Martial arts and pregnancy

Note: I have been a kung fu teacher for over a decade, practiced MMA for years and enjoy the occasional kickboxing session as well. I wrote this on request of a female student, for the lack of information on the internet.

So, you are a female kung fu practitioner, a kickboxer or karateka - and you got pregnant. Now what? Do pregnancy and martial arts mix? Is it even possible to continue any training?

The best advice is to be careful - but don’t overdo it. From the stone age to now, there have been billions of women that were pregnant under way harsher conditions than you are now. So, you are still perfectly capable, but fighting might not be your best bet for you and your child to stay healthy. However, to continue some form of training has many benefits over stopping altogether. Remaining fit will substantially decrease the discomfort of pregnancy, delivery and recovery.

  • The first thing you should do is consult a doctor to see if there are any irregularities. Duh.
  • The second thing to do is to inform your teacher or trainer. Please, do this as soon as you think you are pregnant. He will keep an eye on you and adjust your training schedule.

Now, on to the work-out.

What you can’t do

  • In general, do not use shock techniques or excessive force. Concentrate on form, your feet and foot placement.
  • Forget about full-contact sparring.
  • Don’t do throws or take-downs.
  • Hardening training like kicking and punching each other in the belly or on the legs to toughen up is a no-go.
  • Sit-ups and all other abs training in that position might damage you. Don’t.
  • Do not do high-impact training. Your heart rate should remain under 140 beats per minute.
  • Try not to get breathless too often. Your baby needs oxygen, too.
  • Never forget to drink a lot. Overheating is much more dangerous than exhaustion.
  • Do not jump. Keep one foot on the floor at all times.
  • Running is okay - in the beginning. This should turn into jogging, and jogging should turn into walking.
  • Refrain from doing passive stretches. Due to hormonal changes, your joints will weaken - this could result in muscle injuries. Don’t do semi-active stretching either, like lunges and such.

What you can do

  • Feel free to continue kata training during your pregnancy. However, do not use shock techniques or excessive force. Focus on the flow of the movement. This will keep your motorical skills up to par as well as your techniques.
  • In the first few months, you might want to try controlled non-contact sparring. Essentially, this means that you circle around an opponent and both of you kick and punch without hitting each other. Keep it slow and controlled - think of it as t’ai chi fighting. You will still be training to feel distance and flow.
  • To train your reflexes, you could take up sparring games using your hands only. Train with a trusted partner, try to tap each other on the head or elbow with an open hand. You might even be doing this while you sit down.
  • Push-ups and such are fine, as long as you keep your weight above your shoulders.
  • While you can’t do sit-ups, side-crunches are fine. Leg-lifts on your knees are okay, too. If you really want to do sit-ups, place a cushion under one hip.
  • To keep fit, try to pick up general fitness group classes, like Les Mills Body Pump. Quite often, these lessons have worked out the alternatives for pregnant women pretty well.

After giving birth

Let’s assume you didn’t have a Caesarean. In that case, you could take up gentle work-outs within a couple of days, including sit-ups.

Final note

If you stick to these guidelines, you should be fine - but remember, this is only an advice. Every body is different and you are the expert. Listen to your body and take it easy.

Published 25 Nov 2011