The Martial Arts are a fantastic way to increase your fitness level. In studying a Martial Art you will increase your strength, flexibility, agility, endurance and body control. You will also find that your concentration and focus will improve. There are many forms of Martial Arts to choose from, all have differences but all focus around the reason the Martial arts were create so long ago, self defense.
For children, exposure to a Martial Art will increase their confidence as well as their fitness level. Be sure to choose a Sensei who is kind but firm, who will instill the principles of the Martial Arts. They will be taught self defence and how to protect themselves should the need arise. Many parents worry that teaching their child a Martial Art will turn that child into a bully. In fact the exact opposite is true. While the children are taught to kick, punch and block, they are taught to use their skill only if it is necessary. If they can walk away from a situation, that is what they are taught to do. In today's day and age of bullies I think it is imperative that kids be able to defend themselves, especially if they are shy or small and therfore a target for bullies.
Women can also benefit from studying Martial Arts. It is a scientific fact that you only retain about 50% of what you are taught once you are placed in a high stress situation (ie an attack). Therefore it is one thing to take a self defense course or two to learn some basic moves. It is another thing entirely to study a Martial Art and practice self defence techniques day after day, week after week, year after year. Studying in this manner will produce a student with finely tuned senses and skills. If approached and threatened, the years of training will take over and the would be attacker will be on the ground before they realize what hit them.
I have been studying Gojo Ryu Karate for only 7 months. Already I see a tremendous improvement in my strength, flexibility and concerntration. Although I am only a yellow belt, I am begining to become proficient at basic weapons and I have been taught to look for common everyday objects that can be used in an emergency. I can already see the impact that being a skilled Martial Artist will have on my life.