Get Inspired: How to get into Martial Arts

Fast Answers

Why get into martial arts?

Self-defence and - and - spiritual development! These are attributes that other sports rarely cultivate.

Who is it for?

From five to 95, a vast catalogue of different disciplines means there's genuine options for all ages.

Is there a cheap option?

Many training facilities and academies will offer one or even two introductory classes for free.

What if I want a proper workout?

Kickboxing and mixed martial arts are very gruelling and physical.

Can I take it to another level?

The martial arts industry is buoyant, and very well-organised competitions take place all year round.

Is there a disability option?

Judo is very adaptable, especially for the visually impaired. It is the only Paralympic martial art.

Is there a family option?

Some martial arts schools shun combat and focus on therapeutic aspects. These could be suitable.

From karate to taekwondo and beyond, martial arts encompasses a number of sports and disciplines that promote self-defence, physical fitness and mental wellbeing. Although martial arts is heavily influenced by the deep traditions of eastern culture, today it encompasses traditional fighting techniques alongside newer disciplines like mixed martial arts (MMA) and kickboxing. The scope is vast - there are more than 30 disciplines - so explore this online directory of martial arts clubs to find your nearest club. 

Judo

John Buchanan after winning bronze for Scotland

Buchanan celebrates bronze in style

Judo roughly translates as 'gentle way' in Japanese, and though it can appear to be anything but gentle, it's skill, technique and timing that will see you gaining different colour belts as you improve - not brute strength or sheer force. All clubs that are registered with the British Judo Association offer free starter sessions; they also have 'judo gi' (uniforms) you can borrow while you take part. Use their club finder  to get started, or try the NI Judo,  Judo Scotland  and Welsh Judo  websites.

Karate

Bruce Lee

More than 50 million Bruce Lee-mad karate practitioners worldwide can't be wrong, can they? Though it involves physical moves such as punches, kicks, knee- and elbow-strikes, karate is revered for teaching supreme levels of self-discipline and self-control - the mind is just as important as the body. Explore either the English Karate Federation,  Scottish Karate Federation,  or the Northern Ireland Karate Board  websites. All will help you find your local club.

Taekwondo

Mahama Cho - taekwondo Olympian

Korea-inspired taekwondo requires patience, self-discipline, dedicated training - and seriously flexible legs! If you can high-kick in the blink of an eye, and keep on doing so time after time, this might be the marital art for you. Effective self-defence, strength development, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, and Olympic-style fighting techniques are all developed through a combination of mental and physical training. The British Taekwondo Control Board  can help you find a local club.

Ju-Jitsu

Mike Bushell tries Jujutsu

Though it's a tough, close-contact combat sport, ju-Jitsu centres on the principle of using an opponent's energy against them, rather than directly opposing it. This manifests itself through a series of clever techniques, which are crafted over time. Youngsters as young as five can start training. Take note: although the accident rate is low, it's wise to have a licence. Find your local club at the British Ju-Jitsu Association website. 

Capoeira

Sturridge, Welbeck and co dance in Rio favela

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art which has exploded in popularity in recent years. No wonder - it combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music! The acrobatic movements and kicks are so entertaining that capoeira has featured in numerous films, TV shows and video games in recent years. The England football team even had a go themselves during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In fact, you've probably seen it before... so why not try it! 

T'ai chi

People doing t'ai chi

Feeling stressed? T'ai chi, a truly gentle martial art, involves a series of graceful physical movements combined with deep breathing that can significantly promote relaxation. In fact, recent studies have proven that t'ai chi has various physical and psychological benefits - and the British Journal of Sports Medicine has recommended it for the elderly. But it can help anybody relax. Click here for more information. 

Martial arts galore!

Kendo

The list of martial arts disciplines isn't quite endless, but it's impossible to be definitive - try here to find the one that suits you best.  Viewed as a whole, martial arts are enjoyed by many millions of people around the world and are generally recognised as one of the best forms of mind, body and spirit training. Kendo, for example, is on the up. It's incredibly challenging (both physically and mentally) and very eye-catching, with large bamboo swords and protective armour.

Disability martial arts

Ben Quilter wins Paralympics bronze in judo

For anybody, taking up martial arts can improve one's health and promote a greater sense of self-worth and wellbeing. It can be immensely rewarding. The Disability Martial Arts Association is a wide-ranging support network which fundamentally believes that people come first and disability is second. They have a comprehensive database of all Martial Art Clubs and Associations that cater for people with various disabilities.  Judo is particularly popular.

Coaching and volunteering

A judo coach and his judoka

Martial arts coaches are the lifeblood of the sport. In many disciplines, to become an instructor means being highly qualified - but not in all. Volunteering opportunities do sometimes arise, for example, in helping people learn t'ai chi. Giving up your time  in this fashion can make a lasting difference to communities, especially the elderly and vulnerable. The Disability Martial Arts Association runs a programme on how to provide martial arts participation opportunities for a wide range of disabilities  that people have. You can also try Sports Coach UK  for coaching opportunities. Find out about volunteering opportunities in Scotland,  Wales,  England  and Northern Ireland.  Join In UK  can also help you find a club that needs your hands on attention.

Aspire to be like: Chris Sherrington

Aspire to be like Chris Sherrington

What's next?

1. Go to our Activity Finder to get into martial arts near you.

2. Or find your local base via this online directory of clubs. 

3. Share your story  and inspire others.

Are you inspired to try martial arts? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the activity by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired,  visiting us on Facebook  or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.