The Benefits of Martial Arts Training for the Mind
The physical benefits of regular training in martial arts such as Jiu Jitsu are palpable to both practitioners and those who view their physical transformation. As a discipline requiring cardiovascular, strength and flexibility, Jiu Jitsu gives rise to a lean, well-defined physique that exudes fortitude and litheness all at once. But this popular martial art has countless mental and psychological benefits as well – everything from increasing one’s sense of self-confidence in the face of stressful situations, to promoting concentration as well as relaxation. In this post, we mention just a few mental benefits bestowed by Jiu Jitsu and martial arts as a whole:
- The end of fear: Over three million people in the US suffer from agoraphobia: the fear of facing the outside world and simply being in the midst of a crowd. Others can sometimes find it impossible to venture outside their homes, paralyzed by the fear they will be bullied, assaulted or violated in some manner, owing to having suffered from such an experience in the past. Various studies have proven that martial arts increases self-esteem (Richman & Rehberg, 1986), provides a powerful sensation of being able to help oneself (Fuller, 1988) and improves one’s self-concept (Finkenberg, 1990). A 1997 study, meanwhile (Columbus & Rice) established that participation in martial arts can ease one’s perception of challenges in other areas of one’s life, making these obstacles easier to overcome. A strong sense of self is crucial for those who are attempting to overcome difficult situations in life, including an addiction to prescription drugs and other substances. In this sense, martial arts can be a powerful tool for some of the most vulnerable members of society. Indeed, Guthrie (1997) found that women who had suffered the devastating effects of psycho-sexual abuse, eating and substance abuse found martial arts to be an effective aid in their recovery.
- Fighting anxiety and stress: One of the most important lessons learned in martial arts is the importance of assessing a situation of possible danger, studying the distance between a possible assailant and oneself, weighing up the pros and cons of ‘fight or flight’, etc. This involves remaining calm in extremely stressful situations, thus providing an a useful source of therapy for those suffering from stress and anxiety. Further studies regarding the efficiency of particular types of martial arts in quelling anxiety need to be undertaken; in a 1997 study, it was established that both trait anxiety and state anxiety were reduced in students participating in martial arts classes to a noticeable degree. Scientists postulate that this may be due to the fact that the more complex movements are (and the more foreign to the practitioner), the longer the positive effects may take to manifest themselves.
- Keeping aggression at bay: Nosanchuk and MacNeil found a correlation between the length of time that martial arts were practiced and the level of participants’ respect for others. Students who had been practicing martial arts for the longest time displayed lower levels of aggression.
- Social interaction: Fervent practitioners of Jiu Jitsu know that one of the best aspects of this art is the ability to train and socialize with individuals who share a passion for this ancient tradition. Studies back the ability of martial arts to promote social interaction in general. Gleser et. al. (1992) likewise found that martial arts training increased psycho social skills in blind, developmentally disabled children.
- Concentration: The harmony of body and mind in performing moves which are sometimes highly complex require an optimal degree of concentration. For this reason, martial arts like Jiu Jitsu are often by chosen by parents of children with ADHD (Attention Deficit – Hyperactivity Disorder), to form part of an integrated therapeutic program. Children who are captivated by the magic of martial arts are often enraptured by the complex moves, and enjoy learning valuable skills like socialization and self-discipline. Parents of children with ADHD are often on the lookout for natural alternatives to prescription drugs. Many find martial arts to be an important part of an alternative therapy plan.
- Compatibility with psychotherapy: The ideals of many martial arts coincide closely with the aims of psychotherapy. Both disciplines aim at a greater awareness of the self and of the people and world around oneself. Both emphasize the internal nature of most of the battles most people face; both employ defensive strategies like establishing distance, learning the value of timing and using an opponent’s strength to one’s benefit.