How to get into martial arts: kickboxing, judo, taekwondo, karate, ju-jitsu and more

'You don't have to be fastest or strongest'
Fast Answers
Why get into martial arts?Self-defence and spiritual development! These are attributes that other sports rarely cultivate.
Who is it for?From five-95, a vast catalogue of different disciplines means there are 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.
So how do I take part?Go to our club finder page to get into martial arts near you.

The term martial arts covers such a large number of different sports, there is sure to be one discipline that appeals to you.

What all have in common is the benefits you can gain to your fitness and confidence.


Judo in Belfast shopping mall

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.

Judo is one of two martial arts included in the Olympics, and it is easy to try it, with all clubs registered with the British Judo Association offering free starter sessions and 'judo gi' (uniforms) to borrow.

Use their club finderexternal-link to get started, or try the NI Judoexternal-link, Judo Scotlandexternal-link and Welsh Judoexternal-link websites.


Mahama Cho - taekwondo Olympian

Korea-inspired taekwondo requires patience, self-discipline, dedicated training - and seriously flexible legs!

The second Olympic discipline, taekwondo requires effective self-defence, strength development and cardiovascular fitness, all developed through a combination of mental and physical training.

Information about where you can locate your nearest club can be found on the British Taekwondoexternal-link, Taekwondo Association of Northern Irelandexternal-link, Taekwondo Scotlandexternal-link and Taekwondo Cymruexternal-link websites.


Carla Rudkin-Guillen won kata gold at an event in Berlin, Germany

More than 50 million 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 Federationexternal-link, Scottish Karate Governing Bodyexternal-link, Wales Karate Governing Bodyexternal-link or the Northern Ireland Karate Boardexternal-link websites to find your local club.


Mike Bushell tries Ju-Jitsu

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.

Take note: although the accident rate is low, it's wise to have a licence. Find your local club at the British Ju-Jitsu Associationexternal-link website.

Martial arts galore!

  • Although it is a martial art, capoeiraexternal-link is less about fighting, more about dance, acrobatics and music!
  • Feeling stressed? Tai chiexternal-link, a truly gentle martial art, involves a series of graceful physical movements combined with deep breathing that can significantly promote relaxation.
  • Kendoexternal-link is on the up. It's incredibly challenging (both physically and mentally) and very eye-catching, with large bamboo swords and protective armour.
  • From Thai boxing to MMA, and everything in between, there's sure to be a martial art there that tickles your fancy. Search for clubs near you hereexternal-link.

Disability martial arts

Para-Taekwondo star Amy Truesdale dreams of gold

For anybody, taking up martial arts can improve one's health and promote a greater sense of self-worth and wellbeing.

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 Associationsexternal-link that cater for people with various disabilities.

Coaching and volunteering

Scunthorpe taekwondo teacher handed 'hero' award

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 tai chi.

The Disability Martial Arts Association runs a programme on how to provide martial arts participation opportunitiesexternal-link for a wide range of disabilities that people have. You can also try Sports Coach UKexternal-link for coaching opportunities.

All clubs need a chair, secretary and treasurer to help things run smoothly as well as officials, coaches and judges. Whatever role you're interested in, Join Inexternal-link has opportunities to volunteer in your area.