Some people think of martial arts as a method of discipline. Some think of it as a skill for self defence. Others think of it as a fun place to get some exercise. Don’t get me wrong, it is all of those things, and more. I think that, especially lately, martial arts provides an opportunity for something that is sorely under appreciated; health. What do I mean by health? I mean the full gamut from mental to physical.
Mental health is increasingly on the minds of the average person. During the pandemic depression, suicide, home abuse, and substance abuse (including overdose deaths) have risen like a looming shadow over everyone’s lives. Lockdowns, restrictions, and inability to simply interact with family and other people, like humans have relied on for thousands of years, has forced many of us to take a long hard look at what we used to simply take for granted.
For years the martial arts industry has welcomed everyone from people living with depression, recovering from substance abuse, and those suffering with PTSD. Entire martial arts organizations have sprung up around helping military veterans dealing with PTSD, and scientific studies are showing positive results for the same. At our own academy we have welcomed many members dealing with PTSD, generalized anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Often we are told of how their training is a cornerstone to their continued recovery or management of their mental health.
During the pandemic, and assuredly during our collective recovery from it our mental health must be at the forefront of our care for ourselves. It is not enough to simply acknowledge our mental health, however. We can be aware of a downward spiral all we want, but to stop it we have to get off the ride. For some of us the best thing we can do for ourselves is to step foot into a martial arts studio for the first time. I don’t know anyone who has ever regretted it.
The physical benefits of martial arts seem obvious at first. Exercise the muscles and they become stronger. It’s a form of exercise that’s fun, and way more dynamic than running on a treadmill or lifting heavy things and putting them down again. Families can comprise the foundation of a martial arts studio as everyone from mom and dad down to the littlest sister or brother can all get fit doing the same activity, bringing the family dynamic together in a way that is rare with other activities.
Other than the obvious benefits, what is becoming more apparent, much more relevant to our emergence from the current pandemic, and potentially critical to reducing our risk of exposure to any further pandemics, is the affect that physical exercise can have on our immune system. This is actually very well known, and has been accepted by science for a very long time, but at least during this pandemic it seems to have been either ignored or forgotten.
Despite this seeming lapse in memory regarding long standing and scientifically accepted evidence showing exercise is the best builder of health, and a healthy immune system, studies continue to show, that even during a viral pandemic the best protection is a healthy body, and the best path to a healthy body is exercise. To that end, martial arts provides not only strength and endurance training for your muscles, but exercise for your lungs and your heart, and ultimately your immune system, at the same time.
When training regularly, martial arts can provide the full gamut of exercise in a fun, dynamic, family friendly atmosphere. You can learn new skills, improve your outcome, and do your best to reduce your chances of a pandemic negatively affecting your health or your life. The only question that remains is, when do you start? Today is a pretty good time.