Martial Arts and Mental Health

jasonearle4

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I am currently completing my Master's in Mental Health Counseling. I also have a 4th degree Black Belt in American Kenpo and Jui-Jitsu. I have found that the martial arts have many therapuetic qualities. It is my goal to blend martial arts and therapy together. I have found little to no research in this area, other than it's use with physically disabled and some for anger control. I believe it has therapuetic utility for many issues such as depression, anxiety, addictions, etc. I am currently looking at martial arts training effects on self-confidence and self-esteem. I would like this forum to be a place to share your experience with martial arts on your mental health and any other area you have found martial art training to benefit you.
 

Egon

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Martial arts sure have mental benefits, but so as every other physical activity. Activity itself produces endorphines - happy hormons. I wouldn't separate martial arts to much and putting it to top, every sport / activity can be beneficial, maybe it's hard to generalise. Rationaly you can't prove that doing arts is more benefit then playing basketball.

Speaking about me, martial arts was the best when it comes to mental benefits. It's cocktail of pushing over the edge, adapting, self control and being humble. That, in combination with sparring / figthing and years of hard training to achieve any decent level, it did right thing for me - helped me to build personality and achieve healthy level of self confidence.

I don't believe in anything mystic in martial arts (actually I don't believe in anything mystic at all), but I never hide that my personality changed over the years of training, so as my life did.

But martial arts in context of therapy is surely goes far beyond what I said and it always interested me. If you want to discuss something more in-depth feel free to private message me.
 

ACJ

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It must be noted that nearly any activity needs to be done for reasons other than mental health for it to have an effect on mental health, at least in my opinion. I am always hearing of people who try to get into various forms of exercise to battle forms of mental illnesses, commonly depression, and failing for it to have a significant effect and stopping the activity. On the other hand, people have started exercise for a variety of other reasons and they then find that it helps with self image and self confidence as well as battle mental health issues.


This isn't to discourage you, just as a note that it may be the activity that seems valuable/enjoyable that has the greatest impact on issues relating to mental health. I personally would love to see any and all research into sports/martial arts in relation to the mind and psychological well being and performance.

Keep us updated.
 

JamesGarr

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I find that practicing kung fu adds balance to my life and makes me happier. The exercise is good, sure, but I was doing that before and struggled with bouts of depression. Now I still struggle sometimes, but the martial arts have given me another tool to fight it. Most of my job and hobbies are sedentary, and having a balance between intellectual and physical pursuits is important to mental health in my personal experience.
 

lklawson

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I am currently completing my Master's in Mental Health Counseling. I also have a 4th degree Black Belt in American Kenpo and Jui-Jitsu. I have found that the martial arts have many therapuetic qualities. It is my goal to blend martial arts and therapy together. I have found little to no research in this area, other than it's use with physically disabled and some for anger control. I believe it has therapuetic utility for many issues such as depression, anxiety, addictions, etc. I am currently looking at martial arts training effects on self-confidence and self-esteem. I would like this forum to be a place to share your experience with martial arts on your mental health and any other area you have found martial art training to benefit you.
There is more research and per-existent application for therapeutic results than you might think.

The Charter school group known as "Summit" in Ohio uses Therapeutic Martial Arts as part of their Phys Ed curriculum for wellness and improvement for ADD/ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome disorders. The Dayton School uses Therapeutic Karate and, ims, there is at least one that was using a Silat base.

http://summitacademies.com
martial arts in summit (google search)

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Bill Mattocks

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I always feel better when I come back from the dojo. The harder the workout, the better I feel. No doubt the endorphins have a lot to do with that, but I also feel that practicing focus, the bringing together of mind, body, and spirit, is also a reason for it; at least to me.

I must also say, however, that the martial arts also seem to attract some folks who are distinctly unwell in the sense of being emotionally immature or mentally unstable. I don't know if they really stick around, but they do seem to show up from time to time. I suspect that this may have something to do with the fact that they equate martial arts training as a way to gain power over their environment without being gifted with strength and power genetically, a way that the 'underdog' can in fact succeed in a physical world. Feeling powerless themselves, they may be drawn to this notion. In other cases, I suspect that the various ninjutsu-related arts suffer from a greater percentage of the emotionally immature or damaged individuals than perhaps many other arts. The movies may have had a lot to do with that. No offense intended towards my friends in those arts; I fully realize that many are quite serious about their training and good at what they do.
 

lklawson

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Feeling powerless themselves, they may be drawn to this notion. In other cases, I suspect that the various ninjutsu-related arts suffer from a greater percentage of the emotionally immature or damaged individuals than perhaps many other arts. The movies may have had a lot to do with that.
MMA now. It's the flavor of the month.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Buka

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I'd love to read any research on this subject. I think we would all see ourselves in what we found. A friend of mine always says, "Martial Arts is what Martial Arts does."

If it's a place you go to exercise, push your body and reap the benefits, and enjoy the hell out of it - that's a beautiful thing.

If you immerse yourself in the world of the Dojo and get more - that's a beautiful thing, too.

If self defense is a goal, and the skills earned influence you and yours for the rest of your life - that's a beautiful thing as well.

If it's a hobby, something you tried, or something you've always wanted to do but have yet taken that leap - it can be a beautiful thing to come.

If you did it for a while and it wasn't your cup of tea - it's a positive because it's more demanding than most things you might try, and you went out and gave it a shot.

If you experience the dojo and make one friend...or work your *** off to make a belt or two.....or learn the difference between what you are and what you can be.....or learn anything about focus, spirit, responsibility, health or peace.....or drag your broken *** off the floor when you get knocked down, again and again.....or take a man down that you never thought possible - well, you know.

Ah, but if you become a Dojo rat. That can be just the balls.
 

