Published: October 14, 2020

How The Martial Arts Community Can Positively Impact Mental Health

In honor of back to school season, we have a pop quiz for you. We hope you studied…


Question: Which of the following benefits can martial arts have on participants?

  1. Improved physical fitness
  2. Learning important life lessons
  3. Promotion of healthy lifestyle habits
  4. Positive impacts on mental health

Trick question – the answer is actually all of the above! 


While options A, B, and C may have immediately popped into your head, we have a suspicion that option D probably wasn’t your first instinct. Let’s be honest – when we think of the many positive effects martial arts can have on its participants, we typically think of physical well-being, not necessarily emotional and mental well-being. However, during COVID-19, the caring community and unique atmosphere of martial arts is more important to students’ mental health than ever before.


As human beings, we rely on a sense of community. Forming meaningful connections with other people is irreplaceable. When it comes to mental health, the United States was already struggling before we were hit by COVID-19. With increased isolation and lack of human interaction, issues of mental health in our country have become even more drastic than before. Don’t believe us? Let’s look at what an expert has to say.


Matthew Shapiro, the Associate Director, Public Affairs of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-NYS), spoke on the newest battles for individuals with mental health in a COVID-19 world. During his New York state assembly hearing, Shapiro stated that “COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the mental health and the recovery of New Yorkers across all sectors of society. According to a CDC report from August, the number of individuals who reported at least one adverse mental health or addiction related struggle has doubled since the onset of the virus.”


“Alarmingly,” Shapiro continued, “the rates of individuals who have seriously considered suicide have skyrocketed, resulting in increases of the size of 25% of individuals between the ages of 18-24, 18.6% of LatinX individuals, 15% of African Americans and 22% of essential workers.


These numbers powerfully underscore the dramatically increased levels of anxiety, depression, trauma, drug overdose and suicide that community mental health and addiction treatment providers are encountering every day.”


The moral of the story? New York’s statistics on mental health exhibit just how urgent this matter really is and demands serious action.


Here’s the good news – the martial arts industry can help!


Just like social interaction, science shows us that exercise and physical activity also tend to improve mental health, often alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. Why is that, you may ask? Exercise actually triggers the growth of new connections between brain cells and increases the release of serotonin (AKA the “happy chemical.”)


Looking for more evidence on the ways martial arts supports mental wellness? Consider the importance of community.


In a busy and overwhelming world, martial arts fosters personal connections and supports the need for community that is essential to one’s mental health. Studies show that one of the quickest ways to depression is personal isolation.


In the midst of a pandemic, our population is experiencing solitude like never before. The result is skyrocketing suicide rates. Look no further than New York to see the evidence to how this is impacting our nation.


Never in the history of martial arts has the importance of being surrounded by people with shared interest been more critical.  Joining a martial arts community isn’t helpful, it’s necessary. For individuals who have been experiencing isolation and lack a feeling of belonging, martial arts offers a solution that people need now more than ever.


In a pre-COVID world, back to school season was an important time for bringing new faces into your gym, as well as welcoming back previous students into a new chapter of growth. With the pandemic, it may feel like the world of martial arts has been brought to a standstill. That is simply not the case.


With the mental health issues that can come from the stress, confusion, and increased solitude of COVID-19, martial arts and its distinctive community is crucial to the lives of its participants. Whether it be through virtual classes or socially distant in-person instruction, martial arts is sure to add a sense of camaraderie to your members everyday life and provide them with a much-craved sense of normalcy.

Stay strong and stay safe!

Published: October 14, 2020

Categories: Mental Health