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Martial arts have long been seen as cool. But they’ve also been seen as a niche sport. Many people feel like they’re lovers, not fighters. They look at martial arts and think, that’s nice, but it’s not for me.

The truth is that everyone should consider adding martial arts to their fitness routine. Martial arts aren’t a jocks-only pursuit that encourages fighting. Instead, they promote self-restraint and personal development. They provide a number of mental and physical benefits, and they’re a great way to keep a workout interesting.

Martial arts are highly structured. While the gym can feel tedious, martial arts doesn’t give you any time to stop and feel bored. Participants are in nearly constant motion. Though the moves are repetitive, they aren’t the same every time. Martial arts is effective as a cross-training method because it uses all different muscle groups and asks people to move in changing patterns.

In recent years, multiple studies have shown that over-specializing in a single sport can lead to an increased chance of injury. The previously unheard of “Tommy John surgery” is now routinely performed on children as a result of pitching too much. The repetitive strain of the same motion on their arms doesn’t do them any favors.

The same is true for athletes in other sports, including soccer. As athletes move up into more competitive levels of sport, it’s crucial that they be as holistically fit as possible. Martial arts can challenge the muscles that support overused muscles. It can improve balance and stability throughout the body.

Martial arts isn’t just about teaching a series of movements. And it’s more about avoiding fights than starting them. Martial arts teach people how to move, how to stay on their feet, and how to remain in control in their interactions with others. This is true in the literal physical sense. It can also be true in a psychological sense.

A martial arts class teaches people to be disciplined, humble, and respectful. Participation can change someone’s worldview and interpersonal interactions. For people who struggle to assert themselves, martial arts can improve confidence and foster a feeling of accomplishment. Practicing martial arts fosters an overall sense of well-being that’s hard to match in other workout programs.