Top 15 Health Benefits of Martial Arts

benefits of martial arts

Are you thinking of training in martial arts? If so, you may be wondering which one to pick and whether it is worth it. If that sounds like you or you’re simply curious about martial arts, I’m here to help.

Here, I’m going to tell you all the ways martial arts can improve your life. From its vital self-defense skills to improving your mental well-being, you’ll see why martial arts can be so transformative. 

Top 15 Benefits of Martial Arts

1. Improves Physical Fitness

Physical Fitness

Almost all martial arts involve cardiovascular workouts, which will improve your physical fitness. The only exceptions are meditative martial arts, such as Tai Chi, which are more about mindfulness.

Whether it’s the dynamic movements of taekwondo, the intense grappling of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or the striking of Muay Thai, you are sure to get a workout. You’ll engage in many different muscle groups to improve your physical conditioning.

You’ll notice this improvement in many areas of your day-to-day life. If this is the most important benefit to you, then I’d advise choosing martial arts that have a sports element. This includes Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, MMA, boxing, and wrestling, among others.

2. Gives You Self-Defense Skills

Self-Defense Skills

The reason that many people walk into a gym/dojo/school is that they want self-defense skills. Most martial arts will be great for this. They will give you the knowledge and skills to protect yourself in real-world situations.

Depending on the martial arts, you’ll learn valuable techniques such as punches, kicks, chokes, and throws. You’ll also learn how to focus in the heat of a battle and keep your mind clear so you can respond as effectively as possible.

The best self-defense martial arts for you may depend on your goals. If you’re not sure which one to pick, then I wrote a whole article about it right here.

3. Learn Self-Discipline


Another reason people commonly turn to martial arts is they feel they’ve lost self-discipline in their life and think martial arts can help them. If that’s your line of thinking, you’re not wrong. To be a master of any martial art requires dedication and patience.

What’s great is that you’ll find this self-discipline is transferable into your everyday life. During training, you’ll need to stick to a structured training regime, follow the guidance of instructors, and show the humility and respect your martial art deserves.

This will allow you to develop a strong work ethic, resilience, and the ability to meet your goals. Combat sports will naturally teach you self-discipline, but traditional martial arts, such as karate, judo, and taekwondo, are the best for this.

4. Get Better Reflexes

martial arts reflexes

You can’t be a great martial artist without having great reflexes. If you’re slow, your shots will be evaded, and you’ll be very easy to hit. Due to this, your body will quickly improve your reflexes in response to these new threats.

The way you’ll improve these reflexes is through repetitive drills and sparring sessions. Of course, these reflexes will also have practical applications in daily life. Your decision-making will be quicker, and you can respond rapidly to unexpected situations.

The best martial arts for this benefit are those that require rapid striking. This includes boxing, karate, kickboxing, and Krav Maga.

5. You’ll Become More Flexible

Flexible Exercise

Flexibility is a key component of many martial arts. This is especially true of those which include stretching and kicking techniques. Grappling martial arts also requires high flexibility; otherwise, you’ll be highly vulnerable to submissions.

Enhanced flexibility is a great way to reduce your risk of injuries in everyday life. Added to this, you’ll also get better posture and body awareness. Those with dynamic movements are the best for this, with Jeet Kune Do, karate, judo, and wrestling being some of the best examples.

6. Improved Strength


Firstly, it’s important to say that martial arts aren’t the place to be if you want huge muscles. In fact, bulking up can be highly detrimental to martial arts performance. That being said, learning martial arts will give you stronger and more toned muscles that will greatly exceed your current performance.

Most martial arts engage various muscle groups and will work to enhance your physical power. Not only this, but your improved fitness means you can maintain this strength over longer periods. Grappling martial arts are perfect for this, as physical strength plays a huge role in your performance.

7. Stress Relief

Stress Relief - BOXING

In today’s fast-paced world, it feels like getting rid of our built-up stress has never been more important. One of the benefits of fighting is that they’ll provide an outlet for releasing any pent-up stress, and you’ll leave your sessions feeling much better about the world.

Sparring or practicing forms allows you to channel your energy in a more constructive manner that will benefit your family and friends. Not only will it reduce your stress levels, but you’ll have greater mental clarity. All martial arts are good for this, but especially those where you can be let loose on a punching bag.

8. Improved Balance and Coordination

Balance and Coordination - Martial Arts

One of the most underappreciated aspects of martial arts is how vital balance and coordination are. There is no martial arts where it’s not one of the most important attributes. Thankfully, the constant practice of stances, kicks, and blocks will contribute to improving them.

This is a highly transferable skill. You will improve your performance in sports, reduce the risk of falls, and prevent accidents. All martial arts will improve you in this area, but particularly those that have a significant kicking element.

9. Increased Confidence

Confidence - Martial Arts

Martial arts will improve your confidence in a few ways. One is through the transformative journey that martial arts will take you on. You’ll have pride in your progress and master new techniques, all while overcoming your challenges along the way.

