Get Inspired: How to get into Martial Arts

From karate to taekwondo and beyond, martial arts encompasses a number of sports and disciplines that promote self defence, physical health and fitness.

Although martial arts is heavily influenced by the eastern culture and the traditional fighting techniques that originated there, martial arts also traces its roots to Europe - the phrase was once considered a reference to European combat systems that shared little in common with their modern-day namesakes.

The martial arts world today encompasses traditional fighting techniques alongside newer disciplines like mixed martial arts (MMA) and kickboxing.

Why is it good for you?

Different disciplines offer different health benefits but, generally, all martial arts promote weight loss and muscle tone through high-intensity cardiovascular workouts.

For example, judo burns more than 300 calories in the average session and helps improve fitness levels, balance, coordination and flexibility.

For those not wanting to take part in combat, the moves involved in many martial arts disciplines can be adapted to provide non-contact conditioning and strength-building exercises.

Martial arts training is often used to build knowledge of self-defence, while these activities can even lower your risk of serious injury in other sports, as most martial arts teaches people how to fall or evade in a safe manner.

Get involved

This online directory of martial arts clubs  will point you towards your nearest club in more than 30 disciplines.

Focusing on several of the better-known disciplines, English prospective karate students can take a look at the English Karate Federation  and its club finder.  The Scottish Karate Federation  offer a similar tool along with a full list of all clubs in Scotland, while the Northern Ireland Karate Board  provides contacts and resources.

The British Ju-Jitsu Association  explains how to join a club in the UK while there are also British governing bodies for disciplines like aikido,  tang soo do,  kendo  and Chinese martial arts  (which covers kung fu).

There is no recognised UK governing body for MMA, but this club finder  can help you find local facilities. You can also visit Martial Arts Near You  to find classes run by qualified instructors locally.

History

Martial arts history is one of complex stories and traditional sports made famous by the far-east disciplines of karate, judo, taekwondo, Ju-jitsu and others.

Yokio Tani and AJ Davey

Yokio Tani, a champion wrestler, and AJ Davey giving a display of Kine-no-Kata as part of an exhibition of the Japanese art of self-defence in 1924.

Some historians argue that martial arts originated in Europe during the 1500s as a form of combat, but martial arts in its popular form is primarily Chinese. The term martial arts is Latin and literally translates as "Arts of Mars" - Mars being the Roman god of war.

Many modern-day versions of martial arts originate from the early 20th Century, when some traditional fighting disciplines gave way to competitive sports.

With the rise of immigration from east to west, martial arts saw a boost in popularity that helped to develop its standing in the UK and Europe. In later years, the rise of martial arts within popular culture - most people can list a martial arts movie or two - helped to make martial arts a popular sporting activity for people across the globe.

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  or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.