A lot is said about what training in martial arts can do for the body and for the mind, but not enough people realise the connection between the two. There’s something about this combination, especially when it comes to women, which makes martial arts the most empowering style of training.
Women who are training to be proficient in martial arts – especially Muay Thai kick-boxing – often experience a huge change in attitude and confidence.
Moyna Talcer is a long-standing client of mine. When she first came to me she was a debilitating hypermobile (her joints stretch further than is normal) who became injured every time she began an exercise routine. When she told me that she once sprained both ankles swimming front crawl, I wondered if my theory that resistance training plus kick-boxing – where the impact of the pad against the glove or leg builds muscle – would work on such an extreme case. But it did. After six months she was still uninjured as well as much fitter, stronger and happier.
This is not just because she enjoys hitting me (as punishment for all the pain I inflict upon her), but also because she feels more alive after training this way. “With kick-boxing I can release tension and aggression in a skilled and controlled environment,” says Moyna. “Experiencing the force exchanged between me and another person leaves me feeling hugely empowered. It affects the way I deal with other areas of my life because I feel stronger and less afraid.”
This sentiment is echoed by another client, Amy Durston. Amy is a teacher and believes that martial arts-style training helps her carry out her job more effectively.
“You have to be totally present to train well in martial arts; the mental focus required is amazing,” she says. “Once you can harness that focus through training you can also do it at work. It’s like meditation: you learn to be present.”
At first, some women can be bewildered and sceptical training in martial arts, especially when it comes to sparring. So, I use the techniques on clients that my own coach used on me. She asked me to hit her, first lightly and then a little harder, on the side of her body. She insisted that it did not hurt and made sure she breathed out every time my glove hit her body. Then she did the same to me (and she was right, it did not hurt) before getting me to block in the appropriate way and punching me a little harder in the side. I realised that it was largely the anticipation of the punch that hurt, rather than the impact itself.
It was one of the most liberating training experiences I have ever had and I knew I wanted more; I wanted to learn how to take and dish out blows, how to protect myself. Not being afraid is addictive – once you’ve experienced it you’ll never want to go back to fearing every little impact on your body.
Lucy Fry is a London-based personal trainer and kick-boxing instructor as well as an experienced freelance journalist working across a variety of newspapers and magazines. See www.lucyfry.co.uk
This feature was first printed in the February/March 2011 issue of Fitpro Network magazine.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Fitness Professionals Ltd or Virtual Magazine. Consult a qualified health or fitness professional before making changes to your diet or exercise.