I'm about 30 years old, out of shape, and stressed out. I always liked martial arts, but never really practiced one. I'm now looking for an art to help me get into good shape, get some exercise, relax, and focus myself. I'm not interested in competitions and self-defence, and I don't really want to take strikes on my head (for the risk of concussion and long term damages). I'd like to experience more the "art" than the "martial" side; a bit of "alone" training is appreciated. Which martial art do you suggest?

I did some Tai Chi years ago, and while it was relaxing, it was too slow for me as I need something more active. I was looking at Karate and some "no head contact" styles.

  • You can reply to our suggestions via comments (normally, you'd be limited in comments with your current reputation, but the situation is different when responding to your own question). If you think someone has the correct answer for you, you can accept it by clicking on the checkmark by the voting buttons as per the tour. Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 12:44
  • Thank you so much for your replies, it was really clarifying for me! unfortunately i live in a small town and some of the arts you quoted is not practiced here, but some of those are, I'm going to ask to those dojos hucaow they train and choose the one i feel safer, thanks again for your help. Wish you a good day
    – Luca
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 19:11

5 Answers 5


I like the previous suggestion of Capoeira, because it does emphasize physical fitness, does not involve contact during sparring, and can be practiced alone. But as I said in one of the comments, I think it can be pretty intimidating for a beginner to begin taking Capoeira classes, because it does involve a lot of techniques that seem advanced. To someone coming in with poor physical fitness and someone who is a bit older, the emphasis on acrobatic / gymnastic skill may seem a bit off-putting. Worth checking out, though, if you can find it near you.

Kickboxing wouldn't work. It involves punches and kicks to the head, which the original poster said he didn't want.

Cardio kickboxing may work, though. In cardio kickboxing, the classes are all about getting your heart rate up while performing kickboxing techniques. It's aerobics but with martial arts techniques. There's no contact. And there's usually no pretense about it being good for practical self-defense. You can find cardio kickboxing classes taught in all kinds of martial arts schools and boxing/kickboxing/mma gyms as a separate class. Many Krav Maga schools also have a cardio kickboxing class. And it might be called something other than "cardio kickboxing". So you do have to look around, go to the web sites of different schools near you and see what they offer.

There's also regular boxing classes, but with no contact. Many boxing gyms do offer a no-contact version of boxing training. It might be called "boxing basics" or "boxing conditioning". They may even have a requirement that you take this class to begin with for a few months before moving on to sparring classes. But a lot of people just do the conditioning classes and don't bother with sparring at all. A good boxing coach can tailor your conditioning to your body type and where you're at in your current conditioning level. You can also pay for private boxing coaching however many times a week, so you get the coach's undivided attention.

Some of the things they'll have you do in boxing conditioning classes or private coaching include: jumping rope, learning the basic punches and stances, learning combinations, practicing punches and combinations on the bag and speed bag, practicing with focus mitts, non-contact or very light sparring, weight training, the weighted sled, tire rolling, the battle rope, running, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, etc. You'll start getting a fighter's physique after a year of doing this 3 times a week.

Another possibility I think might work is Contemporary Wushu. Wushu is a sport that involves repeating very intricate and difficult martial arts choreography (forms / taolu). There's no contact and no sparring. The emphasis is on performance, not on self-defense. And the forms are generally practiced alone. The physical requirements are higher as you get more advanced, so there's a gradual progression. And there aren't many fat people you'll see in Contemporary Wushu, because it does cultivate physical fitness. This satisfies all of the original poster's requirements. And having already done Taiji, this may feel familiar.

Finding a competent Wushu instructor may be difficult, depending on where you live. But if you can get to one, it might be worth checking out.

You can read up about and watch videos on Wushu at:


Be careful, though. Contemporary Wushu (usually called "Wushu" in the West) is not the same as Traditional Wushu (which in the West is usually called "kung-fu"). Traditional Wushu also involves forms, but often the emphasis is less on performance and more on self-defense. Since the original poster did not care for self-defense, I recommend sticking with Contemporary Wushu instead of Traditional.

Those are my top 3 picks: Cardio kickboxing, boxing conditioning, or Contemporary Wushu.

Hope that helps.


I would personally recommend boxing kickboxing or muay thai, as you can practice on a bag it is a great form of cardio. However, in my experience, they do not highlight the "art" aspect of it as much as they do the sport.

