While the specific origin of martial arts remains elusive to historians, it is apparent that they have been around for a very long time. Over the years, fighting styles have been passed on from generation to generation, and from country to country. This adaptive radiation allowed the arts to emigrate from China into Japan, Korea and beyond, giving us the eclectic variety of styles we have today. Developed to improve self-defence and combative success, martial arts were created in the ancient cultures of Asia. In general, martial arts involve fighting techniques, mental discipline, physical exercise, and various philosophical components. Most of them embody intellectual concepts as well. The Taoist philosophy of balance, Buddhist meditation and breathing, and Confucian ethics have all greatly influenced martial arts. Our society has become increasingly interested in these martial arts over the last fifty years. We are finally beginning to realize all the martial arts training benefits.
My interest in the human body is also something that I devote a lot of time to. I am fascinated with how the body works. Martial arts and understanding the human body go hand in hand. My goal is to analyze the positive effects of martial arts training as well as the destructive nature of real self – protection. All properly practiced martial arts can bring about a number of beneficial physical and psychological effects. This will give people more reason to start some kind of training. I am a firm believer that martial arts are for everyone, regardless of race, sex, age, or religious beliefs.
Many of the physical martial arts training benefits resemble those achieved by any other form of exercise. A normal training session in martial arts involves a period of warming up, stretching, then training. The exercise one gets from martial arts training improves balance, flexibility, stamina, and posture. Weight loss is promoted through consistent training. These are all results of long term martial arts training and can, for the most part, be achieved by doing any type of sport or exercise regimen for an extended period of time. These physical changes are easily noticed and often sought after so much that the more subtle health benefits are overlooked. Martial arts trained correctly will enhance your knowledge on real conflict and make your body harder to injure. This of course is a primary result of the origins of martial arts and what they were used for. We focus on strengthening your ligaments, bones and tendons. The physical nature of martial arts focuses more on anaerobic conditioning and core strength as a real encounter would last seconds, not minutes. (This is of course a modern theme as in the past battles could go on for hours or days, like with Yi Quan kung Fu’s origins) Due to the vast variety of martial arts and the watered down systems and individual goals of the teachers martial arts has also branched out to be used for many different reasons in the modern age. Sports martial arts develop different automatic habits than combative arts for real violence and hence will focus more on cardiovascular conditioning and modern training tools to develop an ability to compete for minutes at a time. You will find this most predominant in MMA, Boxing, Judo, Tae Kwon Do and a lot of the Karate being taught today.
Martial Arts training: benefits of Qigong
Qigong, the ancient Chinese practice of working with Qi (vital energy), is receiving a lot of attention as a major part of traditional Chinese medicine. Medical Qigong has been practiced for centuries to promote health, healing, self-defence, longevity, and spiritual development. One of the goals of practitioners is to master tension and relaxation. Chinese doctors prescribe certain forms of Qigong to patients, depending on their diagnosis. According to them, many illnesses are cause by a disrupted flow of energy through the meridians. Meridians are channels that allow energy to flow through the body. The Qigong techniques provide a balance of energy in the patient’s body in an effort to return them to good health. Chinese medicine attributes great importance to the homeostasis of energy in the body.
Qigong consists of three different methods. These methods are movement-oriented Qigong, meditation-oriented Qigong, and breath-oriented Qigong. Abdominal breathing is a vital part of Qigong. This deep breathing allows for more oxygen intake per breath. In Qigong as well as yoga, deep breathing also serves as a hypnotic tool. By focusing on the breath, one can truly relax and pay full attention to the body. During these semi- meditative states, metabolic, autonomic, endocrine, neurological, and psychological changes can be noted.
Nei Gong is a form of Qi Gong that pertains to working with energy specific to Martial arts. You will note that working with energy and practicing Qi Gong / Nei Gong will help improve your martial arts ability, strengthen your body from the inside out and develop a stronger sense of relaxation and mental clarity. It doesn’t take long when looking at the feats of the Shaolin monks to discover the power of Qi.
