5 Ways Pilates can help you “Kick Butt” in your Martial Arts Training

martial arts

Is there a link between Martial Arts and Pilates?

Yes, Joseph Pilates himself, the creator of Pilates, studied both martial arts and boxing! In 1912 he left Germany to train as a professional boxer in England. He supported himself by teaching self-defence to English police. He was a pioneer in teaching self-defence before martial arts was popular in America. In the 1930’s Joe even made a film with his brother on how to defend yourself against a knife attack. Joe was recognized by the boxing community as a great teacher of corrective exercise and physical education.

Martial artists not only need to be able to produce strength behind a take down, punch, or kick, but they need to deliver this power with proper range and precision. When kicking, the athlete not only needs to have adequate hip mobility and glute strength to deliver the kick properly, they also need to balance on one foot during the kick. Whether your art is Boxing, Kung Fu, Karate, Judo, Wrestling, Tae Kwon Do, or a mixed martial art, Pilates is for you!

martial arts

Joseph Pilates was so into his boxing that he even lost an eye to a boxing injury. The German army had requested the Pilates method be taught to their soldiers before Joe decided to move to America.

Pilates training is a functional workout great for athletes and martial artists, and can improve:

1-Mind and Body connection

The mind-body connection is evident when one is performing Pilates. You cannot drone through a Pilates session as you have to be fully aware of what your body is doing in order to do the exercise correctly. By connecting the mind and the body, you will find an increased awareness in how you are moving. In martial arts, every part of the body can be used as a weapon. Pilates will help improve awareness to assist in reducing injury and improving precision of using your weaponry.


Breathing is necessary for life. Breathing is one of the core principles of Pilates. Breath is the fuel for what Joseph Pilates called the powerhouse, the engine that drives the movement. During Pilates, the movement of the ribs is emphasized to facilitate maintenance of the abdominal muscle contraction so as to stabilise the trunk. During martial arts, having a strong core is important to hold one’s opponent in a certain position when doing ground work or to stay on your feet when being attacked. If you don’t breathe effectively, you may not be able to withstand a choke hold or take in enough oxygen to keep up your stamina.


Pilates strengthening exercises can be targeted to specific joints or the entire core. There are many ways to improve the strength of the limbs and the core using Matwork and the Pilates equipment. The martial arts athlete needs to have strength to take on an opponent. Although some may not think of Pilates as intensive strengthening training, it is can be adjusted to be very difficult and build significant strength through the muscles without the spinal compression and impact of other types of exercise.

Strengthening the proper muscles for correct posture helps to prevent back injuries and create longer lines in the body. This creates the space a martial artist needs in the joints and between the bones in case of a misstep, a bad turn or punch while practising, and is the difference between a quick, shake-it-off type injury versus a permanent one.

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Pilates incorporates stretches and mobility exercises to improve the length of muscles and the movement of the spine. Pilates said, “You are only as young as your spine is flexible”. Martial artists need to be flexible to reduce their chances of injury. When performing kicks or grappling, if one is not flexible this will limit performance. In types of martial arts such as Brazilian Jujitsu, when grappling on the floor, ones body may be intertwined and twisted to the limit. This is where breathing, concentration, core strength, and flexibility are very important.


After the war, Pilate’s exercises gained favour within the dance community. From this developed more fluidity in the movements as they became more dance-like. In martial arts, fluidity is important as it allows you to move powerfully and gracefully from one position to the next in complete balance.

Following the Pilates principles, you will attain greater speed, power, strong core, range of motion, and form in your martial arts. Your posture will improve and as a bonus, your waistline may decrease. Pilates is the key to the mind-body link that is so important to martial arts training. These remarkable exercises will dramatically improve your static and dynamic balance. As you can see, the Pilates martial arts connection can improve your martial arts as well as your health.

Most martial artists have some form of Pilates in their weekly routines, but often slow, steady exertion with stretching control is hurried through in favour of the activity itself. We welcome you to come to The Body Refinery to experience the power of Pilates to take your martial arts to the next level.

For a strong body and a sharp mind, book into one of our many options at The Body Refinery Studio in Brisbane today on 07 3358 3915 or at .

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