With more than 20,000 martial arts schools around the world will millions of people currently practicing martial arts, there are likely countless reasons why people continue to practice martial arts. For many martial artists, the physical benefits of martial arts, including gaining strength and flexibility, are the primary draw for their interests. However, the non-physical reasons to begin to practice martial arts can be even more important, particularly for parents interested in getting their child involved in a physical activity like martial arts.

Here is a list of nine reasons to begin practicing martial arts.

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Top 9 Reasons to Practice Martial Arts

1. Greater Self-Confidence

One of the greatest benefits reported by students who practice martial arts is an increase in self-confidence. Much of the benefits associated with self-confidence come from the physical improvements from martial arts, from gaining strength to the knowledge of being able to defend oneself. Most martial arts teachers will utilize positive encouragement to help one feel a sense of accomplishment as one learns new more challenging skills and moves. As the practice becomes more difficult, it becomes ever more important to have confidence in your own abilities. It is where the greatest martial artists find their strength.

2. Decreased Anxiety

Through a series of surveys, researches have found that regular exercise can improve mood, immediately and in the long term.[citation] By practicing martial arts, it is possible to relieve stress and feel happier. However, not all martial arts are created equal, with the more complex arts resulting in short term frustration rather than relaxation. For example, one study noticed that wushu students experienced a decrease in anxiety, while aikido students did not.[citation] Regardless of which martial arts you decide to practice, the opportunity to new learn skills, accomplish goals, and release endorphins through physical activity will all help improve your mood.

3. Learn the Value of Respect and Honor

Practicing a traditional martial art, like kung fu, involves learning the importance of respect and honor. Most importantly, you will learn to respect your instructor and those who can help you learn more, like your parents. Martial arts instructors are the gateway into a martial arts practice. The rules and ethics involved in martial arts are tools that allow instructors to help you become your best possible self. Additionally, the code of honor associated with martial arts will introduce you to humility, preparing you to one day be in the position of instructor, teaching honor and respect.

4. Teaches Goal Setting and Self-Discipline

Leaning a martial art won’t happen after your first lesson and, despite the 10-year old blackbelt in your neighborhood, true mastery of martial art can take a lifetime. Practicing martial art will teach you to create small achievements to be accomplished in the short term that eventually lead to greater goals, such as mastery of a new skill or completing a belt trial. Mastery will include lots of failure, and only through discipline and humility will you be able to accomplish the goals you set forth for yourself. With self-discipline comes the knowledge to know when fight and when to not, one of the most profound martial arts lessons.

5. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

When you finish your martial art class, you won’t think about how easy it was. But how challenging and uncomfortable the whole experience was. Psychologists draw two concentric circles, pictured above, to display the concept of comfort zone and courage zone. By stepping outside of your comfort zone, out of netflix marathons and taking naps, into the courage zone, engaged by practicing martial art, you will grow and expand your comfort zone. Fear, the zone beyond both circles, will begin to seem farther and farther away with each martial art lesson. You will become comfortable in all sorts of situations, across all areas of your life.

6. Gain Focus and Stillness

With the ever increasing distractions from smart phones, computer screens, and the endless scrolling through websites, finding the time to be still and focus is harder than ever. Martial art is one of the few physical activities that doesn’t have an app nor are the martial arts studios full of TVs and distractions, unlike normal gyms. Martial art is all about focus, hard work, and being still, both inside and out. To be a great martial artist, you must be present with every single moment, a skill that psychologists agree has lasting benefits throughout life.

7. Increased Self-Awareness

Joining a team spot has many of the same benefits as joining a martial art. However, they lack the individual growth that occurs through years of practice with martial arts. Every day, you learn something new, perfect the movement of something old, and see yourself grow and change. By pushing yourself to achieve the challenges of martial arts, free of distractions, you will discover who you are, how your body moves in this world, and what it is that you want to achieve. Taking this knowledge outside of the studio gives you more strength to be yourself and achieve your goals.

8. Breathe for the First Time

We all breath constantly. But how often have you ever been aware that you are breathing? Nothing is more essential to success in martial arts than learning how to breath correctly, particularly during physical activity. By learning to breath, we gain the strength to relax under pressure, to feel the essence of ourselves, and to keep moving despite the challenges in front of us. Once you learn to breath in martial art, your breath will be a super power when you need it.

9. Joining a Culture

The most important reason to practice martial art is to join a community. Jet Li once said, “I believe the world is one big family, and we need to help each other.” Your martial art community will feel like your family. They want you to succeed, they help you when you are struggling. And they will always be there to push you towards your best self. Your martial art family might not welcome you with hugs and kisses, but they will bring you under their wings and introduce you to the magic of martial arts.

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