Baseline fitness for trying martial arts/kickboxing etc?

I would love to have an outlet where I can hit something. However I am extremely unfit, and am currently in physiotherapy for an ongoing knee issue that keeps interfering in my efforts to do more physical activity. Weight loss will help too, but I do need a goal to give to the physiotherapist about what I am trying to attain here.

People also have recommended choosing a physical activity that is more interesting than just exercise. I would love to participate in something like that. But I don’t know what the baseline fitness they would need. I’m just pretty sure I’m not there yet, but I would like to have a concrete goal to work towards.

Would it be eg running for x number of minutes, being able to do lunges pain-free, holding a certain weight, being able to do push ups, etc? Any other markers you would think as important to achieve before joining a class?

Replies

  • kiela64
    kiela64 Posts: 1,447 Member
    jnomadica wrote: »
    I think it depends on the school. I do Krav Maga and my school is very welcoming of all abilities. We have very overweight people, a man in his 70s with some hip issues, super fit people, etc. Most of the activities can be scaled to your ability level or otherwise modified in some way. I personally was at an average fitness level to start but have improved dramatically in 6 months time. I’d ask at whatever school you’re considering, and make sure they’re welcoming.

    Thank you!

    They are classes at my gym and everything just says “all abilities welcome” however I’ve learned from experience it’s not accurate. Eg. The Zumba class includes a ton of turning-while-jumping and the twisting jump is bad for my knee.
  • lorrpb
    lorrpb Posts: 11,464 Member
    kiela64 wrote: »
    jnomadica wrote: »
    I think it depends on the school. I do Krav Maga and my school is very welcoming of all abilities. We have very overweight people, a man in his 70s with some hip issues, super fit people, etc. Most of the activities can be scaled to your ability level or otherwise modified in some way. I personally was at an average fitness level to start but have improved dramatically in 6 months time. I’d ask at whatever school you’re considering, and make sure they’re welcoming.

    Thank you!

    They are classes at my gym and everything just says “all abilities welcome” however I’ve learned from experience it’s not accurate. Eg. The Zumba class includes a ton of turning-while-jumping and the twisting jump is bad for my knee.

    Nearly every exercise can be modified or substituted. Talk with your instructor about your situation so they can help you modify.
  • MikePTY
    MikePTY Posts: 3,816 Member
    I would certainly talk with your physio to see what they say about your limitations, and any potential instructor as well. A lot can be modified but you do want to make sure about potential limitations that your knee issues might cause.

    As far as fitness level, I will say this: it is much more about mental toughness in the beginning than physical fitness. Classes can certainly be hard, but that doesn't mean they can't be done by someone who is out of shape. I started Krav Maga a year ago 55 pounds overweight and having not done any consistent cardiovascular exercise in at least 6 years. I was incredibly out of shape. And my classes were hard. It pushed my to my limits and beyond the first several classes. My instructor says now that he didn't think I would make it through the end of the first class. But I pushed through and persevered (while making smart decisions on what to take it easy on so that I didn't injure myself or go past my limits in a bad way). Now I am in good enough physical shape that at the end of classes, my instructor has had my sometimes lead hard cardio at the end of the class because I am at a level where I can push and lead others to do it.

    So don't let lack of physical fitness stop you. If I had done that, I would have probably spent this weekend obese and at home watching Netflix and getting winded while shopping at the supermarket. Instead now I am only 15 pounds outside the normal BMI, and I spent 10 hours this weekend in a pretty intense 2 day self defense seminar with a visiting master instructor.
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    I wouldn't worry about your base aerobic fitness. I would more worry about your knee and rehabbing it. I would work with both your physical therapist and your future instructor on how best to deal with your knee. Ask your physical therapist what you're allowed to do (in terms of movements) and then relay that to the instructor. It might be that you need more physical therapy until you can do most lower body related things in whatever martial art you choose. Yes that sucks, but it's a small price to pay for making sure that whatever is going on with your knee is cleared up.
  • SnifterPug
    SnifterPug Posts: 746 Member
    aokoye wrote: »
    I wouldn't worry about your base aerobic fitness. I would more worry about your knee and rehabbing it. I would work with both your physical therapist and your future instructor on how best to deal with your knee. Ask your physical therapist what you're allowed to do (in terms of movements) and then relay that to the instructor. It might be that you need more physical therapy until you can do most lower body related things in whatever martial art you choose. Yes that sucks, but it's a small price to pay for making sure that whatever is going on with your knee is cleared up.

