Other martial arts
All the disciplines you need to know.
Aikido demands a big spiritual and philosophical understanding before you start effortlessly smacking people about. It encourages total body movements around a fixed centre, even if it appears that you're only using your elbow to swat the bad guy across the room. Another key technique is to use your opponent's energy and throw it back in their weasel face, but Aikido is essentially non-violent and encourages harmony rather than confrontation.
Who should do Aikido?
Aikido improves flexibility, reflexes and reactions, and those who practise regularly will also grow in self-confidence and gain better self-awareness.
More info: British Aikido Association
Chi Kung (Qigong)
Combining meditation with exercise, this ancient art is designed to promote health in mind, body, and ultimately spirit. It works along similar lines to acupuncture, buying into the belief that energy runs through the body in certain ways, but Chi Kung uses exercise instead of needles to correct that flow. Chi Kung has been around for centuries, originating in China around the 2nd Century BC, and for many people it's close to a religion.
Like T'ai Chi, there are countless different variations, but most involve breathing techniques, moving exercises, still postures and mental training. In China, Chi Kung workouts are often prescribed by GPs in the same way as antibiotics in the West, while much of the workforce kick off their morning with a collective session.
Who should do Chi Kung?
Chi Kung improves all-round health, so it will benefit just about anyone. However, if you're keen on a martial art that focuses on relaxation, and correcting dodgy posture, this is for you. It also improves balance and provides a natural source of comfort for people with falling over problems. Experts recommend practising for 20-40 minutes each day to really feel the effects.
More info: Chi Kung
Make like a Jedi Knight with this stick-wielding martial art. Career around the room making all the right light-sabre noises, but don't express surprise when you're chucked out of the class. Why? Because Kendo purists are understandably sensitive about bad Star Wars gags.
Once you're over your Skywalker fixation, respect the fact that Kendo is all about the art of fine swordsmanship. The stick is effectively a representation of something much sharper, and the skill is in striking at certain targets on your (fully protected) opponent by drawing upon a range of balletic moves.
Who should do Kendo?Anyone who has an unhealthy obsession with sword fighting. Oh, and those who are into improving skill and concentration, and want to learn to fight with grace and agility.
More info: British Kendo Association
A martial art without the mystical history, kickboxing came to life in the '70s thanks to frustrated karate practitioners. A growing band turned their fine and noble art into more of a boxing match, and the result (with added safety-measures) is set to eclipse the original.
Who should do kickboxing?Today, kickboxing isn't just recognised for its self-defence techniques, but as an effective fitness workout too, so if you want to vent your anger and stress in a controlled environment, get fit and learn some self-defence moves, sign up now.
More info: World Kickboxing Association
An ancient Chinese body of exercise that draws on both attacking and defensive moves. It may be classified as a martial art, but this is a variation that doesn't involve decking your opponent with your little finger. In practice, T'ai Chi involves using your body to make 'forms' - a series of slow, balanced, sweeping positions that make up one continuous movement. A single move can take up to twenty minutes to complete, ideally leaving you feeling refreshed and ready for anything.
Who should do T'ai Chi?It's all about spiritual growth, drawing on the principle of Yin and Yang, man, so it's great for those who want to promote inner peace, man.
Needless to say, it's also great for stress release, concentration, coordination and - more surprisingly - increased strength and muscle tone, and it's a nice gentle exercise for anyone recovering from physical injury.
More info: T'ai Chi finder
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