Martial arts can be an incredibly beneficial activity for both physical and mental health. Despite the physical and physiological benefits, many people often overlook the psychological benefits of martial arts to overcome anxiety. From increased confidence and improved coping skills to increased physical health and enhanced self-defence skills, martial arts can offer a holistic approach to mental well-being. In this post, I'll discuss the psychological and physical benefits of learning martial arts, and how it's helped my confidence, focusing on Krav Maga for women's protection in particular. We'll explore how martial arts can help with stress management, increased confidence, and improved overall well-being.
What is Krav Maga? Krav Maga is an Israeli self-defence system developed in the 1930s by Imi Lichtenfeld. It combines elements of judo, wrestling, boxing, and aikido, among other martial arts. The primary goal of Krav Maga is to help practitioners to defend themselves in any situation and it is angled to be more "true to life". It stresses readiness, defensive safety, and the use of simple and direct movements to handle attacks. Krav Maga is taught to civilians, law enforcement officers, and military personnel, with a focus on practical applications in real-world scenarios. The purpose of Krav Maga is to end a confrontation swiftly and decisively, making it an effective form of self-defence. It is one of the more "full contract" forms of self-defence, but because it is adapted to reflect real-life situations it strengthens your general confidence in yourself and your ability to protect yourself from threats.
1. Increase Confidence and Self-Esteem The mental and physical benefits of martial arts have long been documented, but what is often overlooked is the increased confidence and self-esteem that can be attained through rigorous and consistent practice. By training in a discipline such as martial arts or dance, you often don't realise the good you are doing for your body, the calories you are burning and the muscles you are strengthening, because you are learning something. Training in martial arts teaches self-discipline, respect, and perseverance, all of which contribute to improved emotional well-being. These core values are not only beneficial for martial arts practitioners, but can also be transferred outside the dojo and into daily life, allowing practitioners to lead healthy, productive lives. With each accomplishment, martial artists gain a sense of security and empowerment, leading to increased confidence and self-esteem.
Now let me highlight that after 9 years of practising in Krav Maga, I do not go out looking for fights or feel "invincible" by any means, but after those 9 years, I am more self-aware. When I'm out I'm careful, I can sense and observe situations, and I can hold my head high. Anxiety and mental illness often rob you of the feeling of safety, but martial arts give that back to you because you are confident in knowing you can make yourself feel safe.
2. Enhancing Coping Skills and Stress Management Martial arts have been found to be particularly beneficial for stress management and can provide a valuable tool to increase emotional control; an exercise in general can reduce your stress levels, but practising a martial art can help defuse anger or pent-up aggression. With the help of martial arts, people can learn how to stay calm and focused in the face of stressful situations, learn to manage their adrenaline and put it to good use. Too much adrenaline is one of the main causes of anxiety, so learning to control it can be extremely helpful in overall recovery. Additionally, learning martial arts can help improve one's problem-solving skills, as it helps build critical thinking skills and encourages out-of-the-box thinking; learning to stay calm in the brain fog of anger or upset can be one of the best skills you can learn in life, keeping you balanced, grounded and in control when your body is telling you it's out of control. Ultimately, martial arts can act as a powerful tool to increase resilience and beat stress.
3. Physical Benefits of Martial Arts Practising a martial art such as Krav Maga can help you build strength, improve your flexibility and coordination, and increase your balance and endurance. Not only will you become stronger physically, but your cardiovascular health and overall physical fitness will also improve depending on the duration and intensity of the class, you can burn up to 590-931 calories in a single 1-hour class when you compare to the 300-400 calories you can burn to do a 5k run, it's quite a difference. Martial arts can be an excellent way to burn fat and calories, which can lead to weight loss and improved body composition. If you need the motivation of other people to work out self-defence classes are a great social atmosphere, in which you may not even realise you are working so hard. So if you’re looking for a fun and effective way to enhance your physical condition, martial arts are definitely worth your consideration.
4. Women's Protection with Krav Maga Krav Maga is widely recognized for its effectiveness in protecting women from physical attacks. The training program is designed to teach women to identify dangerous situations, employ the most effective and efficient self-defence techniques and strategies, and escape from situations with confidence. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world and although I wish I could say that women are safe, statistics still aren't in our factor and it's always worth having a "just in case" approach and air on the side of caution. Krav Maga in particular teaches women to be aware of their surroundings and go through drills that give them the chance to practice responding to a multitude of potential scenarios. The goal of Krav Maga is to equip women with the tools and confidence needed to protect and defend themselves, should a threatening situation arise. Krav Maga training is an invaluable resource for any woman looking to strengthen her self-defence skills. I can't lie and say it isn't a frightening thing to do when you set out to start a martial arts class, new things can be scary, but in the time I've been training, I've made lifelong friends and yes had some injuries here and there but I've never felt more safe, secure and confident in my own ability.
5. Finding a Martial Arts Training Program While there are many martial arts training programs available, the decision ultimately comes down to personal preference and schedule. I began Krav Maga because I worked shifts and could train in a flexible manner. Some martial arts schools have a strict "grading" structure, which means a certain level of commitment. Before you sign up for a program, consider researching the different methods and styles of training. For example, some martial arts focus on sport, while others emphasize self-defence. Additionally, observe a few classes and ask the instructors questions, most martial arts schools will allow a free trial period. Don’t forget to take into account the cost of equipment, monthly fees, and other expenses. The right program should not only fit within your budget but should also provide solid instruction suitable to your goals. After you’ve done your research, enrol in the program that’s right for you and enjoy the journey of mastering a lifelong invaluable skill.
Martial arts can be an invaluable tool for both physical and mental health, especially for women. From enhanced self-defence skills to improved stress management and greater confidence, martial arts can offer a holistic approach to mental well-being. Whether it’s Krav Maga or another martial art, finding a martial arts program that works for you is an important step to improving both physical and mental health.