    This.

    I do boxing (with a PT, not in a class environment) and even now, a couple of years later, I still can't (yet) do a full push up. But all conditioning exercises can be modified if the instructor is aware. I have watched some boxercise classes and people of all sizes and abilities are doing it to the best of their ability. Your aerobic fitness will build up fast if you find you enjoy it. Mine certainly has.
  • geauxtigerlily
    geauxtigerlily Posts: 75 Member
    Boxing and kickboxing is great if you're looking for "interesting" exercise. I hated most exercise until I found this 6
    years ago, and it's still engaging and helps relieve stress so much.

    Like the others have said, I don't think you need to get to any certain fitness milestones before starting. Sounds like it might be a good idea for you to work with trainers that specialize in martial arts (not just a trainer putting on a cardio kickboxing class) so they can give you some specific modifications for your knee.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 31,443 Member
    aokoye wrote: »
    I wouldn't worry about your base aerobic fitness. I would more worry about your knee and rehabbing it. I would work with both your physical therapist and your future instructor on how best to deal with your knee. Ask your physical therapist what you're allowed to do (in terms of movements) and then relay that to the instructor. It might be that you need more physical therapy until you can do most lower body related things in whatever martial art you choose. Yes that sucks, but it's a small price to pay for making sure that whatever is going on with your knee is cleared up.

    I think this is really good advice.

    I'd point out that all martial arts are not the same in the types or degrees of stress they put on individual body parts. Just simplistically: An art with jumping kicks might not be a good plan for an overweight person with bad knees, but not all arts have jumping kicks as a key part; arts with lots of falls (even controlled falls, since most of us have to learn how to do them) might not be the best choice for someone with osteoporsis; very grappling-focused arts might not be a great choice for people with certain types of joint problems.

    So: I like aokoye's advice to as your physical therapist what kinds of movements are risky for you at this point, then talk to potential MA schools/teachers in some depth before signing up about how central to their practice those moves are, and whether they can be worked around. If they're not open to this kind of conversation from a prospective student, I'd consider that in itself a danger sign.

    If they can accommodate your needs, then sign up (ideally for a trial lesson or very short contract) and communicate clearly with each instructor about your needs. (It's good to be early, to get your best shot at talking with the instructor before class is in full swing.)
  • kiela64
    kiela64 Posts: 1,447 Member
    Thank you for all the great advice!

    Types of movements I currently am limited with include: running, jumping, twisting, lunging. So yes, jump-kicks would be off the table for a while at least.

    I currently have access to in-gym classes for a fee in addition to my gym membership. However I do know of some specialty studios that focus on boxing and tai kwon do. I’m not sure if I can afford it, but it’s on my radar.

    I was hoping to have some goals to bring to my physiotherapist, and to give me something to work towards in my treatment. Currently it just feels like it’s never going to improve and I’m going to be stuck with just walking and swimming as exercise which is fine but boring.

    In my experience with the gym classes they tell you to register and pay, no matter what, and say to just go at your own pace (aka make your own modifications). Also not knowing whether the instructor will direct the class to run a lap of the room to warm up without other options means standing out in a bad way. The instructors themselves aren’t accessible for conversation until the class is happening.

    It sounds like joining a specialty gym might be necessary for special treatment (understandably). And there isn’t a good requisite list of movements, activities, and abilities that would indicate “prepared”.

    I’m taking away from this that I’m probably not ready to just show up and try, and sadly I probably need to just work on hitting that swimming and stationary cycling once a week and physio twice a day with daily walks and wait until special treatment isn’t necessary before trying anything actually engaging....
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    kiela64 wrote: »
    Thank you for all the great advice!

    Types of movements I currently am limited with include: running, jumping, twisting, lunging. So yes, jump-kicks would be off the table for a while at least.

    I currently have access to in-gym classes for a fee in addition to my gym membership. However I do know of some specialty studios that focus on boxing and tai kwon do. I’m not sure if I can afford it, but it’s on my radar.

    I was hoping to have some goals to bring to my physiotherapist, and to give me something to work towards in my treatment. Currently it just feels like it’s never going to improve and I’m going to be stuck with just walking and swimming as exercise which is fine but boring.

