We’re starting to get into the swing of 2018. We’re getting back into our fitness and martial arts routines — and some of us are preparing for a new tournament season. Everyone’s back at work and school. And we’re starting to get serious about our New Year’s resolutions.
If a part of your new year plan for a new you includes trying martial arts for the first time or adding a new martial arts class to your training regimen, the AWMA blog has you covered. In previous posts, we’ve covered information and tips that rookie martial arts students of all skill levels and abilities will need to start the next phase of their training, from practical training resolutions, to why martial arts training is good for kids and why it’s also great adults. This week, let’s look at what kind of martial arts training is best for you. Whether you’re a complete beginner looking for a brand new challenge or a pro looking to add new methods and perspectives to your skillset, here are the 5 best martial arts classes to try this new year.
If you’re not already an avid karateka, karate is the perfect martial arts class to take up this year because it has something for every person at every age level and every goal. Whether you’re interested in self-defense, competition, fitness, picking up a few moves that you might have seen in an action film, or improving your mental focus, there’s a karate style and class that will help you pursue your goals. As the amazing successes of our brilliant AWMA-sponsored athletes in karate and in entertainment demonstrate, karate can open up a whole new world of possibilities to you, and make you a better athlete and human in the process.
For martial artists from other disciplines, karate lessons can also add a new element to your game. The current success of UFC stars with strong karate backgrounds like Stephen Thompson and Michelle Waterson, for example, has once again made karate an incredibly relevant component of the ever-changing MMA game.
2. Mixed Martial Arts
Speaking of MMA, mixed martial arts training doesn’t just offer a new outlet for lifelong martial artists from various backgrounds who are looking for a new challenge, there are also some possibilities for rookies within the greater MMA sphere.
For the beginner who is not interested in combat, MMA-inspired fitness classes, that combine the techniques of mixed martial arts and its various elements, are a fun and popular new way to stay in shape. For the curious hobbyists and potential future competitors, MMA classes will provide you with invigorating warm-ups, rigorous technique lessons, and the option of sparring. Most MMA gyms will also offer specific lessons in the arts that have influenced mixed martial arts and still play important roles in current competition, like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and wrestling. If you already have a background in those arts, or some other combination of martial arts, and are interested in seeing what kind of future you might have in MMA, then classes directed toward professionals and competitive athletes are also an option.
Much like MMA, boxing is another combat sport that comes with opportunities for almost every level and ability. For fitness buffs, there’s boxercise. For people who are interested in learning the complex combination of physical and psychological training that goes into the sweet science, most boxing gyms — and even some mixed martial arts gyms — will offer focus pad and heavy bag-oriented technique classes. If you’re serious about training, or even if you just want to see how you’d do in the ring, then you can start to consider sparring and competition.
Boxing can also be an effective form of cross-training for people who are participating in other martial arts. “In my style, Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu, our striking system is based on boxing/ kickboxing principles, but since it is not our sole focus, a student can benefit from taking extra training in them,” Lori O’Connell, a sensei from Pacific Wave Jiu Jitsu wrote about the benefits of this kind of cross-training in 2009. “This is why I have Louis Sargeant (the professional boxer with whom I do extra training) come in and teach a class once a month for my students. It’s a nice change of pace for my students and they get to experience a different teaching style, as well as have the opportunity to get extra focus on their sparring skills.”
4. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
For martial artists from striking backgrounds — or for beginners who are curious about martial arts but aren’t so sure about things like kicking and punching — Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a great possibility. BJJ’s grappling-oriented art is a great challenge for the mind and body with tough warm-ups, complex techniques, and sparring (aka “rolling”) that will leave you physically and mentally exhausted. There’s a reason this martial art is sometimes compared to human chess. BJJ is both an excellent discipline in its own right — welcoming and rewarding for people looking for self-defense options, weekend warriors, and serious competitors alike — and an excellent first step for people who are interested in mixed martial arts but not quite brave enough to jump right into MMA training.
5. Lightsaber Lessons
Seriously! Or at least semi-seriously. We mentioned lightsaber training as a new trend in martial arts last spring, and the popularity of this Star Wars-inspired activity has only increased thanks to the recent release of The Last Jedi. If you’re looking for a new hobby that has a foundation in traditional martial arts training but is a little more whimsical in its execution, it might be worth looking into your local lightsaber options. Although every school has its own spin on the intergalactic combat style, most contain some mixture of kendo, fencing, and historic European martial arts (you can also do it with a kendo stick or practice sword if you don’t have a lightsaber) and offer a fun and less formal take on martial arts classes. Enlisting the force in your martial arts training for the new year might sound a little strange at first, but it’s a great idea for new potential martial artists who are still a little intimidating by the idea of a more serious gym, and for longtime martial artists looking to shake up their routine with something completely different.