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Martial arts; the exercise of choice for the social thinker

There's always something new to learn and something to improve upon in the practice of any martial art.
Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images

Fitness options are ever increasing. If pumping away miles on a treadmill or counting reps isn't for everyone, there are now countless options for all temperments. From personal trainers if you like one on one custom instruction, to classes if you prefer the comradery of a group. Even the intensity of your workouts can be as varied as Zumba and CrossFit. Even many office buildings have in-house gyms making it easy to get a workout in on your lunch hour if you'd rather not join an outside club.

With all of these options, who is still left for the martial arts schools? You can take a kickboxing or boxing class in most fitness clubs, and while they may not be as technically correct or true to life, participants still get that 'bad-ass' feel and burn calories while blowing off steam.

Most martial arts schools are funded largely by their kids' programs. Martial arts in general develops good skills for children as well as the self defense aspect. Adults are often more likely to spend more on their kids than themselves for these kids of activities as well. Some kids end up sticking with it, "I started at age nine and must confess, I totally wanted to be a ninja," says Todd Fredricks. "I had no idea it would set me on a path of self-discovery. After almost 30 years, I love learning all aspects of a martial art from it's history to the cultural influences."

Often those who try martial arts as adults are initially looking into it for the self defense aspect of the training. Such as Lacey Bade, who began training in 2005, "I started because of an incident where I got banged up a bit. I wanted the defense aspect but also the discipline, both of which I feel I have found through martial arts."

One overlooked aspect of martial arts training is often one of the biggest reasons people join and stay as adults. Both Greg Znajda and Eric Anderson began martial arts because a friend and girlfriend respectively initially brought them in. "Probably the biggest thing that keeps me doing martial arts is the social aspect," says Anderson. "I've made a lot of friends over the many years I've done martial arts, and working with them to better ourselves in our art is a lot of fun and can be motivating."

"I have found it interesting from a physical standpoint, but the reason I have stayed is what I have learned and changed about myself," says Znajda. Many martial artists seem to mostly enjoy the self discovery and knowledge that they glean through practicing martial arts. "I find exercise for its own sake, such as running or weightlifting, extremely boring," says Anderson. "I've always like learning new things, though. By training in martial arts, I get to learn this fun, exciting thing, and being in shape is a nice side effect."

"Two things Martial Arts gives me those other things wouldn't are self-expression and motivation," says Bade. "It is my way of painting or writing, in a way. And having different goals like training for a promotion in the many arts available or for a competition really pushes you and challenges you. I like that."

"There is a whole world of information waiting to be discovered that's had a long history of being passed down through spoken word and demonstration to a select few," says Fredricks. "There are many reasons a school may sustain or flourish in this day an age, but for me as an instructor, I like to pass on the knowledge, as a student, I like a passionate instructor that's not afraid to still be a student."