    In my experience with the gym classes they tell you to register and pay, no matter what, and say to just go at your own pace (aka make your own modifications). Also not knowing whether the instructor will direct the class to run a lap of the room to warm up without other options means standing out in a bad way. The instructors themselves aren’t accessible for conversation until the class is happening.

    It sounds like joining a specialty gym might be necessary for special treatment (understandably). And there isn’t a good requisite list of movements, activities, and abilities that would indicate “prepared”.

    I’m taking away from this that I’m probably not ready to just show up and try, and sadly I probably need to just work on hitting that swimming and stationary cycling once a week and physio twice a day with daily walks and wait until special treatment isn’t necessary before trying anything actually engaging....
    I suspect the bolded is true. That said, what I would do if I were in your position is get in contact with martial arts/kick boxing facilities, discuss your situation, and actually ask them what sorts of movements are required. Once you have that information, take that to your physical therapist. Even if you can't do that before your next appointment, tell your physical therapist that your goal is to do X martial art. That gives them information to work on figuring out how best to work with you to work towards that goal.

    So say you have a goal to start taking taekwondo. That is your goal for PT (physical therapy). Within that goal, you'll be able to work on strengthing exercises to get you to a point where you can do that. My three goals for post surgery stuff were swimming, biking, and running (and somehow hiking apparently also made it on that list which was odd). There are a lot of things that are required to do any one of those activities so we worked within a framework that allowed us to target what was required for me to do have the strength and mobility to do those activities.
  • Cahgetsfit
    Cahgetsfit Posts: 1,913 Member
    All the martial arts I have done in the past have been very accommodating of different fitness and ability levels. Matial arts is GREAT - not boring and a wonderful way to get a full body workout as well as learn something useful.

    I do agree with the above though - you should make sure you rehab your knee first. And strengthen it. I have previously had issues with my knees in the past and after I started lifting it improved - not straight away - but after a while it really improved and now it rarely clicks and my patella no longer needs to be taped into place.

    So I would't worry about fitness level, but more your overall body's capacity to do stuff like running and jumping, because there is a fair bit of that in the warm ups! And with kicking and stuff - the knee gets used!!

    Good luck with it and do keep martial arts on your radar - it's so worth it!
  • ThatJuJitsuWoman
    ThatJuJitsuWoman Posts: 155 Member
    I teach Ju-jitsu and I agree with everyone above. Your fitness won’t be a problem, I’ve had students who started at every level of fitness and all sizes from slim to obese.

    Your knee might cause issues though. There’s quite a bit of bouncing around in the warmup, then when you start throwing people the power for the lift comes from your legs. There are also kicks, which put pressure on both the standing/turning leg and the kicking leg.

    I totally understand needing a stress outlet where you hit things! Is there a punchbag at the gym? Do you have a friend who would hold some pads for you while you punch? You can buy pads and gloves pretty cheaply in most big sports stores.
  • SnifterPug
    SnifterPug Posts: 746 Member
    Why not see if you can hire a personal trainer for a few sessions who will do pad work with you? It may be too costly long term but you would get the feel for what you can and can't do and it will get your confidence up.
  • tynekaH
    tynekaH Posts: 5 Member
    A little late to the party... not sure if this is still on your radar or not, but I instruct taekwondo - my school has every fitness level and we accommodate for limitations, however, there is still quite a bit of bouncing in terms of foot work etc. If I were you, I would get into contact with some of the schools in your area and talk to the coaches and instructors. My school for example has a free trial of 2 classes that you can participate in to be sure this is something you want to/can make a commitment to.
  • nothingtoseehere42
    nothingtoseehere42 Posts: 1 Member
    You could also try tai chi to start with. It's slow, and not jumpy (from my limited experience) but has some very similar moves to other things, like in my case kung fu (which I have done a while). And with it being slow you probably have a bit more control to realize something hurts and stop rather than realizing your knee is saying no while in a partner drill or some such
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 31,443 Member
    You could also try tai chi to start with. It's slow, and not jumpy (from my limited experience) but has some very similar moves to other things, like in my case kung fu (which I have done a while). And with it being slow you probably have a bit more control to realize something hurts and stop rather than realizing your knee is saying no while in a partner drill or some such

    I'd be cautious. OP reports limitations on twisting movements. Some tai chi styles incorporate twisting movements on a weighted leg. It's one of the reasons I backed off a multi-year practice.