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The Best Martial Arts for Weight Loss

author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.

To lose weight, picking an activity that you're willing to stick with is half of the battle. Martial arts will give you something to learn, keep you engaged and introduce you to a community of people who will push you to be better.

The other half is finding one that helps you burn a good number of calories. The best martial art for that calorie burn is boxing, if you take it seriously. There are many martial arts that are close, but boxing remains the top dog.


There is some debate about boxing being a martial art or a sport. When boxing is competitive, during an amateur or professional boxing match, it's considered a sport. The same is true for other martial arts like Judo or Jiu-Jitsu. While they are considered martial arts, during competition they become sports. Learning how to use your hands to defend yourself with boxing is the martial art and what you see in the boxing ring is a sport.

Fighting in a boxing match for an hour as you throw and dodge punches burns more than 800 calories for a 150-pound person. However, if you only hit a heavy bag and do boxing drills for an hour, you might only burn half of the number of calories.

Boxing in a ring burns so many calories because you're constantly moving. There are rarely any moments in boxing where you can stand in front of your opponent without doing some kind of movement. In training you can stop and rest, which is why you don't burn as many calories.

Read More: Process of Losing Weight


Judo is close to boxing as far as calories burned. It's a grueling sport which requires stamina and strength. There are take-downs and grappling involved that you need to be strong for because you're manipulating someone else's body weight.

This means you're draining your muscles with high-intensity activity for an entire hour of practice, which takes a lot of energy. A 150-pound person burns about 680 calories during an hour of Judo training. Competition would be higher, but it only lasts for five minutes.


Very similar to Judo is Jiu-Jitsu. It's also a sport where you have to take an opponent down and grapple with them. However, the techniques are subtly different and are based around using less energy. During training a 150-pound person would burn between 500 and 700 calories per hour, depending on how intense it is. Competition can be even higher, but Jiu-Jitsu competitions typically don't last more than ten minutes.

Karate and Kickboxing

Karate and kickboxing are similar martial arts. They both involve kicks, punches, elbow strikes, and even knee strikes. They're total body martial arts that still burn an impressive amount of calories. However, they burn slightly less than boxing in a ring because they don't involve as much speed and constant movement.

A 150-pound person will burn between 600 and 700 calories during an hour of kickboxing training. Fights are more intense and burn more calories. They generally last for three or five three-minute rounds.

Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed martial arts isn't a specific martial art. It's a competition that allows you to use a mix of boxing, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, judo, wrestling and other traditional martial arts that don't involve weapons. Since it's a mix of martial arts the range of calories that you can burn is large.

During training you'll generally practice each martial art individually, so the amount of calories you burn just depends on what martial art you're training at that particular session. During competition, which typically lasts for three 5-minute rounds, you burn more calories because of the intensity of being in a match.

Since you can grapple, wrestle and kickboxing in the same round, it's difficult to say how many calories you would burn in a round. It would vary between the 500 calories of a Jiu-Jitsu competition and the 800 calories of a boxing match.

Read More: List of Top 10 Martial Arts

Consistency is Still Key

The best martial art for you to use to lose weight is the one that you enjoy the most. As long as it keeps you motivated to keep coming back and working out it's going to help you lose weight. Rather than picking the martial art that simply burns the most calories, pick the one that you're most comfortable with and have the most fun doing. Remember to keep your diet in check, regardless of the practice upon which you settle. Monitor portion sizes and choose whole, unprocessed proteins, produce and grains at most meals.

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