Can Martial Arts Help with Anger, Anxiety, and Depression?

Can Martial Arts Help with Anger, Anxiety, and Depression?

A recipe for a healthy mind is very individual, but an ingredient you can always add to the mix is physical activity in the form of martial arts.

Martial arts are a type of physical activity that not only affects your body but challenges your mind and can help you with anger, anxiety, and depression.

If you are looking for motivation but face emotional distress, martial arts might be just the thing for you.

In this article, I will present you how you can stay in shape and keep a healthy mind in a healthy body.

Before you consider starting with any martial art, be sure to take a look at my guide to choosing the right martial art for you to start with.

Which Martial Arts Are Best for Discipline? 

MMA, which stands for mixed martial arts, is a type of martial art (combat sport) that consists of skills and techniques from all of the other martial arts; boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu (to name a few).

Aikido, karate, and other martial arts that focus on the moves as a choreography may not have the same effect on the mind.

MMA forces people to endure pressure and overcome the opponent’s power, which trains the mind to be constantly calm and focused. A fighter has to think not only about the technique but the opponent’s next move.

This allows the fighter to learn pacing, learn when to use strength, when to be explosive, and when to remain calm and outwit the opponent.

In the first few months, trainees are faced with partners who are stronger and more knowledgeable, so it is crucial to get through this period in order to create and nurture discipline. 

Not all trainees will endure this kind of pressure, which means they will lose control and fail to remain balanced and calm.

Discipline does not always come in the form of restrictions. Sometimes it can be seen as a form of liberation from emotion in moments when they might not be useful.

Do Martial Arts Make You Violent?

Contrary to the idea that martial arts make you violent, martial arts can actually decrease aggression in a person.

Combat sports help people get all their anger out in the form of physical activity, which is a healthy coping mechanism for stress. 

According to The British psychological society claims that martial arts can reduce violent tendencies in teens and children. Those involved in violent sports have not shown behavior that would lead to vandalism or other forms of aggressive outbursts. [1]

However, it is important to incorporate meditation and the meaning of balance in the mind.

If not, children and teens may only receive the knowledge they think would be appropriate to use when dissatisfied – resulting in violence outside of the gym. 

If meditation and morality are included in practice, results will be less stress, aggression, anxiety, and depression. 

If taught properly, martial arts can be used as a tool of liberation or as a way to aim negative emotions towards the practice. It may not sound completely instinctive, but martial arts do not make a person more violent. 

Like any other form of art or sport, it only reveals anger the person already carries and can control it and use it for a good cause. Whether the goal is beating your opponent and winning the medal, or just train your body and mind to strengthen both.

How Do Martial Arts Help Mentally?

Imagine a scenario in which you are faced with a specific danger. Maybe you were hiking and you encountered a wild animal, or you just noticed a hurricane approaching you.

Your mind will react instantly, and adrenaline will take over. You will choose either to fight the threat or to run away to protect yourself.

When you suffer from anxiety, this reaction will happen without the existing threat. It is like your body is responding to something invisible.

How will you fight something non-existent or run away from the danger in your mind?

When practicing martial arts, you are encountered with danger, a partner who’s goal is to knock you down.

Your body needs to react, and it needs to react quickly. By creating this environment of „danger, “you will go through the same adrenaline response.

In these controlled conditions, you can recognize the signs of anxiety. Take a step back and notice what is happening to your body.

This exercise can be beneficial when faced with anxiety and noticing the same signs while knowing exactly what will happen. This will eliminate any extra fear.

When you finally manage to make a move, surprise your opponent, or win a medal, you will feel a burst of confidence. Martial arts teach you to be patient, to learn from everyone, and try different ideas.

Something we often see in people with depression is the inability to make decisions. This may be due to the lack of motivation but is also caused by the fear of regret.

What if you make a mistake? Martial arts allow you to make mistakes and learn from them.

How Do Martial Arts Affect the Mind? 

Harvard conducted a study on how physical activity affects the human brain and how sports can help with depression and anxiety. Anxiety and depression often affect people together, making them unable to control their fears and the inability to get motivated. [2]

Activities such as a short jog or only a few push-ups can already ease the stress before an important meeting or an exam. Imagine what a training session can do for your mind then!

The mental health benefits of physical activity are endless.

Martial arts can help alleviate stress, improve memory, increase your libido, aid in having a healthy circadian rhythm, and motivate you hours after the activity. 

When I talked about discipline and focus in martial arts, I noticed all the benefits it can have on the mind!

Not only do martial arts distract you from your gloomy thoughts, but they teach you how to focus on the task in front of you.

When practicing with a partner, a person who suffers from anxiety is faced with a real-life fight or flight response. This teaches the person to remain calm and focus on one move at a time instead of allowing their brain to generate panic. 

This aids in learning how to cope with this response in a healthy way, which is usually what people with anxiety cannot do since anxiety is a disorder that creates fight or flight scenarios in the person’s mind.

How Do Martial Arts Help with Focus?

There is no winning a fight if there is no focus. Elimination of emotion sometimes comes naturally during physical activities, which is the goal! 

During a fight, one second can mean a lot, whether it is in a studio or on the street. Taking the time to get to know your opponent, their weaknesses, and strengths – is something crucial if you want to progress. 

Martial arts teach you to let go of fear. They teach you to embrace your failure as well as your triumph. 

The very first thing you need to focus on is breathing. Losing your control over stabilized breaths can generate a panic attack or dizziness.

Learn to stay calm even while losing. You will save your strength and let your brain have enough oxygen needed for clear thinking.

Martial arts force you to learn to decide what to focus on and how to maintain it. After some time, your concentration will come naturally, and you will be able to read your partner’s next move and stay prepared.

Always remember the basics and stay humble. 

Meditation is very helpful and is often included in martial arts teachings. It has been proven to reduce depression, anxiety, aggression, and help calm your mind and focus on more things at once without being overwhelmed.

Training your mind is not the only benefit of doing martial arts. Training in martial arts also yields physical and social benefits.

And last but not least, it is all in the practice, so don’t give up!

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
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Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
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