When he called for them, the young students ran in.

The students were clothed in white, crisp uniforms. Colored, marked belts rested on their waists.

Some were tall; some were female. But they were all the students of Master James A. Johnson.

Johnson, a martial artist with more than 20 years of experience, owns Aiken Taekwondo Academy with his wife and two daughters.

Taekwondo is the Korean form of martial arts, he said. The Johnsons further describe this form as “an exciting and powerful martial art known for its dynamic kicking and hand techniques.”

This family teaches all ages. However to teach others how to fight is not their primary objective, James said.

Learning life skills can be a side effect of these courses, said Dr. Brian Parr, USC Aiken exercise and sports science associate professor.

One does not have to go through martial arts training to reap these benefits, either. Check your area gym for courses based in these techniques.

At USCA, a course is available for female students taught by USCA chemistry instructor Dr. Ronald J. Ruszczyk.

“Most of the techniques are simple enough for anyone to use,” he said.

For those who aren’t currently very active and are looking to change that, “any increase in exercise or physical activity is good for you. Start slow, and gradually build up the length and intensity of your workouts over time,” advised the Harvard School of Public Health’s Nutrition Source.

For those adults who are active, this source further recommends to “get a minimum of 2½ hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or a minimum of one-and-a-fourth hour per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or a combination of the two.”

Some self-defense courses can be “more intense” than others, Parr said.

Often, schools or gyms will design their individual course material to better suit the student’s skill level, according to Johnson.

“Most martial arts training involve an exercise routine at the beginning of each class,” Ruszczyk said.

This training can put through your body a cardio-based workout, Johnson said.

In general, self-defense classes can “build a combination of strength, flexibility and endurance,” Parr said.

“The exercises and routines you perform in a martial arts class will force your heart to get to work,” said Ryan Wheaton, Arrowhead Martial Arts school owner and head instructor. “As your heart grows stronger and healthier, your risk of developing heart disease decreases.”

Arrowhead Martial Arts is a Utah-located school that Wheaton has operated since 2001.

Self-defense course material, when practiced enough times, can quicken your reflexes, Ruszczyk said.

When combined with a proper diet, self-defense courses can also assist with weight loss and weight management, Johnson said.

Johnson and his family do talk about the importance of a healthy diet with some of their students, he said.

“There is nothing wrong with an occasional potato chip,” Johnson said. “What’s a bad thing is overindulging.”

Besides the physical health benefits, self-defense courses can cause mental health benefits, Johnson added.

Johnson, for example, has several extra goals in mind besides teaching his students how to fight. He wants to give them confidence and to teach them discipline and perseverance.

“Teaching them the fighting aspect is secondary to teaching them to learn these values,” he said.

If you are interested in taking self-defense courses yet have some concerns, discuss these concerns with your doctor before beginning.

If you have any questions on keeping yourself safe, visit www.nononsenseselfdefense.com or call Aiken Public Safety Department at 803-642-7620.

Stephanie Turner graduated from Valdosta State University in 2012. She then signed on with the Aiken Standard, where she is now the arts and entertainment reporter.