Tez3

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MMA now. It's the flavor of the month.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk

MMA has the advantage for those beginning in martial arts in that you can adapt the techniques to suit your body size weight etc. It's being used by the military rehab people for injured soldiers, especially amputees. There's always something you can do in MMA. the perception of it helps too, it's seen by many as a 'macho' type of sport, for 'hard' men so soldiers especially can practise it and feel it's part of their military training, important for those whose confidence and identity has been damaged by being injured. People who are normally fit, active and used to being in control, making decisions etc are often badly hit mentally by being injured.
 
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jasonearle4

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I appreciate all the comments thus far. I am sure with more research and searching on the web I will find many locations that have a form of therapeutic martial arts. Thus far I have found martial arts used for ADHD, Asperger's, rehabilitation, cancer patient's, aggression, and special needs individuals. Nothing yet mentioning depression or anxiety. Although, exericse has been documented as a valid treatment for depression. While martial arts does provide exercise, it can provide much more. Factors I have come up with so far are problem solving, relaxation training, relationship development, development of control, self-discipline, self-expression, assertiveness training, and increased awareness of self and others. Still exploring other factors.

Egon, the martial arts has definitely contributed to my humility, self-confidence, and current personality as well. I appreciate your comments.

JamesGarr, the balance that is inherent in martial arts training is huge for me as well. I emphasize that aspect greatly when I am teaching; the necessity of balance in one's life. I try to teach a balanced curriculum so my students not only can demonstrate the physical skills of martial arts, but can have a firm mental understanding, and an appreciation and connectedness to the spiritual side.

Lklawson, thank you for pointing me to the Summit school. It proved to be a useful resource.

Bill. I agree that the martial arts attracts some unbalanced folks. It is sad that some people use martial arts to bully or hurt others. I am strongly opposed to that. Definitely not an intervention for everyone.

Buka. MA definitely has influenced my whole life. When I was teaching, one of the motto's I used was "It's not just a hobby, it's a lifestyle." That couldn't be more true. It has effected every area of my life. It is great exercise, self-defense, a hobby, and much more. And, once again, not for everyone.

Tez3. I definitely agree with the adaptability of MA to fit the individual. Therapy, in my opinion, should be that way as well, which is another parallel. That's awesome that the military uses it for rehab.

Keep the great comments coming.
 

Bill Mattocks

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Bill. I agree that the martial arts attracts some unbalanced folks. It is sad that some people use martial arts to bully or hurt others. I am strongly opposed to that. Definitely not an intervention for everyone.

More along the lines that many people who have, shall we say, issues, are drawn to the martial arts not because they are bullies or wish to become bullies, but because they see themselves as powerless and they see the martial arts as a way to reclaim that. The problem is that their underlying issues are not cured by martial arts training; they remain ill. Often their expectations are unrealistic, shaped by their vague understandings, based on movies, TV, and so on.
 

mook jong man

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While I fully concentrate on what I am doing while I am there and it allows an outlet for my aggression.
If I am truthful the therapeutic effects are short lived , I was a cranky bastard before martial arts and some days I am still a cranky bastard.
 

Tez3

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While I fully concentrate on what I am doing while I am there and it allows an outlet for my aggression.
If I am truthful the therapeutic effects are short lived , I was a cranky bastard before martial arts and some days I am still a cranky bastard.

As I get older I'm beginning to believe crankiness is age related! I really do find it harder to not say things I'm thinking and perhaps because the years are getting fewer I think 'oh well, why not just say what I'm thinking!'
 

lklawson

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MMA has the advantage for those beginning in martial arts in that you can adapt the techniques to suit your body size weight etc. It's being used by the military rehab people for injured soldiers, especially amputees. There's always something you can do in MMA. the perception of it helps too, it's seen by many as a 'macho' type of sport, for 'hard' men so soldiers especially can practise it and feel it's part of their military training, important for those whose confidence and identity has been damaged by being injured. People who are normally fit, active and used to being in control, making decisions etc are often badly hit mentally by being injured.
I don't disagree on any particular. I'm just saying that 30 years again, the same thing was being said and done of Karate and 50 years ago, substitute Judo.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

lklawson

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As I get older I'm beginning to believe crankiness is age related! I really do find it harder to not say things I'm thinking and perhaps because the years are getting fewer I think 'oh well, why not just say what I'm thinking!'
You and me both, sister!

I once heard, "There are two kinds of people: Those who have a fight/argument and later think, 'I wish I had...' and those who have a fight/argument and think, 'I wish I hadn't..."

Oddly, I started life in the former and have shifted more to the later as I've aged. :)

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

lklawson

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Lklawson, thank you for pointing me to the Summit school. It proved to be a useful resource.
My pleasure.

Bill. I agree that the martial arts attracts some unbalanced folks. It is sad that some people use martial arts to bully or hurt others. I am strongly opposed to that. Definitely not an intervention for everyone.
This is unavoidable and simply part of human nature. You see similar types of people attracted to any past-time or profession which they believe will give them "power." Only thing to do about it is ensure good internal policing and screening.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Aiki Lee

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I wrote a paper for my master's degree in social work comparing budo training to mindfulness based theraputic practices. It's posted on MT as a 4 part blog if you think any of it would be helpful for you.
 

Stac3y

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All I can say about this is that sparring is cheaper than therapy. :)
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Martial arts helps me out, immensely as far as mental health is concerned. I have a lot of built up aggression (had huge anger management problems when i was younger) , and if i don't go to some sort of martial arts class for more than a week, it becomes a lot tougher for me to keep myself from being to 'aggressive' towards my friends, and it makes me really irritable, and some of it leaks out anyway. Sports like basketball and fencing don't help, and its not the sparring since we don't spar weekly, just for some reason, it calms me down and I don't have to suppress a lot of anger/aggression
 
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