martial arts vs gym membership – 13 unpopular differences

gym vs martial arts


What’s the basic difference between gym membership vs martial arts? Investing in a gym membership is a reliable way to stay fit and active but learning martial arts have its own sets of benefits, martial arts will help you stay combat-ready and you will be able to defend yourself or family at any point in time. Martial arts are also a great way to maintain a healthy body and mind.  

Martial arts are getting increasingly popular these days, I remember those days when only a handful of people (especially millennials) used to enroll for the martial arts classes. 

Fitness trend is changing at a fast pace, now more and more people are drifting towards learning new skills that can also help them stay in shape. That’s the reason many commercial gyms have started offering group martial art classes to attract more clients. 

Choosing between martial arts vs gym membership is an obvious question that comes in mind. This article is going to cover every if’s and but’s of gym membership vs martial arts. Martial arts have got some clear advantages and disadvantages over commercial gyms, but it’s important to understand the basics of martial arts first.

What is martial arts? 

The word “martial” was derived from Mars, who is a roman god of war. Martial arts refers to the systematic style of combat training that is developed to defend and defeat any incoming threat. 

Martial arts is not about a singular style of training, every ancient civilization developed their own version of combat to deal with incoming threats, that’s the reason hundreds of different martial arts styles are followed worldwide. 

Some of the most renowned forms of martial arts are Karate, Kung Fu, KickBoxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Tai Chi, MMA, etc. 

 gym membership vs martial arts

Martial arts can be broken down into five distinct categories: 

  • Combat or striking styles
  • Grappling styles
  • Low-impact martial arts
  • Weapons-based Martial arts
  • MMA- Hybrid combat techniques. 

Read more: 19 Popular Martial Arts you can learn

For now, let’s get on the difference between joining martial arts classes vs gym membership. 

Gym membership vs Martial arts

Although I have been constantly preaching about the benefits and different techniques of weight lifting this article is all about the benefits of martial arts. On a personal note, I have been a big fan of kickboxing and taekwondo, this article is going to cover all the benefits that I experienced over the years. 

Benefits of martial arts over weight training


While weight lifting concentrates more on progressive overload and strength gains, martial arts helps in improving body balancing, conditioning and flexibility. 

Martial arts improves the strength levels, cardiovascular health, and self-confidence that impact your fitness levels. Martial arts is for everyone no matter if you are 5 years old or 50 years old, you are eligible to learn martial arts. 

martial arts vs gym

Being Combat ready:

Get a Kickass workout while learning practical skills to kick asses. 

You never know, when you might require some combat skills, it’s always better to stay prepared ahead of time. 

Gyms can help you get big and strong but they never get you combat-ready. Being 6.2 ft tall and 95kg bodyweight, I used to consider myself strong until I met my 5.1 ft, tall kickboxing coach who was way more agile and conditioned, he could knock me down with a single kick. I would never want to get involved in a brawl with someone like him, that was the time when I understood the difference between being big and being combat-ready. 

Advisories never notify before they hit you, either you are prepared to deal with them or you pay a hefty price. 


Body conditioning is all about getting leaner, faster and stronger. But how do martial arts improve the body’s conditioning? Here is how: 

  • Full-body workouts: Unlike gym sessions where you isolate a muscle group to achieve hypertrophy and pump, martial arts works differently. Martial arts require your whole body to work out in symmetry. The simplest movements like punching and kicking will require dozens of muscle groups. 
  • Raise your metabolic rate: muay Thai, kickboxing, taekwondo, boxing, BJJ, etc involves High-Intensity training that boosts up the metabolic rate and performance. 
  • Explode: Kicking, punching, jumping involves explosive power that helps in recruiting more fast-twitch muscle fibers and better muscle density. 
  • Isometrics: Martial arts routine involves a lot of isometric drills that not only improve muscle strength and stability but also helps in strengthening tendons and ligaments.  

Fat loss:

Most of the martial arts practices like Kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do, Boxing come under High-intensity training which helps in burning tons of stubborn fat. 

Martial arts will allow you to burn way more calories than regular gym sessions. If weight loss or fat loss is your goal then should try joining good martial arts classes, they will surely help. 

Nutrition is still the primary factor to achieve fat loss, if you are not in a caloric deficit state then you won’t lose weight. But martial arts will help you burn down more calories which will help you reach the desired goal faster. 

