When looking for some form of exercise class to improve fitness and burn off some calories, Martial Arts Classes can be rather appealing. In addition to the health benefits vigorous activity brings Martial Arts have the advantage of helping people learn to protect themselves.

Given the threat of violence nowadays this element is a very desirable bonus to most people.

For many women though, the thought of a room full of testosterone fueled young males bashing lumps out of each other is a little intimidating! Besides, being dangerous, potential cuts and bruises from such an activity are not what the Beauty Therapist ordered!

Of course, for the majority of women this scenario is a major barrier to participating in Martial Arts training and learning efficient self-defence skills.

These days with the vast array of Martial Arts styles available there is no need to be intimidated as there will be a style that suits your needs if you do your research properly.

Martial Arts classes can be split into three main strands; Traditional – Karate, Judo, Kung Fu; Combat Sports – MMA, Boxing, Kickboxing; Self-Defence – Combatives, RSBD (reality based self-defence). While there are considerable commonalities across these strands there are differences too, mainly in emphasis.

Traditional Martial Arts have a strong emphasis on the historical and philosophical elements of a particular style. Skills and techniques closely mirror those of the great masters of the past and strive to maintain authenticity.

Some retain and continue to train in the use of ancient weapons. Others have a sporting string to their bow but this tends to have a lesser role than the traditional training.

Combat sports, on the other hand, are all about competition and competing. While some people will enjoy the training without ever competing this is not the norm. With the emphasis on competing, winning is important and so the development of new techniques and training methods is on-going.

Self-defence styles are all about avoiding or surviving a physical attack. In addition to physical self-defence skills and tactics, avoidance and de-escalation tactics are included. Effective self-defence usually involves not being there and great importance is placed on achieving this.

There is considerable overlap across these strands of Martial Arts and all will have some form of sparring and testing of skills learned and all will provide skills useful in a self-defence setting.

The jury is out on which is the most effective, it's a moot point and beyond the scope of this article. When choosing a Martial Arts School it is prudent to do your research and try before you buy.

Some women may favour a female only class, which has the advantage of completely side-stepping the perceived macho world of Martial Arts classes. However, there is a mismatch with reality here, as most attacks on women are by males. The safe environment of the women's kickboxing class will undoubtedly help prepare you for a self-defence encounter it is a long way removed from the real deal. A mixed gender class will be closer and is another element to consider.

Author's Bio: 

Travis S. Lutter is an American mixed martial artist who won the The Ultimate Fighter 4 reality show. His UFC record, not including his exhibition wins on The Ultimate Fighter 4, is 2–4. He is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Carlos Machado. http://teamlutternews.com