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A Guide to Martial Arts Programs Abroad

Hi-Ya! (No, seriously, Hi! Nice to meet you). Martial arts is combat practice with various styles and traditions from around the globe. Originally hailing from Europe, these days the sport is commonly associated with the fighting arts of Eastern Asia. Build up your appetite for dim sum, get ready to sweat, and kick some butt while developing a razor sharp mental focus and physical endurance. If Kung Fu Panda has taught us anything, it’s that with some practice, patience, and self-discipline, anyone can train to become an unstoppable martial arts master. Discover your potential on an adventure abroad that will throw you a real punch!


Martial arts plays a significant role in self-defence, military, law, entertainment and a reflection of a country’s cultural heritage. These days, it’s most commonly associated with the fighting arts of Eastern Asia, but it actually originated in Europe a long time ago (Martial-Mars-god of war, blah blah blah). Whether you are looking to train for jui-juitsu in Brazil or fencing/boxing/wrestling in Europe, you can find a martial arts program nearly anywhere in the world. The most popular are where you can kick it up a notch with the spiritual guidance of Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

China. Look no further if you’re ready to explore an expansive country overflowing with cultural diversity, from the massive capital city of Beijing to isolated deserts and the never-ending path along the Great Wall of China to rural communities along the Yangtze River; you can follow your nose along the Silk Road, connecting West and East from China to the Mediterranean Sea, by beginning your trip in China. Henan province is where participants can stretch between the corridors of temples with Shaolin monks or breath in fresh air among the lush forests on Song Mountain. For an urban adrenaline rush (aka the Kung Fu hustle) adventurers will find excitement among the vibrant and crowded streets of Hong Kong, where Bruce Lee filmed action scenes that popularized Kung Fu moves around the globe.

Thailand. Known as the land of smiles, you’ll be exercising more than your cheekbones through martial arts programs in Thailand. This Southeast Asian country is a vibrant, tropical wonderland that has everything from forested mountain tops and rural villages to lush rice fields and white-sandy beaches. “The Science of Eight Limbs”, known as Muay Thai or Thai Boxing, will burn off the carbs you’ll consume as you nearly inhale delicious Pad Thai. Bangkok will take you for ride amid fast-moving tuk-tuks and markets with strange flavours only a brave martial arts master would attempt to try. Lumpinee Boxing Stadium is worth a visit to cheer on from the sidelines or show-off your new moves in the ring. To escape the bustling of the south, head to Chiang Mai, a laid back, mountainous area that will have you mastering the spinning back fist among Buddhist monasteries, a modern urban sprawl, and rainforests.

Martial Arts Programs Abroad

Whether you're looking to elevate your high kick or have an adventurous experience while exploring a new culture, a martial arts adventure program will provide you with more delectable options than an American-sized Chinese buffet. With so many styles of martial arts from around the world, it’s best to hone in on a style that suits your interests. Choosing which form of fighting art you’d like to master will earn you more than a black belt; it will help you gain a unique perspective about the history and cultural preservation in your country of choice.

Martial arts programs take place in a variety of group sizes. Smaller groups are great for making close friends and receiving special attention from your instructor while training. Larger groups are the way to go for training with a variety of people from different backgrounds, and anyone who considers themselves a social butterfly. Retreats commonly take place in ancient temples, where you might find yourself training with the most highly-ranked fighters in the world.

Programs focused on martial arts are jam-packed with adrenaline-pumping action! Most martial arts programs are structured to combine activities that will get your heart rate up and time to relax. The mix of free time, tours and training vary for each program, but most cater toward those seeking adventure.

Rain or shine, the majority of martial arts programs run year-round. Participants might prefer an adventure in the sun rather than a monsoon, but mastering a high kick while hovering over puddles might just be the secret to becoming a martial arts legend. Participants should check with the program first to discuss the country’s weather patterns and determine the best time of year to go. Martial arts programs generally run from one week to a few months, for those looking for a more immersive experience.

Tips & Advice for Martial Arts Abroad

To make the most of your time abroad, you’ll want to research the local customs and language ahead of time. Learning the correct etiquette beforehand, such as whether to wear clothing that covers your knees and elbows while visiting temples in Southeast Asia, will lead you to make good friends with the locals, instead of forming sworn enemies.

Safety is key to enjoy martial arts programs broad. Most programs provide guides who are knowledgeable about any dangers in each region and look out for the participant’s safety at all times. You’ll want to check whether it’s recommended to receive vaccinations or to take any medication well ahead of time. Travel insurance is always a good idea when travelling abroad, and adventurers will want to double check what activities are covered when purchasing a plan. Make sure you’re well equipped to stay safe and you’ll be able to focus on having a fun time during your martial arts program abroad.

Participants should invest in good, comfortable workout clothes and footwear. Depending on which form of martial arts you’ll be doing, the gear will vary. Most martial arts programs will provide high-tech gear, like swords, spears, nunchaku, sai, but it’s worth asking the program coordinators what you’ll be required to bring before going; chances are you’ll only need to pack the basics.

Benefits & Challenges

Participating in a martial arts program abroad is like winning the jackpot of health benefits. You can bet your spinning nunchucks you’ll come out of this adventure feeling stronger. You’ll develop mental and physical strength, connect with a community of leaders, athletes, and combat enthusiasts, and gain a discipline that would impress even the ancient monks.

Participants may require some time to adjust to a different time zone and schedule, and most martial arts programs involve an early start. If you’re usually a night owl, embrace the challenge of being an early riser and you’ll witness no shortage of unforgettable sunsets.

Whether Chuck Norris jokes are your cup of tea or you just want to make a double impact like Jean Claude Van Damme, a martial arts adventure program abroad will flip your life around. As a combat sport with so many different styles from around the world, you’ll truly gain strength with your new found sense of confidence and be ready to face any challenge. Take action and sign-up for an adventurous martial arts experience abroad now!

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A Guide To
Martial Arts Programs Abroad


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