As with Tai Chi, the medical boom with Qi Gong is the most recognised facet of the art. These techniques are now known in the western world as medical and exercise prescriptions. The martial arts components are seldom known in the western world. Is this a well hidden secret by high level martial arts masters?
Martial Arts training: benefits of Tai Chi Chuan
The ancient art of Tai Chi has been used to promote health in China for hundreds of years. This graceful art uses slow, circular movements to exercise the body, mind, and consciousness. In China, Tai Chi is regarded as one of the best overall forms of exercise. America started to catch on and has been investigating the martial arts training benefits of Tai Chi since 1980.
This martial art is especially popular with the elderly population because it is generally slower than other forms of exercise and can be practiced without too much physical exertion. The low velocity, low impact movements can be performed by older individuals experiencing joint degeneration, muscle atrophy, poor balance, and low stamina.
As stated earlier, practicing martial arts can increase strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility. Inevitably, these physical properties dissipate with age. With decreasing physical ability, the elderly are susceptible to extreme injury and death due to falling. Falls are reported to be a leading cause of accidental death of the elderly.
Proven benefits of Tai Chi training for the elderly include: increased strength. endurance. flexibility. balance. and prevention of osteoporosis. Improvement in any of these areas leads to a decreased risk of harmful falls.
Tai Chi Chuan is in fact translated as ‘The Grand Ultimate Fist’ and has this name for a reason. It is an extremely effective martial arts system for self-protection and for developing Qi. The slow exercises you see the elderly doing in the park may not be impact related or too hard on the body but are definitely not easy. Modern Tai Chi is well known for health purposes and the combative nature of the art has been washed to the wayside, especially in western countries. It is extremely hard to find someone that teaches combative Tai Chi training. Tai Chi training for combat is not all meditative and slow, but actually takes a lot of hard work to develop and helps produce lighting speed. Most of the western society likes to see fast results and hence gravitate towards martial arts that can show faster improvements. This can be shown in martial arts like Tae kwon Do, where I have known people to achieve a black belt in 2 years. It can take some people up to ten years to develop real fighting ability in Tai Chi. Patience and Perseverance are not traits many people have at the beginning of their training. It can start to fall to the wayside after shorter periods of time. Having the right environment and finding the right teacher can help instill these traits in their students from the beginning.
Martial Arts Training Benefits: Psychological
While there is a decent amount of empirical data on the physical martial arts training benefits, the psychological and social effects are more obscure. The effects of long-term martial arts training are still being investigated, and there have been a number of interesting studies. Most of the studies that have been conducted are similar in showing that martial art training generally causes positive psychological and social adjustments.
One of the most psychologically beneficial aspects of martial arts training is the increase in self-confidence. Many people live in fear of being attacked. We have all been in situations where our self-confidence has been questioned. Many people feel this insecurity walking down the street at night, or facing a bully at school. Beating everyone up is obviously not a reasonable solution. Learning self-defence increases the self-confidence of practitioners by taking away their feeling of vulnerability. The goal is not to teach people to fight those who argue or disagree, but to teach them to defend themselves when necessary. Confidence allows you to remain calm during difficult situations. By remaining calm, one can assess the situation more clearly and act appropriately. When faced with a compromising situation, those capable of defending themselves should need to use physical force less often than those who cannot defend themselves. Even for people who abhor violence, learning to deal with violence is a survival tool all should know.
Martial arts training is the human insurance policy for being a target of violence. Confidence and Self-Esteem is also something that will crossover and enhance all other areas of your life. Most studies on the long-term effects of martial arts training agree that martial arts are affective in producing positive social and psychological changes. There is usually an inverse relationship between the amount of time someone has been practicing, and the level of their aggression, hostility, and anxiety. The opposite can be said about the independence, self-reliance, and self-confidence of practitioners, which tends to increase with the period of time they have been training.
