By Jose R. Villanueva

As originally published on the Listen & Be Heard Weekly1, June 15, 2005.

There are a tremendous amount of benefits one can have training in the Martial Arts. People look to other activities such as gyms, aerobic exercise, yoga, and cardio-kickboxing for physical benefits. One can gain some benefits from all those activities, but they are all individualized and they do not combine nor do they teach self-defense. The things that one is looking to gain in each of these activities can be found in the Martial Arts.

Although gyms offer some other things to improve physical conditioning, the Martial Arts through its exercises help to strengthen muscles. A person can do weightlifting at a gym, but the Martial Arts can help with strengthening the muscles and improving one's coordination with the body. One learns to communicate with their bodies, so one can get the body to do what one wants. The Martial Arts may not be able to help build bulky muscle mass, but it would be inhibiting to the practitioner in so many ways. If there is any weightlifting, it should be done to help increase power and strength because mass alone does not really do anything.

Aerobic exercise can be done in just about any format. You have them in gyms, videos, and places specifically for women. Aerobics is very good for the cardiovascular system. It increases heart rate and develops lung expansion. It helps to strengthen the muscles, but it lacks any self-defense. The Martial Arts does offer good cardiovascular exercises. At the very beginning as a practitioner, one may not have an intense aerobic exercise, but the exercises increase in difficulty as one continues one's training. Everything is done on a gradient. Aerobic exercises in the Martial Arts will help the practitioner to burn fat and become fit.

Yoga has as a base of stretching, breathing, and meditating techniques. It is still very limited because it does not include any self-defense. The Martial Arts offers a tremendous base of stretching techniques because a practitioner must have good range-of-motion. Practitioners are taught how to breathe correctly, so they do not tire too easily. Breathing is also important to the proper application of one's own energy. The meditation aspects of the Martial Arts helps a student improve his concentration, and his ability to do his exercises and techniques.

Cardio-kickboxing has a tremendous amount of cardiovascular work and some offensive moves, but no blocks, parries, takedowns, terminating techniques, and counter-striking techniques. It is very limited to just some punching and kicking techniques. The Martial Arts has it all. Why join cardio-kickboxing when one can get all the benefits of it and more from the Martial Arts?

Gyms, aerobic classes, yoga classes, and cardio-kickboxing classes do not have any self-defense in it. Martial Arts is the only activity that combines everything that you can get from all those activities above. The Martial Arts can give a person an ability to protect oneself and others, so it is much more valuable. One will in the long run get much more for one's money.