Martial arts encompass a variety of different disciplines, including Muay Thai, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), karate, and mixed martial arts, among others. While they have obvious physical benefits, they are also highly regarded for their mental benefits and contributions to overall personal growth.
Beyond teaching various self-defense movements, martial arts integrate moral teachings that help build character and promote mental well-being. The following are six benefits of martial arts regarding personal growth:
1. Learning to Embrace and Overcome Fear and Failure
Failure is often viewed in a negative light in other realms of society. Losing an athletic competition or not getting that new job can be perceived as taking a step back when in reality these present opportunities for personal growth. Overcoming obstacles builds character and resiliency, and this is one of the main tenets of martial arts. In fact, failure is a key element of martial arts, especially during the early stages of training. Because it is a pursuit that involves exceptional coordination and precise movements, inexperienced martial artists will likely undergo considerable challenges. Rather than shying away from these problems, martial arts prompt individuals to embrace—and overcome—the fear of failure.
“The life of a fighter is tough,” notes Muay Thai champion Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn. “However, overcoming the difficulty makes it better. I considered giving up so many times, but I could not when I thought about my family. Muay Thai has made me who I am today and has given me happiness. It taught me to be a good person.”
2. Cultivating Morality
The last comment from Yudthagarngamtorn isn’t specific to his journey in martial arts. The majority of martial arts have accompanying philosophies that emphasize morality and promote characteristics such as humility, loyalty, trust, and righteousness. In China, martial morality is a significant aspect of martial arts, and those who don’t display an appropriate level of morality are often deemed unworthy of being taught by skilled martial arts masters. Those who are worthy of undergoing serious training must set aside feelings of pride, act on wisdom as opposed to emotions, and respect not only their teachers and fellow students but everyone in society. Self-respect is also important. These qualities are all ingrained in the teachings of martial arts.
3. Improving Self-Discipline
Martial arts aren’t easy. They can be both physically and mentally demanding but contribute to developing a strong work ethic and sense of self-discipline. Expanding upon the notion of overcoming fear and failure, martial arts encourages individuals to take on challenges they would otherwise avoid while in a supportive environment. Martial arts training is very disciplined, and most styles employ a colored belt rank system that allows martial artists to set and work toward achieving goals. This disciplined approach can affect other areas of one’s life and help control behavior, desires, and negative impulses.
4. Enhancing Focus and Patience
A first-degree black belt represents the highest level of achievement in the various forms of martial arts. Obtaining this belt requires dedication and commitment. According to a study conducted between 1998 and 2014, it takes 10 years, on average, to achieve a first-degree black belt. In some instances, a first-degree black belt isn’t indicative of someone knowing the entire curriculum nor is it enough to become an instructor. Therefore, those who reach this level and beyond must not only be committed to their goal but also showcase extraordinary focus and patience. Exercising patience in martial arts training can also lend itself to other situations.
5. Increasing Confidence
Demonstrating patience and overcoming the various obstacles associated with martial arts goes a long way toward increasing self-confidence. While training often involves sparring or working with a partner, martial arts emphasize individual improvement as opposed to competition. So, in a sense, the martial artist is competing against themselves and continually striving for self-improvement and personal development. While it takes time to achieve certain accolades, noticing a gradual improvement in one’s abilities can boost self-confidence. Moreover, being able to handle physical confrontation in a controlled environment can make other challenging but non-physical tasks seem relatively mundane and easily achievable.
6. Allowing for Continuous Self-Improvement
Martial arts training is a lifelong pursuit. Even those who obtain a black belt in a particular discipline often still need to improve or master techniques to feel worthy of that distinction. Also, there are several different disciplines that one can study and train in, so there is almost always something new to learn. BJJ, for instance, involves intricate offensive and defensive grappling holds that take years to master. Others, like judo and Muay Thai, are no different concerning how long they take to master. Learning these disciplines at a slow and deliberate pace while making small improvements daily can help individuals apply the same self-improvement philosophy to other aspects of life.