I am not saying that you won’t be able to shed weight at local gyms but martial arts will help you shred down fat little faster while learning new skills.  

Strength gains:

How many of you are regular at the gym but still can’t do 10 pullups? Because most of the people are chasing hypertrophy instead of better functional capabilities. 

Martial arts is all about speed work which helps in the development of fast-twitch muscle fibers. 

Most of the martial arts workout patterns revolve around the bodyweight exercises and mobility work that benefits the body in many different ways. 

If your goal is to be a powerlifter then martial arts classes are not the best place for you. 


Need a training method that can be practiced anywhere without the need for bulky gym equipment? Martial arts is one of the most suitable options for you. 

You can practice it almost anywhere, whether it’s your home garage or outdoors.  

It’s March 2020 guys and we are in lockdown due to CoronaVirus, my personal favorite way to torch up body fat is just a 30-minute kickboxing session within the boundaries of my home. 


Martial art coaches pay very high emphasis on mobility and flexibility, half of the time you will be asked to do the drills that won’t just help you improve your flexibility but also help you ramp up your speed. 


Unlike weight training at the gym where you are pretty much allowed to do anything you want. Martial arts training requires you to respect the sports and your coaches, it helps you develop a discipline that you never had before. 

You don’t just join a martial arts class, you join a community where you respect and have a sense of empathy for every member (although exceptions are everywhere). 

Social interaction

It’s not a healthy center, expect to become a part of a community that train together, motivates you to push harder and supports you. 

Martial arts classes and boot camps also develop the social aspect of your life. You train with a bunch of people and you create a bond and friendship that is hard to find in new generations health clubs. 

Balance and posture

Martial arts is not all about hitting your opponent. It teaches you to bring stillness and awareness towards inside (mind) and outside (movements). 

Additionally, practicing martial arts involves multi-planar movements that improve body balance and coordination. 


A strong body and better muscle mass surely give you confidence but not as much as a martial artist. 

Knowing the art of throwing powerful punches and kicks gives you another level of confidence that you can find at any healthy club. 

Martial arts also give you the confidence to take on a group of people single-handedly.


“great power comes great responsibility”

When you have the confidence to take on a bunch of people single-handedly then you start to feel your responsibility within the society. 

Mastering the martial arts skills help you achieve better confidence that makes you a responsible being. 


To be a great martial artist you need to have a flexible body that’s the reason trainees devote hundreds of hours in flexibility drills. Here are some of the benefits of flexible body:

  • It improves your body’s ability to withstand higher physical stress and reduces the chances of injuries. 
  • Increased flexibility also helps in improving the range of motion and lowering soreness. 
  • Mobility drills allow you to have proper alignment and correct any muscle imbalances. 


In martial arts, It’s not about the power or speed, it’s all about the right timing.

Devoting time for daily sparing not only improves your conditioning but also improves the natural reflexes through muscle memory. Faster reflexes to dodge or block an incoming threat can be lifesavers.  

Developing quick reflexes also helps you act faster to make day to day decisions. 

Robert Downey Jr. on How Martial Arts Have Improved His Life

Drawbacks of martial arts: 

High cost at someplace: 

This sport needs personal attention which makes it quite costly. A good martial arts class can charge you 3-4 times higher than your local gyms. Believe me, the cost is going to be worth it. 

Not the fastest route to look good

Young guys who are trying to look good, martial arts is not the fastest route to it. 

Martial arts will give you skills but will also lead to burning tons of calories which might lean you up. 


It’s a high-intensity sport and injuries are quite common as well. 

But we don’t stop driving just because of the risk of an accident, right?  

Long & exhaustive sessions

A normal session may last longer than a simple gym session. 

Martial arts trainers take the warmup and post-workout stretching drills too seriously which might stretch the length of the training. 


If you ask me, I would choose a mixture of both, I would devote three days to my regular gym and three days for Martial arts. 

Mixing weight lifting and combat training can help in achieving all-round benefits. 

If you have a budget problem and want to choose one option then I would suggest you devote the next 6-9 months to learn some martial art skills. Once you are done with learning the combat skill then you can practice it at home for 3 days a week and hit the gym for the remaining three days. 

Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always. 

This site contains affiliate links as well as general health and fitness information. Please read my Medical Disclaimer and Writing Disclaimer for more information. 

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