By Mark Genovese
People looking for a fun way to get fit may want
to try a martial arts program.
Already popular for their self-defense training,
martial arts disciplines can also help people lose
weight and tone their muscles.
“Martial arts make your body stronger and your
mind sharper,” said Brian Miller, founder of Cutting
Edge Martial Arts in Saratoga Springs. “They help
you become more flexible and improve your coordination.
They improve your concentration and selfcontrol
and help build your body, mind and spirit.”
There are plenty of direct health benefits,
regardless of age. Studies have shown that practicing
martial arts can help youths develop their
ability to focus and build confidence. Meanwhile,
middle-aged people who regularly practice martial
arts have higher levels of fitness, stronger immune
systems, and more energy, say those in the field.
“Martial arts can help you improve your coordination, strength, and basic cardio and self-confidence,” said Jim Bruchac, head of Saratoga Kyokushin in Greenfield Center. The school offers classes in karate, kickboxing, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and mixed martial arts. “Regardless of their discipline, we all train side-by-side, with respect for one another.”
Martial arts such as some forms of karate are thousands of years old and are practiced in the same precise manner today. Others like tae kwon do or krav maga were developed within the past century and incorporate elements of several disciplines. But the building blocks of all disciplines are calisthenics, which help improve stamina.
“Martial arts offer a great cardiovascular workout, ” said Mark Messare, co-founder with Marc Delnicki of Kelevra Krav Maga in Saratoga Springs. “They’re great aerobic exercise. They help strengthen your muscles and help you release stress.”
Krav maga focuses on responding to fast, intense, real-world situations, he said. It’s a self defense system that was developed in Israel, focusing on targeting an opponent’s most vulnerable points, such as the throat, eyes, and groin. “It makes use of the body’s natural inclination and instinct for efficient movements,” Messare said. “Your level of fitness will determine how well you can handle stress and how quickly you can respond,” So we incorporate 15 to 20 minutes of cardio into every class – such as punching and kicking heavy bags.”
Kelevra was founded this year, but draws on Messare’s and Delnicki’s 15-plus years of experience. Besides krav maga, it offers programs that focus on only physical fitness and do not include physical contact, similar to its children’s program. Each program focuses on overall health, with the goal of helping the body handle high stress situations. Children as young as 5 years of age can start training. Kelevra offers a special introductory program for children that only requires a six-week commitment.
A good martial arts program will be designed to incorporate all levels of age and fitness. “Maybe you can do only five to 10 kicks, while the instructor is doing 35,” Messare said. “That’s okay. It’s about pushing yourself to our own limit.” Every style of martial arts is different. “Some are more based in grappling, others in kicking. Some are designed more toward self defense, others toward physical fitness,” Miller said. “you have to find what suits you.”
Cutting Edge Martial Arts, which opened in 2004, specializes in after-school and summer programs.
“All of our activities are designed to help a student develop a sense of personal responsibility, gain confidence, make better decisions, become more active in our community and learn to persevere through challenges in life,” Miller said.
It also offers adult classes and programs in tai chi and hapkido Each program is taught with an age appropriate curriculum and each emphasizes flexibility.
“Stretching is under appreciated,” Miller said. “A major part of being physically fit is being flexible. Strength training and lifting weights alone will cause you injury. If you’re not stretching, you’re putting yourself at risk of an injury. Dancers and athletes know this. So we incorporate it into everything.” But it all comes down to fun, fitness, and a desire to improve yourself on the inside as well as out.
“Martial arts is not something you do, it’s a lifestyle you choose,” Miller said. “The tenets of tae kwon do are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, and an indomitable spirit. People study the martial arts for their entire lives because they’re learning constantly. It’s the struggle to achieve perfection.” “Whether it’s meeting your own goals or learning a new move, everyone has something to gain by training in the martial arts,” said Bruchac.
For more information on kelevra krav Maga, call 763-8006 or visit their website at www.kelevrakrav. com. Cutting Edge Martial Arts can be reached at 587-5501 or visit www.saratogamartialarts.com. For more information on Saratoga kyokushin call 1-855-kARABOX (1-855-527-2269) or visit saratogaiku.com.