By: Peter Jobes

Welcome to the calm after the storm. The festive period is over and life is beginning to return to normal. However, there's the distracting issue of the New Year's Resolutions that we're encouraged to keep throughout the year that needs to be addressed.


Typically New Year's Resolutions are followed for a significantly shorter time than the year itself. With many people resolving to stay fit or get back into shape in the new year, it's perhaps unsurprising that 12% of gym memberships begin in January. What's also unsurprising is that according to the Fitness Industry Association, over half of this number quit within 24 weeks of signing up.

Resolutions tend to have a recurring theme of healthiness and fitness. While some choose to welcome the new year by resolving to join a club to socialize. With this in mind, it's worth taking a look at embracing martial arts.

The art of a healthy lifestyle
The notion of joining a martial arts class may seem like something of a big step. Contact sports are surrounded by connotations of testosterone-filled environments and painful exercise. But the truth is that you don't have to look very far to find a club or class that suits what you're looking for.

There are dozens of widely applied approaches to both martial arts and contact sports that are designed to suit the level of application that you're looking for.

Unlike gyms, many classes have a clear and quantifiable recognition system in the form of belts, and there are plenty of opportunities to meet likeminded individuals with similar aims for their workouts.

From the world-famous disciplines of karate to kung fu, from jiu-jitsu to judo, all the way through to the more spiritual approaches of tai chi - you're bound to find something to suit your needs.

Finding the environment that's right for you

The commonplace belt-based progression system of many martial arts encourages students to continue their training when casual gym-goers would feel obliged to drop out, and the chance to learn invaluable forms of self-defence can be considered a great bonus those enrolling in a class.

As someone who will see martial arts as a new challenge, it will certainly be important to find a class that suits you before we get started in exploring how to go ahead in embracing the combat sports.

It's important to fit your classes into your work and life schedules in a way that won't encroach on your other commitment, otherwise, this could encourage early dropouts and a loss of progress. With many class-goers looking to join in either before or after work, location and transport will be imperative too.

Embracing contact sports

Your comfort is the key to longevity in your chosen class, and luckily websites like FindMartialArtsNearYou in the US and Get Into Martial Arts in the UK can help you to find a free martial arts taster lesson as a means of discovering if a course is right for you. Here, you can locate a range of classes near your home or workplace that run at times which suit your lifestyle.

If you're unsure of the type of classes that you'll be best suited to, you have plenty of options. Doing some level of research on the different approaches to martial arts would undoubtedly be useful, but there's really no rules on how many classes you can attend. Feel free to book a different class each week and see which ones bring you the most enjoyment.

Opting to join a martial arts class could well be the decision that gives you the edge over those who attempt to attend the gym. Training in combat sports may seem daunting at first but martial arts features a rich plethora of approaches that can suit your needs and goals.

The social aspect of classes can help new residents in towns socialize, fitness intensive classes like taekwondo could seriously aid your plans to lose weight in the new year, while the self-defence infused practice of jiu-jitsu would make for an excellent platform for feeling safer on the streets.

Whatever resolutions you've decided on for 2020, it could be worth checking out how martial arts can help keep you away from falling into the trap of a short-lived gym membership.

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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