Martial arts foster a positive mindset, as you’ll learn to have faith in your ability and face challenges head-on. You’ll also have significant self-defense skills, which can give you confidence in threatening situations. Martial arts with belt systems are especially good for giving you a sense of achievement.

10. Aids Weight Loss

Weight Loss

For most people, weight loss isn’t fun. You’ll most likely be following a diet that sucks the joy out of life and/or doing exercises that you don’t enjoy. Martial arts are a wonderful way to lose weight while doing something that you love.

Whether sparring in a boxing ring, working on karate forms, or grappling with a fellow student, you won’t be thinking about the health benefits of martial arts, but you’ll be losing plenty of calories. Regular practice will not only burn calories but increase your metabolism, give you extra motivation to eat better and build lean muscle mass.

As with my physical fitness section, the best martial arts for this are those that have a sport/sparring element.

11. Better Focus and Concentration

Focus and Concentration

As Floyd Mayweather once famously showed, losing concentration in martial arts can quickly mean lights out. Your mind needs to be switched on at all times, whether someone is trying to punch you, you’re executing precise movement, or mastering intricate forms.

Martial arts will teach you there’s no time for a mental break when you’re in the moment. This increased mental acuity will transfer to other areas of your life, such as academic pursuits, professional endeavors, and everyday tasks.

All martial arts require focus and concentration, but I’ve found the ones where you can get struck will sharpen your skills quicker than others can!

12. Develops Social Skills

martial arts training

Martial arts classes aren’t solitary places where you train on your own. They are the complete opposite. They provide a unique and supportive community environment. If that sounds scary, you’ll soon realize that walking through the doors of your chosen martial arts school is the best thing you ever did.

There is something about being in a setting where everyone is working towards the same goal that creates a special camaraderie. This is one of the best benefits of martial arts for adults and children, as everyone can benefit.

Your teamwork and communication skills will increase, and you’ll also learn to cherish the importance of mutual respect. No particular martial art is best for this, as they’re all great.

13. Improves Goal Setting

martial arts belt

Whether there is a belt system or not, martial arts involve setting and achieving specific goals. Earning a higher belt is the obvious example, but this can also include mastering a new technique or participating in a competition.

Practitioners will learn the importance of setting realistic and measurable goals, which you can then apply to any other areas of your life. You will be able to approach new challenges with greater determination and a structured mindset.

14. Better Cultural Understanding

karate practice

Many martial arts are steeped in history and tradition. They have deep cultural roots and come from various countries and traditions. Whichever martial art you learn, it’s a great idea to engage in this history and look further into the history, philosophy, and customs.

This exposure will give you a greater cultural understanding and appreciation, helping to break down stereotypes and give you a global perspective. This can broaden your mind, and you’ll have a greater appreciation and respect for the martial arts you are practicing.

15. Crisis Management Skills

MMA fighting

The final entry on my list about what does martial arts teach you is about crisis management. Some people are good in a crisis, but many are not. In all martial arts, you need to remain calm and focused under pressure. It will improve your ability to manage stress and respond effectively in crisis situations.

This is a valuable life skill that can be transferred to many situations, whether facing an aggressor or in an emergency situation. Many martial arts are useful in building this skill, but especially those that involve sparring, where you need to think clearly in the heat of a battle.

Benefits of Martial Arts – FAQs

Which is better gym or martial arts?

It depends on what you want to achieve. If you want to build muscle or just get fit, go to the gym. If you want all of the advantages of martial arts above, then choose a martial art. Martial arts are more of a commitment but can be much more rewarding.

Is martial arts good for your mental health?

There is no magic cure for mental health issues. That being said, martial arts can help to improve your confidence, social skills, and be great exercise. While everyone is different, I personally believe martial arts can be great for mental health, and the positive link between physical exercise and improved mental health is strong.

Does martial arts get you fit?

Yes, almost all martial arts will vastly improve your fitness. They will give you an excellent cardiovascular workout. Moreover, you’ll be motivated to enhance your fitness further to improve your martial arts performance.

What martial art builds the most muscle?

Martial arts aren’t about building muscle. Look at any martial arts star, and you’ll see they have very lean muscles, as agility, balance, speed, and coordination are vastly more important than raw strength. If you want to build muscle, head to the gym.

Who is stronger, a bodybuilder or a martial artist?

On a pure strength test, a bodybuilder. However, in a fight, the martial artist would be a clear winner. Equally, the martial artist is likely to have more mental strength in the form of focus, concentration, and patience. Bodybuilding requires a huge amount of mental discipline but only gives you a very specific and limiting physical advantage.

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Sebastian Ostrowski
Sebastian Ostrowski
Hi, I’m a martial arts nerd and practiced a variety of martial arts like MMA, Boxing, BJJ, and Taekwondo in the past 6 years. 2 years ago I got into the art of eight limbs. Even though I love Muay Thai best, I don't shy away from fighting on the ground. I'm constantly changing countries as a digital nomad, but when I get to Thailand I'm hoping to get in a real fight!