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Participating in one of the martial arts not only improves one physically, but also mentally. From the physical aspect, participants lose weight, tone and firm muscles and increase strength. They also gain flexibility, agility, hand-eye coordination and balance.

From the mental aspect, if you lose weight, and firm and tone muscle, you are going to have a better feeling about yourself and that feeling exudes to those around you. You’ll start to get questions about what you are doing to look that good. That further increases your self-esteem.

But martial art training does other things too. It increases your mental sharpness, decreases stress, improves your overall health and in the end, you live longer. Who would not want these health benefits from their exercise program?

Plus, as a bonus, you learn both offensive and defensive moves that could not only help you defend off an attack, but could actually end up saving your life. The world today is a dangerous place and you must be prepared; there is no reason to be the victim when you can get fit, healthy, lose weight and learn how to protect yourself.

Types of Martial Arts: While there are many forms of martial arts, here are four of the more popular types:

Krav Maga: Developed by the Israeli military, this is a full-body workout. Warm-ups include sit-ups, squats and lunges in preparation for the twisting, turning and punching required in the application part of the class.

Kickboxing: This martial art concentrates heavily on kicking and punching; working all major muscle groups, especially the abdominal core and lower back. An hour-long workout can burn as much as 1,000 calories.

Mixed Martial Art: Popularized by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it is a form that combines judo, jujitsu, wrestling, kick boxing and Muay Thai. While very violent in the ring, learning the techniques is not and can be learned in a non-threatening class-style format. Typical training includes time on punching bags, kettlebells, doing burpees and performing arm building drills using heavy ropes.

Judo: Uses the bodyweight of others to burn calories and fat. It is more of a bodyweight style of training. Using balance, coordination and leverage it makes it useful for a smaller person to take down someone larger. Training involves students using controlled holds, locks and throws on each other to avoid injury.

There are several more martial art forms that are good forms of cardio exercise that burn lots of calories and body fat. Other fitness programs combine cardio and strength training to burn calories, body fat and tone muscle, but they fail in that they don’t teach any self-defense moves. Martial arts training does all of this and more and you’ll have fun interacting with others instead of training in a boring gym by yourself.