Fighting fit for family fun

Fighting fit for family fun

How can you juggle the ever-increasing demands of work, home and family time AND fit in a fitness regime?

By the time you’ve ushered the kids out the door for school in the morning, fought the traffic to and from work, got home, sorted the evening meal, done some quick housework, and the hundreds of other little things, is there seriously any time left for hitting the gym?

One clever idea for time-poor parents wanting to balance both fitness and family time is taking up a martial art – together.

Most martial arts cater for the very young – sometimes as young as six or seven, right through to the 60s and 70s and beyond. There are a variety of options, too – from the more bruising and brutal, right through to the technical and artistic. Essentially there will be a number of options out there that will satisfy your goals.

In addition, many clubs will offer combined sessions (children and adults combined) or sessions one right after the other, thus keeping transport time and cost down, while providing the family with a common interest.

Interested in the idea of getting your family fitness kicks together? Here are our top six reasons to give it some serious consideration:

Six reasons your family should be doing a martial art together:

  1. Because you can join at any age, families often start a martial art together. This provides a shared interest, scheduled time together, and the opportunity to compete at weekend tournaments as a family. Increased family bonds and decreased waistlines – a win-win for mum and dad.
  2. Martial arts tend to provide a well-rounded fitness regime, including elements of high intensity interval training and functional fitness, both key trends in the fitness industry. Depending on your choice of martial art you may find yourself boxing bags, wrestling opponents, sweating out countless calisthenic exercises, learning kata or forms, and working on your flexibility. Most martial art students find themselves gaining aerobic fitness, losing weight, and increasing flexibility.
  3. Many martial arts provide a compelling and engaging goal process – a belt system – which has the potential to keep you and your children focused on the next level. These systems provide a tangible reward for achievement – a key driver for success in fitness.
  4. Martial arts provide increased self-confidence and self-respect. In more formal classes, younger students also learn to respect the authority of the sempai, sensei, or chief instructors. Fitter, healthier kids also tend to do better at school.
  5. Unlike a gym, where you can do an entire workout without talking to anyone else, a martial art club provides the opportunity to make friends and socialise.
  6. You’ll note we left self defence till last on this list. Of course, martial arts provides skills and presence-of-mind to defend yourself from attack. However, the benefits of fitness, goal achievement, self-confidence, and belonging to a group of like-minded families are more clear and present day-to-day benefits.

Ready for some hot tips on which martial art you should choose? Here’s a quick overview of four favourite types:

Karate and Taekwondo

Both popular, stand-up, striking arts. Karate is Japanese and comes in a variety of forms, from the popular Shotokan through to the harder hitting Kyokushin Karate. Taekwondo is the Korean equivalent – similar to karate but with a stronger emphasis on kicks. Both arts use uniforms with a belt system. Regular tournaments are a feature, particularly around New Zealand. Overseas, international competition is available to high achievers and in the case of taekwondo, the Olympics.


Like karate, judo is a Japanese martial art. However instead of focusing on strikes, judo is more of a grappling art. Throws are common, and a lot of work is done on the ground. It is an effective sport, family focused, and another Olympic-level martial art.

Muay Thai/Kickboxing

Muay Thai/kickboxing is another very effective striking sport. The focus is very much on practical fighting with fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet. A very high level of fitness is desirable so expect a lot of sweating and sore muscles from your Muay Thai/kickboxing sessions.


Brazilian jiu jitsu is very popular right now – thanks to its success in the UFC. Similar to judo but with even more emphasis on ground work – arm locks, leg locks, chokes and more. A belt system provides ongoing goals, and regular tournaments provide the opportunity to compete and showcase skills.

So there you have it. A quick overview of our top four. There are many more of course. We suggest you choose a club with national and international ties, family-friendly, and with at least two sessions per week to ensure you get your fitness fix, and get to work on those silky skills.