You probably have never seen an overweight martial artist. This is because training for these sports means a lot of aerobic exercise. You also develop muscles while burning fat, improve your strength, balance and mobility, and promote a healthy heart. Whether you want to become the next world champion black belt, or simply want a great workout, martial arts fit the bill.

If you’re considering taking up one of these fitness disciplines often steeped in ancient, Far East history, you are probably wondering which one is right for you. They all provide wonderful health benefits, but they have some distinct differences as well. Here are few tips to help you choose the perfect martial art for your situation.

Jiu Jitsu for Self-Defense:
Self-defense is cited as the number one motivator for taking up a martial art. Jiu Jitsu is the perfect self-defense trainer, as it emphasizes breaking holds and other defensive-minded techniques. You learn to use your opponents strength and force as a weapon against him or her, which means you can effectively subdue a larger attacker.

Kung Fu for Physical Fitness:
Probably the second most common reason for taking up a martial art is to get in shape. If you want to burn fat and build muscle, improve your coordination and balance and receive an “all around” workout, Kung Fu is the martial art for you.

Upper Body Workout:
Western-style boxing is perfect for working your upper body. You will learn how to develop a proper base with your legs and your lower body, but most of your exercising will involve your waist up. Japanese Shotokan Karate is another excellent choice as a martial art that works your upper body well.

Lower Body Workout:
Tae Kwon Do emphasizes leg strength and agility. All martial arts will promote stronger legs and a healthy base. However, practices like Tae Kwon Do focus more on building your lower body than your upper body.

Building Self-Confidence:
Exercise regularly and your self-confidence and self-esteem will improve. This is true of all forms of regular physical activity in general. Concerning the martial arts specifically, Naginata is an art form which teaches and promotes self-confidence, respect and etiquette. You build muscle, burn fat and get in shape while also learning important life skills and boosting your self image.

Explore Different Cultures:
If you want to explore the martial art of a particular culture, you can do that as well. Krav Maga was developed in Israel, and is a no-holds-barred, hard-core self-defense strategy that is used by the Israeli military. If Korean culture interests you, take up a Tae Kwon Do practice. A desire to learn more about Japanese culture means studying Sumo Wrestling. Karate was brought to China by a Buddhist monk, so you could learn more about those cultures by practicing that particular martial art.