees, whereas traditional kickboxers only use their fists and shins.
Kicking strengthens your hips and your core, and hitting the heavy bag repeatedly will eventually start to tone up your arms and shoulders. You will also learn the fun and effective Thai clinch and burn a ton of calories.
Another great way to learn how to defend yourself while also burning calories is to start taking boxing classes. A lot of the old-school gyms and training methods still exist, which can make it feel as if you were an extra in a Rocky training montage. However, you will be subjected to some phenomenally rigorous training exercises and speed drills, which is the name of the game in boxing. Along with Muay Thai, boxing workouts are some of the best when it comes to burning calories.
A typical boxing session for beginners usually consists of a lot of drills and resistance training. Once you start becoming familiar with the movements and seeing punches coming, then, if you are up to it, you will get in the ring for a light sparring session with either the coach or another veteran who can control their punches. Sparring is one of the most effective ways to develop and control your breathing patterns, as well as learning how to properly react to punches being thrown at your face instead of freaking out.
Originating from Japan, Karate is one of the more well-known of all martial arts. Stemming from Zen Buddhism, karate places major emphasis on focus, discipline, and the importance of maintaining your mental health. You will find that it develops courage, calmness, and concentration along with self-confidence and self-control.
Karate teaches quick, linear movements and strikes with the hands and feet. Workouts usually consist of cardio exercises, calisthenics, and stretching. You will receive a complete workout once you begin learning how to properly execute karate-style kicks and punches, and it is also a great way to sharpen your reflexes.
Taekwondo is a popular Korean martial art that, unlike karate, places a heavy emphasis on distance strikes using kicks. You will learn a lot of various types of spinning and jumping kicks to add to your striking arsenal while also relieving stress and developing a healthy mindset. Taekwondo is an offensive-oriented discipline where the competitions can be pretty fast-paced.
The workouts are pretty similar to what you will experience in a karate class. You will undergo intense training and learn fast techniques that are conducive to developing the skills necessary to advance in rank.
If you are looking for a martial art that requires you to be tired and sweaty the entire time, then look no further than the old-fashioned art of wrestling. Wrestling is arguably the most physically taxing martial art on this list because of the explosive movements required.
But with it, you learn some serious mental toughness and will be able to more easily neutralize any random attacks that you may encounter outside of the gym.
Wrestling is great for learning how to get someone from their feet to their back using technique and quickness over strength. MMA competitors with wrestling backgrounds are usually able to adjust to the sport better than those with other backgrounds for that reason.
Jiu jitsu has quickly become one of the most popular martial arts in the world and has seen its participation numbers rise exponentially over a short period of time. Originating in Japan and later co-opted by a talented Brazilian family, people are soon learning the numerous benefits that the sport has to offer. Much like wrestling, it will develop your mental fortitude and breathing cadence but, unlike wrestling, you will learn innumerable ways to defend yourself from an attacker while stuck on the ground.
While you will learn some trips and other moves to get your opponent to the mat, jiu jitsu primarily focuses on submissions via chokes and joint manipulations, giving your opponent the only options to either tap out or risk serious injury. A major appeal for participants is the ability of smaller people to be able to defend against bigger opponents using leverage and technique properly. You will also not have to worry about getting punched in the face repeatedly, which has always been an important detail for most people when making important life-changing decisions.
Many participants refer to jiu jitsu as a human chess match. You will learn how the body moves and, also just as important, how it is not supposed to move, which allows for more creativity than any other martial art. With a stringent ranking system and the sport evolving faster over the past two decades than it ever has, you will never stop learning if you decide that jiu jitsu is the right activity for you.
Cross training in different martial arts disciplines is a great way to get in better shape, build mental fortitude, and improve critical-thinking skills for fighting, competition, and beyond.
Different martial arts suit different fitness goals. Someone looking to improve their agility and speed might consider taekwondo or boxing, while those looking to build a strong core, round out their game, and improve critical-thinking skills might consider jiu-jitsu classes.
Martial arts training can also have benefits beyond physical fitness, including mental health, improved discipline, and a positive social environment. Try different martial arts at the same time to discover what suits your goals.