Martial Arts and Mental Health

Chuck Lisa cropped 2015 Martial Arts and Mental Health

An article in Volume 2, No. 1 of Contemporary Psychotherapy titled “Martial Arts and Mental Health” brings up some very interesting points.  Martial arts training is very beneficial in reducing aggression as well as providing a platform for emotional stability and reducing anxiety and stress.  Numerous studies were reviewed and several interesting points were made:

<<Evidence of the effectiveness of martial arts in producing affective, cognitive and behavioural benefits has come from a number of studies. Improvements in self-esteem (Fuller, 1988), a more positive response to physical challenge (Richard and Rehberg, 1986; Trulson, 1986), greater autonomy (Duthie, 1978), emotional stability and assertiveness (Konzak and Boudreau, 1984) and reductions in anxiety and depression (Cai, 2000) have all been associated with martial arts training. Konzak and Boudreau (1984) have also drawn attention to the social benefits of such behavioural change – in particular the relationship between martial arts practice and aggression.>>

<<Several studies point to the effectiveness of traditional martial arts in reducing aggression. Zivin et al (2001) for example paired 60 middle-school boys on problematic behaviour profiles in a treatment group and a waiting list control group. The treatment group participated in school-linked training in traditional martial arts. Schoolteachers were asked to rate the students on impulsiveness, resistance to rules, self-concept and inappropriate behaviour. After three months of training, the students within the treatment group had improved their behaviour in class and all exclusions following the onset of the study (six in all) occurred in the control group. The teachers rated the martial arts students as less impulsive and less aggressive towards other colleagues. Other studies (e.g. Nosanchuk, 1981) provide similar evidence that training in martial arts reduces aggressiveness.>>

Their conclusion is:

<<The growth in popularity of martial arts would seem to indicate that, both as a discipline and as a value system, they have something to offer. What this is may be considered on the one hand to be a product of their attention to affective, cognitive and behavioural characteristics (Lakes and Hoyt, 2004), and on the other, morality, non-violence and enlightenment (Becker, 1982). In short, they offer a way of being, a journey of self-discovery to cultivate our human potential – a means to relate better to oneself, others and the wider world. As Lao Tzu remarked “by changing ourselves we change the world” (Pau, 2008).>>

I think that Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate, said it best.  He was speaking of karate, but with a slight modification, his words hold true for martial arts students in all styles:

<<The ultimate aim (of martial arts training) lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.>>

Come train with us at West Houston ATA Martial Arts and find these benefits for yourself.  You can easily schedule an introductory lesson by visiting http://www.meetme.so/WestHoustonATA .

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