I am considering to start practicing box, karate or tae kwon do to improve my health and self defense skills. Does anyone know if any of these affect my dexterity, speed, sensitivity negatively? Not considering normal muscle pain or bad habit injuries (I will try to warm up and cool down, develop a safe technique, etc), but of course some hitting will occur and I am not sure if those could cause permanent damage on tendons or something... Maybe it's the other way around...

I'm a drummer and a guitar player btw


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    How good is the health care you have access to? Even a broken finger dealt with in the wrong way could be a setback to your guitar playing. Mar 10, 2019 at 23:33
  • I agree but I was trying to focus on consequences of normal/unharmed training. If muscle gets slower as it gets stronger, etc.
    – Alexis
    Mar 11, 2019 at 1:01
  • Fair enough - interesting question! (though I still think it's injuries that would be the thing to worry about - and I think some people I know who did tae kwon do found injuries to be quite normal!) Mar 11, 2019 at 1:08
  • Haha yes I won't be able to scape from them... I will try tho
    – Alexis
    Mar 11, 2019 at 1:18
  • Some of this might be relevant to your question: music.stackexchange.com/questions/75236/…
    – b3ko
    Mar 11, 2019 at 2:20

3 Answers 3


I mostly play bass and guitar (and a little drums), and I've done a number of martial arts over the years - mostly Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but also boxing, kickboxing and MMA. My personal experience, and what I've gathered from other people in the gym:

Grappling arts like judo or BJJ are great for improving for grip strength. I didn't experience negative effects on speed or sensitivity. However, finger injuries are not uncommon - I personally never had any, but many of my training partners have injured their fingers in one way or another.

Boxing, when done right, also strengthens the wrist muscles, bones and tendons. Do make sure to wrap your hand and wrist thoroughly and to keep your wrist straight when hitting things. Hand injuries can occur, in particular broken metacarpals and sprained wrists, but mostly if you hit hard objects (skulls) really hard - shouldn't be a problem for a careful hobbyist. Boxing also emphasizes staying loose and relaxed in the upper body - that should actually be helpful for drumming.

I've never done karate. From what I read, some karate styles have a focus on hand conditioning - i.e., hitting hard things with the bare hand. I would not recomment that for musicians.

Generally, I don't see a reason that developing strength is automatically bad for dexterity, speed or anything else, and anecdotal evidence also indicates that's not the case (have you seen John Petrucci's biceps?). But check out a couple of styles and gyms, talk to the instructors about your worries, and see what they say.

  • I agree. Both disciplines should reinforce each other. Speed, accuracy, and concentration needed across the board for these activities. Athletic strength won't really help, but it won't harm. Personally I felt a positive benefit for piano playing from skipping rope. Mar 11, 2019 at 16:07
  • Thanks for your answer! I am marking it as correct due to votes.
    – Alexis
    Mar 17, 2019 at 2:05

I am a musician and have practiced various forms of martial arts throughout my life. Physical fitness should not negatively affect dexterity (but ask a doctor or physical therapist for real information) but you are putting your hands at risk of injury. You need to seriously consider that aspect. No matter how careful you are martial arts (and all sports in general) carries this risk.

I offer a few stories from my life to illustrate:

  1. I had a friend in grad school who played guitar quite well and loved to play basketball. During a game someone slapped his left hand while he had the ball and the end bone of his thumb popped out of the skin. I shit you not! It was a simple fix, no tendon damage just the seam of his skin needed to be stitched. It took a month before he could play again and perhaps 3 or 4 before he wasn't scared to put pressure on the thumb.

  2. I once practiced full contact Karate for a few years. During a sparing match I managed to jam my left hand ring finger deflecting a low round house kick. I didn't see a doctor. It swelled up like a sausage for a week then healed on its own. Of course I iced it etc., but no medical intervention. It has not bothered me since.

  3. On a non-finger related note, I was practicing Judo and Jujitsu for a while. A visiting fighter from out of town asked to workout at our dojo. I spared with him and got a mouth full of his blood. He had ripped his finger nail off when he tried a throw, lost grip, and his hand slid across my gi and trapped his nail. Had he been a guitarist that could have put him out of commission. If he had a blood disease I would be in worse shape. (I did get sick afterwards but it was unrelated).

I have never had to "condition" my hands by hitting sand, wood, or other materials. I've seen that done and it does change the bones over decades of work. As for the ballistic movements and getting hit affecting the tendons, yes it will but you should heal from the workouts and be in better shape to handle it. I have also injured my hands playing basketball as a teenager (not as bad as my friend) but after getting the mouth full of blood I decided to stick with Tai Chi. You need to make a choice that suits your desired lifestyle. If you want to get good at MA then do it and deal with it. If you are just looking for a workout maybe go to the gym and lift, run, cycle. Something that doesn't risk your hands.


My answer by way of personal anecdote:

Last summer - about 8 months ago - I badly sprained by left hand, finger 4 (PIP join), catching a foot ball. I had my finger in a splint for a while - a few weeks.

The knuckle is still a bit enlarged and a little stiff.

The strange thing is the injury has not been a problem playing the piano. This is probably a reflection on my attention to use good piano technique which doesn't really involve flexing at the injured knuckle.

You probably should think of issues beyond the hand with the elbow, shoulder, etc. But, I agree with your basic thought that if you are careful about good sports form and safety to avoid injury there shouldn't be a probably for playing music.


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