Animus - the Mental Benefits to Martial Arts
By: Dale Norfolk
Animus - The Mental Benefits of Martial Arts
“Always be yourself and have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and try to duplicate it”
- Lee Jun Fan 1940-19731(Actor, film director, martial artist, martial arts instructor, philosopher and founder of Jeet Kune Do2)
Yes, it had to be didn’t it, you kind of knew that somewhere in these blogs you would come across a quote from Bruce Lee; actor, philosopher, creator and martial arts student. I say student as it is something that Bruce Lee was always interested in, not just the techniques themselves but the application of will it takes in these situations. And it is why, for someone such as Bruce Lee, I have chosen to use his quote when talking about the mind.
'without the control on a skilled swordsman, a katana is nothing but a deadly clumsy tool'
As a human being you are made of multiple parts both biological and chemical, but medically there is a distinction between the physical body and the brain. The psychology of the individual that controls the body. When training your body in martial arts, you are looking to make that body like the katana - in that it needs to be strong and sharp but also flexible to withstand countering blows. However, without the control on a skilled swordsman, a katana is nothing but a deadly clumsy tool.
The mind, like the muscles of the swordsman, requires training. It needs to be tested and it needs to be pushed. When we do this, we unlock benefits and supress conditions that can quickly become overwhelming.
There have been numerous articles on the benefits of martial arts3 4 5 on the mind and its positive effects. Examples of these are given in this blog in the references below.
What becomes clear from these articles and papers surrounding their empirical study is that the study of martial arts affects us:
This is shown in the breathing exercises and repetitive movements that bring well-being within the body and allows the individual to almost enter a meditative state. This helps us control our emotions to a degree that in times of stress we can fall back on these teachings to help centre us and not panic and engage our mammalian instincts. 6
The more you perform a practiced action and the more competent you become in that movement, the more your confidence increases. This confidence is noticeable in students within the club as they move through their gradings. This is not a false confidence but an earned knowledge that is not only useful within training but in all aspects of your life. It enables us to take on new challenges, it makes us say yes and stand up, instead of shrinking away.
Throughout our day we are all subject to stress and anxiety7. Studies have also shown that depression and anxiety can be helpful in reducing stress and can be used to burn excess adrenaline which is produced at times of stress, which in turn can bring about decreased mental wellness.
It also gives you a healthy output for your aggression and can help people with anger issues learn to control themselves better and be able to keep their calm in situations that would otherwise could cause a violent response as discussed under emotional benefits.
'They can be a focus for someone with a high-power job, or simply a parent looking after frustrating children'
This new focus can also, especially with children, aid a need to focus and understand things in a deeper and/or improved manner. This can be incredibly useful during exam season or when tests roll around - the more the ability to be able to centre and keep cues from your brain forcing your body to act in flight mode8 appears, the better you will do. So, in summary, the mental benefits to martial arts are as important as the physical benefits and can be remembered and used within your day to day life. They can be a focus for someone with a high-power job, or simply a parent looking after frustrating children. These learnings will stay with you, not only for the time that you are training, but throughout your life - if you embed them deeply within your psyche.
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