Why Martial Arts for Women Is Getting Moms in on the Fun

Karate isn’t just a healthy, character-building experience for kids. Many moms love martial arts, too. Just ask Carmen Champagne — a 33-year-old mother who has been practicing martial arts for two years.

It all started when she took a self-defense class at a local martial arts studio with her 15-year-old daughter. Soon after, both of them signed up for regular classes. Champagne practices Hapkido and Aikido — both soft-style martial arts for women that focus on redirecting force, rather than meeting it head on. “There’s a lot of circular movements, evasions, throws, joint manipulations and off-balancing your opponent,” she explains. “There’s also quite a bit of striking and kicking.”

Classes are full-contact and intense, which gives Champagne a good workout, practical self-defense skills and some much-needed stress relief.

Making Time for Mom

Champagne always wanted to learn martial arts, but like many moms, she couldn’t find time. She had her hands full with a full-time job and two kids (the other is a 5-year-old son with autism). “I started going just once a week for one hour, which wasn’t such a big deal time-wise,” she explains. “But as I learned more and got better at it, going once a week became frustrating. It was enough time to forget everything I learned in the previous class.”

So she started taking two back-to-back classes on the same night. “My husband has a gaming group he meets with once a week; that’s his night out. Now I’ve got my night to myself, too.”

Healthy Mom, Happy Family

Champagne considered herself physically fit before she started Hapkido. “But I learned pretty quickly that I wasn’t in nearly as good of shape as I thought,” she admits. “You use a lot of muscles in martial arts that you don’t use in normal, daily activity.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which considers karate, Taekwondo and similar martial arts “vigorous activity” — suggests even a moderate but regular workout can help adults. It can:

  • Control weight
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer
  • Strengthen bones and muscles
  • Improve mental health and mood
  • Increase your lifespan

Champagne can attest to the physical and mental health benefits of martial arts for women. She decreased her body fat by 2.2 percent in one year and has considerably more physical strength than before she started class. Just as important, she’s found an outlet for stress and anxiety.

“Life is stressful,” she says. “Especially when you have a child with a significant developmental disability. It [leads] to a feeling of powerlessness, and developing as a martial artist alleviates some of that powerlessness in the rest of my everyday life. I feel like I have control back over something, even if it’s just my own body. There’s also the day-to-day anxiety of going out in the world, and now I feel a little better prepared to prevent some of the bad things that could happen to me. That’s a good feeling for an anxious person.”

Is It Right for You?

Champagne’s best advice for women considering martial arts: If it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, make time for it.

“I love my children and being a mom,” says Champagne. “But I’m not only a mom. I like having these other facets of my life and my personality. I like developing myself as a person, within and outside of the home. I’d recommend that to anyone.”

Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.

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