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Millions of people around the world enjoy karate, jiu-jitsu, taekwondo, and other contact martial arts classes. The benefits are significant, and so is the commitment. So, it’s important to prepare yourself for your first encounter with contact martial arts, to lay the foundation for a lifetime of physical fitness, mental toughness, and other items that will help you immensely in almost anything you do.
Do Your Research
Contact martial arts preparation begins well before you pack your bag, grab a water bottle, do a few stretches, and get to the martial arts school on time. Simply in terms of the type of martial arts, there are a lot of different styles to choose from. Moreover, some schools encourage occasional drop-ins who want a firsthand experience, some instructors only tolerate this practice, and some forbid it altogether.
Prepare Your Mind
Mostly because of movies and TV, many people have a false understanding of martial arts. Although they may not expect the class to be constant kicks and punches, they may well assume that they will spend a good portion of the class breaking blocks of ice with their heads, or at least witness a demonstration or two. Many martial artists eventually reach that level, but this endeavor is all about the journey. That journey starts with an open mind that’s receptive to all the instructor's teachings.
Prepare Your Body
Never attend a contact martial arts class unless your body is ready for an intense workout or you may not make it out in one piece. Even basic workouts burn about 1100 calories an hour, which is over half of the recommended daily amount. Advanced workouts might burn twice that much. Be sure you are well-rested and mentally sharp. In the hours prior to the workout, try to consume as much protein as possible. Eggs, nuts, lean meats, and other such foods are your best friend. All this preparation pays significant dividends, especially when advanced workouts cause intense impact to the legs and serious injury is a real possibility.
Know That Some Injury is Inevitable
Serious injuries like MCL tears are usually avoidable, but bumps and bruises will happen no matter what. Even before you begin sparring drills and competitions, accidental falls and awkward punches often cause bumps, bruises, and the occasional pulled muscle. Such injuries are part of your training program, so it’s important to power through the rest of the session if at all possible. Afterwards, the RICE method works wonders for minor injuries:
- Rest the affected area,
- Apply ice for about twenty minutes at a time until the pain and swelling substantially subside,
- Use an Ace bandage or some other compression wrap, and
- Keep the injured area elevated.
The tougher and more flexible your body becomes, the less likely you are to sustain these minor injuries.
Mouthpieces and groin protectors are mandatory for almost any contact martial arts class. Otherwise, when you do your research (and you’ve already done that, right?), the instructor should have a list of recommended equipment. There is also some sport-specific equipment. For example, for Muay Thai, you’ll need gloves and shin guards.
Be Part of A Community
“Dojo” is not the Japanese word for “gym.” It means “a place of the way.” So, there is more to contact martial arts than punching and kicking. There is an element of meditation. More importantly, there is a communal element. Everyone else in the class faces roughly the same obstacles that you face, so it’s important to rely on the strength of others. Sooner or later, they will rely on you as well.
A little preparation time makes your contact martial arts experience much more worthwhile. Sow generously and you will also reap generously, at least in general.
Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces...the goal is to help others “rebel against age”.