The Mental Health Benefits of Combat Sport

2020 has been a tough year for everyone both emotionally and mentally. The benefits of combat sports extend much further than just the phyiscal and in times like these are often the perfect way to energize your body and calm your mind.

Today is World Mental Health Day and as such we wanted to highlight why this may be the perfect time to head down to your local martial arts gym and sign up.

Aside from enriching your own mental state, you are likely to help others within the martial arts community which is what combat sports are all about.

In this article we go through the benefits martial arts has on mental health along with chatting with a few members of our local community about how it has enriched their lives.

Relieving stress & promoting mindfulness

The wonders of exercise for relieving stress are well-documented, but what better way to release tension from a hard day at work than smashing out some rapid-fire punches on the boxing pads or grappling your opponent? 

Not only does the high-intensity nature of the sport provide an excellent outlet for any stress stored in the body, but the concentration it requires will also ensure your mind is given a well-deserved break from any worries that have been weighing you down. There’s no time to dwell on work deadlines when your more immediate focus is making sure you don’t get knocked out! The complexity involved in nailing the techniques in each sport and the growing desire to progress your skills will absorb all of your energy and attention for that 30 minutes or hour you spend on the mats. This aspect of the sport promotes mindfulness…

“It’s counterintuitive at the surface level, but martial arts actually help people to lead calmer, more self-possessed lives. This happens for a number of reasons, one being mindfulness.”

Flavio Almeida, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor and Entrepreneur at Gracie Barra

Enhancing self-esteem & feelings of empowerment

There’s no doubt that combat sport presents challenge after challenge, both mental and physical. Although this can be overwhelming when just starting out, overcoming these hurdles will provide a fantastic boost to your self-esteem as you feel yourself progress. 

Furthermore, martial arts can be an effective tool to help people feel empowered. According to Almeida, martial arts can help people who have felt victimised in their past by giving them a sense of regaining control. Additionally, combat sport can help people process trauma and overcome feelings of weakness.

Several studies have backed up this advantage of the sport. One study involving a group of female participants studying taekwondo for 8 weeks reported higher self-concept compared to a comparison group, and a six-month taekwondo program found increased self-esteem among subjects following the study. 

Reducing anxiety and depression

Research has supported martial arts as having a positive effect on reducing symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. One study found that training in tai-chi reduced anxiety and depression compared to a non-treatment condition. Additionally, another study found that male karate students were less prone to depression compared to the reported norms for male college students. 

Becoming part of a community

We can talk about this point from personal experience. Combat sport is very much high-contact, so it’s almost impossible not to become a family. Grappling with complete strangers is definitely an ice breaker, especially when you’re dripping in sweat! Your personal walls or barriers will collapse fairly quickly, and you’ll meet some of the most hard-working, passionate, like-minded individuals. Everyone wants to build each other up and we all want each other to succeed. Mental health issues are never easy, but having a supportive community behind you will make all the difference.

Speaking of community, we reached out to some members of our team down at CMBT Training Centre to share how their experience with combat sport has helped their mental health…

“Martial arts provides me with structure and progression, which are two staples of my mental health. Without those two things in my life I tend to feel like I’m going backwards.

Combine that with the physical aspect and the people that you meet, martial arts is all-encompassing for my personal development.

I think all men should practise some form of martial arts to keep them humble, help them focus and keep physically fit.”

Brock Hunter, CMBT Training Centre member

“I feel there is no better activity for mental health than martial arts. The process of learning new skills along with facing and overcoming some type of adversity everyday fosters mental resilience that ultimately leads to mental health.”

Sel Berdie, CMBT Nutrition Director

Conclusion

There’s a whole host of evidence suggested the benefits of mental health benefits of combat sport, and we can vouch for it all the way. It may not be your entire solution, but training in martial arts may make a huge difference to help you feel stronger, more connected, and more in control of your life. No matter where you begin, you’ll be welcomed with warmth and open arms. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see you at our gym someday soon!

Lexi Daniels