Aikido is something that you can look into as it is more spiritual that boxing but faster paced than tai chi.

Lastly, consider training in a weapons fighting like a Bo staff, HEMA, or Kendo. These are great workouts, usually you will find something that really fits in your hand and a style you enjoy. Plus they look cool, and always have a historical and cultural significance attached to them

  • Yeah, Aikido would be a good one, since it focuses on not injuring your opponent. I've never done it, but I think Taekkyeon would be a good one as well.
    – LemmyX
    Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 14:17
  • I've seen an awful lot of fat Aikidoka. Aikido is not the way of physical fitness. It may depend on the dojo, but most do not emphasize working out. They emphasize Aikido, period. So that should be off the table. Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 14:59
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    Taekyeon is a very obscure martial art. Do you mean Taekwondo? I guess you're referring to the dance aspect of Taekyeon. But again, very obscure martial art, very hard to find, and quite questionable as to its lineage and authenticity (it was probably resurrected from notes and oral history). Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 15:00
  • @SteveWeigand right, Aikido is not usually considered to be a very strenuous martial art. But like you said, it does depend on the dojo, and also, it is what you make of it. Often I hear that at first it is hard, but over time, it becomes quite easy as the technique is meant to minimize strain. However, for starting off, I think it is a good resource
    – jrima12
    Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 15:09

I know I always throw it out as a suggestion when people are looking for martial arts, but Capoeira fits what you are looking for. While individual schools vary, in general it is very much about the art and culture (and music!) as it is martial movements. It's definitely good exercise, although it's also possible to do it more slowly, especially as you're getting the hang of it. Lastly, the "sparring", the jogo (game), is expressly done as light to no contact in most schools since the goal is, as one mestre put it, not to kick the other person in the face, but rather to make them move their face into your foot. It's very strategic, almost like chess.

Caveats are that it's still relatively obscure (not every city has a school), it can be very intimidating with the flips and inversions (it's worth noting that most of the recorded demonstrations are the best of the best, from people who have trained for decades, and that it's very much possible to play without the acrobatics), and while there is a lot that you can practice on your own, it is essentially a cooperative and social art, so in this current time of pandemic, you're going to be getting a partial experience.

Ah, and because it often comes up, I do not recommend learning Capoeira, or any other martial art, on your own or from YouTube tutorials. You will miss crucial aspects that a teacher would be able to impart to you.

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    Not a bad recommendation. I'll just say that capoeira can be very intimidating to begin for a person who's not athletic already. It appeals to those with interest in gymnastics and tricking. But you're right on when it comes to physical fitness and when it comes to not actually connecting and hitting someone. Pretty good choice. Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 15:04
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    Once you get past the intimidation factor and realize that you don't have to do flips (it's really more of a showing off thing), the next step is when you realize how strenuous it can be. There are a lot of low movements that you have to work up to getting the leg and core strength for, and outside of something like boxing, it's one of the better martial arts for cardio because you are constantly moving rather than going form one static stance to the next. Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 16:06

You're at the age when you're going to start getting injuries from hard styles. Here I'm not talking about sparring, but muscle pulls, joint problems, etc. (For this reason, hard styles are usually emphasized for younger practitioners.)

If you're still open to Chinese internal styles, you might see if there's a good Bagua instructor in your area.

Same principles as Tai Chi, but practiced faster, and more overtly physically demanding, while avoiding tendon and joint trauma, if practiced correctly.

There are many Bagua systems, all good.

  • The reasoning in this answer applies equally well to xingyi.
    – mattm
    Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 22:20
  • @mattm agreed, but xingyi can be tough on the knees, especially the way I was taught to practice when younger, which involves agile footwork & full power stomping for each move. As I got older, I started using much lighter footwork and not executing the stomps. Xingyi focusing is also not considered healthy as one gets into middle age, but my teacher learned to focus by punching a curtain lightly a "thousand thousand" times. My sense is that teachers, especially younger teachers, may not always be cognizant of the physical risks to an older student
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 4:33

I would recommend going for FMA (Filipino Martial Arts) like Kali/Arnis/Escrima . This art is is very interesting . Initially it starts with a weapon based training (sticks primarily to start with )and then this goes for Empty hand. You will feel a flow of your body with weapon and start enjoying.

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