Some martial arts lead to psychological benefits more quickly than others. For instance, one study showed that over a short period of time, karate students experienced a decrease in anxiety, but aikido students did not. This suggests that if the martial art is more foreign and complex, it may take longer to reap the psychological benefits of it. Hence my previous remarks regarding the types of martial arts a lot of people gravitate towards faster psychological reward. I am a lover of all great teachers of martial arts and it is imperative that we do not set people up for failure. Because my passion is reality based combative martial arts, it is important that the psychological ability matches the physiological ability, not just in a controlled environment but in the real world.
The differences between martial arts and regular sports may be responsible for their ability to significantly improve social and psychological health. Common sports have many similarities with martial arts training. These include physical fitness, coordination development, and social interaction. The Eastern arts, however, differ in their focus on the overall development of the practitioner. While martial arts tend to strive toward self-control and self-knowledge, many Western sports focus solely on competition between individuals and groups. Martial arts in this day and age fall under this category. This emphasis on winning is present in the competitive sports martial arts considering the kill or be killed environment in which martial arts were developed. Over the last thirty years, martial arts have become increasingly popular as competitive sports. The addition of judo and taekwondo in the Olympics, Karate competitions, Kickboxing, San Dar and arts developed for combat are also jumping in these competitions. The difference between martial arts and western sports is that the arts generally have a large amount of ritual and philosophical components. Martial arts also tend to focus on mind/body integration through a combination of meditation and physical activity.
Thirty years of research on this topic supports the anecdotal reports that martial arts are good for the mind as well as the body. Most studies arrive at the same conclusions. The main goal of many current studies is to reveal exactly how this process works. It is assumed that the non-physical aspects of martial arts contribute to the long-term benefits. The use of martial arts for their therapeutic properties is also being thoroughly investigated, and will hopefully prove to be very productive in the near future. Many psychologists are willing to admit that under proper supervision, martial arts can be a very helpful form of psychotherapy.
Martial arts have been able to stand up to all the scientific tests. They are obviously physically and mentally beneficial. Different martial arts bring about different effects. If someone wants to battle stress and anxiety, most forms of martial arts will suffice. For the elderly and those that are physically limited, Tai Chi and Qigong are wonderful forms of exercise. If you want to compete in sports martial arts taekwondo and Judo can work wonders. If you want real self-protection Krav Maga, Filipino Arts and many styles of Kung Fu would be better. Whatever martial art one chooses to practice will undoubtedly affect him/her in a positive way. Remember it is not the style but the teacher that matters, as well as your own personal goals.
Asian martial arts pick up where Western sports are lacking. They promote a healthy way of life as well as physical development. This combination allows martial arts to work wonders for many people. If the drug companies weren’t so powerful, maybe the martial arts training benefits would be more accepted. Here, we tend to prescribe drugs for whatever ails us. Martial arts are obviously not some magical remedy for all of our illnesses, but there is definitely something to them that we don’t understand yet. It is amazing to think that the Chinese have been using martial arts for thousands of years, and we are just now starting to figure out what they involve. Martial arts education combined with correct nutrition education can truly work miracles with most people.
Overall, studies have verified that properly practiced marital arts can bring about positive physical and psychological changes. Very few will disagree with this fact. However, there is much to be learned about how these changes are produced. The Asian martial arts have turned out to be more than just tools for self-defence. They have developed into systems that not only protect the practitioner from attackers, but also from poor physical and psychological health.
Here at the Ontario Self-defence Centre and Whitby Martial Arts Academy we focus on all the Physiological and Psychological benefits of the martial arts. We are committed to self-protection habits for life, not sports competition habits. Come down to our Whitby academy and I would love to show you how martial arts can benefit you or your child. We will do our best to help you achieve your martial arts goals. Whether it’s Safety. Self-protection. Confidence. Martial Arts Training. Kung Fu. Fitness. Health. Speed or Strength we got you covered. We offer classes for Men, Women and Children.