From Cara Delevingne to Akshay Kumar, martial arts is a hit among celebs
Learning a martial art form can be an efficient way to maintain mental and physical health. Experts and celebrities share the benefits of the disciplinefitness Updated: May 15, 2017 18:42 IST
A few weeks ago, model-actor Cara Delevingne posted a video in which she breaks a tile with her palm. The video once again brought martial arts back into the limelight as a great tool for self-defense. But for a lot of people, the video highlighted how martial arts could be a great way to work out as well. Experts have long contended that training in martial arts serves as a full physical and mental exercise regimen that can have long-term health benefits. In fact, a recent study on 90 breast cancer survivors between 42 and 83 years of age by UCLA, USA, found that tai chi — the traditional Chinese martial art and exercise focusing on posture, breathing and meditation — could help relieve insomnia in breast cancer survivors.
So, for those who are still on the wall about trying out martial arts, we spoke to experts about its benefits, how it’s never too late to start, and how training in a martial art is not a phase but a lifetime commitment to mental and physical discipline.
Swapneel Hazare, a second-degree black belt in goju-ryu style and fitness expert, Prosport Fitness, says, “Martial arts is a high intensity, full-body workout. It focuses on all the muscles of your lower and upper body as well as your core group of muscles. Not only it is an excellent workout to build muscle endurance, speed and flexibility, it also helps you build lean muscle mass and reduce body fat.”
Experts also list other benefits of practising martial arts such as:
1. Greater fitness and endurance.
2. Better balance and coordination.
3. Heightened alertness and awareness of the world around you.
4. Greater awareness of your body’s limitations, which helps you to confront and cope with them.
5. Better focus and concentration.
6. Stronger resolve.
7. A clearer and calmer mind.
8. Helps in reading people and their intentions via their body language.
9. Helps to learn to avoid unnecessary confrontations and fights.
A lifelong journey
In an interview with HT Café, actor Akshay Kumar said, “Martial arts is a way of life for me. It has changed everything for me. It has given me more than anything else has. This is why I try to spread awareness about it. Martial arts isn’t just a sport; it’s something that can inculcate so many life-changing qualities in you. I want every child in India to experience it.”
Some martial art forms currently popular in India include tai chi, aikido, karate, tae kwon do, and the home-grown, kalaripayattu. But no matter what kind of martial arts you choose, the most important aspect for maintaining discipline is consistency. According to Suresh Nair, a second-degree black belt and head instructor at Wing Chun Fist, Andheri (W), the key is “balance”. He says, “The right balance between consistent practice and constant self-evaluation with the goal of getting a little better every day will go a long way towards helping you become a better martial artist. In my own experience, it is not always the most talented person who succeeds in achieving a black belt or reaching a high level in martial arts practice, but instead it is the person who puts in regular effort, and is consistent with their training.” Nair has over 17 years of training and teaching experience in Shotokan Karate in Philadelphia, USA, and Amsterdam, Holland.
Every beginner has to be well-prepared and ready to give in the kind of commitment that is required. Actor Vidyut Jammwal says, “The most important thing for any beginner to know is that it will not be easy. As the saying goes, ‘The man who moves the mountain begins by carrying away small stones’. Every day, you will have to do something new. But remember, at the end of it, it will all be very beneficial, and you will be very proud of yourself.”
Celebrity fitness trainer Rakesh Udiyar suggests the following tips for beginners:
1. Pay attention to your warm up sessions and stretching. It is an important aspect of preparing your body.
2.Practise the correct forms.
3. Do not practise beyond your body’s capacity.
4. Plan your diet as part of the preparations to commit yourself to any form of martial arts.
5.Be committed and focused while training; it will help you improve your techniques.
6. Invest some time in jogging, running, freehand exercise and Pilates to improve your agility.
7. Light weight training with many repetitions would help you be more consistent.
Who shouldn’t take up martial arts?
Age or physical handicap is not a hurdle to learn martial arts. However, if you’re very ill, seriously disabled, or bed-ridden, you should take care to not push your body too much. Pregnant women, too, should avoid martial arts. People suffering from arthritis, osteoporosis or high blood pressure should also be particularly careful while practising.
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The author tweets@iamsusanjose