Training in a martial art can bring a lot of good to a person’s life, from physical benefits like improved coordination, balance, agility, endurance, strength, etc. to mental benefits such as increased confidence, discipline, personal awareness, mental clarity and focus. Today I’d like to look at a training benefits that is both good for the body and mind; the reduction of stress.
There is a lot of talk in the media of modern western society about how stress levels have been going up over the years. It’s widely recognized that these stress has adverse affects on our health, leading to or exacerbating physical conditions, including heart disease, obesity, headaches, backaches, gastro-intestinal problems, etc, as well as mental conditions, including anxiety, panic attacks, depression, addiction, etc.
Exercise is widely accepted as a healthy form of stress management. The martial arts can be particularly good for this if it’s an activity and environment that the participant enjoys and identifies with. Here are a variety of ways that martial arts training is great for relieving stress:
1. It pumps up the endorphin levels. Similar to the runner’s high, certain types of martial arts training can produce a significant boost endorphin levels. High energy activities like sparring, grappling, self-defense training circles, circuit training or even just an intense session of working on a heavy bag, really get the heart pumping. Whatever the activity you’re doing, the two main factors for getting the endorphin release are intensity and duration, according to studies that have been performed on runners.
2. It provides challenges. Some medical professionals believe the positive feeling you get when you meet a physical challenge, rather than the exertion itself, is what stimulates the endorphin release, according to Joel Fuhrman, MD, family physician and author of books including Eat for Health and Eat to Live. If that’s the case, martial arts provides all sorts of mental and physical challenges for students to focus on while they train. I know there is nothing quite like that feeling when you nail a technique you’ve been working on, or you manage to overcome a fear, whether it’s of falling, being hit, or performing in front of others. And as you progress in the martial arts, there are always new challenges to face.
3. It requires mental focus. When you step into the dojo, you’re expected to clear your head of all your daily concerns and listen to your body, focus on the tasks at hand, and be mindful of safety while training. This is part of the rituals we undergo as we prepare the mind and body to train, details of which were covered in Chris Olson Sensei’s last blog post, How to Mentally Focus in Martial Arts Training. When you’re mentally focused, and a martial arts training environment is quite conducive to this, it gives you time during which you forget about all the stresses of your day. They are still there, of course, when you finish your training, but many people find that they are able to look at them with a fresher, more objective perspective because of the time out taken during class.
So if you’re getting a lot of stress at work or in your personal life, don’t just stay home and ruminate in your stress. Get thee to class! I know I ALWAYS feel better after a rousing Jiu-jitsu class.
These are just a few of the ways I find that martial arts training relieves stress, but I’m sure you’ve had some of your own experiences with it. Please feel free to share them in the comments. 🙂