How Martial Arts Can Aid in the Recovery Process

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Martial arts have been a part of human life for as long as people have been writing things down. Wrestling, for example, has been practiced for thousands of years and has been depicted by ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Babylonians. 

Almost every culture on earth has its form of martial arts. In Japan, there is karate, Thailand has Muay Thai, America has boxing, Korea has taekwondo, and the list goes on and on. 

When most people who do not practice these disciplines think of martial arts, many picture brutality or violence. However, those who have participated in these activities often think of fitness, friendships, and self-improvement. Many people have used martial arts to turn over a new leaf, and some have even used them to overcome substance use. 

Improvement of Self

Martial arts are deep disciplines that take a lot of time and hard work to master. They provide numerous ways for you to mentally, physically, or emotionally sharpen your skills. By improving an aspect of your chosen art, you can see improvement within yourself and carry that into other aspects of your life. 

For example, say you have been trying to learn a technique for quite some time. Trying to get a specific move down can be like solving a puzzle. Once you achieve your goal, it can give you a confidence boost. Learning that technique means you already have a track record of achieving what you set your mind to when you face other challenges in life. 

A small study in Italy showed that martial artists performed better in attentional and creativity tests. The study also noted higher self-esteem and self-efficacy, as well as decreased aggressiveness. 

For people recovering from substance use disorder, the engaging nature of martial arts may be beneficial. Being focused on training and developing your skills can take your mind off of cravings and negative emotions. 

Cravings are often connected to your environment and senses, so getting out of the house and heading to your local martial arts gym can also provide a sanctuary for your mind and body to take a break. On top of this, both physical exercise and social activities have positive benefits for mental and physical health.   

Connecting With Others

It may be strange to hear that practicing martial arts can help you connect with others and even lower aggression. How could learning how to fight have this effect? Many of the most aggressive people in society have two things in common, a lack of empathy and pent-up anger. Martial arts can soothe both of these issues. 

Martial arts teach empathy by developing relationships with your training partners. If you go too far and step over boundaries, people will not want to train with you. This same idea applies to how others treat you. 

Through this relationship, you can build mutual respect between yourself and others, which leads to understanding and empathy. Over time, as you and your partners work to improve each other and start to see the growth others helped you achieve, these emotions are further amplified. Empathy in the gym can then translate to empathy in other aspects of life. 

Martial arts can soothe pent-up anger by giving you an outlet that lets you harness and control it. For example, if a boxer is angry, they might put on their gloves and hit the gym’s heavy bag. This allows them to release negative emotions in a productive way that helps them exercise and develop their skills. 

Exercise releases chemicals into your body that help you to relax and improve your mood. Martial arts, along with treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy, can boost positive emotions and treat negative ones. 

Gentle Arts 

You may say, “I would like to practice martial arts, but I don’t want to hurt anyone.” Thankfully, there are many options in the realm of martial arts that do not require hurting anyone. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling are both disciplines that incorporate physicality but do not involve striking others. This allows you to learn valuable skills in self-defense and train with others while not worrying about injury. 

Another option is to practice boxing or striking in a class with others, where you go over technique instead of sparring. In these classes, you will learn how to throw kicks and punches by hitting heavy bags or dummies. This allows you to learn martial arts as a form of exercise and mental relief but not worry about the stress of competition. Boxing is also something that you can practice at home, even when nobody else is around. All you need is some gloves and a bag to punch. 

Many activities can have positive effects on the mind and body, aiding in recovery. Martial arts are particularly useful because they provide most of what someone may be looking for all at once. These aspects include mental engagement, physical exercise, social interaction, and the expression of creativity. Although martial arts may not be for everyone, they are certainly worth considering if you are looking for new activities to help you on your recovery journey. However, if you need help overcoming substance use, these activities are only a piece of the puzzle. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we use comprehensive treatment to help you along your path to recovery. We offer various therapies and activities alongside our treatment plans to ensure the best outcomes possible, and these plans are tailored to each client. If you would like to learn more about the services we provide, contact Everlast Recovery Centers today at (866) 338-6925.   

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